We will be posting various updates as we receive them from our Vice President of Government Affairs here, so please check frequently. We are working diligently on your behalf to promote home ownership and protect private property rights in Southern Maryland.
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please reach out to our Vice President of Government Affairs, Theresa Kuhns, directly via email.
Pandemic Sine Die- Maryland General Assembly adjourns early, first time since Civil War
The 2020 General Assembly final gavel came down almost three weeks early on Wednesday, March 18, while rapidly passing over 650 bills in its last three days. Typically, a session produces only 800 final bills so this was a much higher number than expected given the restricted time. As you can imagine, the end of session has left many questions, rule changes and quite literally, no access to hearings, if they were even held, over the final week. Some bills were introduced to the floor of the house and passed during the same session without ever having a committee review, public hearing or being fully read. It was a whirlwind end to what was already a historic session as both chambers of the General Assembly elected new leaders. Our team is working to analyze and break down the total impact of the session and we wanted to share some highlights now.
What were some of the successes for the real estate industry? For those who heard the good news at our awards dinner, HB1628, a service sales tax proposal, was killed in committee two days after over 1,000 of your Realtor colleagues marched in Annapolis to say no more. Additionally, the previous week, President Chris Hill and I met privately with Delegate Michael Jackson, Vice Chair of House Appropriations Committee, to share concerns on the proposed tax. Over $9 billion a year from real estate alone fills the state revenue fund and Realtors were successful in sharing their stories to elected officials. While this bill did get stopped, other taxes have since passed including a digital tax, luxury services, and more to help foot the nearly $34 billion Kirwan education bill, which also passed in historic measures. There was no direct funding source for the bill and we expect to see more bills to address the Kirwan shortages, at both a state and local level.
The SMAR local Government Affairs Committee, under the direction and leadership of Chairman Bud Humbert and Vice Chair, Tanya Redding, reviewed every real estate related bill from direct property rights to property tax credits and local economic development packages. We submitted testimony on several local delegation bills with direct impacts on property owners in Southern Maryland. Here are a few updates you can expect locally:
HB354-Charles County Special Taxing District- this bill is one of the few our committee submitted opposition testimony to this session. It would allow the county to create a taxing district to build conference centers, tourist convention centers; maintain the operating costs of said projects as well as market these centers An amendment added on to the bill would allow an exemption to any minority business owner, typically referred to as an MBE. There is no sunset on the taxing district which was a concern with the allowances to maintain and market the proposed center. It is understood this bill would be to focus on a revitalization district in Waldorf. With some of the highest property tax rates in the state and the county not adopting the constant yield rate as directed by the state each year, the county already receives millions more in real estate taxes than any other. Another tax on the property owner to add to a fund is a strong concern and makes home ownership a further reach, particularly with such a poor housing affordability rate.
HB384-Charles County Bulky Waste Disposal- While the title may seem misleading, this bill has consequences for private property owners, farms and landlords in particular. This legislation allows for a fine up to $5000 or imprisonment up to 30 days for any bulky waste on a private property, including a couch, appliance or vehicle. The concern from our committee is the current process of eviction in Charles County directs property owners to put these items on their property during an eviction, therefore making those landlords target of an unfair procedure. It is important to note, prior to the session, SMAR had drafted and proposed legislation for Charles County to update the eviction process and it was voted down, led Delegate Davis during a summer work session as “unfair to the tenant.” We will again try to share the benefits of the legislation which we believe protects tenants rights and saves resources from the Sherriff’s Office and rids the county of blight. We understand while this bulky waste legislation has passed, the local Board of County Commissioners, will have to hold a public hearing prior to adopting the ordinance.
HB257- Property Tax Credit for Disabled Veterans- SMAR was proud to support the legislation sponsored by Delegate Brian Crosby, St. Mary’s, 29C, which allows local authorities to provide a property tax credit to those service veterans with a disability to provide relief on the county property tax on the veteran owned home. As we know, many of these veteran owners are on a fixed income and providing relief allows for both more housing security and affordability for this population.
HB414- St. Mary’s Commercial Property Tax Credit- SMAR also supported this common sense legislation, led by St. Mary’s County Delegation Chair, Delegate Matt Morgan, 29A, provides a property tax credit for commercial real estate property improvements, as adopted by the local county commissioners. The requirements for the commercial property as written must be located in an eligible area; has had improvements from July 1, 2020 forward; the amount of the tax credit may not exceed 25% and it is a sunset bill, expiring in ten years.
Before closing out the initial session wrap up, I’d like to address an issue which became a hot topic at our annual RPAC breakfast in February- Source of Income, which was entitled the Home Act this session. SMAR is happy to share there were some wins in this passed legislation which should lessen the anticipated concerns. First, in final floor debates, the bill’s sponsor, subcommittee chair and committee chair, all confirmed this is not a mandate on accepting source of income but in fact, discrimination based on the source. Second, credit worthiness was an accepted Maryland Realtors® amendment which allows landlords to use credit history with all applications. Last, if you are a property owner of 3 or less total rental properties, you are exempt unless you use a property manager. All potential tenants must be screened and treated equally, which we know, our profession already holds as a top practice standard.
As promised, more communication will be forth coming from this session- including the potential for an emergency session in late May. We will continue to monitor session summaries and share pertinent information with membership. If you have any questions, please reach out to email@example.com. If you would like to read up on any legislation, please take a look at http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/
- Budget public hearing on March 24, including property tax rate reduction. SMAR sent a support letter for public record following the hearing.
- The Calvert County Department of Planning and Zoning has postponed all inspections of occupied residential dwellings and permits for accessory structures until further notice.
- Calvert Health department has surplus funds for septic upgrades, please see their county page for info to apply for help.
- The county government recently shut down with essential workers available for county services. Please see SMAR webpage for specific updates.
- The Charles BOCC will be having a public work session on the budget, including the constant yield, on April 29.
- The Charles Department of Planning and Growth still taking permit applications only via their platform.
- La Plata constant yield hearing scheduled for April 27.
St. Mary’s County
- The wet perc season ended March 20 in county.
- The constant yield tax hearing is being held on April 21. Given the current circumstances, testimony will be heard via phone or public record submission.
Government Affairs Committee
- Staff has sent updates to the GAC and will prepare to meet virtually as needed as we get through the county budget cycle and potential emergency legislative session in Annapolis.
- Our 2020 goal for SMAR is $41k and 30% participation. Have not received an updated financial book since early March.
- We are rescheduling our annual wine event and our major investor sunset sail for fall timeline. Our leadership session wrap up is being reworked to be open to all members in a virtual format and targeted for early May, waiting to hear back from the delegate leadership offices.
- Staff reached out to our major investor sponsors for 2020 to give an update to the schedule and plans for the year.
- Mid Year Legislative Conference will be held virtually, many keynote speakers and panelists are being headlined including Rahm Emmanuel and Chris Christie.
- Participating on two weekly calls since the current situation, the GA Advisory Committee and NAR GA/Lobbyist Weekly Update on national efforts ie the stimulus packages and benefits for members.
- Sine Die was set for April 6 yet ended about three weeks earlier at 5pm on March 18, not two days after the crossover deadline. Over 680 bills passed in the last three days including many RE bills. Unsure of what may be vetoed. It is rumored when MD numbers look better, they may be called back into chambers to get additional work done. Expecting resource one pagers to come from state association, including one on source of income.
- We had a big win on the sales tax for services and a few other unexpected wins in the shortened session. Please visit SMAR website for a wrap up article.
- New state primary date is June 2 for now, must be registered to vote by May 12 to participate.
- Participating on ga team calls around the state and in constant contact with other jurisdictions.
- Stormwater management continues to be a hot topic among developers and conversations with state secretary are being set for Calvert specific issues.
- Budget work session scheduled for March 24, including property tax rate and budget revenues.
- La Plata is updating their zoning plan and moving forward to the council for vote. Current draft available is on their website.
- Indian Head is also updating their zoning plan with a vote on April 6. Current draft is available on the town website.
- The Charles BOCC will be having a public work session on the budget, including the constant yield, on April 29. The work session (no comments) is March 24.
- Specific Charles legislation which have passed off the floor including a no bulky waste on private property; ie during evictions and cars; with a $5k fine per complaint per private property. It would need a local public hearing to enact, at which time GAC would motion to get involved. The new taxing bill has yet to be voted out of committee, SMAR submitted opposition testimony, despite the committee deadline.
- While there has been discussion of changing the form of government to charter, it does not yet have the 3 votes to be placed on the BOCC agenda.
St. Mary’s County
- Leonardtown Town Council is reviewing the 2021 property tax rate at the March 9th meeting.
- The SMC transfer tax is set to expire this June and a last- minute bill has been added to extend it- while its likely to move ahead, the bill still sits in the committee drawer despite committee deadlines.
- The SMC bill which would have given the BOCC authority to offer property tax credits for commercial revitalization also sits in the committee drawer.
Government Affairs Committee
- GAC has reviewed over 200 bills this session.
- SMAR had 50 people register to rally against HB1628, service tax, in 3 business days. Tremendous show of support to gather with 1200 colleagues across the state. The bill was killed in committee and no funding source has been identified- stay tuned.
- Our 2020 goal for SMAR is $41k and 30% participation. We are at 88% of the financial goal and 5% short of participation as of 2/29 and we had hit our Major Investor goal in January. Please save the date for the following 3 RPAC events: Leadership Lunch, 4/20; Wine Reception, 5/7; and Major Investor Sunset Sail 6/9. We are creating various price points for members to participate from $20-$99 for events. Please encourage investments among your colleagues.
- Participated in committee teleconference in February, continued planning for GAD Institute and Mid Year policy changes.
- Crossover, when all bills must be out of one Chamber is 3/16 at midnight. Session is lasting up to 4 hours regularly with many of our bills being amended and changed, very busy time of session. Session is set to end on 4/6 at midnight and the covid19 may change this schedule, will keep you apprised to any changes.
- New budget presentations show a shortfall in funding, however cuts are being made. Unsure if property taxes will be touched at this point.
- There are several developments with septic failing which are becoming a county wide concern, Calvert is putting money towards studying these issues and potential next steps.
- March 24 is the first budget work session re: real estate. April 29 will be the public hearing on constant yield. It is the only public hearing for citizens to speak re: budget.
- Broadband continues to be a top issue and SMAR has been sharing with BOCC other bills in Maryland which may help Charles.
St. Mary’s County
- Hosted Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, MREC Chair Nick D’Ambrosia along with SMAR leadership to discuss the potential of increasing FHA limits in St. Mary’s.
Government Affairs Committee
- GAC has met most Mondays since early January, a large list of bills most recently dropped, and we are seeing 25-50 a week on RE efforts. We have opposed a new taxing district in Charles, supported property tax credit in St Mary’s, and supported HOA dispute bill out of Charles.
- A successful breakfast on 2/3 was held, thank you all for your support.
- We have also brought our concerns up to the state legislative committee and requested a reconsideration on positions, with much support in the room.
- Our 2020 goal has SMAR at $41k and 30% participation. We should be close to the financial goal but will need support with participation.
- Participated in committee teleconference in late January, selecting topics for policy setting include rent control discussions; choosing keynote speakers; and setting the tone for future policy based on what is happening around the country.
- Thank you to all who participated in Lobby Day, we had a great picture in this month’s magazine.
- County staff changes have taken place recently with former Director of Planning and Zoning, Mark Willis, moving up to County Administrator; Mary Beth Cook, to Director of DPZ. Both have been great with communication and transparency as it pertains to RE and property owners.
- Thank you to the members who attended the Calvert Legislative Breakfast on 1/6. SMAR sponsored a table at the event.
- Another lawsuit has been brought against the County from 4 residents, including the person claiming to be a real estate broker with no license or Realtor membership on file; based on the comp plan passed in August with ethics questions on the passage.
- Previously reported: Op ed to Collins asked for existing Charles residents who choose to build a home to be waived for the excise fees as well as military. Noah Weinberger author. Update: Collins replied with a letter and will be reviewing the possibility.
- Staff rumors expect local ordinance package on housing affordability Given the recent fall joint delegation/BOCC meeting which killed a SMAR request for tenant protections which would have cut down the cost of living, we are concerned about lack of industry leadership and education. GAC will be discussing.
- SMRT Transit remains at a top of the wish list for the delegation and BOCC, as reported from a tri county BOCC meeting.
- Thank you to our members for taking your time on New Year’s Eve to attend Senator Ellis event which was cancelled at the door. It was a last minute scramble and your personal time is noted and appreciated.
- Attended Delegate Wilson’s pre session fundraiser, who also serves as the Chair of the SOMD Delegation. Thank you to Bud and Tanya for attending as well.
- Charles Co has a quarterly economic development roundtable scheduled for 1/22 for interested members.
St. Mary’s County
- Attended Delegate Crosby pre session Annapolis fundraiser with chair and vice chair of GAC.
- Letter to editor on 1/8 in Enterprise re: solar and use of agriculture lands; James Raley. GAC tried to take a position on the solar bills last year and the reasons laid out by Raley are exactly why our association was and remains concerned. A second public hearing on the 300 acre new in priority preservation area site held on 1/9. Current zoning ordinance does not address solar at all.
Government Affairs Committee
- Session begins on January 8. First SMAR meeting is 1/13.
- State legislative members represented on 1/6 at the first state meeting, reviewing 5 bills.
- Annual legislative breakfast to be held February 3. Please purchase your tickets as soon as possible.
- Waiting on official renewals update, but the first data dump shows a 20% higher amount collected than years past as of mid-December. Major Investor Sponsorship program is going strong and Trustees have been working phones to sign up targeted members. For information, please reach out to Chair Tanya Redding.
- On 1/8, NAR adopted a Fair Housing Action Plan and will undertake both education and public campaign to push tenets of FH and how Realtors assist with the efforts of housing affordability.
- Participated in committee teleconference in late December, selecting topics for policy setting include rent control discussions; choosing keynote speakers; and setting policy on charitable giving at conference location to connect with housing related options.
- Lobby Day will be January 14, please mark your calendars, 10am program start.
- First Legislative Committee votes held on 1/6, including a high opposition to an eviction moratorium bill.
- Attended Housing for All Development task force panel, featuring several builders and project managers with a focus on addressing both workforce and income restricted housing in Calvert County. Some panel members also want to focus on senior and young adult specific offerings. TDRs were a large part of the discussion as a hindrance as well as fees, comparing 4k in Baltimore to 20k plus to put shovel in ground in Calvert.
- Calvert BOCC has voted to put money into a study on 28 areas with failed septic systems, many within critical zone, therefore required to replace with BAT. This should provide some answers to why failing in specific areas. 17 of the 28 do not have access to treatment centers. The study also plans to provide land treatment which on top of the expense for BAT, may move to homeowners. The enterprise fund for Calvert is typically gone within the first quarter of the year.
- BOCC and delegation public hearing on December 10. The concerning legislation for us would be the request to have sign off on 100 ft. easement from public roads to storm water management facilities, structures, and devices convey by plat to the County upon recordation of a plat of subdivision vs chasing down owners, trustees, etc. after the recordation. Same would hold true for any amended plat.
- Invited to attend Small Business Interest Group. Growth rate, top issues with permitting DPW turn around times, and storm water mgmt. top issues. Zoning rewrite beginning spring. Expected to be one year minimum.
- Shared NAR white paper on rural broadband with BOCC and again shared our interest in serving on county task force.
- USDA granted Charles property owners who are income restricted funds to make home improvements to maintain safety standards. $50k total.
- Op ed to Collins asked for existing Charles residents who choose to build a home to be waived for the excise fees as well as military. Noah Weinberger author.
St. Mary’s County
- Met with the Chairman of the Maryland Real Estate Commission to kick off the potential to increase the FHA limits in St. Mary’s. Next steps will include meeting with Rep. Hoyer.
- Represented SMAR at Del. Morgan’s fundraiser with Lt. Gov. Rutherford in Annapolis. Well attended event.
- DNR meeting on 12/12, 4-6pm, to review oyster lease affecting Golden Beaches. Expect local legislation to again deal with the issue and will be following up with local and state folks to see how we can represent property owners. Del. Morgan and Sen. Bailey did a great job representing property owner rights and confirming this was a submerged lease. We will be creating a one pager for property owners to understand rights.
Government Affairs Committee
- Session begins on January 8.
- Brainstorm meeting with Chair, Vice Chair and President to discuss upcoming year and determine alignment alongside strategic plan, goals of GA for 2020.
- Annual legislative breakfast to be held February 3.
- Trustees meeting held on December 10 to discuss role and tenure, review calendar and discuss moving forward as a new body of SMAR.
- On 11/21, Congress extended NFIP again, to 12/20/19. NAR continues to work with Chair Waters on reform. Privatization seems unlikely for reform given recess deadline and higher priorities.
- SMAR lobbying report submitted mid-November.
- Lobby Day will be January 14, please mark your calendars.
- Attending state advocacy training on 12/17 at MR.
- Many changes at the state leadership level from the expected Miller step down, Ferguson as President, Guzzone chairing Budget and Tax, Zirkin stepping down from JPR and Vice Chair of EEH retiring. Meanwhile many elected have jumped in the open Congress seat and Mayor seat in Baltimore.