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Legislative Update

2014 Session Highlights

Major Legislation from the 2014 Legislative Session

During the 2014 Legislative Session, 2,684 bills and joint resolutions were introduced (1,555 in the House, 1,117 in the Senate, and 12 joint resolutions). MICUA reviewed all legislation introduced, closely monitored over 160 bills, provided verbal and written testimony on numerous bills, and offered amendments on several pieces of legislation. Working with the higher education community and other stakeholders, MICUA successfully defeated legislation that would have negatively impacted the operations of member institutions, secured critical amendments on several bills, and helped pass legislation supported by member campuses. Brief summaries of the major legislation impacting MICUA member institutions are provided below. Also attached is MICUA’s Priority 1 List that profiles key legislation tracked by the Association.

Bills that Passed

  • House Bill 18 / Senate Bill 74 – Institutions of Higher Education – Student Notification – Financial Information – Passed
House Bill 18 / Senate Bill 74 requires, beginning with the 2014-2015 academic year, public institutions of higher education to provide all first-time, full-time undergraduate freshmen with information on the cost of higher education at the institution by completing and mailing or providing electronically, at a minimum, the information contained on the form known as the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, as promulgated by the U.S. Department of Education. The shopping sheet or the information contained on the sheet must be mailed or provided electronically at the same time that an award of federal financial aid is sent to a student.

 

  • House Bill 295 / Senate Bill 331 – Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014 – Passed
House Bill 295 is an Administration bill requiring most employers in the State, as of January 1, 2015, to pay the greater of the federal minimum wage or a State minimum wage to employees subject to federal or State minimum wage requirements. The bill sets the State minimum wage for the period beginning January 1, 2015 at $8.00 per hour, increasing to $8.25 as of July 1, 2015, $8.75 as of July 1, 2016, $9.15 as of July 1, 2017, and $10.10 on July 1, 2018. The bill also modifies the tip credit that employers may include against the direct wages paid to tipped employees. Under current law, employers may recognize a tip credit equal to 50% of the minimum wage. Effective July 1, 2014, the maximum tip credit is $3.63. Employers may also pay employees under the age of 20 a wage equal to 85% of the minimum wage for the first six months of their employment.

 

An exception exists in the bill for employers of amusement or recreational establishments which operate for less than seven months per calendar year or satisfy specific receipt restrictions. Further, the bill specifies annual 3.5% rate increases for fiscal years 2016 through 2018 to community direct service workers—employees providing treatment or services to developmentally disabled individuals.

 

Additionally, if a court determines that an employee is entitled to compensation due to violations of the State minimum wage, the court no longer is simply permitted to award damages, but is now required to do so.

 

The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 331, did not move out of committee.

 

  • House Bill 396 / Senate Bill 446 – Department of Disabilities – Study of Accessibility Concepts in Computer Science, Information Systems, and Information Technology Programs in Higher Education -- Passed
House Bill 396 / Senate Bill 446 requires the Department of Disabilities (DoD), in cooperation with the National Federation of the Blind, to study accessibility concepts in computer science, information systems, and information technology programs in higher education. As part of the study, DoD will convene a workgroup comprised of provosts; chief information officers; and faculty members in computer science, information systems, and information technology programs representing the various segments of higher education. DoD will compile information on and identify gaps in the current course offerings for accessibility to information technology in Maryland colleges and universities and make recommendations on additional course offerings, funding requirements, and policy initiatives to address issues raised in the study.

  • House Bill 742 / Senate Bill 600 – Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise Zone – Passed


House Bill 742 / Senate Bill 600 establishes the Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone Program, to be administered by the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). The purpose of the RISE zone program is to access institutional assets of anchor institutions defined as schools, colleges and universities, and other State and federal facilities that have a demonstrated history of commitment to the economic development and revitalization of the communities in which they are located. The bill creates certain tax incentives to spur investments in areas around the anchor institutions. A qualified institution may apply to DBED for designation of an area as a RISE zone if the institution agrees to make significant financial investments or other commitments to the area, uses its resources to spur economic development and community revitalization, and intends to foster a significant number of new jobs within the area. A qualified institution can also apply jointly with a county, municipal corporation, or the economic development agency of a county or municipal corporation to the DBED Secretary to designate an area as a RISE zone. A business entity that locates in a RISE zone is entitled to a property tax credit, an income tax credit, a special income tax depreciation allowance, and consideration for assistance from the State’s economic development and financial assistance programs.

 

The bill extends the authority of counties and Baltimore City to issue bonds supported by tax increment financing (TIF) or other similar financing instruments in order to finance certain costs within a RISE zone. A special fund may be created by a local government to facilitate infrastructure improvements within a RISE zone. The bill authorizes TIF proceeds for use in RISE zones for: (1) Historic preservation or rehabilitation; (2) Environmental remediation, demolition, and site preparation; (3) Parking lots, facilities, or structures of any type whether for public or private use; (4) Schools; (5) Affordable or mixed-income housing; (6) Stormwater management and storm drain facilities; (7) Innovation centers and laboratory facilities or structures of any type, whether for public or private use, including maintenance and installation of improvements in the structures and services that support the purposes of the RISE zone program; and (8) Any other facilities or structures of any type whether for public or private use that support the purposes of the RISE zone.

  • House Bill 741 / Senate Bill 601 – Business and Economic Development – Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Program – Passed


House Bill 741 / Senate Bill 601 establishes the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Program. The legislation also creates the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund Authority (MEIFA) within the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). The MEIFA is to solicit designated capital from insurance companies and corporations through a competitive process overseen by an independent third party in exchange for credits that can be used to offset either State insurance premium taxes or corporate income taxes (CITs). DBED is authorized to allocate $100 million in tax credits. Designated capital is paid into the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF), the first $50 million of which is to be allocated for distribution to public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education to create research endowments with matching private donations. After the first $50 million is allocated, subject to specified requirements, the remaining designated capital ($34 million under one set of assumptions) is allocated either to the Enterprise Fund or for further distributions for research endowments. DBED must administer MEIF and must adopt regulations to implement the bill.

 

The proceeds from the Maryland E-Novation Initiative Program must be used to finance certain research endowments at nonprofit institutions of higher education in scientific and technical fields of study or to pay for related expenses of the Department. To be eligible to seek matching funds through the program, a nonprofit institution of higher education must create and administer certain endowments and receive qualified donations in amounts equal to the matching funds from the program. The proceeds from the endowments must be used to expand basic and applied research in twelve areas of science and technology important to Maryland’s future economic vitality.

 

 

  • House Bill 833 – Baltimore City – Tax-Exempt Property – Certification of Use – Passed


House Bill 833 requires organizations that own tax-exempt property in Baltimore City to submit an application to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) certifying that the property is being used for its specified tax-exempt purpose. The application must be submitted beginning April 1, 2016, and every three years thereafter. Any property for which no application is filed by April 1 of the year in which it is due shall become subject to property tax effective July 1 of that calendar year. House Bill 333 also requires the organization that owns a tax-exempt property to notify SDAT within 30 days after the property ceases use for its specified tax-exempt purposes.

 

  • House Bill 1215 / Senate Bill 785 – Higher Education – 2+2 Transfer Scholarships – Passed
 

House Bill 1215 / Senate Bill 785 creates a merit-based 2+2 Transfer Scholarship for students who complete an associate’s degree at a Maryland community college. In the original bill, the scholarships were available only to students who transfer to a public four-year institution. At MICUA’s request, the bill was amended to include students attending private, nonprofit institutions as well. A transfer student enrolled in a science, teaching, engineering, computer science, mathematics, or nursing program will receive $2,000. Students in all other programs will receive $1,000. The scholarship program will be administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC). If no funds are provided in the State budget, MHEC may use up to $2 million appropriated to the Educational Excellence Program to fund 2+2 Transfer Scholarships.

  • House Bill 1432 / Senate Bill 666 – Teaching Fellows for Maryland Scholarship Program – Passed
House Bill 1432 / Senate Bill 666 creates a merit-based scholarship program for high-achieving students who pursue a degree in teaching and agree to teach in a high-poverty school upon graduation. In the original bill, the scholarships are available only to students who attend a public four-year institution. At MICUA’s request, the bill was amended to include students attending private, nonprofit institutions if the institution matches the tuition and fees portion of the award. In addition, the scholarship is capped for a student attending a private, nonprofit institution to no more than the annual cost of tuition and fees at the University of Maryland, College Park. The scholarship program will be administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. While there are no State funds appropriated for the scholarships in the current fiscal year, the legislation requires the Governor to appropriate funds for the program in future years.   

 


Bills that Failed


  • House Bill 19 – Higher Education – Sexual Assault Surveys – Failed


House Bill 19 would have required the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), in consultation with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, to establish procedures for the administration of a sexual assault survey every three years by each institution of higher education in the State. By June 1, 2015, and every three years thereafter, each institution of higher education would have been required to administer the sexual assault survey in accordance with procedures developed by MHEC to students, faculty members, and employees. Institutions of higher education would have had to report school-specific results to MHEC and include the results in their annual security report. By September 1, 2015, and every three years thereafter, MHEC would have had to report the survey results and publish the results on its website and other appropriate locations. Further, the bill would have required each institution of higher education to appoint a sexual assault victim advocate to provide information and support regarding the institution’s sexual assault policies and procedures to a victim of sexual assault on a free and confidential basis.

 

  • House Bill 943 – Baltimore City – Property Tax Equity – Study – Failed


House Bill 943 would have required the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) to complete a study analyzing whether Baltimore City’s property tax structure places an equitable burden on homeowners, renters, and commercial property owners. The study would have examined issues that contribute to an inequitable property tax burden; whether any of these issues create an undue burden on homeowners; and, if an undue burden on homeowners is found, what measures could be taken to alleviate the burden and create a more equitable property tax structure.

 

Amendments to the bill required DLS to consider a number of factors in the course of its analysis, including the feasibility of achieving an equitable property tax solution considering the differing valuation methods for taxing commercial versus residential properties; the accuracy of income capitalization percentages used to value commercial property; the impact of tax-exempt property on Baltimore City’s tax base and tax rate, including subsidies that property tax exemptions may provide to non-City residents; and the relationship between the City’s low-income tax base and its high reliance on property tax revenue. DLS was to submit its findings and recommendations to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City, the Baltimore City House Delegation, and the Baltimore City Senators by December 31, 2015.


  • House Bill 1508 / Senate Bill 833 – Educational Agencies and Institutions – Education Records – Disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information – Failed


Senate Bill 833 and its House crossfile, House Bill 1508, would have limited the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records by an educational agency or institution without the written consent of either the parent or legal guardian of a student or an eligible adult student. Additionally, an educational agency or institution would not be permitted to retain any personally identifiable information on a student beyond five years after the student’s last enrollment in any educational institution in the State. A penalty of $1,000 would be assessed for a first violation; $5,000 for a second violation involving the same student; and $10,000 for any subsequent violation involving the same student. Each violation involving a different individual education record or student would be considered a separate violation.

 

In order to preserve research data files and permit institutions to continue to utilize services provided by alumni offices and vendors, such as the National Student Clearinghouse, MICUA organized meetings with both the Senate and House sponsors. The meeting with Sen. Young included representatives from University System of Maryland (USM), Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC), the Maryland Longitudinal Data System, and MICUA. The meeting with Del. Afzali’s legislative aide included representatives from USM, MACC, and MICUA. Senate Bill 833 was withdrawn. House Bill 1508 remained in the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee and was never assigned to a committee for review.

  • Senate Bill 169 – Maryland Higher Education Commission – Review of Duplicative Academic Program Proposals – Revisions – Failed
Senate Bill 169 would have required the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) to make a determination about unnecessary program duplication if requested to do so by one of the State’s Historically Black Institutions (HBIs). The bill defined “unnecessary duplication” as two or more institutions offering “the same nonessential or noncore programs; nonbasic liberal arts and sciences coursework at the bachelor’s level; or all duplication at the master’s level and above.” Finally, the legislation provided that certain determinations of the Commission concerning duplication of academic programs would be subject to judicial review in the circuit court in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. The bill was voted favorable by the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. However, prior to a vote on the Senate floor, the bill was recommitted to the Committee. No further action took place, and the bill failed.

  • Senate Bill 607 – Health Occupations – Child Abuse and Neglect – Training – Failed
Senate Bill 607 would have required each health occupation board authorized to issue a license or certificate to adopt regulations regarding training on the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect. The bill specified that each candidate for an initial or renewal license would receive 90 minutes of the required training. Although the bill passed the Senate, it was voted unfavorable by the House Health and Government Operations Committee, and the bill failed.

  • Senate Bill 823 – Maryland College Education Export Act of 2014 – Failed
Senate Bill 823 would have authorized the Maryland Higher Education Commission to enter into the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA.) The bill also would have exempted institutions that participate in SARA from the requirement to register with the Commission if they enroll Maryland students in a fully online distance education program in the State. The legislative was introduced to permit Maryland to participate in SARA. The bill failed in Committee.