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News roundup: Bid to place Cardin on Judiciary Committee fails, Impallaria sentenced, state property tax change unlikely

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Pool/Getty Images photo by Evelyn Hockstein.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D) was briefly Democrats’ pick to fill a seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee that’s currently held by ailing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D). But Cardin’s nomination to rejoin his former committee, where he served from 2007 to 2011, failed to clear a procedural hurdle Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Republicans have vowed to block any move to replace Feinstein on the panel, which has been paralyzed by an even partisan divide since early March, when Feinstein was hospitalized for shingles. At least 10 Republican votes would have been needed to replace Feinstein on the panel.

In a statement, Cardin said he put himself up as the replacement with Feinstein’s blessing.

“Senator Feinstein’s work on the Judiciary Committee and her legacy in the Senate are legendary. I look forward to her full recovery and return to the Senate. In the meantime, and with her blessing, I am honored that Majority Leader Schumer has recommended me as a temporary replacement on the Judiciary Committee,” Cardin said. “I served on the Judiciary Committee when I first came to the Senate, and I am prepared to rejoin the committee in a temporary capacity for Senator Feinstein.”

Because of the stalemate on the Judiciary panel, the Senate’s narrow Democratic majority has been unable to advance President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees — a status quo that many Republicans are eager to maintain.

Cardin is widely believed to be announcing a decision this week about whether he will seek reelection in 2024 or retire.

Impallaria sentenced in firearm possession case

A former Republican state delegate avoided jail time after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor firearm possession charge.

Richard K. Impallaria, 60, pleaded guilty Monday in Baltimore County Circuit Court to possession of a rifle or shotgun by a disqualified person.

He was sentenced to 18 months of unsupervised probation by Judge Robert Cahill.

Impallaria was charged last year with two misdemeanor weapons charges. The rifles were found by police who were searching a Middle River residence as part of a separate investigation by the Office of the State Prosecutor.

Impallaria is prohibited from possessing firearms because of a previous battery conviction.

In January, Impallaria pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in office. The plea came with the understanding that if he met certain preconditions, he would be sentenced to probation before judgment by Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Stacy W. McCormack.

The former delegate was charged last summer with three counts of misconduct in office, two counts of theft and two counts of fraudulent misappropriation, all stemming from his misuse of state funds in a scheme that involved the legislature’s allowance for district office expenses, including rent.

Prosecutors said the former delegate concocted a scheme that used state money to pay for a district office but the rented space — a cottage owned by the family of his legislative aide — was outside his district and was for personal rather than legislative use. Additionally, he was alleged to have billed the state for office furniture for the fake district office and then used the money to pay for a campaign mailing.

As part of the agreement in Anne Arundel County, Impallaria was ordered to pay the state of Maryland $44,100 in restitution, perform 100 hours of community service and enter a guilty plea in the Baltimore County gun case.

Steven D. Silverman, an attorney for Impallaria, said the resolution of the Baltimore County case will have no adverse effects on sentencing in Anne Arundel County. That hearing is scheduled for June 21.

Holding the line on property taxes

A state commission unanimously recommended holding the line on state property tax rates.

The action by the Commission on State Debt maintains the current tax rates for a 17th consecutive year. The meeting lasted less than 6 minutes.

Property owners in Maryland pay 11.2 cents per $100 of assessed value. Public utilities pay a rate of 28 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The state assessments are in addition to local property tax assessments.

The state estimates it will collect more than $1 billion in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The total represents a more than $28 million increase year over year.

Property taxes collected by the state go toward paying state bonds. The collection does not cover the full amount of the debt service. Analysts estimate that the state will have to draw $433.1 million from the General Fund to help offset the shortfall.

The recommendation requires the approval of the Board of Public Works. Such approval is considered likely as two of the three-members — Treasurer Dereck Davis and Comptroller Brooke Lierman — serve on the debt commission.

Marylanders have not seen an increase in state property taxes since former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) raised the tax from 21 to 33 cents on utilities and from 8.4 to 13.2 cents on all other property.

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) lowered the respective property taxes to their current rates in fiscal 2007.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect the U.S. Senate’s vote on Tuesday evening.


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News roundup: Bid to place Cardin on Judiciary Committee fails, Impallaria sentenced, state property tax change unlikely