Moore signs expansion of veteran retiree tax credit into law; Republicans push back on other issues
Military veterans will now be able to claim a larger income tax credit if they retire in Maryland.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) traveled to Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River for his sixth bill signing ceremony since the end of the General Assembly session a month ago. Against a backdrop of military fighter planes, the Army veteran signed into law a six-pack of measures focused on the state’s veterans and National Guard members.
“Today is going to be the day that we are going to honor the promises that we made to those who serve our country,” Moore said, standing in front of a Maryland Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt.
Included in the package signed by Moore is a law increasing the maximum income tax subtraction modification for military retirees. Moore personally testified in favor of the bill. It marked the first time a governor appeared before a legislative committee since former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
“These are people who happen to have and will have second and third careers,” said Moore. “These are people who will start businesses. These are people who will buy homes. These are people that will eat in restaurants, go to movies and museums, encourage their children and their grandchildren to live and stay in Maryland. And it’s not just that they deserve our support, it’s that they earned it.”
House Bill 554 and the identical Senate Bill 553 raise the limit on the credit that can be claimed to $20,000. The amount, however, was just half of what Moore originally requested.
Moore also signed into law House Bill 553 and Senate Bill 554, which will reimburse those serving in the National Guard up to $60 per month for health and dental insurance premiums.
“The Health Care for Heroes Act will make Maryland the first state in the nation to create an avenue to free health care and dental care for members of the National Guard,” Moore said.
Moore originally asked the legislature to fully reimburse National Guard members for their health and dental coverage.
Moore also signed into law identical House and Senate bills that extend free burial services to the spouse or eligible dependent of a veteran. Veterans are already entitled to the service provided through the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.
A special swearing in
Moore also used the stop in Middle River to preside over a special swearing in.
The governor administered the oath of enlistment to Zion Rawls, a Harford County resident who worked at Aberdeen Proving Grounds as a warehouse specialist.
“He decided he was looking for more direction in his life and he enlisted in the Air National Guard. He’s gone through training and he’s ready to serve but he still has to go through one last step,” said Moore, before administering the oath to Rawls while his family looked on.
House Republicans want gun bill veto
Moore has 2 1/2 weeks left to consider dozens of other bills that passed in the General Assembly session. House Republicans on Friday asked Moore to veto gun control legislation Democrats passed in response to a Supreme Court ruling last summer that dramatically expanded the right to wear and carry a firearm.
Republican delegates called the bill “unconstitutional” and ripe for a challenge.
“This bill has nothing to do with gun safety. Instead, in our view, this bill is a de facto ban on the legal wearing and carrying of a firearm in Maryland,” Republicans wrote in their letter. “As written, this legislation would criminalize the otherwise lawful activities of concealed carry permit holders for merely exercising their rights.”
The letter, signed by 36 of 39 House Republicans, is a Hail Mary of sorts. Moore has said he plans to sign the bill — an intent confirmed Friday by a spokesperson for the governor.
The bill bans the open carry of guns in the state. It also restricts where firearms can be carried. The list of co-called sensitive places includes preschools, stadiums, government buildings and polling places.
Second Amendment rights groups including Maryland Shall Issue say they are preparing court challenges once the law takes effect.
GOP senators disappointed in digital ad tax ruling
In the Senate, GOP caucus leaders fired back at Moore Friday for comments made earlier this week about the state’s business climate.
“For the past decade our state has been falling behind. And we have made it very clear that saying that you’re open for business is not enough. Being open for business can’t just be a slogan. You need to do the work in order to make that real. Our administration inherited and unacceptable economic situation, but we are going to turn this ship around starting today,” Moore said during a Monday bill signing focused on jobs and the economy.
Senate Minority Leader Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (Upper Shore)) and Minority Whip Justin Ready (Frederick and Carroll) said Moore can lay the blame on lawmakers from his own party.
“Whether it’s lack of job creation or failure to retain Maryland businesses, he need not look any farther than the Democratic leadership of the Maryland General Assembly, who with their gerrymandered, veto-proof supermajorities, have rammed through decades worth of bad policy that have created and exacerbated Maryland’s unfriendly business climate,” Hershey and Ready wrote in a statement released Friday.
Earlier this week the Supreme Court of Maryland reversed a lower court decision that declared the state’s first in the nation digital ad tax unconstitutional. The order remands the issue back to an Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge and orders her to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Verizon and Comcast. The order, however, could revive a federal challenge that was dismissed as a result of the Anne Arundel judge’s summary judgment.
“While we are disappointed in the Maryland Supreme Court ruling, we are hopeful for a more favorable ruling at the Federal level in the months ahead. We encourage Governor Moore to stand with us in rolling back onerous, anti-job creation policies that drive up costs and force businesses to close or move out of Maryland to more business-friendly states,” Hershey and Ready wrote.