HOME Act heads back to committee
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 14:41

Bill unlikely to pass before end of session

by Nicole Rodman

    The HOME Act, a bill that would make it illegal for large landlords to refuse to rent to tenants based solely on source of income, was voted back to committee last Wednesday after days of contentious debate in the Maryland Senate.
    The bill was sent back to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee by a vote of 23-22.
    With this move, the bill is unlikely to pass before the end of the session on April 8.

    “I don’t think it will come back out of committee,” 6th District Sen. Norman Stone told The Eagle last week.
    Stone is a member of the Judicial Proceedings Commitee, which heard the bill.
    According to those who voted to send the bill back to committee, there was still work that needed to be done before the bill is ready for the floor.
    As Stone noted, the specifics of what work needed to be done on the bill were not given.
    The “refer to committee” vote followed days of debate in which the bill’s opponents argued that the HOME Act would unfairly force landlords to take part in the government’s housing voucher (Section 8) program.
    According to Maryland
Reporter.com, opposition was bipartisan, with several Democrats and Republicans speaking out against the bill.
    On the floor, Baltimore County Sen. Bobby Zirkin spoke out against the bill, citing what he called “unfair” restrictions in the contracts landlords sign with Section 8 tenants.
    As Zirkin noted, landlords would not be able to change terms of the lease without getting government permission.
    “I’m not in favor of discriminating against anybody, but I oppose this bill,” he said.   
    Other opponents spoke of their reluctance to mandate landlords to take part in a government program.
    Stone supported the HOME Act and was disappointed to see it sent back to committee.
    “That bill would have helped our area,” Stone said.
    On the floor, the bill’s supporters argued that the bill would serve to reduce Section 8 usage in certain areas of the county, benefitting landlords, residents and voucher holders alike.
    As Stone explained to The Eagle, “The idea was to deconcentrate poverty.”
    In the end, the bill was sent back to committee by a one-vote margin.
    In the last two sessions, previous attempts to pass the HOME Act have failed in committee.
    A similar bill in the Maryland House has yet to make it to the floor after a hearing on Feb. 21.