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Byron Macfarlane Files to Run for Re-Election as Register of Wills

“I’ve spent the past seven years reforming the office of Register of Wills, innovating to enhance and improve our service to the public, and advocating for everyday people who expect and deserve fairness and efficiency from their government. Working with my staff, community partners, and my colleagues across Maryland, we’ve made great progress. We’ve reduced our paper records by 90%, increased transparency by making probate records available online, and implemented hundreds of internal improvements that have made this office a model for how a public office should be managed.

This morning, I filed to run for re-election as Register of Wills for Howard County to build on the progress we’ve made and to continue to serve the people of this great county with professionalism and care.

I look forward to the journey ahead. I’m planning an aggressive campaign that will take us to every town and village in Howard County, and I’ll need your help. Stay tuned for more information in the coming days and weeks on how you can get involved.”

Byron Calls for Removal of Confederate Monument

The tragic events of this past weekend in Charlottesville and the steady rise of white supremacist sentiment in our country have sent shockwaves across America and the world. We are called to re-affirm our values and we are called to action.

In Howard County, we believe in the value of each and every person who calls this special place home. We value learning from one another, growing together, and being a part of a diverse, inclusive community. We value civility and treating one another with dignity and respect.

However, for 69 years, Howard County has maintained a monument to a cause that did not reflect our values. That cause was the Confederacy. It was a cause determined to dissolve the United States of America, affirm white supremacy, and perpetuate the enslavement of African Americans. In the words of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, “The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of humanity.”

This monument pays tribute, selectively, to only some who fought and suffered during the Civil War. It ignores the Union soldiers who fought and died and all those who suffered the horrors of slavery. It fails completely to tell the story of Howard County’s Civil War history. This monument is also a painful reminder of the backlash in the 1940s and 1950s against the beginnings of Civil Rights Movement, which led to the construction of monuments to the Confederacy in public spaces across our nation. These monuments were built to send a strong message to show, in Mayor Landrieu’s words, “who was still in charge.” And this monument does not sit on just any public land. Rather, it sits on the grounds of our county courthouse, a place that should be and must be a symbol for justice and equal protection of the law for all of our people.

The question for our community is whether continuing to provide such a prominent perch for this monument, which glorifies the Confederacy and ignores our full history, sends the right message about Howard County and our shared values. The answer to that question is no.

I urge the County Executive and County Council to remove this monument from the grounds of the courthouse. I further suggest that the monument be relocated to a more appropriate site, whether it be a private cemetery or a museum, like the Howard County Historical Society Museum beside the courthouse.

Let’s answer the call to re-affirm our values as the diverse, inclusive community we know and love. And let’s act.

(Click here for the first local news story on this issue, reported by Fox45).

Reform continues under Byron’s leadership; latest brings $250,000 in savings to Maryland families

Byron has made it his mission to undo an anachronistic rule that requires the Registers of Wills to send out notices by certified mail. Through research, he determined the total cost for these notices to Maryland families is approximately $250,000 per year. As most people know, a certified letter rarely brings good news and thus many of these notices are returned unclaimed, and the return of a certified letter postcard does not actually prove the intended recipient received the notice. Therefore, Byron worked with his colleagues, the Estates & Trusts Section of the Maryland Bar Association, and pursued this reform relentlessly for the past three years. He is pleased to announce that the Maryland Court of Appeals approved a change to the Maryland Rules which will allow the Registers to send all notices by first-class mail rather than certified. This will, again, bring about $250,000 in savings to Maryland families each year.

This is yet another example of common sense reform that Byron has made the hallmark of his tenure as Register of Wills. As a member of the County Council, the people of Howard County can expect the same steadfast stewardship of our local government, ensuring that it runs in a way that is cost effective, modern, and responsive to the community’s needs.

Byron Marches in Baltimore Pride Parade with U.S. Sen. Van Hollen, Del. Mary Washington

Baltimore’s Pride celebrations were covered in the Washington Blade. Click the screenshot to read the full story.

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, Byron marched in the Baltimore Gay Pride Parade, which traveled from the neighborhoods of Mt. Vernon to Old Goucher. This was Byron’s 11th Baltimore Pride as an out gay man. “I remember my first Pride, how exhilarating it was to be out of the closet, and how amazing it was to see and meet so many people like me. Experiencing the love and solidarity in this community made coming out easier, has made being out exciting and enriching, and has made the battles we’ve waged for our right to be out and free and equal ones where we’ve succeeded over and over again. Our work goes on and we’ll continue to prove that love and equality will win.”

The Grand Marshals for the parade were U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a longtime ally of the LGBT community, and State Delegate Mary Washington, one of the first African-American lesbian legislators in America. Other LGBT elected officials marching included State Senator Rich Madaleno, the first openly gay state Senator in Maryland history and a candidate for governor, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, and Delegate Luke Clippinger. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Delegate Brooke Lierman were other allies who marched.

Paper Reduction Initiative Signed Into Law

On Tuesday, May 10th, Governor Larry Hogan signed House Bill 472 into law. This bill, introduced by Delegate Christian Miele of Baltimore County, will reduce the volume of documents stored by the Registers by over 90%. For almost 20 years now, the Registers of Wills have been scanning and imaging all papers they receive. Using these high-resolution, secure images, documents can be easily reproduced. This legislation would allow the Registers to dispose of the original paper files, except any wills or codicils (amendments to wills). This enormous reduction will save the state – Archives and the Registers – and local jurisdictions – which are required to house the Registers in their courthouse – time and money in terms of storage, equipment, and maintenance.

Byron is grateful to Delegate Miele for sponsoring this legislation and for his colleagues’ support in this endeavor. Together, this simple, good government bill, is now law.

Register’s Office Receives Exemplary Review in Recent Report

The Office of Legislative Audits, in a routine review of the operations of the office of the Register of Wills for Howard County, has concluded that the office has no “significant deficiencies in the design of operation of the Office’s internal control,” nor does it have any “significant instances of noncompliance with applicable laws, rules, or regulations.” Byron and his dedicated staff have worked diligently over many years to ensure that this office’s fiscal operations are conducted with precision and integrity. This report demonstrates that Byron’s leadership has produced a highly efficient, fiscally sound public office that Howard County residents can be proud of. Byron’s office generates between $2.5 and $3 million in revenue each year, the vast majority of which is placed into the state General Fund to support public health, primary and higher education, transportation, and public safety.

For more information, the full audit report can be found here.

Registers Push 2016 Legislative Agenda

In the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland Register of Wills Association is pushing three pieces of legislation that will benefit the public:

1. Paper Reduction Initiative

This bill, introduced by Delegate Christian Miele of Baltimore County, would reduce the volume of documents stored by the Registers by over 90%. For almost 20 years now, these offices scan, image, and archive all papers they receive. Using these high-resolution, secure images, documents can be easily reproduced. This legislation would allow the Registers to dispose of the original paper files, except any wills or codicils (amendments to wills). This enormous reduction will save the state – Archives and the Registers – and local jurisdictions – which are required to house the Registers in their courthouse – time and money in terms of storage, equipment, and maintenance.

2. Ending Use of Certified Mail in Probate

For many years, state law requires that notices given to interested persons in estate matters be sent by certified mail. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Registers of Wills collected over $230,000 in certified mail charges from estates that could have otherwise gone to a decedent’s loved ones. This legislation would allow for these notices to be given by first-class mail, like most other legal notices, saving Maryland families hundreds of thousands of dollars and saving the Registers countless hours of staff time compiling and mailing these notices.

3. Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

As we manage our finances and actually have assets that exist in the digital world, the law must adjust to this trend and enable the fiduciaries – personal representatives, trustees, guardians, etc. – to be able to access these assets. Often when a loved one passes away, the family feels powerless or lost when dealing with the decedent’s online profile – bank accounts, assets, social media, and more. This legislation would provide explicit statutory authority for personal representatives (ie. executors) to be able to access the decedent’s assets and manage their affairs appropriately.

Byron Reflects on Five-Year Anniversary as Register

Five years ago today I was sworn in as Register of Wills for Howard County. As I think back, I’m reminded of my family and friends who were with me from the beginning and the new friends and supporters I’d met during that campaign. We proved that a grassroots campaign inspired by compassion and service to others could defy the odds, overcome prejudice and win.

Today I also reflect on what I’ve done with this tremendous opportunity. Five years ago I hit the ground running and haven’t slowed down. My goal has been to provide the people of Howard County with the kind of government they deserve – efficient, caring, and progressive. With the support of the dedicated professionals I am fortunate to work with, my office provides just that. We ensure that grieving families get the answers and guidance they need when they need it most, and leave here knowing that we care. I speak with public employees, seniors, college students, church groups, and civic organizations to give them the tools to plan for the future and protect their families. I have led and continue to lead efforts to implement statewide reforms to make probate in Maryland faster and fairer. And I have been committed to making this office operate – from accounting to communication, procurement, technology and otherwise – at peak efficiency.

Going forward, there’s a lot of work to be done to better serve the people of Howard County and the state of Maryland. And there is a lot of work to be done to restore confidence in government. I’ll keep doing my part by working hard and delivering results.

Byron Re-Elected With 73,537 Votes

Facing no primary or general election opponent, Byron was officially re-elected as Register of Wills for Howard County with 73,357 votes – one of the highest vote totals for any candidate in Howard County history. “I am extremely grateful for the confidence the people of Howard County have placed in me to serve them in a second term as Register. There is much more work to be done to enhance our technological capabilities and improve the legal framework for probate to make this process easier, fairer, and less expensive for all Maryland families. I intend to continue to lead the efforts to accomplish these goals.”

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Endorses Byron for Re-Election

In early December 2013, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to  electing committed and qualified LGBT candidates to public office, endorsed Byron for re-election as Register of Wills for Howard County. The Victory Fund previously endorsed Byron in his first race for this office in 2010.

“I am honored and humbled to have the endorsement of the Victory Fund as I pursue re-election this year. This is an organization with a simple mission: ensuring that the LGBT community has a seat at the table. The past three years, I have been a steadfast advocate for equality for LGBT Marylanders. In the years to come, I will continue to give voice to this vibrant community.”

In 2012, Byron was a leader in the ballot referendum on marriage equality, better known as “Question 6.” With the support of fellow Howard County officials like County Executive Ken Ulman, nearly 60% of county voters came out to the polls to support marriage equality, the second-highest vote percentage of any jurisdiction in Maryland.