Thank you very much for the opportunity to represent the 11th District in the Maryland General Assembly! Our 2016 session came to an end at midnighton April 11th and it’s been a very active 90 days. I really appreciate that so many of you have shared with me your thoughts and concerns about a wide variety of issues over this session. It is my hope that this letter will highlight the big issues of the past 90 days, will let you know how I have spent my time, and what we have accomplished. I am honored to have been elected and truly value the input so many of you have provided to me. Please let me know if you would like additional information and I will be happy to get it to you.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, much of my time was spent on the budget. Under the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly must pass a balanced budget. This year’s budget enjoys bipartisan support, achieves structural balance in FY ’16 and ’17, has lower growth than recommended by the Spending Affordability Committee, and increases our cash balances. The 2016-2017 budget will:
· Maintain the state’s commitment to public schools by providing over $6.3 billion. Local schools will receive a $147 million increase and will have all formulas fully funded; Maryland colleges and universities will receive a 6% increase in funding with a cap of 2% on tuition increases; Community colleges will receive an increase of 5.4%.
· Provide resources for substance abuse treatment and opioid addiction by increasing funding by $12.1 million, including $5.4 million for new and expanded services and treatment for individuals with substance abuse disorders and $3.7 million for initiatives recommended by the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task force.
· Provide vital health care services by continuing to fund the Medicaid program at about $10 billion, including rate increases for providers. More than $63 million has been added to aid developmentally disabled individuals in Maryland, including a provider increase.
· Protect natural resources by strengthening our commitment to Program Open Space. The budget adds $60 million to fund land preservation programs over the next two years and promises full funding by 2019, with repayments of $270 million by 2029.
The capital budget provides funding for the construction, planning, renovation and building for state facilities, such as hospitals, school construction, higher education institutions and parks. This year, the capital budget stayed well within the Governor’s requested limit of $955 million, and was able to provide an additional $40 million in supplemental school construction for the entire state. Baltimore County will receive $43.6 million in school construction.
Del. Hettleman, Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Del. Dan Morhaim & Del. Dana Stein’s Local Initiatives
District 11 is a diverse community that has a wide variety of capital needs. Although the Governor did not include funds for local projects in his budget, the General Assembly recognizes their importance, and we fought for and obtained funding for:
· The development of Rosewood, which will receive $700 million for environmental abatement. We’ve also included pre-authorization for significant funding in the next two fiscal years.
· HopeWell Cancer Support will receive $100,000 for essential facility renovations and to build a long-awaited welcome center.
· Irvine Nature Center will receive $150,000 for the restoration and reconstruction of the Native American Village.
· The Jemicy School will receive $150,000 in funding for the reconstruction of the gymnasium on their Lower/Middle School Campus in Owings Mills.
· The Gordon Center of Performing Arts will receive $100,000 in funding to renovate existing listening systems, environmentally friendly lighting for fire safety at emergency exits.
· Talmudical Academy will receive $250,000 for repairs, renovation and construction of a new gym for the high school’s athletic and extra-curricular after school programming.
· The Worthington Valley Roundabout project will receive $400,000 that helps to leverage county and private funding to address the safety and traffic concerns at a dangerous intersection in Worthington Valley.
My Legislative Initiatives
· The House & Senate passed a bill I introduced to create Maryland Corps (HB 1488), a program to provide youth who have completed high school with a year of community service in a non-profit or government agency. I’m hopeful that the Governor will permit start-up funding in the budget to support stipends and scholarships for successful completers. Participants in the program would be marketable for future jobs and academic opportunities, creating a long-term investment in Maryland’s economy and workforce, while performing valuable service to the community.
· In order to address the increasing caseloads of Department of Social Services workers in Baltimore County, I introduced HB 1190, requiring the Department of Human Resources to conduct a weighted caseload analysis to evaluate how the department allocates resources. While the bill was not acted on, I was able to insert it into the budget, requiring the department to conduct the study.
· There was much controversy surrounding the Timonium Fairgrounds and the expansion of Off Track Betting (OTB). Senators and Delegates from District 11 and District 42 introduced legislation and facilitated a memorandum of understanding among the Maryland Jockey Club, Maryland Racing Commission, State Fair, and the Greater Timonium Coordinating Council to prohibit the future development of casino gambling at the racetrack. HB 727will ensure that communities must be notified about future OTB expansion plans before they occur.
· Prospective college students need to know how much it will cost to attend school. Inaccurate information was regularly posted on college & university websites, so I inserted language into the budget requiring these “net price calculators” to post the most accurate and updated information.
· In order to get more information about the preparedness of children with special needs for pre-school, I’ve asked the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), through budget language, to update a 2011 study they conducted.
· In response to changes in the federal allocation of child care funding, I am also monitoring whether the state has sufficient funding in place to fund the child care subsidy.
· HB 494, the Animal Shelter Standards Act, was changed significantly before passage, and will create protocols for veterinarians and a process for returning stray animals.
· I serve on the Governor’s Commission on Testing and Assessments where we are examining the use of assessments in our schools. TheInnovative Assessments Pilot Program (HB 1427) would require MSDE to apply to the federal government to be a part of a seven-state pilot program. The feds have not issued regulations for implementation, so we decided to wait. Our Commission’s report, including recommendations about testing in school, will be issued later this year.
· TEDCO provides seed funding to help commercialize university-based start ups and has only been able to provide grant, rather than equity funding, through the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII). Although HB 1532 was stuck in the House Rules Committee, and would have enabled equity funding, I helped to shepherd its Senate companion bill to passage.
· Freedom to Vote (HB 1007): This bill was amended substantially and will expand electronic voter registration to social service departments, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange and other agencies. This bill passed both the Senate and the House and has been sent to the Governor.
· The 436th legislative session began and ended with the General Assembly overriding gubernatorial vetoes relating to the decriminalization of marijuana paraphernalia, transparency in the decision-making process for transportation projects, the selection of the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission, ex-felons’ opportunity to vote, how certain businesses are taxed, and civil asset forfeiture laws.
· Pollinator Protection Act (HB 211): Will ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (which hurt bees) by non-professionals. The bill passed and awaits the Governor’s signature.
· Clean Energy Renewable Energy Standards Revisions (HB 1106): Increases the use of renewable energy to 25% of Maryland electricity by 2020; reinforces Maryland as a leader of the wind and solar industries. It will examine ways to grow workforce and business in clean energy and awaits the Governor’s signature.
· Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (HB 610): Requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide by 40% by 2030 and uses 2006 as a baseline for measuring emissions. The Governor has signed this bill.
· Poultry Litter Management Act (HB 599): Chicken waste and manure from industrial farms threaten the health of the Chesapeake Bay. This bill would have helped manage the way chicken waste is discarded and hold poultry companies accountable for clean-up practices. Unfortunately, this bill failed to make it out of committee.
· Program Open Space (HB 331): Program Open Space allows state and local government to preserve land for recreational and public use. More than $1 billion has been siphoned away from the program and helped to balance the budget during difficult economic times. This bill begins to repay these funds and has been signed into law by the Governor.
· Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act (SB937): Allows the collection of data that actively monitors oyster fisheries and enables the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to evaluate the effectiveness of restoration efforts. The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
· The College Affordability Act (HB 1014): Helps to ease the burden of paying for college by establishing a matching state contribution for eligible college savings accounts and offering a tax credit of up to $5,000 for undergraduate student loan debt. It is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
· Boast, a program to provide tax incentives for businesses to donate funds that would be used for non-public schools was included in the Governor’s budget but was not considered in the House. Another proposal, called Boost, was incorporated into the budget and will provide up to $5 million to low-income students to attend non-public schools. I support this proposal that will help many of my constituents afford tuition at the non-public schools they believe to be the only option for their children.
· University of Maryland Baltimore/University of Maryland College Park Strategic Alliance (SB 1052): Will allow the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore to leverage resources, formalize collaborations, and develop new ones. It will expand joint degree programs and will provide additional funding for UMBC and Towson University. The bill is likely to become law without the Governor’s signature.
· Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of (HB 1013): Will require the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop a scoring system for transportation projects across the state. The bill provides transparency and has been adopted by other states under Republican administrations. It was vetoed by the Governor and overridden by the General Assembly.
· Commuter Tax Benefit Increase (HB 1012): Will increase the maximum commuter tax benefit from $50 to $100 per month and will encourage carpooling, helping both traffic congestion and the environment. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
Public Safety and Criminal Justice
· Public Safety Accountability (HB 1016): Extends the time a citizen may file a complaint; cuts the length of time from 10 days to 5 days that a police officer would have to engage an attorney; requires community policing programs, and permits local jurisdictions to authorize the inclusion of up to 2 voting or non-voting citizens to trial boards.
· Justice Reinvestment Act (HB 1312): Will reform prison sentencing and help reduce disparities in our criminal justice system. The Justice Reinvestment Act will refocus the state’s treatment of nonviolent offenders and implement a restorative justice approach to reducing recidivism and remedy current inequities. In the long-term, HB 1312 will save taxpayer resources as individuals are able to re-enter society in healthy and productive ways. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
· Noah’s Law (HB 1342): Will require the use of an interlock system in the vehicle of an individual who receives a DUI offense, in addition to extending the time period of use for repeat offenders. Maryland will now have the most strict drunk driving laws in the country. The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
· Weapon Free Higher Education Zones (HB 1002): Would have established a uniform policy that no individual, other than a police officer or security officer, may possess a gun on a public college, university, or community college campus. This bill passed in the House, but it did not make it out of the Senate.
Other Important Issues
· Healthy Working Families Act (HB 580): Workers who are sick shouldn’t have to choose between taking care of themselves or a loved one and keeping their job. This bill requires employers with 15 or more employees to permit workers to earn paid sick or safe leave of up to 7 days. This bill passed in the House. Unfortunately, it did not make it out of the Senate.
· Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) (HB 437): To monitor the dispensing of opioids to patients, this bill will require certain prescribers and all pharmacists to register with the PDMP by July 1, 2017. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
· Richard E Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End-of-Life Option Act (HB 404): This bill would have provided terminally ill individuals with an option to end one’s life after multiple consultations with a physician. Unfortunately, this bill did not make it out of committee.
· Equal Pay for Equal Work (HB 1003): Nationally, women are paid 79 cents of what men are paid. This bill allows workers to disclose their wages to determine if there is discrimination. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
· Contraception Equity Act (HB 1005): Will help close gaps in contraception coverage and will prohibit most co-payments for contraception and pre-authorization requirements. It will also require insurers to cover contraception 6 months at a time. It awaits the Governor’s signature.
· Senior Citizens Activities Center Funding (HB 262): Recalculates how funding to senior centers is determined. It will offer $60,000 in additional funds for Baltimore County Senior Centers. This legislation is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
· Small Business Retirement Savings Program (HB 1378): To encourage more savings for retirement, this bill will establish a program for private sector employers to offer their employees retirement arrangements that are exempt from the State’s annual filing fee. This bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
· Earned Income Tax Credit (HB 452): This tax credit would have made a huge difference for working, low income Marylanders. Unfortunately, this bill was not adopted.
The 11th district team of Senator Bobby Zirkin, Delegates Dan Morhaim and Dana Stein and I work well together and have wonderful opportunities to develop our own, complementary areas of expertise. Senator Zirkin is Chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and played an instrumental role in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, directing funds towards prevention and drug treatment rather than incarceration, Delegate Morhaim focuses much of his legislative attention on health care, notably substance abuse and mental health issues as well as procurement; and Delegate Stein is Vice Chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee where he has the opportunity to play an important role in protecting our environment and enhancing our transportation systems.
In the coming months, I hope to see many of you at community events throughout the 11th District and beyond. As we transition from working in Annapolis back to Baltimore County for the interim, please let me and/or my Legislative Director, Maureen Evans Arthurs know how we can help by calling 410-841-3833 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you and to continuing working hard for the 11thDistrict – it’s truly an honor! Thank you!