Happy March! It's hard to believe that we have passed the half-way mark of our 90 day session. We have a record number of bills to consider this session and as days grow longer on the House floor, there is still much work to be done in committee. Last week our subcommittee had its final budget hearing and we head into budget decision-making time later this week and the next.
Here are a few highlights.
House Floor & Committees
Legislation I've Introduced
In my role as a member of the Commission on Assessments and Testing in Public Schools, I’ve become increasingly concerned about both the quantity and quality of tests public school children are required to take. I’ve introduced HB 1427 that requires the Maryland State Department of Education to apply to the federal government for a unique opportunity to pilot creative assessments in public schools. The new federal education law enables seven states enormous flexibility in crafting assessments in public schools and I want to be sure we’re seeking this opportunity.
I've always believed in community service. And I've always believed that young people have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world through service. Maryland Corps is a bill I've introduced that would enable young people - before college - to spend a gap year of service at a non-profit or government agency before beginning college. The bill would provide a scholarship and a living stipend for a successful year of service. We have a hearing this week, and I'll explain more in future updates.
Finally, I've introduced a bill that requires the Department of Human Resources to examine how it allocates resources to local Departments of Social Services. It's clear that Baltimore County social service workers carry a very high caseload and we need to take a look at how much time workers spend on different cases and make staffing decisions based on the workload and need. The hearing on HB 1190 will be this week.
In and Around the 11th District
Closer to home, you may have read in the paper about the controversy surrounding permitting Off Track Betting (OTB) at the fairgrounds in Timonium. It's appalling how the community found out about the proposal (in a purely coincidental conversation in a bar) and how parties were planning to proceed with the gambling expansion without any notice to the community or legislative leaders. My 11th district and 42nd district colleagues and I have been working on two bills. The first bill, that calls for an outright ban, was introduced before the Maryland Racing Commission voted to allow OTB and will be amended to require the involved parties - the Jockey Club, the State Fair and the Greater Timonium Coordinating Council - to sign a memorandum of understanding addressing the concerns of the communities about times of operation, traffic, noise, etc. The second bill, HB 727, will require that the Maryland Racing Commission provide public notice to neighborhoods and businesses around a track before they expand gambling there. We hope this bill will prevent what happened in Timonium from happening to other communities.
We’ve had a number of constituents visit the office. A few of our House pages have been 11th district constituents and it's wonderful to visit with them during their stints in Annapolis (they each spend 2 separate weeks with us). We’ve had AFSCME union members who work at the Department of Social Services, Girl Scouts, advocates for mental health services, residents of North Oaks retirement community, representatives from Hopewell and Irvine Nature Center and many others. Closer to home, I’ve been to the Pikesville and Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Department Installation of Officers, spoken with visitors at the Pikesville Senior Center, and continue to have meetings with constituents on Mondays.
There are a lot of bills making their way through the legislative process that I'll write more about in future updates including retirement security, Noah's Law that would mandate ignition locking devices for drunk drivers, clean energy & jobs, and contraceptive equity to name a few.
This week, the Baltimore Jewish Council held its Advocacy Day and the House recognized Senator Barbara Mikulski's service to Maryland:
Please share my scholarship application with anyone who may need financial assistance for higher education.
Thanks so much for your support! It's a privilege to work on behalf of the 11th district. As always, please stop by if you're in Annapolis or drop me a line about any issue of concern:
Delegate Shelly Hettleman
Lowe House Office Building, Room 311
Annapolis, MD 21401
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