It's hard to believe that we just passed the half-way point of this 90 day General Assembly session. We definitely have not completed half the work, so this next 45 days is going to be jam-packed with bills to consider, hearings, and votes. Believe it or not, I've only cast a handful of votes (in my committee and on the House floor), and they've all been non-controversial, mostly technical fixes to current law. Because it was an election year, bills were introduced much later in the session and full, hours long hearings have only recently begun in most committees.
In my committee, the Appropriations Committee, subcommittees have been working long hours for many weeks. In the Education and Economic Development Committee, where I serve, we've had most of the state's leaders of higher education before the subcommittee, discussing graduation rates, retention rates, student debt, and many other issues related to ensuring that our students are graduating with skills that will enable them to be great thinkers, inventors, and workers. We're also having the opportunity to think about these issues in the context of economic development and had the newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Economic Development Mike Gill before the subcommittee discussing the variety of services and funds available to help employers expand job opportunities in Maryland.
Speaking of higher ed -- for those who need financial assistance to attend college or graduate school, please check out my legislative scholarship application. The deadline is coming up quick, so please take a look.
We're getting to budget decision-making time and this week we'll hold hearings on the BRFA -- the Budget Reconcilation and Financing Act --the bill that accompanies the Governor's Budget. Meetings with interest groups and constituents -- occupational therapists, Stevenson University students, Roland Park Elementary school students, pharmacists, doctors, dentists, homeless advocates, arts advocates -- continue. A few photos:
With regard to legislation, I have introduced a bill HB 571 -- that addresses a piece of the very large issue of sexual assault on campus -- and I've spent a great deal of time discussing the issue with university officials, experts and advocates. The bill will be heard in the Appropriations Committee next week. The bill does three important things:
• Mandates that campuses conduct climate surveys on sexual assault so they can better tailor their services to the particular needs of their campus community
• Mandates that have formal memoranda of understanding (MOU's) with law enforcement and rape crisis centers and/or sexual assault advocacy groups
• Give safe harbor to a victim or a witness of sexual assault from the penalties of violating their school's conduct code (more than 75% of sexual assaults involve alcohol, and we want to make sure that is not a barrier to reporting)
I've also worked very closely with Delegate Christian Miele, from Baltimore County's 8th District (Parkville, Perry Hall, etc.) to create state standards for animal shelters with HB 876. We've each heard from our constituents about their concerns regarding animal shelters, so we got animal rights advocates, shelter operators, and non profit shelter organizational representatives together a few weeks ago to hammer out a legislative proposal that will be heard in the Environment & Transportation Committee this week.
Next week are budget decision meetings and more controversial issues are sure to be considered on the House floor. I have begun to hear from many of you about a whole variety of issues -- aid to education, the possibility of rolling back the gasoline tax and stormwater management fees -- and many others. It's impossible for us all to agree on every issue. I will do my best to explain the rationale for my position, as will you, but please remember that I take my job of representing EVERYONE in the 11th district seriously.
Finally, I can't let this opportunity pass without noting the big news of the week (and it's only Monday!) -- that Senator Barbara Mikulski will not seek re-election. My first job out of college was working on Senator Mikulski's first Senate campaign, in 1986, where she was the first Democratic woman elected in her own right to the U.S. Senate. She has been an inspiration to thousands -- and especially to many of us women in public service -- and I look forward to seeing what she will accomplish in her last two years in office as well as how she will continue to fight for all Marylanders in the years ahead.
Please make note of my contact information:
Delegate Shelly Hettleman
Lowe House Office Building, Room 311
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Please "like" my facebook page if you haven't already:
Please stop by when you're in Annapolis -- we'd love to see you! I look forward to hearing from you.