There are a dozen days left to the 2015 session and there is still lots to do. If you're getting this email for the first time, it's because you've written to me recently and I've added you to my update list. Since I last wrote, the House passed the Budget by a whopping 129-10 and the Senate adopted it unanimously. The House gives final consideration to the Capital Budget today, which provides funding for the construction, planning, renovation and building of State facilities such as hospitals, higher education institutions, and parks. Every county also receives funding for local projects, from schools to community health centers. District 11 has received funds in the Capital Budget for some exciting projects that we'll be able to announce once those decisions are finalized.
The Committee made public school construction a priority, dedicating $280 million to the renovation and expansion of classrooms across the state. This is especially important in Baltimore County with our aging school infrastructure. Our County will also receive $4.2 from an additional $20 million grant program dedicated to jurisdictions with growing school populations or those that have a high number of portable classrooms. The House's Capital Budget also includes over $50 million for state and local projects through Program Open Space (POS), more than $25 million over what the Governor requested. While it doesn't make POS whole from the years those funds were diverted from their original purpose to fill operating budget holes, we are holding firm that the State needs to repay those funds. Moreover, Baltimore County is the largest recipient of local POS funds, so important to land conservation and preservation efforts.
Conference Committees will begin their work in earnest this week to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget bills. Complicating matters will be a supplemental appropriations bill that Governor Hogan is expected to introduce that will make his priorities known and must be considered in conference committee work.
Policy committees are holding hearings and considering legislation that has come from the Senate, but there is limited time remaining. The House adopted a three year moratorium on fracking, which I supported, creating an expert panel that will review new studies and report on the safety of fracking by the beginning of 2018. The Senate is taking the lead on a charter bill and the House is expected to work from the Senate's bill, but it doesn't look like we'll see a substantial reworking of our charter law, The legislature is enacting some of the recommendations of the Augustine Commission to make the state more business-friendly, more of which I'll detail in the days ahead. A few issues that don't appear to be progressing through the legislative process: pay equity legislation, Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights reforms, the Working Families Matter Act (paid leave), and Death with Dignity legislation.
With regard to the bills I'm most directly involved with -- HB 571, dealing with sexual assault on campus -- I'm pleased to report that it was adopted unanimously by the House and the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on it yesterday. I am cautiously optimistic about its progress through the Senate, but there's still some work to be done. Unfortunately, the animal shelter standards bill generated enough controversy that the bill was withdrawn. We're convening a group to study the issues during the interim, with the hope that we can arrive at consensus and introduce a bill next session that can move forward.
If you know of anyone in the 11th District who could benefit from financial assistance for higher education, please make them aware of my scholarship application that must be submitted by April 10. Each legislator is permitted to direct scholarship funds to eligible students in our district.
To all who celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Passover or Easter. I will be in touch again soon, but in the meantime, feel free to contact me through the avenues below:
Delegate Shelly Hettleman
Lowe House Office Building, Room 311
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please "like" my facebook page & Twitter if you haven't already:
I look forward to hearing from you.