Archive for February, 2009

Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 26, 2009

Posted by quinn on February 26, 2009  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 26, 2009

Friends,

After a lot of back-and-forth on the federal stage, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is finally here, bringing with it very welcome relief for the State of Maryland, especially in the areas of education and transportation funding.

The Basics of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

The ARRA is a $789.5 billion initiative developed by President Obama and Congress. Its most obvious intent is to preserve/create jobs and promote economic recovery (hence the measure’s common name, the “stimulus package”), but it is also of course an attempt to mitigate the potential damage that this economic downturn will do to ordinary people, and to stabilize the local and State budgets that provide essential services to them.

It is estimated that Maryland will receive $3.9 billion over the next two years, including highlights such as $1.3 billion from an enhanced federal match in the Medicaid program, $721 million for K-12 education, and $160 million to help fund essential State services like public safety.

The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF)

These latter two amounts (totaling about $881 million) make up Maryland’s portion of the major ARRA component known as the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF), of which 82% is required to address K-12 educational funding formula deficiencies by “restoring, in each of fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011, the level of State support provided through such formulas to the greater of the fiscal year 2008 or fiscal year 2009 level”; and by “allowing existing State formula increases to support elementary and secondary education for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to be implemented and allow funding for phasing in State equity and adequacy adjustments.” The remaining $160 million in SFSF money can be used “for public safety and other government services, which may include assistance for elementary and secondary education and public institutions of higher education.”

Education

As a result of the influx of ARRA money, Governor O’Malley is announcing a plan that fully restores education funding in every jurisdiction in Maryland to the level anticipated for FY 2010 and 2011 before the national economic downturn by:

  • Fully funding the phase-in of the Geographic Cost of Education Index in FY 2009, 2010 and 2011 (great for Baltimore City);
  • Restoring and fully funding the original Supplemental Grant formula established in the 2007 Special Session;
  • Guaranteeing full funding of Thornton-related education aid in FY 2010 and 2011, including the Thornton “inflator” that begins again in FY 2011 ;
  • Fully funding the increase in the State formula for paying the cost of teacher retirement benefits, ensuring that this responsibility will not be passed on to local governments and local school systems in FY 2010 and 2011;
  • Restoring funding for non-public placements in FY 2010 and 2011 by maintaining the current State share at 80%, instead of the 50% share proposed in the budget.

The ARRA also provides Title I and IDEA (special education) aid directly to local school systems. In Maryland, this amounts to approximately $177 million for Title I and $207 million for IDEA, and $8 million for education technology – a total of $392 million in additional funding for our schools. Out of these totals, Baltimore City will receive $77 million for Title I, $28 million for IDEA, and $3 million for education technology for a total of about $108 million. I would venture to say that education cuts in Baltimore City is topic I have heard the most about from you, my constituents, in the past weeks, and so this news concerning our ability to restore funding represents a very, very welcome turn of events.

Baltimore City Educational Funding in FY2010

Original FY 10 Budget Proposal

FY 2010 Revised – GCEI, Supplemental Grant, and Non-Public Placements Restored to Full Funding

Total State Investment

Direct

Total Aid

Direct

Total Aid

Direct

Total Aid

$811,390,703

$885,170,447

$30,015,055

$30,015,055

$841,405,758

$915,185,502

Remaining SFSF Money

Consistent with the goal of the ARRA to preserve and create jobs and the federal directive to use SFSF to fund essential State services like public safety and education, Governor O’Malley is proposing to use remaining funds to:

  • Avoid having to lay-off approximately 700 valuable State employees;
  • Avoid additional cuts to community colleges in FY 2009, and provide 5% increases in community college funding in FY 2010 and 2011;
  • Restore $50 million in funding for critical public safety, health and human services needs.

Transportation

Governor O’Malley also announced on last Wednesday, February 18th, that Maryland has identified uses for Phase I of federal infrastructure money, allocating $365 million for highway and transit infrastructure across the State, helping to save and create approximately 10,000 jobs. Consistent with requirements in the ARRA, Governor O’Malley identified transportation projects – including resurfacing, bridge repairs, and intersection improvements – that will be ready within 120 days. The full investment of transportation-related infrastructure, $610 million, is estimated to save and create approximately 17,500 jobs.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Summary of Phase I Transit and Highway Projects Affecting Baltimore City

February 2009

Jurisdiction Description Cost ($ Million) Estimated Jobs
Transit
Baltimore Region Purchase of 100 Hybrid Buses and Equipment 65.6 1561
Baltimore Region Light Rail System Renewal and Improvements 5.3 126
Baltimore City MARC Penn Station Improvements (Canopies, windows) 4.0 95
Baltimore City/Co Metro Fastener and Bolt Replacement 3.1 74
Baltimore City/Co Metro Public Address System 6.1 145
Baltimore City/Co Metro Station Restoration 5.0 119
Baltimore City Metro Tunnel and Underground Station Repairs 5.0 119
Baltimore City/Co Metro Bridge and Elevated Structure Rehabilitation 4.8 114
Baltimore City/Co Metro Rail Truck Overhaul 20.3 483
Highways
Baltimore City Revitalization 21.9 629

Overview

It is useful to know a bit about how transportation projects are funded in Maryland in order to more fully understand the significance of the stimulus money our State is putting into them. Transportation in Maryland is funded by the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), an ongoing special fund that receives revenue from motor fuel taxes, titling taxes, vehicle registration fees, a portion of corporate and sales taxes, bonds, and federal highway and transit aid. The ongoing nature of transportation projects requires us to look at multi-year periods of transportation funding. The Maryland Department of Transportation issues annually a Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP), a 6-year plan to detail their capital budget spending within the TTF.

The State of the TTF

The previous administration significantly underfunded transportation, transferring $586 million out of TTF while operating costs continued to rise. During the 2007 Special Session, we made structural reforms to TTF funding formulas, including dedicating a portion of the sales tax to transportation, adding $2.1 billion to the TTF from 2008-2013 for new construction projects and system preservation. During the 2008 legislative session, TTF’s share of the sales tax was reduced due to a general fund shortfall and repeal of the computer services tax. This reduction, coupled with less than expected vehicle sales, reduced fuel consumption and weaker bond sales due to the global economic recession have resulted in transportation revenue write-downs totaling $442 million.

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) estimates that TTF revenues are down nearly $350 million a year, resulting in two rounds of cuts in September and January totaling $2.2 billion to the $8.5 billion FY09-FY14 CTP, essentially wiping out the $2.1 billion added in the 2007 Special Session. The September cut eliminated all new projects programmed and the January cut will begin to impact system preservation. Yet we have managed to maintain capital projects that are already under construction. Another write-down for the last quarter of FY09 transportation revenue is expected.

The proposed FY10 TTF budget is $3.7 billion. This is a decrease of nearly $47 million from the FY09 TTF budget. The operating budget for MDOT increases only $11 million, not even enough to keep up with increases in fuel costs and personnel-related costs. MDOT has already terminated 40 employees and reduced certain bus and MARC train service with the FY09 operating budget cuts. The PAYGO capital budget in the TTF (that portion of the capital budget liabilities that will be paid for as funding is raised, rather than with money which is already in hand) takes a $77 million reduction for FY10.

Here is how the FY10 TTF budget breaks down:

Operating Budget 43%
PAYGO Capital Budget 39%
Highway User Revenue 13%
Debt Service 4%
Deductions to Other Agencies 1%

Looking Ahead

As I mentioned above, the ARRA will put an additional $610 million into Maryland’s transportation system. That makes up for approximately 28% of the $2.2 billion in cuts we experienced in September and January. We still have a challenging gap between what we want to accomplish and what we are able to, but this injection of funds makes it possible to begin work almost immediately on some of the most important, shovel-ready, job-producing projects on our agenda.

And overall – as it regards education, transportation, and all of the other tasks of our State – even though the economic situation in this country is still obviously depressed, we in Maryland are better off than most. The AAA-bond rating that reflects our prudent fiscal management and low debt burden was affirmed by the 3 major rating agencies yet again last week, Maryland being one of only 7 states to still enjoy such a designation. That sound operating position, combined with the federal assistance I’ve spent this update discussing, means that our State can be hopeful of weathering this storm with as little damage to the quality of Marylanders lives as possible.

Maggie

Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 19, 2009

Posted by quinn on February 19, 2009  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 19, 2009

Friends,

As you know, I serve as the Chair of the House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee, where all bills pertaining to the environment, agriculture, and natural resources – as well as motor vehicles, transportation, real property and housing – are sent to be considered before moving to the full House for a vote. As was the case last year, our committee this year has been assigned the largest number of bills of any standing House Committee, and I’d like to spend some time making you familiar with some of the most notable.

I described my bill to expand the standing of environmental groups to bring lawsuits last week, but several other environmental bills also merit mention. Four of them bear upon the State’s efforts to improve its Smart Growth program. The Administration’s House Bill 294 will update the State’s planning visions (which were laid out in the Planning Act of 1992) and establish reporting requirements for when local jurisdictions’ lack of supporting infrastructure restricts development in the designated Priority Funding Areas where it is being officially encouraged. House Bill 295, also an Administration Bill, will require annual reports from local planning commissions indicating the steps taken by those localities to meet the State’s planning visions. House Bill 297, the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009, will require local governments to enact, adopt, amend, and execute comprehensive planning documents and to take actions that are consistent with these plans. It also clarifies that special exceptions must be consistent with a local government’s comprehensive plan and defines “consistent.” For those of you familiar with the unfortunate Court of Appeals decision in David Trail, et al. v. Terrapin Run, LLC et al., you may recognize that this bill is designed with the express legislative intent of overturning that judgment. Lastly, House Bill 1116, introduced by the Environmental Matters Committee’s Delegate Lafferty and co-sponsored by myself and eleven other members of the committee as well, will establish performance standards for assessing the success of local jurisdictions in achieving the State planning visions, and will require a plan for those jurisdictions to meet the standards by October 1st, 2018. The passage of these bills will go a long way toward helping us coordinate the dual goals of productive growth and the protection of our environment and natural resources.

One of those natural resources – one which helps define our state – is the marine life found in the Chesapeake Bay and off our Atlantic coastline. House Bill 312 will take one form of marine life – oysters – and attempt to establish Maryland as a leader in commercial shellfish aquaculture by altering the terms of submerged land leases for their production and also setting up Aquaculture Enterprise Zones to encourage the growth of the industry. Again, the intent of this bill is to put a framework in place that will enable us to meet two goals: to both protect our environment and allow an industry with promise to find a welcoming home in the State.

Three other bills the Environmental Matters Committee will hear involve mitigating the potential environmental damage that can accompany on-site sewage disposal systems (what you and I call septic tanks). House Bill 176 will prohibit the installation of septic systems unless they utilize the best available nitrogen-removal technology, and will require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to help homeowners afford such an expense by authorizing the use of Bay Restoration Fund monies for the purpose of making up the difference in cost. House Bill 346 will further authorize the use of Bay Restoration Fund monies for inspecting those nitrogen-removing septic systems. Lastly, House Bill 1083 will put in place a system for granting certification for that inspection process.

Motor Vehicle bills have, especially in the last several sessions, drawn a significant amount of attention for our committee. This year’s House Bill 303 will address issues surrounding the manner in which young drivers are licensed in the state. It will increase the age minimums at which one can obtain a learner’s instructional permit, a provisional license, and a full license; it will expand the restrictions placed on the use of provisional licenses; it will lengthen the period during which a provisional license holder younger than 18 is prohibited from carrying other passengers younger than 18; it will provide for cancellation of a minor’s license on request of the co-signer of the license application; and lastly, it will set up new penalties for provisional license holders who have two or more moving violations. All of these provisions are designed to help keep our roads – and our young drivers – safe.

House Bill 313, otherwise known as the Speed Camera Bill, will make another appearance this year. Both the House and Senate versions of the Bill passed with amendments in their respective chambers during the 2008 session, but never made it out of conference committee. It is my hope that this year they will. Speed cameras are already in use in Montgomery County, and this Administration bill would establish such systems statewide. Speed cameras would allow citations or warnings to be issued to motorists traveling 12mph over the limit when 1) on highways running through residential districts with a maximum speed of 45mph or greater, 2) in highway work zones with a maximum speed of 45mph or greater, or 3) in a school zone. The maximum fine for a speed camera citation would be $40. To measure performance, each participating local jurisdiction would be required to report to the Governor and the General Assembly by December 31, 2013, on the effectiveness of speed cameras systems in its respective jurisdiction.

Arguably one of the most talked about issues in motor vehicle law these days is that of using a cell phone to talk or text-message while driving. Several bills have been introduced to address this problem. The first, House Bill 72, will make writing, sending, or reading text messages while driving into a misdemeanor offense with a maximum fine of $500. House Bill 323 (The Texting While Driving Ban of 2009) will do the same, but clarifies that using a wireless device to place a phone call does not constitute text messaging, and further limits the bill’s provisions so that they do not apply to (1) the operator of a moving emergency vehicle while acting in an official capacity; (2) a motorist reporting unlawful activity, summoning emergency assistance, preventing injury, or relaying information between a transit or for-hire operator and a dispatcher; or (3) a motorist using a global positioning system. House Bill 518 has the same limits on its provisions as HB323, but also establishes a general ban on the use of wireless communications devices by both school bus drivers with passengers and those driving on a learner’s permit. It also puts in place much more modest penalties, assessing a maximum $50 fine for a first offense, and maximum $100 for any subsequent offenses. Further, no points will be assessed for a first offense unless it contributes to an accident, and the court may waive a penalty for a first offense if proof is provided that the offender has acquired a hands-free accessory, an attachment, or other addition to their wireless device that will allow them to comply with the law. Lastly, House Bill 564 take a much more inclusive look at the issue by prohibiting not just the use of cell phones while driving, but also a number of other activities that might take a motorist’s attention away from the road, such as personal grooming, adjusting cargo, eating, drinking, smoking, or watching a video display. It also explicitly states that a violation of this bill’s provisions would be considered as a secondary offense, and would not be considered as a moving violation for the purpose of assessing points.

The last major category of bills that Environmental Matters considers is Real Property and Housing, and one particular bill in this category that is being considered this session is worth noting due to its relationship to the increasingly important issue of foreclosure. House Bill 776 will require a notice to be sent to any tenants of a property being foreclosed upon at least 45 days prior to the foreclosure sale. It will be required to contain the contact information of the person authorized to sell the property, along with contact information for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for any additional questions. Because of the nature of the problem this bill has been drafted to address, it is an emergency bill that would go into effect immediately after it is enacted.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of the bills that I have mentioned above (or any others that the General Assembly is considering during this 2009 legislative session), please let me know.

Maggie

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Administration Bills

This week, several committees began work on bills included in Governor O’Malley’s legislative package. These include:

Smart Growth:

In our committee, we heard the three Administration Smart Growth bills. Collectively, the bills implement recommendations from the Task Force of the Future for Growth and Development. In 1992, Maryland first adopted statewide economic growth legislation that became the foundation of Maryland land use law until today. However, there has been very little updating and modernization of the law since then. For more details on the bills introduced to accomplish address this, see my comments above.

Collective Bargaining:

HB 298 (Fair Share Act) will allow State collective bargaining negotiations to include the right of an employee organization to receive service fees from non-members. This bill would repeal the current statutory prohibition against including the collection of service fees in negotiations.

Foreclosures:

HB 292 (Mortgage Lenders SAFE Act) follows the legislature’s passage of strong foreclosure laws last year to protect consumers. The bill will align Maryland law to meet all federal mandates in compliance with the federal SAFE Act, including licensing of mortgage originators through the nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and establishes minimum licensing qualifications.

Drunk & Impaired Driving:

Following the recommendations of a cross-jurisdictional panel of law enforcement and transportation officials, community members and the judiciary, Governor O’Malley introduced five bills which, collectively, take significant steps to implement the recommendations of the Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol.

  • HB 293 (License Suspension) requires the Motor Vehicle Administration to impose a mandatory one-year driver’s license suspension for any person convicted of driving while impaired or under the influence more than once within a 5-year period.
  • HB 299 (Underage Drinking) makes it a violation for a person under 21 to possess, consume or exhibit effects of consuming alcohol and requires a driver’s license suspension for 6 months of a person under 21 convicted of possessing or consuming alcohol. HB 299 would also make it a criminal offense for any adult to purchase or obtain alcohol for an underage person, punishable by a fine. The bill also delays the ability of an unlicensed driver to receive a driver’s license.
  • HB 301 (Probation Before Judgment for Repeat Offenders) increases the look-back period from 5 to 10 years for a court in granting probation before judgment for someone who has been convicted of a similar impaired driving offense.
  • HB 305 (Alcohol Restrictions on Drivers Licenses) would subject a person to a fine and/or imprisonment not to exceed 2 months for violation of an MVA-imposed alcohol restriction. Currently, this sentence is only applicable to court-imposed alcohol restrictions.
  • HB 307 (On-Scene Testing for Drivers in Fatal & Life-Threatening Accidents) would require law enforcement to request a driver at the scene of a fatal or life-threatening accident to submit to a preliminary breathalyzer. The results will be used for data collection only, to help support the State’s ability to access certain federal funds.

Domestic Violence:

The Governor has introduced two bills targeted at improving the safety of domestic violence victims that will be heard in the Judiciary Committee this week. Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs) are in effect for no more than 7 days, to protect a victim until both parties have the opportunity to go before a judge. Judges do not have the authority to confiscate firearms in conjunction with a TPO, under current law. HB 302 (Surrender of Firearms with Temporary Protective Orders) would give the judge the discretion to confiscate all firearms for the length of the TPO. HB 296 (Surrender of Firearms with Protective Orders) would require a judge to order someone who is found by a court to be an abuser, and has a final protective order issued against them, to surrender all firearms for the full period of the protective order, typically one year.

Higher Education:

HB 308 (Reauthorization of the Higher Education Investment Fund) will extend the life of a dedicated revenue source for higher education. Passed during the 2007 special session, the HEIF is funded by a portion of the corporate income tax and used to support the tuition freeze, college and university capital projects and other higher education needs. The HEIF was originally scheduled to sunset after FY2009.

Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 12, 2009

Posted by quinn on February 12, 2009  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 12, 2009

Friends,

If you have been following the events surrounding the current economic downturn, you may have noted that the Senate, in passing the Federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has eliminated higher education capital money and school construction money for our public schools. In addition, they reduced the fiscal stabilization education money and eliminated the fiscal stabilization discretionary funding. We are hopeful that after the House passes the bill and both chambers go into conference committee that some of these funds can be returned. They were important assets needed for the governor to fully fund all education formulas. I will continue to keep you updated as new information becomes available.

Closer to home, the legislative session continues in Annapolis, and I have three bills that I have introduced that I would like to tell you about. The first is the Community Environmental Protection Act, which would provide citizens and organizations with fair access to state courts to enforce existing environmental laws in Maryland. Under current Maryland law, organizations do not have standing (the right to bring a lawsuit) – and individuals must meet a particularly restrictive test – to bring suits to enforce environmental laws. This bill will establish standards under Maryland law which are similar to, and based on, the standing test under federal law, and will bring Maryland standards for organizational standing in line with 44 other states.

If this bill were to pass, to establish individual standing a person would have to suffer an injury that would be fairly traceable to the challenged action of a defendant, and would be likely to be redressed by the relief they have requested. An association could establish standing under this bill if one or more of it’s members has standing, the interests that the association seeks to protect are germane to it’s purposes, and neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of the member(s) in question.

Members of the public, community groups, and non-profit organizations have demonstrated their willingness to contribute their time and resources to assist in protecting the environment. This bill provides them fair access to the state courts and brings more resources to bear to do just that.

Another bill I am introducing, the Driver Relief Act of 2009, aims to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion by reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT’s) by 35% by the end of 2036, while the measures it proposes would also encourage transit oriented development, and help the State achieve compliance with the Federal Clean Air Act.

The bill would add a graduated performance objective requirement to all local, state and regional transportation plans, capital improvement programs and project alternative selections by requiring a 2.8% reduction in VMT per capita by the year 2010, and thereafter a 1.4% reduction yearly through the year 2035. The Maryland Department of the Environment, MDE, would be required to review each capital improvement project and capital highway project that begins on or after October 2009 to ensure that they meet the required reductions, and would be authorized in consultation with the Maryland Department of Transportation to adopt regulations including progress reporting, trend monitoring, and modeling of trend projections to ensure the required reductions in VMT are achieved.

Lastly, I am sponsoring a bond bill, along with Delegates Anderson and Doory, in the amount of $350,000 for The League for People with Disabilities to help them complete crucial deck repairs and begin to renovate their pool. The League has raised $200,000 in matching funds for the renovation.

The wheelchair-accessible, deep-heated therapeutic pool serves over 2,000 individuals and families in Baltimore and the surrounding counties. The pool offers a welcome and nurturing environment in which to heal for those who suffer from joint and mobility issues, are recovering from surgery, or have complicated physical, developmental and neurological disabilities. The surrounding residents also benefit from the opportunity to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle at a cost much lower than private health clubs.

The pool, built in 1968, needs repairs to the deteriorating deck, which surrounds and supports the pool. The League plans to complete the most urgent repairs first and then plans to renovate the pool over several years in order to avoid lengthy closures and minimize disruptions to therapeutic care.

I believe that these bills will do real good for the State of Maryland, Baltimore City, and the 43rd Legislative District. Next week I will outline some of the most important bills we will hear in the Environmental Matters Committee that I chair. Until then, please pass on your thoughts and concerns.

Maggie

Governor O’Malley’s 2010 Capital Budget

Governor O’Malley has proposed a $1.56 billion Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10). In light of the fiscal situation the State of Maryland finds itself in, the House will focus on prioritizing shovel-ready projects that will stimulate our economy. A robust Capital Budget combined with infrastructure spending are key components to economic recovery because they put Marylanders to work, keep us competitive in the global marketplace, and allow us to deliver services as efficiently as possible.

The $1.56 billion FY10 Capital Budget is funded with $1.2 billion in debt and $332 million in current funds from MDE revenue bonds, federal Pay-As-You-Go funds (PAYGO, a financing mechanism in which expenditures are paid for with funds that are made available as the program is in progress) and PAYGO special funds. The Capital Debt Affordability Committee (CDAC), which annually reviews the size and condition of the State tax-supported debt, recommended a $1.111 billion limit for the general obligation debt and an additional $27 million Academic Revenue Bond limit. The Capital budget includes $1.11 billion in general obligation debt for State-owned facilities and an additional $11.2 million from de-authorizing unexecuted or completed general obligation bonds from previous years. The FY10 Capital Budget virtually eliminates the use of general funds.

FY10 Capital Budget Funding by Category

Environment $409.2 million
Higher Education $329.9 million
K-12 Education $278.4 million
Public Safety $153.1 million
Inter-County Connector $146.9 million
State Facilities $73.4 million
Local Projects $72.8 million
Housing $68.5 million
Health/Social $28.2 million

FY10 Capital budget funded projects:

  • $266 million for public school construction, including the aging schools program
  • $130 million for Chesapeake Bay Restoration
  • $87.5 million for Community College construction
  • $40 million for state helicopter replacement, instead of using general funds
  • $24 million for the Prince George’s Hospital System
  • $23 million for the Jessup Community Corrections Facility
  • $22 million for Program Open Space
  • $17 million for John Hopkins Critical Care and Pediatric Center
  • $15 million for the Salisbury Armory
  • $8.4 million for Community Health Facilities

The FY10 Capital Budget is also geographically balanced to build and improve critical infrastructure around the state while continuing to reinforce our priorities: education, healthcare, public safety and the environment. The Legislature has used the Capital Budget to:

  • Fund over $1 billion in school construction in just the last 3 years
  • Invest record amounts of funds into our community college system in each of the last two years
  • Continue to fund the improvement of and access to high quality healthcare around the state by upgrading hospitals and community health centers
  • Invest in cutting-edge equipment and facilities for our first responders
  • Fund Chesapeake Bay clean up at an unprecedented rate while investing in wastewater and runoff infrastructure to reduce the ongoing pollution of our #1 natural resource

Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 4, 2009

Posted by quinn on February 4, 2009  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update for February 4, 2009

Friends,

On Wednesday, January 28th, I took part in a meeting between the Baltimore City Delegation and Governor O’Malley that addressed the status of Fiscal year 2010 funding for the Baltimore City Public School System. I also met with Speaker Busch and representatives from B.U.I.L.D. (Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development) to continue the dialogue between those of us in Baltimore City who are worried about the effects of budget cuts, and the state officials who are responsible for making the hard decisions about the allocation of Maryland’s limited funds.

The Administration has been receptive to our concerns. Maryland, along with many other states, is anticipating help from the federal government’s stimulus package, which could restore funds to priority areas such as education and healthcare that are nevertheless slated to suffer cuts. We know that Governor O’Malley is committed to making use of those federal funds for just that purpose. However, we are very anxious to make sure that there are also no changes to the State’s education formulas, so that not only will the schools be taken care of in the short term as stimulus money supplements Maryland’s budget in the next two years, but the formulas will continue to function in their unaltered pre-2009 forms after this time.

In sum, we are obviously not yet out of the woods on this issue, but we have definite reason to be hopeful in light of the prospects indicated by both the state and federal administrations. We still need everyone to begin or continue writing to the Governor, to their Delegates and Senators, and to the people on the Appropriations and Budget & Taxation Committees to urge them against altering the education funding formulas.

The budget is not, of course, the only issue on people’s minds this legislative session. I’ve heard from a number of you already, urging me to cosponsor both the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act and the Transgender Anti-Discrimination Bill. I’m proud to have a constituency that is such a willing part of the momentum moving us toward an expansion of civil rights to the LGBT community – for being on what we know will ultimately prove to be the right side of history.

Maryland has been moving in the direction of civil marriage for same-sex partners for several years, but it has been a rough path we have had to follow along the way. Our first glimmer of hope came on January 20th, 2006, when Judge Margaret Brooke Murdock decided for the plaintiffs in Deane & Polyack v. Conaway, asserting that Maryland’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the State Constitution. Despite the Maryland Court of Appeals’ reversal of that decision a year and a half later, it had become possible to imagine real action on the issue. And although the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act that I co-sponsored failed to pass last year, we were able to secure a number of vital rights for domestic partners through Senate Bills 566 and 597, including the rights to hospital visitations, medical and funereal decision-making, and untaxed deed transfers.

In terms of our day-to-day lives, those are the things that matter: being able to choose the one person with whom we make the significant decisions of our lives, the person who can make those decisions for us in time of sickness or even death – and having a government that will recognize our prerogative to do so. Securing some of those rights was a great victory. Nevertheless, so long as those rights are not acknowledged in the very same manner as those enjoyed by heterosexual couples, the State of Maryland is failing in its duty to provide civil rights and protections to all its citizens in equal measure. In an effort to correct that injustice, I am again a sponsor of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act this year, and have gladly co-sponsored Delegate Peña-Melnyk’s Transgender Anti-Discrimination Bill. We should also thank the Governor for including in his budget an extension of health-care benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

In next week’s update I will give you an idea of some of the bills I have introduced this session. As always, please keep in touch to let me know what is on your mind and how you would like to have your voice heard in Annapolis.

Maggie

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Governor O’Malley’s Legislative Agenda

Governor O’Malley announced his legislative package on January 21st and has introduced the corresponding administration bills to the legislature for our consideration. The Governor’s legislation focuses on improving public safety, strengthening the safety net for Maryland families, protecting our environment and promoting economic and job growth. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Senate on these legislative priorities to move Maryland forward during tough economic times. The Governor has proposed the following bills:

Public Safety
HB 293 Mandates 1 yr. suspension for a 2nd drunk driving conviction (JUD)
HB 296 Mandates a judge to order an abuser to relinquish all firearms for a period of the final protective order (JUD)
HB 299 Strengthens Maryland’s zero tolerance of underage drinking and those that enable it (JUD)
HB 301 Increases probation before judgment look-back period from 5 to 10 years (JUD)
HB 302 Allows judge to order a citizen to relinquish firearms if a temporary protective order is served against them (JUD)
HB 305 Allows a violation of MVA imposed alcohol restriction on a driver’s license to be punishable by a $500 fine or 2 months imprisonment or both (JUD)
HB 307 Requires law enforcement to request a driver involved in a fatal or life-threatening crash to voluntarily submit to a breathalyzer without “reasonable grounds” to believe unlawful impairment (JUD)
HB 311 Prohibits State Police from conducting surveillance on activists they do not suspect of criminal activity (JUD)
HB 316 Repeals the death penalty (JUD)
HB 317 Establishes a Silver Alert Program for missing adults suffering from a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s (JUD)
Strengthening the Safety Net for Maryland Families
HB 298 Allows for State collective bargaining negotiations to include the right of an employee organization to receive service fees from non-members (APP)
HB 292 Puts Maryland in compliance with the federal Safe Act while retaining existing enhancements to regulation and consumer protection in mortgage lending (ECM)
HB 304 Enables the State to recover damages and penalties from individuals who defraud the State by filing false claims against State health plans and programs. It also allows whisteblowers to file suit and recover a share of any damages or penalties awarded to the State (JUD/APP)
HB 306 Allows Maryland to join an interstate compact to facilitate, collaborate and ensure that the various educational needs of military children are met (W&M)
HB 308 Reauthorizes the Higher Education Investment Fund (APP/W&M)
HB 310 Expands unemployment benefits to those actively seeking part-time work (ECM)
HB 313 Authorizes in all counties of the State and in specified highway work zones the use of speed monitoring systems to enforce specified highway speed laws (ENV)
Protecting our Environment
HB 295 Directs Maryland Dept. of Planning to develop measures for smart and sustainable growth in conjunction with local governments and the Task Force on the Future for Growth and Development (ENV)
HB 294 Modernizes the “Eight Visions” that form the basis of planning for Maryland (ENV)
HB 297 Requires local jurisdictions to implement and follow the comprehensive plans they adopt (Terrapin Run) (ENV)
HB 314 Authorizes the Maryland Environmental Service to engage in energy projects and services and authorizes counties and municipalities to enter into agreements with the Service (ECM/ENV)
HB 315 Requires the State to reduce 2006 levels of statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 (ECM/ENV)
Promoting Economic and Job Growth
HB 300 Expands public financing options for Transit Oriented Development (W&M)
HB 309 Reauthorizes Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program (W&M)
HB 312 Creates opportunity for shellfish growers to lease areas in the Chesapeake Bay to establish businesses (ENV)