Saturday marked an annual Annapolis tradition known as “Bond Bill Saturday”. That is the day that requests for local capital grants are all heard in the House and Senate. These initiatives include construction capital for projects like parks, community centers, places of historical significance, and small museums. This year, as he did last year, Governor Hogan has not provided funding in his submitted capital budget for these legislature-driven initiatives.
This year, I have sponsored a bond bill to help with planning for renovation of Manna House’s longtime home on 25th Street in Charles Village. Manna House provides a number of community services for the disadvantaged, including serving tens of thousands of meals to Baltimore’s homeless every year. If awarded, they will have funding to begin work on expanding and modernizing their kitchen facilities.
There was lots of activity in Annapolis this past week. Friday, the Appropriations Committee, which I chair, issued its initial report on the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget. I’ll have much more on the budget bill later this week when it’s considered by the full House of Delegates. Below, you’ll find updates on funding for Baltimore City Schools, a ban on fracking, and more.
Have a great week and avoid the snow!
WORKING TO #FIXTHEGAP FOR CITY SCHOOLS
Friday, I joined by Mayor Catherine Pugh to announce additional commitments by the General Assembly and Baltimore City to begin to close the Baltimore City Public Schools’ $130 million structural deficit for the upcoming school year. The 43rd District Team and I recently wrote about how the deficit occurred and what we’re doing about it. Our announcement yesterday is not the end of those efforts, but represent a commitment of $180 million over the next three years.
The budget that the House Appropriations Committee passed Friday will provide nearly $8 million in additional funding for City schools while HB 684, which my committee also passed yesterday, will make changes to the State funding formula to help schools with declining enrollment across Maryland. Jurisdictions across Maryland with declining enrollment would be able to access additional funding by counting full-day Pre-K students in their enrollment total – something they currently cannot do – and helps smooth the decreases in enrollment-based aid by using a rolling three-year average of student population. If the bill passes as amended it would provide around $24 million in additional aid to Baltimore Schools. The House budget leaves sufficient available funding for Governor Hogan to award that money to Baltimore and the other jurisdictions facing declining student enrollment.
Again, these developments are not the end of the conversation and they do not a complete fix for the issues facing our schools, but they are a move in the right direction. In the weeks ahead the Mayor and legislative leaders will be in conversation with the Governor and other stakeholders and continue working to provide the very best outcome for BCPS students.
Over the past two years, Maryland has had a moratorium on fracking. During the two year moratorium, we spent countless hours researching the public health and environmental impact of fracking and listening to those communities that would be most affected. My colleagues on the Environment & Transportation Committee, including Baltimore delegates Cory McCray and Robbyn Lewis, concluded the risks far outweigh the benefits.
We have a responsibility to ensure clean water, clean air and a clean environment to future generations.
In 2010 and 2016 the federal EPA found that fracking can impact drinking water supplies. Friday the House of Delegates successfully passed the statewide fracking ban by a vote of 97–40.
DEFENDING WOMEN’S HEALTH
On International Women’s Day, we stood in support of women’s health and family planning services in the face of President Trump’s plan to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
HB 1083 will ensure continued services for over 25,000 Marylanders including access to cancer screening, contraceptives and STD testing. The bill requires Governor Hogan to backfill $2.7M in state funding if President Trump defunds Planned Parenthood.
COMBATTING SEXUAL ASSAULT
Thursday, the House of Delegates unanimously passed a package of bills to provide justice and protections to victims of sexual assault and sex trafficking. The Attorney General reported in December that Maryland had 3,700 untested rape kits, with many more never recorded. HB 255 establishes a statewide standard of handling sexual assault evidence to ensure rape kits are properly tested and stored so victims aren’t treated differently because of their ZIP code.
HB 428 provides justice for sexual assault victims by removing an attacker’s paternal rights. We’re proud to join 30 other states that offer this protection to victims—ensuring women and children’s interests come first. This is the second year in a row the House has passed this legislation and we are hopeful the Senate joins us to make this bill the law. HB 429 provides a defense for victims of sexual assault that were either incapacitated or physically helpless.
THE ROAD KILL BILL OF 2017 — #REALROADKILL
On a lighter note, I want to highlight an important bill introduced by Delegate Marc Korman, who serves with me on the Appropriations Committee. The Environment & Transportation Committee held a hearing on the “real” roadkill bill, HB1251. Roadkill is a multi-faceted statewide issue that poses serious risks to public safety and wildlife—it’s time Maryland creates a single centralized process to solve this problem. You can read more about this important legislation here.