Maggie’s Legislative Update: March 30, 2012

Posted by Matt on March 30, 2012  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update: March 30, 2012

Friends,

We’re down to the final week and a half of the 2012 legislative session and things have been moving pretty fast here in Annapolis. This is generally a time of year when good pieces of legislation get put on the back burner – or scrapped entirely – and legislators scramble to put the finishing touches on the most important bills of the session. This week, I want to share with you some of the bills I have sponsored or my committee has worked on that I am particularly proud of, as well as sharing updates on some of the bills many of you have contacted me about. As always, use the links on the right to connect with me on Facebook and Twitter and to see a full rundown of the legislation I am sponsoring.

Sustainable Growth:

One of the defining issues of the 2012 session has been the future of development in Maryland. In the Environmental Matters Committee, we have worked with local governments, business, environmental groups, Governor O’Malley and other stakeholders to pass bills that will have long-term impacts on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, residential development and transportation.

This week we passed HB 987, which requires local governments to develop a plan – if they do not already have one – to deal with storm runoff from streets, parking lots, and other paved surfaces. Storm water runoff is a major source of pollution in the Bay.

This week we also passed HB 446, which reinforces the Bay Restoration Fund by increasing user fees for certain wastewater facilities and sewage systems. This dedicated funding is critical for vital improvements to sewage plants and stormwater management systems across Maryland. Both HB 446 and HB 987 are awaiting action in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee chaired by my 43rd District colleague Sen. Joan Carter Conway.

The House also recently passed my bill, HB 907, which levies a 7.5% severance tax on natural gas extraction in Maryland to fund regulatory oversight and cover the cost of environmental cleanup if contamination does occur. This bill is important because it ensures drilling companies, not taxpayers, pay for regulation of Marcellus shale drilling.

Arsenic in Chicken Feed:

Few pieces of legislation have elicited more response or a stronger reaction than our efforts in the general assembly to ban the use of roxarsone – an additive containing arsenic – from poultry feed. The arsenic added to the feed usually ends up polluting the Chesapeake Bay when chicken litter is used fertilizer for other crops. After failing to advance out of committee for the past several sessions, we finally brought HB 167 to the floor last week where it passed by a wide margin. Thank you to everyone who has contacted my office over the last two sessions to express your support for this bill.

The Budget:

The General Assembly has only one bill it is constitutionally required to pass each year: the state operating budget. This session, the House and Senate have passed very different versions of the budget and currently colleagues of mine from both chambers are working to iron out the differences. I’ll share more about the final plan once it is available, but I wanted to share some of the highlights of the version I voted for in the House last week.

This session, the Senate took the lead in the budget process and passed their plan, SB 150, before sending it to the House for consideration. There are a lot of positives in the Senate plan, but in the end the House made some significant changes. Specifically, the House budget raises revenues by asking those with the most to pay a little more.  87% of Marylanders will not see any increase in their State income taxes.  The top 13% of filers will see a progressive increase in their tax rate and a progressive reduction in their exemptions. However, the House plan does not include the so-called “Super Tax” on those making over $500,000.

The House budget manages to protect our investments in education, healthcare, public safety and job creation while making additional cuts to the Senate plan. Many of you have written with concerns about the Governor’s plan to shift teacher pension costs to Baltimore City and the counties, which we addressed in our budget plan. The House budget phases in the “normal costs” of teacher pensions to the counties over the next three years.  Sharing the “normal costs” means the counties will pick up roughly 1/3 of the total cost of teacher pensions and pay only expenses associated with their current employees. This represents a significant savings to the county over the Governor’s initial 50/50 pension sharing proposal.  The “normal costs” option is favored by the Maryland State Education Association. The House plan also expands and makes permanent some sources of aid to the counties to help offset the increased costs of pension sharing.

Thanks again for your interest in the legislative process and please continue to share your thoughts on the bills being considered by the General Assembly over the next week and a half. Also, remember to get out and vote in the presidential primary on April 3rd if you haven’t done so already.

Sincerely,

Maggie McIntosh