The Budget - The "tech tax" on computer services was repealed and replaced with budgets cuts and a new higher income tax bracket for top earners. This new bracket will be effective for the next three years. Funding to schools and local governments was preserved.
Energy and the Environment - Signed today by Governor O'Malley: The Governor's EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act, which I co-sponsored, sets statewide goals for reducing energy consumption. The Strategic Energy Investment Fund stimulates investments in energy efficient technology and provides short-term rate relief. An act reforming Maryland's Critical Areas law will improve regulation of development in sensitive areas surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. The High Performance Buildings Act calling for new or renovated schools and public buildings to meet efficiency standards also passed. Failed to pass this session: The Global Warming Solutions Act, which called for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions passed the Senate, but died in the House Economic Matters Committee.
Transportation - Automated speed enforcement cameras are currently permitted for use in Montgomery County in school zones and residential areas. Enabling legislation to expand their use to other parts of the state and to highway work zones passed in different versions in the House and Senate. The final bill died on the last day of the session in the Senate. Several bills to ban the use of handheld cell phones and text messaging while driving died in the House Environmental Matters committee.
- Awaiting the Governor's signature:
The Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act
, a bi-partisan bill which I co-sponsored, requires the creation of a searchable web site that will enable Marylanders to better understand state spending passed. Failed to pass this session:
A statewide bill, which I co-sponsored, authorizing public financing of state campaigns, died in a Senate committee. A local bill enabling Montgomery County to enact public financing for County races passed our local Delegation and the full House, but died in the respective Senate committee.
Consumer Protection/Home Ownership - The Governor's package of bills, which I co-sponsored, to better regulate predatory lending practices and make sensible reforms to the foreclosure process was signed into law last week.
Civil Rights - There were several bills on the floor this year which dealt with marriage equality and rights for unmarried couples. I was proud to co-sponsor the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which had been promoted by the late Senator Gwendolyn Britt. Senator Britt, who passed away earlier in the session, was one of my personal heroes for her brave civil rights work in Montgomery County during the 1960s. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass. However, legislation giving same-sex couples medical decision-making and property rights passed both the Senate and House and awaits the Governor's signature.
Criminal Justice - A bill repealing the death penalty died in a Senate committee. However, a death penalty commission was established to study capital punishment. The Governor's bill expanding the collection of DNA samples from suspects passed both houses. The Legislative Black Caucus, of which I am a member, negotiated several important changes to help ensure that DNA will be handled properly and that those wrongly accused can use DNA evidence for exoneration.
Protecting our Animal Friends - House Bill 1481 which enacts more humane procedures for euthanasia unanimously passed both the House and Senate.
Local Issues in District 18 - The following local programs received funding through the state bond bill process. The Centro Familia Child Care and Training Center received $175,000. The Maryland Youth Ballet received $200,000. The MacDonald Knolls Center received $425,000. The YMCA Youth and Family Services Center received $200,000. The historic Warner mansion in Kensington received an additional $100,000 from prior funding and a time extension for the existing $150,000.
Personal Legislative Accomplishments:
- I sponsored a statewide bill to give local governments more tools to create, foster and promote housing programs for low and moderate income families. The work on this bill was begun last year by the late Delegate Jane Lawton and I was proud to secure its successful passage this year.
- In addition, I also sponsored and secured passage of a bill to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods by creating the Community Parks & Playground Program. This grant program, administered by the Department of Natural Resources, provides funding to support local parks, playgrounds and recreational programs.
- I also co-sponsored a bill to reform the process by which Counties collect delinquent property taxes. This important legislation protects Marylanders by helping eliminate situations where a property owner is forced to pay a large amount of money to avoid losing their property to foreclosure over a small property tax amount.
During the "interim" period between legislative sessions, my Annapolis office will remain open each week Tuesday through Thursday. Office staff will be available to continue helping you with any constituent service matters. You can reach us by phone (301 858-3110), e-mail or letter. Let us know if we can assist you or if you want to make us aware of an event or meeting. We are already at work preparing for the next legislative session. Please continue to share with us your ideas for state legislation