Recapping the Legislative Session (April 19, 2016)
On my desk: A fun reminder that, although we do not always agree, we should strive to work together.
Relaxing with Senate colleagues
- The BOAST Bill offered a tax credit for large corporations of up to $15 million to donate to mostly private schools. I strongly opposed this idea, because I believe public money should fund public schools. Ultimately, $5 million was earmarked for this new Hogan initiative that takes money away from public schools.
- I opposed a bill to publicly fund the concept called Pathways in Technology Early College High (P-TECH) Schools, an untested program tried elsewhere. I did, however, support one privately-funded experimental school — Linking Youth to New Experiences (LYNX) High School — in Frederick County that will offer partnerships, apprenticeships, and internships for students.
- Also of note, we voted to create a partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park and Baltimore campuses to strengthen academic and research programs.
- To ensure that students have access to quality teachers, we passed the “Teacher Induction, Retention, and Advancement Act,” which increases the State matching stipend from $2,000 to $5,000 for certified teachers who work in public schools with comprehensive needs.
Protecting our Health and the Environment: The link between the environment and our health is undeniable. From the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat, protecting the environment also protects our health.
- To address climate change, the legislature enacted the “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act” to reduce emissions from 25% by 2020 to 40% by 2030.
- A “Clean Energy Jobs Bill” will increase the amount of energy we harvest from Tier 1 renewable sources (solar, wind, biomass, etc.) from 20% to 25% by 2020.
- Maryland became the first state in the country to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides! These pesticides have been linked to the declining honeybee population across the country. Not only are pollinators vital to the survival of wild plants, 30% of our crops rely on cross-pollination as well.
- The “Sustainable Oyster Population and Fishery Act” will give us measurable, scientific data on oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Oysters are “filter feeders” that purify water. A thriving oyster population is essential for a clean and healthy Bay.
- 911 Planning (SB 424): This bill would have prepared for “Next Generation” technology that will enable our 911 centers to accept text and video messages in addition to a greater number of calls from both land lines and cell phones. Check out this Baltimore Sun article if you would like to learn about why this is important.
- “Carl Henn’s Law” (SB 686): The bill required a quarterly report on the performance of each 911 Call Center. These analyses would include the volume of calls; whether they came from land lines or cell phones; and how many received busy signals. Ultimately, this would have helped prioritize resources to prepare for a crisis. It is critical that we have a world-class emergency system given our proximity to the Nation’s Capital.
- Olde Towne Park Plaza: Gaithersburg plans to revitalize its Olde Towne by converting a parking lot into a public green space. This will make the corner more attractive, pedestrian-friendly, and create a meeting space. We secured $200,000 for the project.
- Rockville Swim and Fitness Center: The locker rooms at Rockville’s Swim Center are not ADA-compliant and have not been remodeled since the late 1960s. The facility, which has 300,000 visits each year, will be remodeled with a $100,000 bond from the State.
- The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes was awarded $50,000 to rehabilitate several residential properties around the County. These small group homes provide independent living for people with disabilities, regardless of faith.
- Of vital importance to Montgomery County’s economy, I co-sponsored a bill to fund the Watkins Mill Road Interchange Project off of I-270. The project was threatened to be postponed; this bill pushed the State Highway Administration to move the project forward. Our expectation is that the State will break ground in Spring/Summer 2017.
- Last year’s Wynne Supreme Court Case ruled that Maryland’s income tax law is unconstitutional because some residents were being double-taxed on earnings from out of state. An estimated $43 million in lost revenue for next fiscal year was to be followed by an inevitable tax hike. On top of this, local income tax overpayment by the Comptroller’s Office risked a financially burdensome situation for Rockville, Gaithersburg, and other local jurisdictions. To mitigate this, I co-sponsored a bill with Senator Rich Madaleno to extend the time frame for repayment, resulting in a lower property tax increase — from 8.7% to 6.4% — for homeowners. About the bill, County Executive Ike Leggett said, “I promised our State Delegation that if they passed legislation that would extend the back payments to the State, I would reduce my property tax increase request. They have delivered…”
Working for You…
P.S. With hotly contested presidential elections in both parties, as well as for the House and Senate (I hope you will join me in supporting Congressman Chris Van Hollen for U.S. Senate), it is more important than ever to vote! For the first time, you can register when you go to any early voting site (through Thursday, April 21, 10 AM to 8 PM). Alternatively, Maryland’s Primary Election Day is Tuesday, April 26th. Polls on that day will be open from 7 AM to 8 PM. Please be sure to vote!