It is a pleasure to write you as my second legislative session as your Delegate has come to an end. It was an honor to represent you in the House of Delegates again this year. Now that we have adjourned, I wanted to give you an update on the actions that the Maryland General Assembly took this session.
MARYLAND STATE BUDGET
As you may know, the budget was something that the Maryland General Assembly grappled with throughout this year’s session. Unfortunately, the General Assembly was unable to come to an agreement on many important parts of the state budget before we adjourned on April 9th. As it currently stands, the budget that will take effect July 1st relies on imposing drastic, painful cuts on important government services and education funding in order to be balanced.
The General Assembly’s inability to pass a fair budget is unacceptable. It is the job of the legislature to make these tough decisions and you deserve better than a budget that slashes the services Marylanders rely on the most. However, it is likely that in the immediate future we will be called in for a special legislative session to fix the outstanding issues with the budget. I will continue to work hard for a budget that will address the state’s deficit while strengthening our middle class, supporting local business and protecting the most vulnerable in our state.
Despite the issues with the operating budget, the District 14 team was able to keep its commitment to our community. Senator Karen Montgomery, Delegate Anne Kaiser, Delegate Eric Luedtke and I worked together to procure more than $600,000 for critical initiatives in District 14. These projects included renovations to the Olney Police Satellite Station, the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, and the Woodlawn Manor and Odd Fellows Lodge in Sandy Spring. Additionally, we were able to secure more than $40 million in school construction funds for Montgomery County, with at least $2.3 million going to schools that serve District 14 residents. The support these projects have received from our state government represents a major investment in our community and will help to create jobs, educate our children and preserve our heritage.
My proudest moment as your Delegate came this session as we finally passed marriage equality for Marylanders. Our state now joins the handful of jurisdictions that have voted to extend the right to marry to all of their residents. As you know, I have always considered this a civil rights issue, and it was a distinct honor to cast one of the deciding votes to ensure that everyone has equal rights under the law.
Governor O’Malley has already signed this legislation. However, it is possible that this bill will go to public referendum and be on this year’s general election ballot. If so, I will work hard to ensure that Maryland is the first state in the nation to have a popular vote that upholds marriage equality for all. I urge you to monitor developments on the marriage equality law as events unfold over the next few months.
I was honored to sponsor and pass three pieces of legislation this year that I believe will have a positive impact on Marylanders. The first is a bill to help parents protect their children from identity theft; the second, a foreclosure relief bill; and the third, legislation that will help advance our state’s emergency response infrastructure.
House Bill 555, the Child Identity Lock Bill, addresses the growing problem of child identity theft. For underage victims of identity theft the damage done can sometimes be worse than for adult victims, since the fraud can go on for years without being detected. House Bill 555 allows parents to freeze their child’s credit, completely preventing their personal information from being used to apply for credit. It also extends this right to the legal representatives of adult individuals under guardianship or conservatorship, such as those with a cognitive disease or a developmental disability. I was very proud to work on this legislation and I believe it will become a national model that other states across the nation will enact. This bill takes effect on January 1st, 2013. If you would like information on how to take advantage of this new law, please contact my office.
House Bill 600, the Maryland Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, addresses the problem of the so-called “foreclosure tax.” For homeowners who are underwater, being foreclosed on or refinancing their mortgage can result in an enormous unforeseen tax burden. House Bill 600 protects underwater homeowners by preventing this taxation from occurring at the state level and provides an extra cushion for families that are struggling with their mortgage payments.
House Bill 1235, the Maryland Next Generation 911 Advancement Act, sets up a statutory framework for Next Generation 911 (NG911) in Maryland. When fully implemented, NG911 will allow citizens in emergency situations to communicate in real time with emergency personnel using 21st century technologies such as text messaging, streaming video and other data. This bill was supported by many public safety entities who believe NG911 will revolutionize emergency response in the next few years.
I also wanted to make sure that you were aware of the scholarships available from my office. The Delegate Scholarship is available to District 14 residents who are seeking higher education at an in-state public university (certain exceptions to the in-state rule are made; contact the Maryland Higher Education Commission for details.) If you are interested in the scholarship, email to Craig.Zucker@house.state.md.us or call my office at (301) 858-3380.
Please keep in mind that even though the legislative session is over, I will still be working hard for you. You can contact my office any time if you need constituent service or simply want to share your thoughts and priorities with me. As always, thank you for trusting me with the responsibility of representing you in the General Assembly. I hope that you and your family enjoy a happy and healthy year.