On April 11, 2011, my first legislative session as your delegate came to a close. I was honored to serve you over these last three months as we debated the issues important to Maryland’s future. This was an exciting session and I wanted to give you a few of the highlights. We took on some of the tough issues facing Maryland such as deficit reduction, job creation, strengthening our education system and protecting the environment.
As you may know, I was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee and was proud to have helped craft a budget that reduced our state’s structural deficit by 42% without cutting vital services to our most vulnerable citizens. We also kept our promise to our children by restoring $58.5 million in K-12 education spending, which keeps Maryland’s per-pupil spending at fiscal year 2011 levels. Furthermore, we secured more than $30 million for public school construction in Montgomery County, of which at least $1.8 million will go toward schools in District 14.
Senator Karen Montgomery, Delegate Anne Kaiser, Delegate Eric Luedtke and I worked together to bring more than $480,000 in additional state money to our community. We were able to secure money for Falling Green at the Olney Boys and Girls Club, the Olney Theatre Center, the Sandy Spring Slave Museum, and the Odd Fellows Lodge in Sandy Spring.
In addition, the members of the General Assembly knew that it was crucial to create jobs to get the economy going. The capital budget we passed will produce more than 15,000 construction jobs, while we will create or retain 10,000 jobs by preserving funding for business loan and loan guaranty programs. We also continued to fund the Biotech Tax Credit, which will help to keep Maryland and Montgomery County among the national leaders in the biotechnology industry and will create high-paying jobs.
As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and the Environment, I worked to bring more than $13 million in transportation infrastructure funds back to the counties and municipalities. This money will be used to build new roads, maintain our existing ones and ensure that our transportation infrastructure meets our needs for years to come. I was especially proud to help retain more than $25 million over the next five years for the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, which will help keep Maryland’s most important natural resource healthy and strong.
As a longtime Pepco customer, I am frustrated by their ongoing reliability issues. In January, my family also lost power for multiple days. The Montgomery County Delegation took a hard look at exploring ways to improve electricity service in the county. I was proud to co-sponsor the Maryland Electricity Service Quality and Reliability Act, which passed and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. This bill allows for increased fines against utility companies that fail to meet a basic level of reliability and prevents the utility companies from raising rates on their customers to recoup their losses from these fines. I believe this is an important first step and our delegation will keep looking into this issue.
Though we ultimately came up short, we had an historic debate on marriage equality on the House floor. I was disappointed in the result, but I still believe that Maryland has an opportunity to be a national leader on this issue. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of saying, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We will hear about this issue in future sessions and I will continue to fight to ensure that all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, have this basic civil right.
I was also proud of two bills that I sponsored this session. The first is House Bill 913, which would have created a compliance tool that used the Homestead Tax Credit to encourage deadbeat parents to pay their child support. As a father, I strongly believe that non-custodial parents need to pay what they owe, and this bill would have strengthened the state’s ability to get these parents to comply. Though the bill passed the House unanimously, it ran out of time in the Senate and has been referred to summer study. The General Assembly will look at it again next year.
The second bill is House Bill 1184 which passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature to become law. This bill makes our state government more efficient by eliminating an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy in the Maryland Department of Transportation’s employee grievance procedure, saving our state time and resources. Making government work better is one of my top priorities and I will continue to explore other ways to make our government more efficient in the future.
Please keep in mind that even though the legislative session is over, I will still be working hard as your delegate. You can contact my office any time if you need constituent service, information about the Delegate Scholarship, or simply want to share your thoughts and priorities with me. Thank you for trusting me with the responsibility of representing you in the General Assembly.