January 20, 2012
It is another cold day in our state capital as the first full week of the Maryland Legislature’s 2012 Session comes to a close.
We have known for some time now that this session would be dominated by budget deliberations as we strive to close the gap between the demand for government services and projected revenues. This week’s big news in Annapolis was the release of the governor’s proposed budget. Because we are in a situation where it is impossible to please everyone, or in this case possibly anyone, this budget has met with a maelstrom of objections and criticism as reported in The Baltimore Sun.
I also have concerns about parts of the governor’s budget and at the same time, I respect his willingness to address these tough issues in the way he sees fit. See the message from the governor that accompanied his budget documents (attachment above). You can read in The Baltimore Sun editorial that they also commend him for tackling the tough issues, though The Washington Post is more critical.
Vaclav Havel’s quote which I included in my first 2012 E-Newsletter (see News) is fitting to our budget deliberations. I repeat it in part: “Hope…is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” A quote from Jim Rouse, our beloved founder of the New town of Columbia, is fitting as well. “When you sail you follow the north star. You do not reach it, but it is what you sail toward.”
In taking to heart these quotes from two visionary human beings, we can arrive at a sustainable budget based on social, economic, and environmental justice.
Common Cause is an organization with which I have been deeply involved for many years. They concentrate on campaign finance and open government issues. Yesterday, Common Cause of Maryland held a demonstration in front of the State House to protest the impact of the United States Supreme Court ruling in the 2010 “Citizens United” case which held that corporations have the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to support or defeat candidates or political issues. Several members of Common Cause/Howard County attended the rally.
I have joined with other legislators in signing a letter to the United States Congress calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s 5-4 majority decision in this case. Evidence already exists of the detrimental impacts on democracy through spending of tens of millions of dollars by Super PACs in the current 2012 presidential election. An article in the January 18 edition of the Baltimore Sun gives some clear examples of the impact of this court decision.
There is a direct connection between our letter to Congress and our current Maryland budget deliberations. Big money donated to candidates through these Super PACs facilitates passage of legislation favorable to financial institutions, which are largely responsible for the dismal state of our current economy due to the mortgage foreclosure crisis resulting from inadequate regulation of the financial industry.
Environmental Matters Committee
This week’s committee briefings included the Status of Mortgage Foreclosures in Maryland and the State of the Chesapeake Bay.
Some of the statistics on pending mortgage foreclosures in Maryland are staggering. Although everyone appears to be deeply troubled by this situation, we continue to allow financial institutions, including mortgage companies, to make enormous campaign contributions with the intention of holding back the much needed regulation of their industry.
The best news about the bay is the encouraging recovery of our native oyster. Oysters not only contribute to our food supply, they also play a significant role in protecting the bay from further degradation through filtering its waters. The statistics regarding runoff into the bay are not so encouraging due in part to the fact that we are only now beginning to enforce the Storm Water Management Bill of which I was a sponsor, which passed and was signed by the governor in 2008. Some of those in the building industry and county government successfully pressured for exemptions to this bill.
See News for the schedule of Environmental Matters Committee briefings for the week of January 24.
Bill hearings will begin in committee on Tuesday, January 31, and then the legislative days will become much longer, sometimes going on into the evening hours.
At week’s end, it is now even clearer what a serious and difficult task we have before us during this 2012 legislative session.
Click here for Liz's email update from the week of January 13.
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