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Liz Bobo
Our State Delegate
for Legislative District 12B
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February 23, 2012: Annual Town Meeting at Kahler Hall

We had our usual good turnout of more than 100 neighbors.  My colleagues express something close to disbelief that so many of you come out each year for this gathering, and even more so that you actually appear to enjoy it. Delegate Jimmy Malone told me that he found the evening to be very informative and positive.

We discussed many issues including the budget and teacher pensions, corporate tax loopholes, Health Exchange Benefits (a very positive bill before us), transit v. roads, wind and clean energy, improving protection of our streams, rivers, and the bay, and campaign finance and the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision (read this timely editorial in the Washington Post). 

We ended with Lloyd’s taking a marvelous photo of all of us “Zaching”. 

Town meeting

My gratitude for such a well informed and inquisitive constituency was again reinforced.   I believe all of the above topics are issues of justice – either social justice, economic justice, or environmental justice.  It would be so easy to get discouraged and give up, and your refusal to do so helps me keep on with my own work.  Thank you.

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February 21, 2012: Howard County Delegation hearing in Ellicott City

Two local bill hearings were the first items on our agenda: Bill HB 1047 Howard County Alcohol Beverages-Refillable Beer Containers

Bill HB 1189 Howard County –Deputy Sherriff- Collective Bargaining (Public Safety personnel, police and fire, have had the right to collective bargaining in Howard County since the late 70's when, as a member of the County Council, I was a sponsor of that local legislation. This process has worked quite well over the years, and it requires state legislation to extend collective bargaining to personnel in the Sherriff's office.)

Following the hearings, we heard from about 40 Howard County residents, some representing organizations. They spoke for or against many issues that are before us in Annapolis, many of which I have touched on in past e-newsletters this session. PATCH did a good explanatory article about this: http://elkridge.patch.com/articles/howard-county-citizens-unite-against-pension-shift

Prime Sponsored Bills

House Bill 629 Maryland Renter’s Property Tax Relief Program

The public hearing was held on February 21 in the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill will help close the benefit gap between tax breaks given to home owners and financial help given to low-income renters. It will remove an existing unfair restriction in the law, thus allowing renters under 60 years old who do not have dependents under 18 living with them to qualify for a rent rebate based on household income.

Four organizations attended the hearing and spoke in support of the bill:
Maryland Non-profits (a statewide umbrella organization of many human service non-profits, including some in Howard County)
The Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute (an organization that works for economic justice)
Peter Nicewicz Welfare Advocates
The Association of Community Services (a Howard County umbrella organization of human service non-profits)

(See Testimony)

This year funds are very short here in Annapolis, and yet committee members understand that in the long run we can save money if we can keep the working poor in their homes.  We will continue to work with the committee toward passage of this legislation.

House Bill 602 Campaign Finance –Affiliated Business Entities Attribution of Contributions
The public hearing was held on Wednesday, February 22, in the House Ways and Means Committee.

 I have introduced this bill many times during past legislative sessions.  It passed out of the House several years only to be defeated in the Senate.  Common Cause is a strong supporter of this bill which modifies and expands an existing provision that requires campaign contributions by related corporations to be considered as being made by one contributor, limiting the total amount of contributions those corporations can make.  The bill expands the limitation to apply to “business entities,” including general or limited partnerships, limited liability companies (LLC), and real estate investment trusts (REIT’s), as well as corporations, specifying that campaign contributions made by two or more business entities are considered to be made by a single contributor if (1) one business entity is a wholly owned subsidiary of another; or (2) the business entities are owned or controlled by at  least 80% of the same individual or business entities.  The bill would take effect in July, 2012.  

Common Cause attended the hearing and testified in support of the bill.  Columbia resident Rusty Toler was one of the representatives of this organization that has advocated tirelessly for open government for many years.

I believe the ultimate answer to rampant campaign finance abuse which results in gross social, economic, and environmental injustice, is public funding of campaigns.  Until we get there, this bill would go a long way in dealing with cases like Citizens United.

News articles related to major issues in this legislative session 

Las Vegas on the Potomac (Those of us who believed it was not good public policy to approve slot machines in Maryland expressed concern that it would soon lead to allowing casinos.  We did not expect that it would be this soon.  In my opinion, one more example of how “quick fixes” to our budget problems simply don’t work.)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/las-vegas-on-the-potomac/2012/02/17/gIQAoTa6NR_story.html

State Could End Program For Child Abuse Prevention (Living in one of the top three wealthiest counties in the United States (total 3,000+ counties) we simply cannot allow ourselves forget that we have poor families living among us.  I serve as a member of the advisory board to Healthy Families and have deep respect for their work.)
http://columbia.patch.com/articles/state-could-end-program-for-child-abuse-prevention-7249ca61

Read Liz's email update for the week of February 17

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