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Liz Bobo
Our State Delegate
for District 12B

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Weekly Updates from Liz

"Hello from Annapolis to All of You Back Home"

April 15, 2011

The 2011 Legislative Session ended "sine die" at midnight on Monday, April 11.

During the final two days we spent approximately eight hours "debating" the increase in the alcohol tax.  That caused a big backup of bills, though the Speaker managed to get most of them in for a vote.

Note that this week's Legislative Wrap-up at the bottom of this message is much more comprehensive than in previous weeks, covering the entire session.

Big Picture of the Session:
The following editorial in the Baltimore Sun, though not the most positive of titles ("In Annapolis, a Modest Appetite"), gives what I believe to be a fair and accurate portrayal of the session.

www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-assembly-session-20110412,0,1079772.story
 

I am particularly struck by the editor's use of the words "overabundance of caution".  The greatest example of that was our failure to close the large tax loophole that allows multi-state corporations to avoid paying many millions of dollars every year in Maryland by filing some of their returns in Delaware.  When the Chamber of Commerce and some other business organizations play Chicken Little and say that "the sky will fall" because these corporations will leave the state if the bill passes, the committee folds and does not pass HB71, of which I was a sponsor, out to the full House for a vote.  The same occurred in the Senate.  The savings from this legislation could have been put toward many other good causes:  mental health or teacher pensions, to name a couple. 

Winners and Losers:
Another article in the Baltimore Sun very cleverly juxtaposes various related issues that passed and failed.  On energy issues, e.g., we failed to approve the Governor's off shore wind energy bill, which I supported, and did approve weakening the standards for energy tax credits by allowing waste incinerators to qualify for these credits, thus significantly weakening Maryland's energy efficiency goals.

 http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-winners-losers-20110411,0,3946115.story

E-News during the nine-month interim until the January, 2012 legislative session: 

I have received so many comments and expressions of appreciation for our weekly e-newsletter during the session that I have decided to continue a monthly one during the interim.   It will cover my activities back home in the district that relate to the work I do in Annapolis. You can also keep track of my activities and work on my website at www.lizbobo.net

In rereading my dozen e-newsletters from the weeks of the session, the following sentence from the first one sent on January 14 struck me:  "I have a deep belief that people are basically good and that we can work together with respect and dignity so that everyone has the opportunity to live life with dignity."  Now that the session has concluded, that "deep belief" remains in me.  We simply need to cultivate a deeper awareness that truly we are all one.

Your comments and questions continue to be welcome.  They are truly quite helpful to me. 

Lloyd and I are enjoying the beauty of spring in Columbia, with all of the blossoms and budding, leafing trees.  We now have more time to have fun attending our various grandkids' sports activities.  Soon the musical performance and outdoor films will begin at the Lakefront in Town Center, Columbia.  We look forward to seeing many of you there and around town.

Be well and enjoy life. 

April 8, 2011

We have had very long sessions this week (and will be in legislative session in the State House again tomorrow, Saturday).   The session ends on Monday, April 11, when the bell rings at midnight.  Lloyd and I very much look forward to returning home to Columbia to enjoy spring and the beautiful flowering trees around our home.

This week we have been working out differences between the Senate and the House on important bills that we have been dealing with during the entire session. The subject matter of these bills includes the budget, education, pensions and benefits, the environment (including clean water and energy issues), financial institutions, and judicial issues.  This work is done through “conference committees” composed of a few senators and a few delegates who are assigned to resolve conflicts between the two chambers. The subsequent report from a conference committee report may receive only a yes or no vote from each member of the Senate or House.  It cannot be amended. There are dozens of these conference committees still at work.  For this reason, I don’t have as much legislative news to report as in recent weeks.

Some of My Thoughts on the Budget in the Closing Days of the 2011 Legislative Session:
Two recent newspaper articles – one from the Baltimore Sun and one from The Annapolis Capital, a very good local publication - brought to mind some aspects of our state budget process.  Though the Sun article is about the national budget, the parallels are definitely here in our state.  We will have to come to terms with these issues sometime, hopefully in the very near future.

“Taxing the Rich: Good policy, Good Politics”
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-schaller-20110405,0,1215.column

“State Can’t Keep Pulling Racing Out of a Deepening Hole”
http://www.hometownannapolis.com/news/OPN/2011/04/05-25/Our-Say-State-can-t-keep-pulling-racing-out-of-a-deepening-hole.html

Offshore Wind Has a Disappointing Finish:
I had been optimistic about the prospects for passage of the Offshore Wind Bill, one of the Governor’s top priorities.  The articles below, one from the Baltimore Sun and one from the Washington Post give clear, though somewhat different, insights into why this bill will not be passed this year. Although I realize that wind cannot be the sole answer to our energy problems in this nation, I believe it can play a significant part, and hope to see a similar bill pass next year.

Just today, the House did pass a bill making it easier for incinerators to get energy tax credits.  I voted against that bill because doing this at the same time that we do not approve wind energy clearly does not  head us in the right direction on energy issues.

“Lawmakers Table Offshore Wind Bill for Further Study”
http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/green/bs-gr-wind-bill-20110407,0,6529461.story

Maryland Wind Farm Bill Won’t Make It This Year”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/politics/md-wind-farm-bill-wont-make-it-this-year/2011/04/07/AFvY5vxC_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

Award for Conservation Efforts in Maryland:
I was pleased to receive notice this week that I have been named the recipient of an award to be presented at the annual meeting of the Maryland Chapter of the American Association of Landscape Architects for my work on behalf of the environment.  Each year the Association gives one award in our state to a person, agency, program or organization that has made a significant contribution toward sustainability through preservation and conservation of the local environment.  I am grateful to so many constituents and other residents of Howard County who are informed and passionate about true sustainability who have helped me so much in my preservation and conservation work.   You will be with me in spirit on April 15th at the Baltimore Harbor when I accept this award which will be truly precious to me.

Washington College Student Intern Receives Scholarship to Study at London School of Economics:
This week, Anna Burress, a college intern working in my office in Annapolis, was accepted to study abroad this fall through the Hansard Scholars Programme at the London School of Economics. Anna is an undergraduate at Washington College on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  As part of the program, she will be an intern with the British Parliament. Other opportunities related to her study abroad program include working for BBC News or Amnesty International.  One of the major issues Anna worked on in my office during this legislative session was runoff pollution from lawn fertilizer getting into our streams, rivers, and precious Chesapeake Bay.  Having grown up on the Chester River, Anna has a true reverence for our bay and its tributaries. We are happy for Anna and so proud of her.  She is a young woman with a great potential to contribute to a more sustainable and compassionate world for all of us.

Though I sometimes wonder how many of you read these weekly e-newsletters, I got an answer while I was at home in Columbia last weekend.  As I went about my Saturday and Sunday grocery shopping, checking out books at the Central Library, attending a concert, and taking a beautiful walk with Lloyd through the pathways of the Middle Patuxent Valley near our home, literally dozens of people approached me asking “How is your gardening going?”  Although I may have responded to the first few inquiries with a puzzled look, I soon got it.  “You said in your e-newsletter yesterday that you were going to be working in your garden this weekend” was the response I received.

I plan to be gardening again on Sunday.

Enjoy your weekend.

April 1, 2011

This week we in the House spent much of our time in committees hearing bills that have “crossed over” from the Senate.  Some of them are what are called “cross-filed” bills of House bills.  This means that the bills were introduced in both chambers in the identical format.  The bills cover the full range of issues here in Annapolis:  education, budget, health care, environment, financial institutions, mortgage foreclosures, energy issues, human rights, benefits and pensions, crime, and more.  Next week we will be getting down to the wire with just one week remaining in this year’s legislative session.  Something I have not yet mentioned in these weekly e-newsletters, which also happens to be a point that made a very big impression on me when I first came to the legislature, is the high quality of the legislative staff.  Both in substance and manner these state employees work so hard and are so dedicated and bright.  There is no question that without them, we could not even come close to accomplishing what we do.
I think it’s important for the public to be aware of this.

To Do List Article from Baltimore Sun:
This interactive portion of the Baltimore Sun’s website does quite a good job of describing some of the issues yet to be decided here in Annapolis.  Not surprisingly, some of them have been quite controversial.  I have received messages in support or opposition to many of them from many of you.  I do believe that I represent one of the legislative districts with a great percentage of constituents who pay close attention to what we are doing here in the state legislature, and I truly like it that way.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-legislature-gallery-20110323,0,1386662.photogallery

Budget and Tax Policy Institute Report :
This report on opportunities to restore cuts to health related services was prepared by the Institute for the Lorraine Sheehan alcohol tax bill earlier in the session.  It points out the many gaps in human services in the governor’s budget.  Now the alcohol tax bill has been amended in the senate to assign some of the tax money to provide additional funding for schools in Baltimore City and Prince Georges County.  It would still provide funding to reduce the “waiting list” for services for developmental disabilities.
I agree with those who are very disappointed that the amendments to this bill eliminate the funding that was to go to much needed mental health programs, and I believe we should do all we can to get those funds restored before the final vote on this legislation.  I also agree with those who say that if we are not successful in getting those restorations, we simply cannot afford to let the whole bill go up in smoke, but rather pledge to continue working on mental health as a very necessary top priority.
Report on Lorraine Sheehan Act

Assistance Groups Lobby for Funds:
While we in  the Maryland legislature are working on the state budget here in Annapolis, counties all over our state are addressing their local budgets.  Howard County, though the wealthiest in the country, nonetheless is struggling with meeting basic human needs for some people living in our community.  I have long said that being the wealthiest county, or even one of the wealthiest, carries with it a deep responsibility.  If we don’t provide for our people who have mental illness, developmental disabilities or are homeless and living in poverty, then where in the world can this be accomplished?  That is the reason why I did not join some of my colleagues in designating increased local revenue during these very difficult financial times to county tourism programs and state funds to operate horse racing tracks in various counties.  Our fellow human beings in need must come first.
http://www.explorehoward.com/news/81556/food-energy-assistance-requests-doubles-howard-county/

Homelessness in Columbia:
Those of you who attended my Legislative Town Hall Meeting in February at Kahler Hall in Harper’s Choice may recall that I said we had been joined by two homeless individuals who were “living” by our central library in Town Center.  At that meeting they chose not to be identified.  Subsequently there was an article in the Washington Post about these two individuals being asked to leave the Columbia Mall when they entered with the early morning mall walkers.  That article was included in a past e-newsletter.  Since then I have communicated with the County Executive about the importance of not allowing the mall owner to discriminate against the homeless.  Parenthetically, this owner is the same business, General Growth Properties, that reaped an enormous profit (likely hundreds of millions) from the county government’s rezoning of the land in Downtown Columbia.

The article below from the Baltimore Sun reports on the ACLU’s taking on the case for the homeless in our mall.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/bs-md-ho-columbia-homeless-ban-20110329,0,3312404.story

Lawns are Adding to Chesapeake Bay Pollution, Study Says:
I know I have covered this issue already this session.  I include more coverage from the Washington Post below for two reasons – our awareness of this threat to our streams, rivers, and precious Chesapeake Bay is growing exponentially and, because I was the prime sponsor of one of the bills dealing with lawn fertilizer and it was assigned to the Environmental Matters Committee on which I serve.  I spent a great deal of time on it.
It was very gratifying to learn that Senator Ben Cardin has chosen to speak out on this issue as well.
See also:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/lawns_are_adding_to_chesapeake_bay_pollution_study_says/2011/03/28/AFDCOdqB_story.html?wprss=rss_local#weighIn

Historic Trusts:
I was pleased this week to receive a letter from the Howard County Director of Planning saying that the county is ready to move forward with updating our registry of historic sites.  Some of you may know Lee Preston, a long time teacher in our county, who has just published a book, “Archaeology in Howard County and Beyond”, in which he gives an accounting of his work with students at many of these sites.

Attached is a letter from The Howard County Delegation supporting the county’s request to The Maryland Historic Trust to designate some of its funds to move forward with our sites’ inventory.  These sites are invaluable educational tools and reminders to all of us about our local history.
Download the PDF: Maryland Historic Trust

Laughter Provides Serious Health Benefits, No Fooling:
In closing his week, I am including an article from the Columbia Flier about Connie Cooney, an Ellicott City resident who works in my Annapolis office as a Legislative Assistant.  Among her many other talents, Connie is a certified laughter coach who conducts the Laughter Circle at the Bain Senior Center.  Those of you who know me are aware that I am frequently identified in a crowd by my own rather hearty laugh.  Connie spreads her positive attitude to all of the many people who are in and out of office during the session and helps makes all of our work a joy.
http://www.explorehoward.com/community/81939/laughter-provides-serious-health-benefits-no-fooling/

At the close of each week here in Annapolis, I am aware of just how blessed Lloyd and I are to be able to return to our home in Columbia.

Enjoy this spring weekend.  I plan to spend part of mine doing some gardening.

 

March 25, 2011

This week the focus of both the Senate and the House has been on the budget.  Both houses passed a budget, and there are some differences between them.  A conference committee of several members from both the Senate and House budget committees will be appointed to work out these differences.  I believe the House did a respectable job given the enormity of the fiscal issues:  education, health, social, environmental and economic programs, and pension and benefit provisions.  I will await the report of the conference committee and the final budget vote from both houses to go into any further detail.

There was one very troubling issue in the House budget regarding the horse racing industry which is fairly well described in the following article.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-hancock-slots-legislation-20110320,0,4552023.column

Two amendments were offered to delete this provision from the budget.  One received 11 out of 138 votes and the other received 20.  Since I find it very difficult to comprehend how we can approve such an expenditure given the dire social and health needs in our communities, including wealthy Howard County, during these continuing  difficult economic times, I voted for both of these amendments to delete the funding to racetracks. I believe it is worthy of note that the final vote on the entire House budget was almost exactly along party lines.

Campaign Finance Reform:
HB 322, which I sponsored and which would close a large loophole in campaign finance law in Maryland, is apparently not going to pass again this year.  Instead the legislative leaders have decided to move forward with House Joint Resolution 7 which creates a Commission to Study Campaign Finance Law in Maryland. My concern is that this appointed group may also give serious consideration to raising the maximum contribution limit allowable.  This could result in even more big money in campaigns in Maryland.
HJ7: Election Law- Commission to Study Campaign Finance Law Bill 
http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/billfile/HJ0007.htm
Fiscal Note  http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/fnotes/bil_0007/hj0007.pdf

HB 1054 Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act
The following article from the Sun gives a pretty clear picture of the progress on this energy bill which I support.  It has also run into some fairly serious opposition.  So time will tell.

"O'Malley continues wind energy push"
http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/local/politics/2011/03/omalley_continues_wind_energy.html

HB 121 The Lorraine Sheeham Health and Community Services Act of 2011
It looks very likely that the legislature will pass the first increase in the alcohol tax in 40 years.  Vinnie DeMarco, the leader of this effort, told me yesterday that he is very optimistic.  He is as good as anyone at reading the cards here in Annapolis.  I have been pleased to receive many, many constituent messages in support of this legislation of which I am a sponsor.

"Alcohol tax increase advances to full Senate"
http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/local/politics/2011/03/alcohol_tax_increase_advances.html

SB 630 Election Law – Petition Signatures
Despite good press coverage on this bill which would help to restore the right to referendum to Maryland citizens, it has still not received a vote in committee.  There have been several incidents recently where citizens’ efforts have been voided by ever-changing procedures at the Board of Elections. Passage is still possible, but time is running out. 

"Sloppy signatures, sloppy standards"
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-sloppy-signatures-20110323,0,666949.story

We will go back into legislative session on the floor of the House of Delegates in the State House this evening and then again tomorrow morning.   So it will be a while before I will be back in our beloved Columbia to check on the growth of the flowers and blooming of the blossoms in our yard and around town.  I’m enjoying the daffodils, tulips, and magnolias here in Annapolis.

Be well.

March 17, 2011

Next week is known as cross-over week here in the legislature.  Any bill to be guaranteed a vote in the opposite chamber (House or Senate) must cross over to that chamber by Monday, March 21 (the first day of spring).  There are many major bills yet to be decided, most notably the budget with all its revenue, benefits, and pension issues. So next week will most likely be the busiest week of the 13-week legislative session.  We will very likely be in session on Saturday, March 26. 

LAWN FERTILIZER:
Last week I covered the public hearing for a bill I am sponsoring to regulate the use of lawn fertilizer.  It has fairly recently become generally accepted knowledge that this fertilizer is a much greater contributor to contamination of our streams, rivers, and precious Chesapeake Bay than we had previously realized.

I have worked closely with Environment Maryland on this bill.  An op ed in the SUN from last week was written by a staff member of this environmental organization:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-lawn-fertilizer-20110315,0,1031438.story

FUNDING FOR EDUCATION:
The House Appropriations Committee has been working hard on the budget submitted to the legislature by the governor.  These two articles do a good job of describing what is going on in this area, which must be resolved by the end of next week.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/politics/as-rift-grows-between-maryland-unions-and-lawmakers-state-aims-for-school-funding-deal/2011/03/15/ABDX3Ib_story.html

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-03-15/news/bs-md-education-funding-20110310_1_education-funding-budget-proposal-budget-cuts

HOMELESS IN HOWARD COUNTY:
Below is an article and an editorial regarding the current state of homelessness in our county, one of the wealthiest in the country. It is good news to read in the Columbia Flier that the Department of Education is making clear provision for homeless children in our schools.  http://www.explorehoward.com/news/81147/howard-county-schools-look-ensure-access-homeless-students/

http://www.explorehoward.com/opinion/81348/editorial-homeless-students/

The big question remaining is why we have homeless people in our county with all of its material goods. The statistics below come from the newsletter of the Howard County Community Action Council. 

  • About 11 times a day, everyday people inquire about shelter and are turned away because all programs remain full. More people are unsheltered or at risk of losing housing than are in the homeless shelter system.
  • Every day, approximately 140 people live in shelter or transitional programs.
  • Every day, approximately 75 live outdoors in various areas of Howard County.

It is good that the county is working on a plan to end homelessness.  Until that plan is in place I find it very difficult to accept it as fact that we cannot find a way to provide shelter for all of these human beings.

March 11, 2011

This week I will be giving status updates on some issues I have covered in previous weeks' messages.

ALCOHOL TAX:
House Bill 121 Lorraine Sheehan Health and community Services Act of 2011, of which I am a sponsor, continues to attract a lot of attention.  This bill would increase the tax on alcohol which has not been changed for 40 years and which could add more than $200 million in much needed state revenue, according to the Department of Legislative Services. This week there was yet still another editorial in the SUN supporting this legislation  The printed media is certainly pulling its weight on this one. Hopefully, the committee will do the same and pass the bill out to the full House for a vote soon.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM:
House Bill 322 Campaign Finance-Affiliated Business Entities which I have introduced for many years  would close a loophole which allows many businesses to exceed many, many times over the legal limits on campaign contributions in Maryland.  The March 9 edition of the Baltimore SUN contains a letter to the editor from me and Delegate Jon Cardin who chairs the Elections Sub-Committee of the Ways and Means Committee. 

COMBINED CORPORATE TAX REPORTING:
HB 731 Corporate Income Tax Combined Reporting which would close a loophole in the law that allows multi-state corporations from paying their fair share of taxes in Maryland had a public hearing this week in the Ways and Means Committee.  Maryann Maher  from Ellicott City who ran a strong campaign for House of Delegates last year appeared and gave excellent testimony. I believe this is one of the major social and financial justice issues before us here in the legislature this year.  As a sponsor of the bill, I hope that, despite the strong opposition from the Chamber of Commerce, the committee will pass the bill out to the full House for a vote. 

MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE:
Last week I reported that HB505, which gives the Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulations more tools and power in dealing with mortgage lenders, passed out of the Environmental Matters Committee on which I serve.  Yesterday the bill passed out of the full House with a very strong vote and is now in the Senate.  This week the following article  http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/real-estate/bs-bz-foreclosure-complaints-20110307,0,4221995,full.story  which further explains the dire situation regarding mortgages, appeared in the Sun.  I am very hopeful that we will provide some meaningful relief to those who have been the object of unjust practices.  There are clearly conscientious individuals working in the mortgage industry, and we must address those who are not so conscientious.

SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE  BILL:
Last week I also included an article on House Bill 1035 of which I am a sponsor.  This bill had a public hearing yesterday in the House Health and Government Operations Committee.  Several people from our community came to Annapolis to testify in support of the bill. Here is the Fiscal and Policy Note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services: http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/fnotes/bil_0005/hb1035.pdf

Now an issue which I have not yet covered in this newsletter:

LAWN FERTILIZER:
HB 687  Chesapeake Bay Nitrogen Reductions Act, of which I am the lead sponsor, would require better management of and limitations on the use of nitrogen in lawn fertilizers.  We now know that lawn fertilizers are contributing a significant portion of the nitrogen washing off into our streams, rivers, and ultimately our precious Chesapeake Bay.  This nitrogen is one of the major reasons why the health of the Bay is still at a D+, up slightly from its recent D.  Our own Little Patuxent River, which runs through Columbia neighborhoods and into Wilde Lake and Lake Kittamaqundi, has a very low grade and is still declining.  The bill regulates the levels of nitrogen in lawn fertilizers sold in Maryland.  It will still be possible to fertilize for a green lawn; the fertilizer would simply act more slowly as it is released over time.

The public hearing took place in the Environmental Matters Committee this week. The Sun reported this article on the public hearing on the identical bill filed in the Senate by Senator Young from Frederick:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/green/bs-gr-lawn-fertilizer-bills-20110308,0,7774771.story

In closing, I want to share a video of one of my and Lloyd’s grandkids and a news article on another.  We are blessed with eight beautiful grandkids.

Greta Montgomery Knowles testified eloquently in the Economic Matters Committee with several other Girl Scouts in favor of a bill addressing cruelty to animals:
http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/House/SilverlightPlayer/
Default.aspx?peid=d526dc7d13e24753a6cdb8da607875451d

Zach Lederer  was the subject of a column by Stan Ber in the Howard County Times and Columbia Flier:
http://www.explorehoward.com/sports/81005/centennials-zach-lederer-wins-award-courage-football-foundation/

Thank you for all of your encouragement and support as I go about doing my work in Annapolis. 

Be well.

March 4, 2011

TWO BILLS  APPROVED  BY  THE  HOUSE  ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS COMMITTEE THIS WEEK:

In addition to environmental issues, the House Environmental Matters Committee on which I serve also has responsibility for bills relating to motor vehicles and housing.  This week we approved two bills I want to mention - one  from each of these subject areas.  They will move to the full House of Delegates for presentation and possible debate and amendments.

House Bill 222, Motor Vehicles, Use of Wireless Communication Device: 

This bill makes it a primary offense  to use a  hand-held communication device while driving.  Maryland law for the past year treated this as a secondary offense which means that  law enforcement officers could not issue a citation for this behavior unless it was accompanied by another primary offense,  e.g. speeding or running a red light.   So many serious motor vehicle accidents are related to this behavior that the committee deemed it wise to strengthen the law.  I think it’s quite possible that  some of you reading this letter will have questions about this decision.  I understand, AND  I believe that on balance it is a wise one.  The bill will go to the full House next week, and I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion on the floor about it.  Stay tuned.

House Bill 509, Real Property – Mortgages -  Enforcement:

This emergency bill clarifies the authority of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to enforce and investigate the Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act (PHIFA) and the Maryland Mortgage Fraud Protection Act (MMFPA).  The bill authorizes the commissioner to enforce these Acts by requiring a violator to take affirmative action to correct a violation, including the restitution of money or property to any person aggrieved by the violation.  The commissioner is authorized to cooperate with any unit of law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of a violation of the Acts and aid any unit of the State government with regulatory jurisdiction over the business activities of the violator.  In any action brought by the commissioner, the commissioner is entitled to recover the costs of the action for the use of the State.

Given the very serious problems with mortgage foreclosures across Maryland,  including our own community, I believe this is a very important bill.  We as a society did not accidentally fall into this mortgage crisis.  We knowingly and systematically deregulated financial institutions.  Any legislator who did not go along with this trend was labeled “anti-business”, myself included.  Clearly some of the borrowers bear some responsibility as well, though I believe the lion’s share lies with the financial industry and our governments. Now we need to use stronger methods to bring some justice to this situation.

ACCESS   TO HEALTH CARE:

On March 10th  the House Health and Government Operations Committee of the House of Delegates will hold a public hearing on House Bill 1035, Maryland Health Security Act.   I am a co-sponsor of this bill, also known as the single payer bill.  Under a single-payer system, universal health care for the entire population is financed from a pool to which many parties--employees, employers, the state --have contributed.  (See the article in the Baltimore SUN about the bill.)  I realize that there are some in the medical profession who have concerns about the single payer approach.  I respect their opinion.   Also, I believe it is necessary for us to continue looking at any and all options to reduce the number of people in our state and country who, despite living in the wealthiest country  in the world, are without access to aducate care.

On Saturday, March 12, I will be participating in a program at the Central Library in Town Center, Columbia, on the single payer bill.  Because I am also attending a memorial service on the same day for a dear friend, Charlie Powell, I will be speaking at about 2:30.  Hopefully, some of you can stop by and join in the discussion. 

I believe Congress adopted many improvements in their recent health care reform legislation.   Not only is more reform needed, but there is currently talk in Washington of diluting what was adopted.  At my recent legislative town meeting, I was asked what Maryland is doing in preparation for complying with the new federal law.  Chairman Hammen provided me with information from his Health Committee.  Clearly access to care is a very important issue that will be with us for some time to come.

You can read this week’s report prepared by Legislative Services at: The Legislative Wrap-up

To listen to committee hearings: http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/House/Catalog/catalogs/default.aspx

You can listen in on the proceedings of the General Assembly by clicking on this link (listen)

February 25, 2011

HOMELESS IN AFFLUENT HOWARD COUNTY:

I have received more messages on my words in last week’s Legislative Update about the homeless people living next to our central library in Town Center Columbia and the mall than any other issue this year (and possibly all of my years as a delegate). 

This week Anne Towne, Executive Director of the Howard County Association of Community Services, an umbrella organization including Grass Roots, the Foreign Information and Referral Network (FIRN), and Bridges to Housing Stability among others, came to Annapolis to talk with the Howard County Delegation about the status of human services in this very difficult economy.  Her report was quite troubling.  We simply must find ways to do a better job of taking care of those who cannot make ends meet.  Here is the report on Self Sufficiency Indicators to which Anne referred: http://www.acshoco.org/Resources/Documents/Public%20Policy/Self-Sufficiency%20Indicators/SSI_report.2010.finalcomplete.pdf

SB305/HB173 COMBINED TAX REPORTING:

On Wednesday of this week, the combined reporting bill, SB 305 received a public hearing in the Budget and Taxation Committee of the Senate.  This is a very important  bill which would bring in significant amounts of revenue to fund much needed programs.  Multi-state corporations which are making profits in Maryland are currently able to avoid paying their fair share of taxes here.  This is unjust and must be changed.   The Chamber of Commerce is on record in strong opposition to this change.  

I am proud and grateful that one of our neighbors in Columbia, Brian England, owner of British American Auto Care, sent this letter to the committee. It is very helpful to get the strong support of a successful businessman on this most important issue.  I am a co-sponsor of the companion bill in the House, HB 173, which will be up for a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee on March 10th.

Click here to see a more in-depth description of this issue. 
http://progressivemaryland.org/public/documents/taxfairness/
corporatetaxfactsheet.pdf


HB175 /SB116 MARRIAGE EQUALITY:

Yesterday, this landmark legislation passed out of the Senate by a vote of 25 to 21. The following front page article from the Baltimore Sun gives a good accounting of this important human rights issue.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-same-sex-senate-debate-thursday20110224,0,4885350.story

BIKE SYMPOSIUM IN ANNAPOLIS THIS WEEK:

On Tuesday the annual Maryland Bike Symposium was held in the Senate Office Building.  It was sponsored by Bike Maryland, and Howard County's own Bill Kelly was, as in past years, very involved in organizing this very well-attended event.

One of the pieces of legislation that was featured was passed and signed into law by Governor O'Malley last year, HB 282, sponsored by Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk from Prince Georges County and me.  Known as the Complete Streets legislation, this bill requires the Maryland Department of Transportation to consider and plan for pedestrian and biking elements in the initial stage of any road planning, rather than designing the road and then trying to figure out how to fit these elements in.  Many other states are now looking to adopt such legislation.

HOWARD COUNTY DELEGATION PUBLIC HEARING ON STATEWIDE ISSUES:

On Wednesday evening the House Delegation which I chair this year held this hearing in the county office building in Ellicott City.  The Senators were unable to join us because they were still in official legislative hearings. Close to 100 people from around the county attended and spoke to us on a wide variety of issues:  wind energy, marriage equality, environmental issues, immigration issues, revenue sources, education ,campaign finance reform, and many others.

I found it quite encouraging that although there were varying views expressed, sometimes with passion, there was no attacking of one person's opinion by another.  We need much more of this in our world.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM- HB 322:

In last week’s message I included coverage of this bill for which I am the lead sponsor. In today’s Columbia Flier, Doug Miller wrote this column on HB 322.
http://www.explorehoward.com/opinion/80315/doug-miller-llc-loophole/

 

February 18, 2011

This has been a very active week in the legislature.  Committees have been voting on bills and those that were approved will come to the floor of the full House or Senate for debate and a vote.

I am the lead sponsor on House Bill 322 entitled “Campaign Finance - Affiliated Business Entities - Attribution of Contributions”.

This bill would close a large loophole in campaign finance law in Maryland.  Current law allows certain non-corporate business entities such as Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) to donate to political campaigns far in excess of the legal limits for corporations.  The public hearing on this bill was held in the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.  I was pleased to see that Governor O'Malley has sent the committee a letter of support for the bill. 

Several organizations gave compelling testimony on the need for this legislation; Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the Sierra Club.  They pointed out, as did I, that this bill will help control the excess of big money in the development of public policy that comes out of the legislature.

Delegation from the Leningrad Oblast in Russia:

Maryland is a sister state with the Leningrad Oblast (state) and the Speaker of the House has asked me to be the representative to the committee which hosts this relationship.  Lloyd and I have had the privilege in the past of having some representatives from this area of Russia as guests in our home, and we had the pleasure of spending some time with them during our three-week stay in Russia several years ago.

This week Maryland is hosting a group of four individuals from the Oblast.  I and some of my colleagues have enjoyed having informal time to discuss our comparable roles and ways of governing.  Not surprisingly, this time has served to deepen my believe that we are all so much alike and gives me hope for more compassion and peace in our world.

 

February 11, 2011

Just a few minutes ago we got news that Mubarak has stepped down in Egypt.  We know that there is much to work out in that part of the world and that it won't be at all easy.  For this moment though, what a massive demonstration of courage and determination on the part of the Egyptian protesters.  Lloyd and I are watching the swarming, joyful masses in the square in Cairo that we visited more than 20 years ago. Our hearts are with all of our fellow human beings in this part of our world.

Following are two experiences I have had since my last legislative update.

Last weekend, our granddaughter, Katerina, who attends Wilde Lake Middle School,  had an assignment to write a paper on homelessness in Howard County.  We drove to Grassroots, and the woman in charge at the time very generously gave us a  tour and explained the services offered at the center.  Katerina was very sad to see school aged kids who are current residents at this homeless shelter.  On Sunday she interviewed a neighbor who volunteers many hours at the Route 1 shelter and learned that the number of people in need showing up there is constantly increasing.  Katerina wrote a good paper on how hard it is to accept that Howard County, the wealthiest in the country, has so many homeless people.

Tuesday, February 8, was mental health day in Annapolis.  Representatives of the Howard County Chapter of The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), other mental health advocates, and some constituents suffering from mental illness visited my office. Some of them did not have health insurance. We talked about all of the hardships faced by people who are mentally ill.  We also spoke of the overlap between  mental health and homeless issues.

I mention these two experiences because I am going to use them as a guide for the remainder of the legislative session in determining my priorities for the budget.  In these difficult economic times we must do all we can to help those who are living in crisis.

I will be holding my annual Legislative Meeting  at  Kahler Hall on Thursday,  February 17, from 7:30 to 9:00pm.  I will discuss issues that are currently before the Maryland General Assembly.  As many of you know, we get a good turnout at this meeting each year and have a good discussion on a wide range of issues.

I hope you will join us this year and ask your friends and neighbors to come as well.

Be well and enjoy the weekend.

February 4, 2011

During this, the third full week of the legislative session, we had another full  week high-lighted by the Governor’s State of the State Address and the introduction of many bills for assignment to legislative committees where they will have public hearings.

GOVERNOR’S STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS:
On Thursday, February 3, Governor O’Malley delivered his address in the House Chambers of the State House.  He spoke of job creation, health care coverage, clean energy through creation of wind power, and environmental protection through tougher regulation of septic systems.  One of his major points of emphasis was creating standards  for the electricity industry and enforcement through fines.  This proposed legislation, brought on by the recent poor performance of the industry during the winter storms, is welcome and yet frustrating.  Had the General Assembly not voted about 10 years ago, against the strong objection of a few legislators of whom I was one, we would have much more authority today with the utilities.  Hopefully the craze of deregulation of big business is behind us.

SOME BILLS I AM SPONSORING:
This week, two bills that are very high priorities for me in this legislative session were formally filed with the legislature:

HB 322  Attribution of Campaign Contributions: I have been the lead sponsor of this bill for many years.  It has passed the House of Delegates several years, only to be defeated in the Senate. With all of the attention paid in the press to the huge amount of spending in last year’s campaign, this may be the year for passage. This bill  would close a loophole in Maryland law which allows some businesses  (mainly, Limited Liability Corporations) to give contributions far in excess of the limits placed on corporations.  Common Cause works closely with me on this legislation.

Combined Reporting ( not yet assigned a number): This bill, for which I am a co-sponsor, would eliminate a tax loophole for big multi-state businesses which allows large corporations to assign income to low-tax states, like Delaware, and costs to divisions in states that have higher corporate tax rates. Studies have shown that Maryland is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.  Many states already prohibit this tax dodging practice, though Maryland has to date declined to do so.  This bill is a major fiscal justice piece of legislation which can help level the playing field for small businesses and go a considerable way in eliminating the revenue gap in our budget.

I will be holding my annual Legislative Meeting  at  Kahler Hall on Thursday February 17 from 7:30 to 9:30pm.  I will discuss issues that are currently before the Maryland General Assembly.  As many of you know, we get a good turnout at this meeting each year and have a good discussion on a wide range of issues.  I hope you will join us this year. Be well and enjoy the weekend.

January 28, 2011

Today completes the second full week of the 2011 Legislative Session here in Annapolis. Despite the snow, it was a full week including the release of the governor’s proposed budget, introduction of a package of administration bills related to health care, and the annual Legislative Environmental Summit.

BUDGET

The governor released his proposed budget, and now the legislative committees will review it thoroughly and hold public hearings.

In last week’s e-newsletter, I said that “though Maryland’s financial condition is as good as any state in the country, we still have difficult decisions to make.”   I believe that to be true, and it certainly does not mean that everything is rosy.  The following editorial in today’s Sun states that the governor’s proposed budget makes progress in the state’s financial situation.  It also addresses one of my main concerns about the use of dedicated funding streams. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-omalley-budget-20110127,0,7268867.story

Hopefully, we will be able to work some of this out as the session proceeds.

HEALTH CARE

Our state needs to start preparing now for the federal health-care reforms scheduled to begin in 2014.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony  Brown and health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein briefed lawmakers in Annapolis this week on a package of bills aimed at setting up the health exchanges states will be required to establish under the new federal health care law passed by Congress last year.  Their message:  If Maryland is to hit the ground running by 2014, when the most important changes mandated by law kick in, state officials had best start preparing now.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-health-exchanges-20110126,0,4201319.story

Although I do not serve on the Health Committee, I will be monitoring these bills very closely.

 ENVIRONMENT

On Tuesday, January 25, the Environmental Summit was held in the Senate Office Building.  Hundreds of environmentalists attended, including a good representation from Howard County.

Environment Maryland, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Riverkeepers all participated in presenting their legislative priorities for this session. Their priorities include wind energy, funding for stormwater facilities, and regulation of fertilizers which wash into our streams and rivers carrying damaging contaminants.

Despite the continuing economic restraints, the room was full of optimism and determination.

The following day, the Environmental Matters Committee received an in depth briefing on land use planning.  Since I serve as the Chairperson of the Land Use and Ethics Sub-Committee, this briefing was particularly pertinent to my work in the legislature.

All present agreed that we need to do a better job with planning growth and acknowledged the direct connection between growth and its impact on our environment.

Attached is this week’s Hot List from The Maryland League of Conservation Voters:

http://www.mdlcv.org/files/Hotlist/MDLCV_Hot_List_-_House-_1_25_11.pdf

As always, for an up to date report on what is going on in the entire legislature, go to The Legislative Wrap-up

 My Legislative Meeting  will be at  Kahler Hall on  Thursday February 17th 7:30 to 9:30 , I will discuss issues that are before the Maryland General Assembly. As many of you know, we get a good turnout at this meeting each year and have a good discussion on current issues before the legislature.  I hope you will join us this year.

Be well and stay warm.

January 21, 2011

Today completes the first full week of the 2011 Legislative Session. 

The highlight of the week was the inauguration of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  The official ceremony  took place in the Senate Chambers of the State House.  Since that chamber has  a quite limited capacity, the ceremony was then replicated outside on the steps of the State House.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and many Marylanders gathered to observe this moment in history.  Despite the difficult issues ahead of us, a feeling of good will prevailed.

Governor O’Malley released his proposed budget yesterday.  The article in today’s Baltimore Sun (see News) gives a good synopsis of his budget.  Now it will go to the budget committees of the Senate and House for public hearings, debte, and likely amendments.   Because I believe it is so important, I am repeating the following sentence from my last week’s legislative update:  “Though Maryland’s financial condition is as good as any state in the country, we still have difficult decisions to make.   As we do our work, it is important to remember some of the poor decisions in the past that contributed to the current situation – too much deregulation in the financial and energy sectors and the undue influence of big money in general.”

This week the Environmental Matters Committee had briefings from several environmental non-profit advocacy groups including  Environment Maryland, The League of Conservation Voters, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation,  and the Maryland Public Information Research Group.  All groups agreed that, although the health of the Bay is improving slightly, we have a long way to go.  This has implications for all communities, including ours, with streams and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay, the most valuable estuary on our planet.  This year we will again be working on issues of storm water runoff and the fertilizer and pesticide contaminants in this runoff. 

Some useful websites that deal mainly with environmental issues are Environment Maryland, www.EnvironmentMaryland.org  Chesapeake Bay Foundation, www.cbf.org    League of Conservation Voters    http://www.mdlcv.org.

 Next week I will have more information on what’s going on in other committees regarding energy, health, education, and numerous other major topics. For an up to date report on what is going on in the entire legislature, go to The Legislative Wrap-up (http://mlis.state.md.us/2011rs/Wrap_up/current_issue.pdf)

 I received many messages from you in response to last week’s message either commenting on something I had written or some thoughts of your own on  policies to be considered during this session.  Please keep them coming.  They are truly very helpful and it is encouraging to know that you are all paying attention.

Be well.

Peace.

January 20, 2011: Baltimore Sun report on the state budget proposal

O'Malley budget proposal: No furloughs, but cuts to health care, aid to counties

Governor again relies heavily on one-time transfers

For the first time in three years, Gov. Martin O'Malley will not propose furloughs for the state's 79,000 workers — a glimmer of good news in a budget that would otherwise freeze education funding while calling for deep cuts to health care, according to officials who have been briefed on the plan.

The governor is scheduled to unveil his proposal to address a projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall in a daylong series of briefings Friday to fiscal leaders, unions and the news media. He will also outline a plan to shore up the state's pension system by increasing employee contributions and raising the retirement age for new hires, according to a source familiar with the proposal.

see full article

January 14, 2011

The commencement of each legislative session is exciting, and this year it is also particularly sobering, given the major budgetary issues that need to be resolved.  Though Maryland’s financial situation is as good as any state's in the country, we still have difficult decisions to make.  

As we do our work, it is important to remember some of the poor decisions that contributed to the current sitation – too much deregulation in the financial and energy sectors and the undue influence of big money in general.

I have a deep belief that people are basically good and that we can work together with respect and dignity so that everyone has the opportunity to live life with dignity.

Please keep in touch with me about issues of concern to you.  It is always helpful to hear from people back home.

Peace.



January 12, 2011:  summary of upcoming session described in the Baltimore Sun

In Annapolis, a full plate

$1.6 billion budget shortfall, policy issues headline legislative agenda

With Democratic lawmakers in Maryland largely unaffected by the Republican tide that swept the rest of the country, and no one facing re-election for another four years, the General Assembly is looking forward to a busy legislative session.

Gov. Martin O'Malley and the legislature will spend much of the 90-day session that begins Wednesday in Annapolis grappling with the $13 billion state operating budget — and the $1.6 billion gap in it.

But they'll also take up hundreds of policy issues, some of them so contentious that they could end up on the ballot during next year's presidential election.

see full article

January 6, 2011:  Liz supports proposed hotel tax increase for Howard County, as reported in the Columbia Flier.

Hotel tax rate hike tops Howard County delegation's wish list

Lawmaker also wants veterans' organizations to be able to own and operate slot machines

By Lindsey McPherson

Less than a week before the Maryland General Assembly convenes for its 2011 session, Howard County’s state lawmakers have prepared their wish list of local legislation they want passed, which includes increasing the county’s hotel tax rate and allowing local veterans’ organizations to own and operate slot machines.

see full article

"I believe that my work
in the areas of

education

the environment

clean energy

human and civil rights

open government

campaign finance reform

fair elections

transportation

access to health care

public safety

regulation of financial institutions

job creation

and economic development

has had a significant impact on public policy in Maryland. 
I intend to continue speaking out loudly and clearly,
with an independent voice,
on issues impacting the quality of life for all Marylanders,
particularly those
who cannot speak for themselves."