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Steve's News From Annapolis

2012-02-13

Although bill hearings have only recently started, there has still been a lot to do. In addition to meeting with constituents and responding to emails, I have been preparing my own bills for introduction, working with colleagues to gain support for various legislation, and looking at ways to address our budget challenges. Let me just touch on a few of the issues I see in Annapolis one-third of the way in.

 Budget and Taxes

The Governor presented a budget that requires that: half of the obligations for teacher pensions will be shifted to the Counties; a limitation on allowable income tax deductions and personal income tax exemptions; a tax for on-line purchases and digital downloads; and, a wide range of fee increases. He has proposed these to eliminate a structural deficit of nearly $600 million in the operating budget. The vast majority of the operating budget is spent on public education, higher education, public safety and Medicare.

The Governor has also proposed an increase in the “flush tax” by $30 a year, or less if there is less water usage in the household. These funds are used for Chesapeake Bay clean-up. And, he has also proposed a 6% sales tax on gasoline to provide funds for highway, transit and other transportation projects. I have very serious concerns about the gas tax as the Governor wants.

I am convinced that the budget will not include all of the Governor’s proposals. As legislators, we are constantly discussing the fairness of losing the tax exemptions and moving pension costs to the counties. At the same time it seems fair that the Counties carry a far share of the costs. So, what are the alternatives? Can we sustain a cut in education? Should all agencies be funded at the same or lower levels than last year? Should more people lose their jobs when we want to see more people go back to work? These are some of the tough questions we are trying to answer about the deficit while trying to maintain the quality of life Marylanders enjoy and expect.

Education

The Baltimore County Public Schools’ Superintendent and County Executive went to the Board of Public Works to request funds for extensive improvements to our aging schools. This included money for an addition and renovation of Stoneleigh ES. I am optimistic that we’ll see the money for this needed expansion and improvement.

I introduced a bill to elect the county’s School Board. I continue to be very concerned about the lack of accountability and responsiveness of the Board. My bill, HOUSE BILL 481, would reduce the number of members to 9 and calls for non-partisan elections from 9 new districts starting in 2014.This should not interfere with the current efforts to find a new Superintendent. I want to give the voters in the County the opportunity to choose those people who will lead our school system. We had a hearing in the House County Delegation and the bill will be heard on February 16, in the Ways and Means committee.

Marriage Equality

Probably the most significant social issue being lobbied, discussed and debated this year is the Civil Marriage Protection Act, HOUSE BILL 438, that would legalize same sex marriage in Maryland while providing a number of safeguards for religious institutions and organizations who do not support or sanction such marriages. It is a contentious issue where belief and commitment to equal rights and justice can clash with religious beliefs. It is a personal and, for many, deeply emotional issue. On Friday, two House committees had an extensive hearing on the bill which will set the stage for its fate in the House.

Maryland’s environment

The Environmental Matters Committee heard HOUSE BILL 167  to ban the sale and use of Roxarsone in chicken feed. Roxarsone is arsenic. Once the chicken creates manure, poisonous arsenic is added to the environment. Eliminating Roxarsone makes sense. However, we heard testimony about the need and value of Roxarsone in preventing disease in chickens and that its elimination will cause a loss of jobs in the poultry industry. I support the ban since there is evidence of alternatives to prevent the diseases and infections that arsenic is intended to address. This is a good example of complex issues we face regularly.

 I have two bills to address the need for plastic bag recycling.  HOUSE BILL 169 requires stores over 3,000 square feet in size to provide in-store recycling bins and reusable bags for customers. The second, HOUSE BILL 229, requires manufacturers to create a recycling plan and program for recycling bags if they want to sell or provide bags to Maryland businesses. Neither bill has a fee although there is a lot of push for legislation to require a 5 cent fee on plastic bags in order to eliminate, or dramatically reduce their usage.

During this coming week, our Committee will hear HOUSE BILL 445 which addresses growth and development on septic systems. This is an issue I have worked on because of the implications reducing pollution of the Bay, the loss of farm land and costs to taxpayers when widespread, sprawl development is allowed. This is a contentious issue but one that needs to be pursued as stewards for the future.

 Maryland’s Swim and Dive Team

You may recall the decision last fall by University of Maryland President Loh to eliminate eight team sports. Two of them, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, have some of the University’s best student-athletes. One of these superb swimmers lives in our district and will have no team. “Swim and Dive” also have a terrific, committed group of alumni and parents that banded together to try to save the teams. I have been trying to help them gain added time so that they can raise the $11 million the University says is needed to continue. Their fund raising goals are steep and I am still hopeful the President Loh will set more realistic goals and timeline. Such teams, in my opinion, are as important as football and basketball!

Legislative Scholarships

If you or someone you know lives in the 42nd District and are looking for college scholarship assistance, please visit my web site, www.delegatelafferty.com and see the information regarding an application. I have a great scholarship review committee that helps award funds in the spring.

Help for the Assistance Center of Towson Churches

I understand that the Assistance Center can use your financial help and donations to keep their pantry full. ACTC is an ecumenical community asset that provides support for poor and needy families in the Towson area, including personal items and food. This time of year is particularly tough for ACTC. If you can help, please contact them at actc316@verizon.net, at 410-296-4855 or at Calvary Baptist Church, 120 W. Pennsylvania Ave. in Towson.

Congratulations

And, let me end by congratulating my colleague and friend, Del. Jon Cardin who, with his wife Megan, had a baby girl this past week. All indications are that Megan and little Dorothy Maya are doing well. Congrats and best wishes to the three of them!

Feel free to contact me about any of my comments, the legislation I have mentioned or other issues of interest and concern. I can be contacted at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us  or 410-841-3487.

Best wishes,

Steve

Contact Steve

Contact Delegate Lafferty
By Phone: 410-841-3487
By Email: stephen.lafferty@house.state.md.us

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By Phone: 410-377-4521
By Email: lafferty@delegatelafferty.com

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Breakfast Reception with
Delegate Steve Lafferty

Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 7:30 - 9:00 AM
The Country Club of Maryland