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Steve's News From Annapolis


This past week in Annapolis was undoubtedly one of the most emotional, tense and substantive ones I have experienced since being elected in 2006. While I cannot fully describe all of the issues, you can follow all of the General Assembly debate, hearings and issues at .


Marriage Equality

On Friday, the House of Delegates passed HB 438, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, recognizing the right of two individuals to be married! I was proud to be a co-sponsor and thrilled to see this pass, putting Maryland on the path to legalizing same-sex marriage. It is a step towards greater justice and equality for those who love each other and wish to commit themselves to one another.


This bill and vote caused all Delegates to search our hearts and souls to do what each thought is right. Many of us, while strongly disagreeing with our colleagues, tried to be non-judgmental and respectful. And, for the seven gay legislators, the political is very personal. The passions and tensions have been high for weeks. This past week, however, there were threats and accusations hurled about, more venomous phone calls and emails to legislators and even a threat against one Delegate that led to the need for a police escort. State troopers were throughout our building on Thursday and Friday as a precaution! That was pretty shocking.


Now, the bill moves to the Senate for a vote. Since it passed the Senate last year, it is expected to pass again and then be signed into law by the Governor. That will be another remarkable day. However, it is fully expected to then be petitioned to referendum for the voters to decide in November where I hope our decision will be affirmed.


Proposed Gas Tax

The Governor introduced HB 1302 to create a sales tax on gasoline. While the bill has yet to be debated, I remain very concerned that his proposal is not the best way to raise funds for needed transportation projects. A 6 cent increase over 3 years seems to be too much to me. Some of the basics in his bill are:


  • A 2 cent sales tax each year for each of the next 3 years


  • The tax is on the average annual retail motor fuel price (without the existing taxes included) and that price is determined two times a year by the Comptroller


  • The money will be allocated to the state Transportation Trust Fund and to infrastructure aid to the Counties


  • If the average annual retail price goes up more than 15%, there is no increase in the sales tax


  • Funds cannot be transferred from the Transportation Trust Fund without a three-fifths vote of the relevant standing committees and, if transferred must be repaid


No hearings have been set on his bill yet.


An Elected School Board in Baltimore County

As the lead sponsor of HB 481, I presented the bill for a fully elected school board in the Ways and Means Committee. While no one testified against the bill, County Executive Kamenetz did testify against the Senate version on Wednesday. Baltimore County is one of only four counties that do not elect its school board. This bill would establish 9 districts from which Board members would be elected in a non-partisan election in 2014. As legislators, we are sensitive to the fact that a new Superintendent is being hired so we did not want to push for a 2012 vote.  The Baltimore County House delegation will probably vote on this bill this week.


Sustainable Growth and the Environment


Wednesday was a long day in the Environmental Matters Committee, as we heard testimony for nearly six hours. The major bill was HB 445, the Sustainable Growth and Agriculture Preservation Act which is referred to as the “Septics Bill”. This bill proposes to restrict the use of nitrogen leaching septic systems for housing development throughout the state. It would limit the areas where houses could be built if they are not on public sewer in order to reduce pollution into the waters and Bay and to reduce the loss of our valuable farmland.


I believe this is one of the most important growth management issues we will see. I support local communities so they can  handle future growth without increasing pollution or the cost of serving people who decide they want to live out in a former corn field. There is clear evidence that the costs to taxpayers for schools, roads and services exceed the tax revenue when there is such residential sprawl.


I expect to be actively involved in the workgroup addressing these issues so feel free to share your thoughts with me.


I also had a bill hearing on HB 169 which requires manufacturers to create and implement a plan for recycling plastic bags if they want to distribute their bags in Maryland. Supported by the industry, this is just another approach for reclaiming plastic. The more opportunities that exist for recycling, the more we can reduce the harmful impact on our environment.


As I said earlier, this was an extraordinary week in Annapolis. I am honored to be a part of the General Assembly and to represent the 42nd district. We still have a lot of work to do on the budget, to support families, education, job creation and the environment. Feel free to contact me at 410-841-3487 or at  with questions or comments.


Best wishes,


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