Stay Informed

End of Session Report

2010-04-16

Delegate Steve Lafferty's Report on the 2010 Session
Of the
Maryland General Assembly

Dear Constituent,

Now that the 427th Session of the Maryland General assembly has concluded, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve the 42nd District and the State of Maryland. It has been an honor to represent you and to work on your behalf to make our communities, county and State better. I also want to thank you for contacting me and sharing your thoughts and concerns with me.

At times, the Session was difficult but, I believe, productive. Maryland has been caught in the national recession, and one of the worst economic times in modern history. The Legislature worked hard to be fiscally prudent and socially responsible. We focused substantial attention on the need to create more jobs, develop a balanced budget, improve public safety, support education and protect the environment.

I heard from you and many, many others. While there are many important bills that we passed, I want to report to you on some of the issues and legislation that I know were important this year.

Jobs and the Economy

We took a number of steps to stimulate job creation. We enacted legislation to establish a $5,000 Job Creation Tax Credit to encourage employers to add to their workforce; created a small business loan guaranty program; afforded small businesses the chance to pay property taxes in two installments; and, reduced the rising Unemployment Insurance tax burden on employers. Additionally, no tax increases were given serious consideration.

We gave support to the aquaculture, biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors and created a tax credit to promote investment in older commercial districts in the state. Funds were retained for stem cell research, which will also create and preserve jobs. Our capital budget creates thousands of construction jobs throughout the state. And, I have been working to streamline state permitting processes so that job creating development projects can proceed with fewer delays.

The State Budget

Recognizing these very difficult economic times, we balanced the budget while protecting priorities in education, public safety, health care and the environment. The overall budget shrinks by almost 2%. Over the past four years, the state's General Fund budget has decreased by 3%. The infusion of federal stimulus funds has allowed us to take one time steps to keep the budget in balance although state revenues have gone down.

K-12 education was one of the few areas where there was a funding increase. The upcoming budget will include $5.7 billion for education aid to the counties, including textbooks, aid for teachers, pensions and other needs. For the first time in four years, college tuitions will see a modest 3% increase. The budget also eliminates nearly 600 state positions. Unfortunately, for the third year in a row, state employees will get no merit or COLA increases and will face furloughs. The legislature also rejected a recommendation that our salaries be increased in 2013 and 2014.

This year's capital budget continues the state's commitment to public education, higher education, transportation, the environment and communities. I supported the capital budget because it included funds that are important in our district and to the state. This year's budget has $250 million in school construction funds, which means $1.2 billion has been invested in school construction in the past four years. There is also $70 million in bonds for open space acquisition and parks improvements and $22.5 million to fund efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The 42nd district will also receive funds for Towson University, Goucher, Sheppard Pratt, Aging Schools and various road projects.

Education

The Safe Schools Act helps to break down the barriers and improve communications between local school systems and law enforcement. It requires the juvenile court to notify school officials when a child has been found to be delinquent, in need of assistance, or in need of supervision and committed to a state agency. The intent is to get schools working with law enforcement to intervene to prevent children from being drawn into gang activity.

The Education Reform Act will make Maryland more competitive as we seek federal Race to the Top funds.  Reforms include requiring teachers to teach for three years (it is now two) before they can be tenured; allowing differentiated pay programs to attract high performing teachers to low performing schools; and, piloting incentive pay programs.

After four years of tuition freezes, it was necessary to increase tuitions. However it will be capped at a modest 3% for in-state students while many other states are seeing double digit increases.

My own bill to require an elected School Board in Baltimore County died half way through the Session. I believe that we need a Board that is much more open and accountable. This bill highlighted the issue and, although it failed, it pointed to some serious problems that need to be addressed in the future. I intend to reexamine this issue next year to find a better way to choose the members for this very important Board.

Environmental Issues

The dominant environmental issue was the proposed implementation of the Stormwater Management Act of 2007. The regulations were developed by a group that included environmental activists, developers, contractors and local government officials. However, the development community became increasingly vocal in opposition to the new regs. They were concerned that their substantial financial investments in plans and construction would be lost if the new regulations went into effect.

At the same time, environmentalists see the new requirements to use "environmental site design" as a way to improve water quality and reduce further pollution from stormwater runoff. Following weeks of going back and forth, new regulations were adopted that strengthen control of runoff, further reduce pollution, require developers to meet the new standards to the "maximum extent practicable" and allow for a transition for plans that have already been approved or will have certain approvals by 2013.

The Environmental Matters Committee firmly rejected efforts to loosen the laws regarding oystering. The oyster population is at 1% of its historic level. Further expansion without adequate controls is ecologically and economically untenable. At the same time, the Governor's Fisheries Management Plan will preserve additional waters while hiring watermen to help restore oyster bars and helping others transition to aquaculture.

Legislation was also enacted to examine the best practices for the use and application of road salts. The salt is damaging to the environment but is much less costly and much more effective than many other alternatives that are available. It is time, though, to ensure we are using the best materials and best practices to reduce the harm to the environment.

Importantly, funds were restored to the Chesapeake and Atlantic Bays Trust Fund to continue efforts to clean the Bays and restore them and their tributaries to healthier conditions. The coming year's budget will include $22.5 million for the Trust Fund. We also preserved funding for land preservation and open space acquisition.

Public Safety and Crime

The horrific sexual crimes against children generated substantial legislation. Hopefully, these laws will enable the state to better monitor predators, prosecute them, and keep them away from young people in our communities.

We took action to increase the mandatory minimum sentences for second degree sex offenses and rape from 5 to 15 years; established lifetime supervision of serious and repeat sexual offenders for a crime committed on or after August 1, 2006; and, prohibit the earning of diminution credits ("good time credits") to reduce the term of an inmate who is serving a sentence for repeat third degree and serious sex offenders. Other bills expand the Sex offender Registry and authorize a judge, not a District Commissioner, to release the alleged sex offender on bail or other conditions to assure that the defendant will not flee or pose a danger to others.

After extensive debate, we also passed legislation to tighten the laws regarding the prosecution of gang members. The 2007 law was not working, so we created stiffer penalties and took steps to prohibit someone from being a "kingpin."

We banned the use of handheld cell phones with widespread bi-partisan support. This will mean that when the vehicle is in motion, the driver may have a phone conversation but the phone unit must be hands free, a Bluetooth or other technology. By being hands free, drivers should have more control of their vehicles and, hopefully, less dangerous.

For the first time in four years, we enacted legislation to support the safety of bicyclists by establishing a 3' safety zone. Drivers will be committing a moving violation if they drive closer than 3' to a cyclist. Cyclists are also afforded other rights when on the roadways of the state. They are still required to ride on the shoulder where there is one, stay to the right and ride in a single file where possible.

Housing

The major housing legislation was to establish mandatory foreclosure mediation. This is needed because too few lenders have made serious efforts to help distressed owners mitigate and save their mortgages. More and more owners have found their homes to be "underwater" (worth less than they owe) or they are unemployed and cannot pay their mortgages. We do not want more abandoned homes. Now the borrower and lender will be required to meet and attempt to work out payment options before a foreclosure can proceed. This will be invaluable in preventing foreclosures and helping families stay in their homes.

 
I succeeded in getting legislation, HB1399,
http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/bills/hb/hb1399e.pdf,
 to require all lenders to advise borrowers that housing counseling is available. The timing and notice provisions will be created by regulation but, for the first time, all borrowers will make a conscious choice whether or not to get housing education or counseling. We need to be proactive to ensure that people are informed before making such a major life decision.

I also was the co-sponsor of an important bill, HB 711,
http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/bills/hb/hb0711t.pdf, which enables tenants to remain in a home they have been renting when that house in put into foreclosure. When a tenant (renter) pays her rent but the owner does not pay the mortgage, the tenant can become the victim of the foreclosure. Now, a tenant will have up to 90 days to remain. I was unsuccessful with a similar bill last year but, now, Maryland conforms to federal law

My Other Legislation

In addition to the bills I introduced regarding the elected school board and housing counseling, I had three other bills that passed. I was the lead sponsor on a bill that will enable smaller restaurants in Towson to get a liquor license. Hopefully, this will encourage smaller operations to come to Towson and support the revitalization.

My most important bill, HB 1042,
http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/bills/hb/hb1042e.pdf, will prevent the state from posting social security numbers and driver's license numbers on the web! Many older loan documents and mortgage documents have social security numbers on them. Unfortunately, these can be found and, potentially misused. My bill stops that practice and gives individuals the right to have the numbers removed. The Archivist and Courts were very helpful. I want to thank the two constituents who brought this issue to me.

After working for three years to help mobile home park residents get some protections, I finally succeeded this year.  HB 103,
http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/bills/hb/hb0103e.pdf, will provide some financial relief for park residents when they lose their homes when a park closes. For the first time, owners will also have to spell out a plan for helping these dislocated residents. Those who live in larger parks will get more funds than those in smaller parks

The state's Consolidated Transportation Plan ("CTP") describes the transportation projects that the state is funding each year. However, the CTP does not necessarily follow the state's established transportation goals and the selection criteria have not been linked to good land use planning. My bill, HB1155,
http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/bills/hb/hb1155e.pdf, requires the state to follow set criteria and tie the funding of roads, highways and transit to clear needs and good land use decisions in the urban and rural parts of Maryland. This is an important step to better transportation funding decisions.

I am proud to represent you and the 42nd District. Please feel free to contact me at Stephen.lafferty@house.state.md.us or at my district office at 410-296-1699 if I can be of assistance.

Best wishes,

Steve

Contact Steve

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

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

more contact info

 

 

SUPPORT STEVE


Breakfast Reception with
Delegate Steve Lafferty

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