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Steve's News From Annapolis

2013-03-03

The Maryland legislature is just a little more than half through our 90 day session. Our work has dramatically increased over the past two weeks. The Environmental Matters Committee has had many long days of bill hearings on substantial issues such as driving with a cell phone, lead paint poisoning, protection of our natural resources, agricultural preservation and many others.

Gun Violence Legislation

The two dominant issues, the Firearms Safety Act, SB 281 and the repeal of the death penalty have consumed the Senate’s time and brought thousands of citizens to Annapolis to encourage legislators to support or oppose these critical policies. I am pleased that the Senate passed the Firearms Safety Act, with almost 40 amendments. The bill provides protections for gun owners while requiring licensing, background checks and fingerprinting for those who buy handguns in Maryland. Certain long guns will be classified as assault weapons and banned. Those who own the banned weapons must register the weapons with the state police.

The House Judiciary and Health committees heard the bill Friday. Over 1000 people signed up to testify at a hearing that lasted well past midnight. Thousands of Marylanders had come to Annapolis to support the bill and to raise their opposition. This massive show of democracy required the rerouting of traffic, added security and changes in the meeting schedules while our delegation rooms were opened for the visitors to watch live proceedings. The state police and legislative security did an impressive job of keeping it orderly as Marylanders exercised their First Amendment rights.

Baltimore County School Board

Unfortunately, the County Senate delegation failed to approve of the proposed changes to the way the Baltimore County School Board is chosen. Their 4 to 4 vote means that the bill will not go to the full Senate and my House bill will be withdrawn. This was the fifth year I attempted to improve the school board selection process. It continues to be an important issue and will be taken up again next year. I remain convinced that we need a more democratic process for selecting the Board.

Recycling and Waste Disposal

I have been working on a bill that will increase the amount of recyclables that are recovered and reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfills. One of my bills that will provide a tax credit for recycling oyster shells HB 184 was well received in committee. Retaining and reusing the shell for growing new oysters (called spat) is important for the ecology and economy of the Bay.

My HB 1266 will set new recycling targets for the counties and will reduce the amount of waste that will go into the landfills. We are running out of landfill space and  need to increase our recycling (which needs to include composting). I have been working with Sen. Mac Middleton to craft a reasonable approach that will work for the counties, push more recycling and reduce the amount of waste that can go into landfills. It is also clear that some “waste to energy facilities” will also continue to be part of how we decrease landfill waste.

Status of My Legislation

During the past two weeks, three other bills of mine had hearings. One, HB 881, addresses the difficulty that exists when someone tries to find a responsible party involved with Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). This has been a problem in many neighborhoods where LLCs own problem properties. Currently, the registered LLC provides no information in the public records about a contact person. My bill would make it easier to identify a contact person in the company.

I also sponsored a bill that creates a workgroup which will look into setting up a Smart Growth Investment Fund in order to bring private investment into projects and revitalization of the state’s older communities. With a decrease in public funds, we need new and creative funding mechanisms. This bill will help the state determine how to establish such a fund and how it could function to support reinvestment in our communities.

Pesticides can be hazardous to people and the waters of Maryland. They are well regulated in Maryland and all applicators, including commercial businesses and farmers, must maintain records of the applications.  Unfortunately, there is a significant lack of available data so that the potential risks and harm can be evaluated. I have introduced HB 775 to require all applicators to report their pesticide usage to the Department of Agriculture so that public health and environmental experts can have needed information to better assess if there are dangers due to pesticide applications.  

Transportation Funding

One of the largest, and unresolved, challenges that the legislature and the state face is how to address the need for transportation funding. Currently, 21% of our transportation funding comes from the federal government, 20% from motor fuel taxes, 19% from titling taxes and the rest from various other fees and taxes. The Baltimore and D.C. areas have been rated in the top five most congested in the country, costing us lost time and productivity. The demands at the airport, on the roads, and for transit continue to grow.

The vast majority of our transportation funds are being used for systems preservation and very little is available to expand the capacity of our roads, bridges and transit system. In fact, we will have fully expended and committed all of these funds by 2018. While the federal government can fund 80% of the funds needed, 90% of the funds for aviation and 50% of the money spent on transit, Maryland must have the other money required as a  match for these projects.

Virginia recently adopted a number of changes in the way they will fund transportation. They have decided to divert money from education and public safety, to increase sales taxes and to provide regional taxes to support transit demands. Since Maryland has always seen itself in competition with Virginia for jobs and businesses, are these strategies we should consider?

 I know that the fast rising price of gasoline makes this issue very hard. Not only are households affected but gas costs are built into the cost of nearly all products we purchase. So, the thought of any gas tax increase is hard for all of us. Yet, the legislature must find sustainable funding to meet the growing demands on our aging transportation system and to prepare for our future needs.

I continue to be humbled and honored to represent the 42nd district and the state of Maryland. If you have concerns you want to share, please contact me at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us or at 410-841-3487.

Sincerely,

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

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Breakfast Reception with
Delegate Steve Lafferty

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