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Steve's News From Annapolis


These past two weeks have been the most intense work we in the House have seen. Major legislation regarding the death penalty, firearm safety, transportation funding, education and the environment have been coming out of the various committees for votes by the full House.

During this time, I also had the wonderful opportunity to read The Alligator Under the Bed to a group of children as part of the Read Across America program sponsored by the county teachers and to visit with a group of Towson High School students. I was also shadowed by a smart Towson University sophomore who joined me in meetings and asked me some tough and sharp questions.

In addition to the lengthy committee hearings, I had hearings on some of my own legislation. I was very pleased that County Police Chief Jim Johnson testified in favor of my HB 131 which would limit access to either a loaded and unloaded firearm by unsupervised children and by those who are legally prohibited from owning such a firearm.

Maryland’s Death Penalty Has Been Repealed

For the first time in Maryland’s 375 year history, capital punishment will no longer be available. I have never believed that the state should use execution, even with the most heinous and awful acts of murder. I have no tolerance for brutality, murder and the disregard for life shown by many killers. But, I believe every life has value and the state should not take a life. We cannot risk the possibility that an innocent person will be sent to death.

By a vote of 82 – 56, the House repealed the use of the death penalty. The vote came after many hours of serious debate. The House chamber was strikingly quiet as one Delegate after another pushed for amendments, argued for or against the repeal, and then explained their votes. Debate was personal, passionate, emotional and heartfelt. Many argued that we should not be vengeful or seek retribution. One told that despite his experience of being held up at gunpoint, he did not believe, without absolute certainty of guilt, we can risk the loss of an innocent life. District colleague Del. Bill Frank made a very moving speech about his evolution to a point where he voted in favor of repeal.

This was an historic moment for Maryland. I was extremely proud to  be a part of it.

State Budget

The House has voted out the State’s $37 billion budget for the coming year. It closes the structural deficit and continues our commitment to education, improvement of health care and encouraging investment in business and job creation. Some highlights are:

·         The growth in State spending, excluding federal funds and rainy day fund appropriations, is 2%.

·         The State’s rainy day fund grows from 5% to 6% of general fund revenues to an estimated balance of $921 million at the end of fiscal 2014.

·         Total State support for the public schools will be over $6.0 billion. Local school systems will receive an additional $105.3 million, or 2.1%. The budget includes funds for  school breakfast for 57,000 more  students, expands early college access programs, supports digital learning and  has $25 million for grants to local school systems for school safety and security improvements

·         Maryland’s State colleges and universities receive about $1.3 billion in State funds, an increase of $78 million or 6.5% over fiscal 2013. This will enable the institutions to hold in-state undergraduate tuition increases to 3% for the fourth consecutive year.

·         There are additional funds for the Biotechnology Tax Credit, and a new cyber security investment tax credit to support these growing sectors of economy.

·         Maryland is taking advantage of the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act. The fiscal 2014 budget includes $349 million in new federal funds to cover an additional 109,000 individuals.

·         The budget includes funds for a 3% cost of living increase for State employees for the first time since 2009.

Transportation Funding

I have previously described some of the challenges Maryland faces to fund its transportation needs. This coming week, we will vote on a transportation funding proposal. Clearly, the funds that are available are inadequate for the growing transportation needs. The Governor has proposed to increase gas taxes over the next three years:

·         Cut the per gallon gas tax by 5 cents, from 23.5 cents to 18.5 cents

·         Establish a wholesale gas tax of 2% in July, 4% in July 2014 and 6% in 2015 unless Congress passes legislation requiring retailers to collect an internet sales tax The wholesale gas tax would be levied on the average gas price (without the taxes included) each July 1

·         This approach is estimated to raise the average price of a gallon of gas by 2 cents this July and could be another 7 cents in 2014 and in 2015

·         Increase the fare box cost for transit riders and ties future increases to the Consumer Price Index

Maryland’s business community –including statewide and regional organizations - has argued that Virginia’s decision to increase its transportation taxes now makes Maryland less competitive for jobs in the private and government sectors. Funding of road and transportation projects have been seen as an increasingly important factor in Maryland’s own competitiveness.

I doubt that we will be voting on the Governor’s specific proposal. I will wait to see the final bill before I determine whether the benefits outweigh the negative impacts of raising the tax on gas.


Each year, I am able to award scholarships to students who are going to, or attend, a college or university in Maryland. I particularly like to encourage high school students who are graduating to apply for these funds. I have a committee of four outstanding community and educational leaders who make these selections. If you, or someone you know, are interested in the scholarship, please see the information on my web site at The deadline for applying is April 1.

As always, I welcome your comments on these issues or other legislative actions. You can contact me at 410-841-3487 or

Best wishes,


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