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Steve's 2013 End of Session News

2013-04-13

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<p class="MsoNormal">The Maryland General Assembly has just concluded a very busy legislative session where we addressed some of the most substantial legislation I have seen in the seven years that I have served.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">While there were a very large number of significant issues, I want to highlight some that make Maryland an even better place to live and work. I want to thank all of those who contacted me, or came by to visit my office, with their comments and opinions about the legislation we addressed. To see any of the bills that we considered, you can visit the General Assembly web site at <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frm1st.aspx?tab=home">mgaleg.maryland.gov</a><u>.</u> <span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&#160;</span>Although I did not agree with all of the major legislation that was passed, I am very proud of the work of the General Assembly.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Maryland’s Death Penalty is Repealed</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that bans the use of the death penalty. <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=sb0276&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">SB 276</a> was one of the most important and emotional issues that we addressed. Proponents and opponents were passionate and sincere in their debate. During this extensive debate, legislators remained quiet and attentive to all speakers.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&#160; </span>Personal experiences, the need for justice, a desire for retribution and the need to have the ultimate punishment as part of the prosecution’s tools were presented throughout the debate. And, repeatedly, we heard about the need to be sure that innocent individuals could not be sent to death.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">I have always opposed the death penalty because I do not believe that the state has the right to take someone’s life, even for the most heinous killers.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&#160; </span>This is consistent with my belief that no one should be able to take a person’s life. I voted in favor of repeal and am proud to be part of this historic moment.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Addressing Gun Violence</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The most intense discussion and debate involved <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=sb0281&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">SB 281</a>, the Firearms Safety Act, which bans military style assault weapons and requires new standards for handgun ownership, sales and transfers.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&amp;stab=03&amp;id=sb0281&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">SB 281</a> was the subject of over 14 hours of testimony in two committees, 8 hours of discussion in the two committees and nearly 12 hours of discussion and debate on the floor of the House. The process led to a substantial number of changes to the Governor’s initial bill in order to address concerns of gun owners, manufacturers, the police and advocates for greater gun control.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">I supported this legislation as being reasonable, and Constitutional. It will:</p>
<ul>
    <li>limit the future availability of assault weapons,</li>
    <li>reduce the number of bullets in a clip that is attached to a firearm, and</li>
    <li>require background checks, training and licensing for those who purchase a handgun.</li>
</ul>
<p class="MsoNormal"></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The bill also addresses gun access and ownership by people with mental illness. The bill requires that more information be reported to a national database for background checks and, under certain circumstances, those who are voluntarily or involuntarily committed will be denied the right to own a regulated firearm.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">It is also important to note that Marylanders who currently own an assault weapon or a handgun are not impacted by this legislation. They are not required to get licenses or to register their weapons. No one is having their weapons confiscated or removed.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Job Creation and New Opportunities</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0227&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS"><span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&#160;</span>HB 227</a>, EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now), was also passed by the legislature. This progressive bill provides funds for a workforce training collaboration between businesses, local governments, community colleges and non-profits to train and prepare workers for the jobs that are truly needed in the private sector. I voted for this important measure. Identifying actual job needs and marrying available educational and training resources makes a lot of sense in this tough economy. I fully supported this bill.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The Veterans’ Full Employment Act of 2013, HB 225, will support a process for issuing professional licenses, registrations and certifications to active duty military, veterans and their spouses who are settling in Maryland. Military that relocate here often bring many skills that are commensurate with various licensures. This legislation will allow them to more readily qualify for jobs.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Funding Transportation Needs with a Gas Tax</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The General Assembly passed a bill that will place the Transportation Trust Fund into a “lockbox”. In order to access any of these funds for non-transportation purposes, the Governor will have to declare a fiscal emergency and the legislature will have to concur by 3/5 of the legislature of each chamber.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&#160; </span>This will be a Constitutional amendment if approved by the voters in November 2014.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">For the first time in twenty years, Maryland’s gas tax will increase! Maryland has been facing a transportation funding crisis for many years. We have reached the point where, without the added funding, the state cannot afford any new projects but only make repairs. In order for Maryland to remain competitive, funding is needed for the construction of new road, bridge, transit and aviation projects.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The new gas tax will be phased in over the next few years. There will be a tax on the wholesale price of gas and will include automatic increases using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The phase in will be as follows:</p>
<ul>
    <li>1% tax on the wholesale price on July 1, 2013; this is estimated to be 3.8 cents</li>
    <li>A ½ cent increase on July 1, 2014 based on the CPI</li>
    <li>A 1% tax on the wholesale price on January 1, 2015</li>
    <li>A 2% tax on the wholesale price on July 1, 2015 if Congress does not pass legislation allowing the recovery of a tax on internet sales</li>
</ul>
<p class="MsoNormal"></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">While I recognize the serious need for funds, I voted against the gas tax. I was, and am, concerned about the automatic CPI adjustment, the impact on low income drivers and that added gas costs will be passed along to consumers.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Health Care Coverage and Provision</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The legislature adopted a number of proposals to address how low income and uninsured residents and small businesses will be able to access health care when the federal Affordable Care Act becomes effective. This includes:</p>
<ul>
    <li>Adding an additional 109,000 citizens - children and adults younger than 65 with household incomes less than 133% of poverty - to the Medicaid roles</li>
    <li>Dedicating the existing 2% tax on health insurance premiums to operating the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange</li>
    <li>After working with businesses and the insurance industry, setting guidelines to determine the amount that small businesses will contribute to employees’ health care if they choose to provide it</li>
    <li>Outlining the types of plans and levels of coverage insurance companies will be required to offer</li>
    <li>Preparing the transition from the Maryland Health Insurance Plan (MHIP) to the Exchange</li>
</ul>
<p class="MsoNormal"></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">In light of the heightened attention to the needs of the mentally ill, the Governor added funds in his supplemental budget to provide further crisis intervention, crisis response and mental health first aid services. I fully supported this effort in order to expand treatment and care for those who have mental illness, including those who could be a danger to themselves and/or<a name="_GoBack"></a> others.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Medical Marijuana</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">After many years, legislation was passed to enable academic medical centers to treat patients with medical marijuana.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&#160; </span>I supported <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&amp;stab=03&amp;id=hb1101&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 1101</a> to allow these centers to apply to distribute marijuana grown by licensed growers for use in treating patients with illnesses like cancer and multiple sclerosis.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&#160; </span>The centers will be regulated and required to monitor patients and publish their findings.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Education</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">I supported the Governor’s proposal to increase funding for public schools to over $6 billion dollars and to keep college tuitions stable. Furthermore, I was pleased to support his commitment of $25 million for a School Safety program that should assist all jurisdictions to make the school buildings safer from outside intruders.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">My efforts to change the way that the Baltimore County board of Education is selected failed again this year. I remain convinced that we must have a Board that is accountable to the residents and public and not be solely appointed by the Governor.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The legislature made an extraordinary commitment to Baltimore City’s schools by agreeing to provide $20 million per year to fund the construction of new schools and the renovation and upgrade of others in the city. The City and city public schools were also required to commit $20 million each into this construction fund. With the oldest schools in the state, the City needs to bolster its educational facilities if it is to attract and retain families. This is a good investment so that the schools have the needed equipment, technology and facilities needed for a better education.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Use of Cell Phones while Driving</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Finally, after five years of efforts to make the roads safer, the General Assembly has passed legislation that makes driving while using a hand-held cell phone a “primary offense”. This means that a driver can be stopped if he/she is driving with a cell phone in their hand. Currently, the use of a cell phone while driving is a “secondary offense”; this means that you must commit another offense to be stopped but can be cited for use of the cell phone. <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0753&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 753</a> changes that standard so that driving with a cell phone in one’s hand is a moving violation.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Having heard extensive testimony and hearing from constituents about the dangers of driving with a cell phone in one’s hand, I supported this bill. I believe this will promote greater safety on our roads.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Providing further Environmental Protections</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">During my service in Annapolis, I have focused substantial time on improving the condition of our environment and finding added strategies that can strengthen the laws that we rely upon to reduce pollution, to increase the water quality of the Bay and to increase the fish, oysters and crabs in our waterways. This year, I looked at different ways to reduce toxins and pollutants that enter the Bay and to increase recycling.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Reports indicate that we have too little data on the pesticides that are applied in communities and on farms. Personal, public and environmental healths are at issue. My bill <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0775&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 775</a> provided reporting of pesticide application. The state has hundreds of legitimate pesticide applicators in the state. While they are required to maintain records of the applications, they are not required to report this data. There was debate involving farmers, commercial applicators and public and environmental health advocates without reaching agreement. Therefore, a workgroup of advocates, experts and government will convene before the next session to address the data gap and examine ways to provide reporting.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">My bill<a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0184&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">, HB 184</a>, was passed and will provide an income tax credit to encourage the recycling of oyster shells. Oyster shells are the best material on which young oysters (spat) can grow. In order to increase the oyster population – and reverse the decline - we must have more material on which oysters can grow. We need to encourage more restaurants, businesses and individuals to save and recycle shells. <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0184&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 184</a> is a step in that direction and was supported by e3nvironmentalists, watermen and business owners.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Waste management continues to be a challenge in Maryland. While recycling has increased throughout the state, the amount of material going into the landfills will soon exceed the capacity. I want to find additional ways to reduce the amount of waste we generate, the waste that goes into landfills, and increase our reuse and recycling. My <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb1266&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 1266</a> would have created a broad based study group to examine how Maryland can become a zero waste state. Unfortunately, it failed on the last day.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Encouraging Private Investment in Existing Communities</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">As a long time advocate for neighborhoods, I strongly believe that we must strengthen and improve the state’s older communities. I have worked on and supported initiatives to increase investment, encourage homeownership, bring more businesses into our communities, foster more open space and renovate our schools.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">My bill, <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb1170&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 1170</a>, requires the Secretary of Housing and Community Development to convene a workgroup to determine how to create a Smart Growth Investment Fund. This Fund will be a vehicle for private investors to invest in development, redevelopment and revitalization in the State’s existing communities. As public money is limited, we need to be more creative and to find private sector sources to support our communities.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0613&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 613</a> expands the potential use of Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) in designated “Sustainable Communities”. TIFs are a means for financing infrastructure such as roads, water lines and parking can be built using the increase in the assessable tax base of a development. <a href="http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0613&amp;stab=01&amp;pid=billpage&amp;tab=subject3&amp;ys=2013RS">HB 613</a> allows this financing tool to be used to build schools, stormwater management facilities, parking garages and affordable housing. The local government is also protected from having any added tax burden.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The General Assembly endorsed the Governor’s $10 million Sustainable Communities Tax Credit to further assist communities throughout the state with financial support. These funds will be used for economic development, historic preservation and to foster homeownership in the state’s older communities.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><u>Baltimore Regional Revitalization</u></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">I was honored to be appointed to the Speaker’s Baltimore Regional Revitalization Workgroup. The workgroup is examining ways to ensure that state programs can better serve the region, including Baltimore County communities inside the Beltway. The Governor has placed $3.75 million in his budget to support revitalization initiatives in the city and county to support population growth and to strengthen local economies.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">I am honored to represent the 42<sup>nd</sup> District in the Maryland General Assembly. If I can be of any assistance, please contact me at <a href="mailto:Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us">Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us</a> or at 410-841-3487.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Sincerely,</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Steve Lafferty</p>
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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