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Steve's News from Annapolis

2015-03-02

 

The hallways of Annapolis were buzzing all week with individuals, groups and advocates groups. Many were present to testify on a range of bills including domestic violence, charter schools, reducing manure application to prevent phosphorous from getting into the waters, and the state budget. I was visited by doctors, dentists, Towson University students, representatives of Healthcare for the Homeless, students from Roland Park Country School and Girl Scouts. I always benefit from personal visits by advocates and those who have an interest in particular legislation.

Regional Revitalization Efforts

As Chair of the Speaker’s Regional Revitalization Workgroup, I convened a meeting with Delegates and transportation leaders to discuss transportation in the region and its connectivity (or not) to jobs. There is a great need to increase transit to Ft. Meade (the largest employer in the state) in order to reduce the horrific traffic congestion. Similarly, access to jobs near BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport is limited for many since there is a lack of transit services. Fortunately, MTA is changing some routes to serve the new Amazon facility and other job centers.  We also heard about the “last mile”- that distance between the end of a transit line and actual jobs. This gap often prevents potential transit riders from using transit. Since the lack of transportation is one of the two biggest barriers to employment, we have a lot to do to increase transportation resources.

Baltimore County School Schedules

The Baltimore County House Delegation held a hearing on a bill that would require the state legislature to be involved in plans to change school schedules. The frustration with the failure of the Superintendent, Dr. Dance, to fully address the concerns of Hereford HS parents lead to this unusual proposal. Amendments were offered to place the responsibility on the School Board instead of the legislature. It is not clear how high schools other than Hereford have been impacted by the schedule changes, but there is a lack of trust that lead to this effort. The County House delegation will vote on the bill in the next week or two. If you have any observations about schedule changes in other high schools, such as Towson, Carver, Loch Raven or Dulaney, please share them with me at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us.

Reducing Phosphorous Pollution

The House Environment and Transportation Committee heard testimony on my bill, HB 381 that dramatically reduces the amount of chicken manure that is applied to farm fields in Maryland. Chicken litter is rich in phosphorous and used extensively as an inexpensive fertilizer. While phosphorous is vital for crop growth, excess phosphorous can enter the groundwater or runoff into the streams and rivers and enter the Bay.  Its use, primarily on the lower Eastern Shore, is one of the two main sources of phosphorous pollution in the Bay and needs to be curtailed. Since many fields are already saturated with phosphorous, my legislation would require the use of the most current science (referred to as the Phosphorous Management Tool or PMT) to better measure whether individual fields really need phosphorous. If the phosphorous reaches a certain saturation level, my bill would restrict the application of chicken manure. The bill provides a 6 year period until the PMT is fully implemented, recognizing that farmers will need to alter their practices.

Two days before the hearing on my bill, the Governor introduced new regulations regarding the application of phosphorous. While stating that they believe in and are committed to the science, the Administration wants to extend the implementation to 7 years transition and wants the right  to halt the implementation of the PMT should it decide it is too costly or problematic to dispose of the manure. But, the Bay cannot wait. We cannot backtrack on the Bay. The Administration needs to make a substantial commitment to assist farmers so we can meet our pollution reduction goals. There are a number of new technologies and potential infrastructure improvements that can help the farming community continue to raise chickens and to dispose of the litter without applying it to fields and getting into waters of the Bay.

Charter School Debate

Lastly, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on charter schools that lasted nearly five (5) hours.  Obviously, there are very different opinions about altering the charter school laws so that more charters would be encouraged to come into Maryland. I am not on that committee and did not hear the testimony. What is your opinion of the proposed changes? Do you believe that charter schools will help more students? Improve education? Harm public school education? Let me know your thoughts by contacting me at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us.

Best wishes,

Steve

Delegate Steve Lafferty
Maryland House of Delegates, District 42
410-841-3487
stephen.lafferty@house.state.md.us

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