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Steve's News from Annapolis

2016-01-24

 

Greetings from Annapolis!  I hope you and your family are well and have made it through the challenges of the snow storm. I also thank you for the opportunity to serve and work with those who live and work in district 42A.

We have finished the first two weeks of 436th Session of the Maryland General Assembly. In our opening days, we took time to honor Towson University on its 150th Anniversary, to remember those former members of the House of Delegates who died during the past year and to welcome political leaders from South Africa and Japan.

But, beyond the ceremony, this session has started faster and with more intensity than any other I have experienced.  I have been working on legislation to: address problems created by foreclosed properties, protect the rights of citizens to challenge land use decisions, expand bee habitat, increase bicycle safety, foster tree preservation and more!  I will let you know how these bills progress!

Veto Overrides

Last year, Governor Hogan vetoed approximately 100 bills. The House agreed with most of the vetoes.  Our first major order of business this session was to address six of the Governor’s vetoes of bills that the legislature passed in 2015.  As the state’s policy makers, the House, after extensive debate, overrode the Governor’s vetoes and supported:

  • HB 71 which provided $2 million for ADA improvements at the Maryland Hall for the Performing Arts, one of the leading arts centers in the country.
  • HB 209, a Howard County bill that clarified that the county’s local hotel room lodging tax applies to the total cost of the room, including fees charged by an online travel entity. This does not create a new tax nor increase any county tax.
  • HB 980 which enables a person who has been released from prison to register to vote. After the prison system has determined that the individual should be released into the community, providing former prisoners with the right to vote fosters democracy and supports their reintegration to the community
  • SB 190 that closes a tax loophole and clarifies that online travel companies must collect and remit the state’s existing sales tax based on the retail price of a hotel room charged to customers. This bill was supported by the Maryland and Baltimore County Chambers of Commerce, the Hotel and Lodging Association and many other businesses.
  • SB517 which makes the possession or use of marijuana in public a civil offense with a fine up to $500. It also makes the possession of drug paraphernalia a civil fine which will make it consistent with the 2014 legislation which decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana
  • SB 528 which stops the confiscation of cash of $300 or less from someone who has been arrested unless the arrest is related to drug distribution. This bill also shifts the burden of proof for the forfeiture of such cash to the prosecution.

Governor’s Budget

Governor Hogan presented his budget to the legislature on January 20.  I have just started to analyze its details. It looks like this budget- which covers the time from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 – has grown by nearly $2 billion from the previous one. It meets the legal obligation to fully fund education, health care, public safety and caps higher education tuition at 2%. I will provide you with more details as I get them.

Air Conditioning in Baltimore County Public Schools

There is an ongoing fight between County Executive Kamenetz and Comptroller Franchot about providing air conditioning in the county’s public schools. Since 2012, nearly 50 schools have gotten central air conditioning. The school superintendent has requested funds for air conditioning of nine more schools in the next budget. The County Executive has used a more holistic approach, choosing to make other improvements, such as improved electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems, while installing central air.  The Comptroller believes that, to address high heat, the county should purchase window air conditioners at a cost of nearly $10,000 per classroom. The Interagency Committee on School Construction has just recommended funding for more air conditioning in the county’s schools.

I am sure the legislature will be drawn into this controversy. I would welcome an acceleration of state funding so that we can expedite the air conditioning and needed improvements in all of the County’s schools.

My Leadership Roles

I was honored to be re-elected as the Chair of the County’s House delegation.  I was very pleased to have strong support by both Republican and Democrat delegates. I encourage you to go to the Baltimore County House Delegation Facebook page and follow some of our activities.

I continue as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Land Use and Ethics and as Chair of the Speaker’s Regional Revitalization Workgroup. Both positions will provide me with opportunities to impact issues important to the 42nd district and the citizens of Maryland.

I always welcome your comments and thoughts on legislation and those issues which face Maryland.  You can reach me at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us or at 410-841-3487.

Thank you and 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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