During the past few weeks I have been fully engaged in developing and filing bills, attending meetings with constituents, and evaluating the budget and legislation in preparation for a very busy Session.
I am honored to have been elected as the Vice-Chair of the Baltimore County House Delegation. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on education, business and economic development, public safety and capital projects. We want to make the County’s delegation a stronger voice for our constituents than it has been in the past.
Governor O’Malley released his budget which calls for changes in the pension and health care systems, reductions almost across the board for education, higher education and health care services. Unfortunately, more funds were transferred from the Transportation Trust Fund and local funding also suffered. Baltimore County, however, received slightly more funds than last year. This included an increase in funds for our community colleges – the largest community college system in the state!
Last week, Governor O’Malley reinforced how Maryland’s strength in innovation, education and health care will enable us to continue moving forward. It will take business and job creation efforts like InvestMaryland and continued funding of education to keep us ahead. I was also very pleased by the Governor’s pronouncement that, in order to further protect the Bay and to address growth pressures, he will support efforts to ban larger housing developments that rely on septic systems. Due to my previous effective work protecting our environment, I will be a point person on this important issue.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to the Board of Public Works to strongly recommend that money be provided for the critical addition to Hampton Elementary School. It is severely overcrowded, impairing the opportunity to learn and thrive. This is intolerable and I am proud to lend my voice to the parents who have fought for this. I also talked with school system representatives about the archaic policy and rules that prevent for profit businesses from partnering with the school and PTAs to raise needed money. I urged them to change the policy and rules and eliminate the double standard which allows some businesses to sell items in the schools but not others.
I have already filed the following bills:
· HB 160 requires the Board of Education to create a searchable web site so people can find out about its contracts and expenditures over $25,000
· HB 177 requires that all new houses built on septic systems must use the best available nitrogen removal technology
· HB 179 is “cross-filed” with Sen. Jim Brochin which will require all apartments and condominiums to provide recycling
· HB 326 would enable Maryland wineries to sell bottles of wine, on a limited basis, at farmers’ markets in Baltimore County
· HB 341 would require that stores over 1,000 square feet provide in-store recycling of plastic bags
· HB 347 establishes new criteria for the Department of the Environment to approve the septic systems that are paid for with state funds
While no hearings have been held, yet, you can find out more information about these bills and the schedules by going to www.mlis.state.md.us. I am also working on a couple of other bills, involving housing and growth and the environment, which should be filed soon.
Feel free to contact me in Annapolis at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us on any of these or other issues.