Half Way Down, Half Way to Go

February 27, 2017
 

We’re officially halfway through the 90 day legislative session, and there is still so much work to do! One of the best parts about being in Annapolis is having constituents visit and share their thoughts on important issues. I’ve met with Baltimore County public school teachers, social workers, pharmacy students, affordable housing advocates, animal rights advocates, developmental disability advocates, and more! If you’re interested in stopping by during the session you have 45 more days - but of course, I'm available during the interim in Baltimore!

 

Sierra Club District 11 visitors 

Celebrating Maryland's Teacher of the Year, Sia Kyriakakos

Penn-Mar Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled

 

The Budget

The Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, has been holding hearings on the budget, which the Governor introduced a few weeks ago. This year’s budget includes over $42 billion of spending in general funds. The “budget” generally refers to the operating budget (funds to make programs run), the capital budget (infrastructure and construction, etc.) and the “BRFA” Budget Reconciliation Financing Act (a bill that may change funding formulas needed to bring the budget into balance). Over the past few weeks our subcommittees have been holding hearings where Department of Legislative Services analysts review and comment on the budgets and then agency officials respond to their recommendations and answer questions. My subcommittee hears from the state’s higher education officials as well as economic development agencies. In the next few weeks, we will make recommendations on how to change the budget – remember, in most cases we can only cut the budget, not add to it. And our constitution requires that we pass a balanced budget.

My Legislation -- I have introduced a number of bills this session and have taken a lead role working on many others with my colleagues. For a quick highlight of me speaking about legislation, click here to watch my recent interview with Comcast Newsmakers. Seven of my nine bills have been heard in committee and are pending. Below are a few of my bills. My next newsletter will highlight the others.

 

Testifying before the Appropriations Committee

Maryland Farm and Families Act - note the The Park School students dressed as vegetables!

 

Sexual Assault Kit Preservation (HB 255-- How long rape kits are kept varies from county to county. Heard in the Judiciary Committee last week, this bill would mandate that law enforcement agencies retain sexual assault examination kits (SAEKs) for 20 years and also send a 60-day notice to the sexual assault survivor that their kit will be destroyed. I am grateful to Sen. Zirkin for introducing the crossfile, SB 349, where it has passed the Senate.

Student Loan Notification (HB 509) -- This bill would require Maryland colleges and universities to provide students with an annual notice of how much they have accrued in federal student loans. Student loan debt has reached $1.3 trillion dollars and has now exceeded credit card debt. This bill aims to help students better understand their debt and be empowered to seek guidance from their Financial Aid offices. The bill was heard in the Appropriations committee and is awaiting a vote.


Please share my 2017 scholarship application with any incoming or current college or graduate student who may need financial assistance pursuing higher education!


Maryland Farms and Families (HB 586) --  Approximately 760,300 Maryland residents are food insecure – nearly 1 in 8 households. This bill would increase the purchasing power of residents who utilize SNAP or WIC while increasing revenues for farmers. The bill would help combat food insecurity and help to leverage federal benefits for both Maryland families and Maryland farmers.

Meet some of my interns -- This session, I have three wonderful interns! Alana Quint is a senior at Towson University studying Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies. Alex Kurtz is a senior at Washington College studying Political Science, Spanish, and Economics. Josie Shaffer is a junior at Pikesville High School.  They are a tremendous help during the very busy General Assembly session.

Upcoming Action & Other Highlights
 

Maryland Healthy Working Families Act --  (HB 1Workers should never have to choose between keeping their job or taking care of themselves or a loved one. This bill would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide 1 hour of paid sick and “safe” leave for every 30 hours worked. I co-sponsored this bill last year and am happy to support it for the 2017 session. The bill just passed out of committee and will be on the House floor this week.

Anti-BDS legislation -- (HB 949Would prevent Maryland from investing in companies involved in the movement to delegitimize Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). The bill is currently in the Health and Government Operations Committee and will have a hearing this week. I am a cosponsor of this bill that would continue Maryland's strong relationship with our closest Middle East ally.

Fracking Ban (HB 1325): The current moratorium on fracking is set to expire in October of 2017 and as a cosponsor of this bill, I am in support of a permanent statewide prohibition on fracking. This bill was heard on February 22nd in Environment and Transportation and is awaiting a vote in committee.

Maryland Defense Act of 2017 - HJ 3   The House and Senate passed a resolution enabling the Attorney General to sue the federal government without first seeking the Governor's permission. Most states already have this policy. Attorney General Frosh has joined other states in seeking to overturn the President's new policy on immigration. 

We'd love to hear from you and invite you to stop by our Annapolis office -- room 311 of the Lowe House Office Building, 6 Bladen Street. Please stay in touch:

Email -- shelly.hettleman@house.state.md.us

Phone -- 410-841-3833

Facebook -- facebook.com/shellyhettlemanfordelegate -- check out my page for frequent updates

Twitter - @shellyhettleman

I look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you soon. Thank you for the opportunity to serve in the General Assembly!

Sincerely,