Only two weeks left to go until the end of session! A week ago today was “crossover” - the date by which bills must make it out of one house in order to be guaranteed a hearing in the second. In anticipation of crossover, we had several days of double sessions and had a rare Saturday session, working so our bills cross the finish line by April 9th!
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I spend a lot of time listening to representatives of different government agencies discuss their work. Those hearings ended last week and the House approved the $44.5 billion operating budget. The House budget maintains our commitment to public schools by fully funding our educational formulas as well as an additional $200 million, restores funds the Governor cut for summer and after-school programs, provides tax relief by restoring $1.2 billion of personal exemptions altered by the new federal tax law, expands the Earned Income Tax Credit, reduces the taxation of retirement income for our veterans, and indexes the current standard deduction to the cost of living. We were also able to restore cuts that the Governor’s budget had made to behavioral health workers and those who work with the developmentally disabled. We still must reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget, which should happen in the next day or so. I will be sure to shine more light on the budget - and the capital budget - as they are finalized in the coming days.
Common Sense Gun Policies
I spent Saturday in Washington, DC at the March for Our Lives rally with hundreds of Baltimoreans. If you didn’t participate, I hope you’ve been able to hear the voices of the youth, many of whom experienced gun violence, making clear, anguished calls for changes to our laws. After the shooting in Sandy Hook, CT, Maryland enacted a number of progressive gun safety laws in the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 , (banning 45 types of assault weapons & high capacity magazines, etc). But, there is still more we can do, and I was proud to stand with the majority of my colleagues in the House as we voted to ban bumpstocks HB 888 (128-7) and prevent domestic abusers from possessing firearms HB 1646, (129-5). I also supported a bill that enables a judge to remove guns from an individual who is deemed to be a danger to him/herself or others and one that would de-politicize the Handgun Review Board by giving administrative law judges the responsibility to review police decisions on whether someone can get a handgun permit.
The Lockbox Bill
In 2008 and 2012, Marylanders voted to expand gaming with the assurance that the state's Education Trust Fund would benefit. While the funds are used for education, they have not been used to supplement K-12 educational formulas. A critical aspect of meeting educational needs in our state is increased funding. The ‘Lockbox’ bill (HB 1697) will ensure that revenue from Maryland casinos will be used to supplement public education beginning in 2021. In addition to the basic maintenance of effort funding levels required for state spending, public schools would receive $125 million beginning in 2021 and increase to $375 million by 2023. I anticipate that this significant increase in funding will have positive effects on students across Maryland and is consistent with voters' expectations from the referenda.
Stabilizing the Health Insurance Marketplace
The House has passed a bill enabling the Department of Health to request a waiver from the federal government to institute a reinsurance program focused on high risk patients. This bill will require insurers to fund the program with a one-time fee that is roughly equal to the amount of savings they will receive from the recent federal tax plan.
Child Care Subsidy
Maryland has a paltry child care voucher rate. HB 430 would require the Governor to include an increase in funding in his annual budget for the Child Care Subsidy Program. This will enable low-income, working families to access a wider array of child care options.
I have seven bills that have passed the House and are pending in the Senate, where I will be working hard these next few days to educate my colleagues about them. You can learn about my bills here, and I’ll highlight one: In 2016, we created a program that provided a tax credit for student loan debt. In this first year, in-state undergrads who qualified for the program received a tax credit of over $1,200, lightening the crushing debt with which many new graduates begin their careers. However, this program was only for undergraduate students, and graduates have the same needs. My bill would expand that program to apply to graduate students who actually carry a larger load of student debt than undergraduates.
In and Around the District
I’ve had the opportunity to meet with so many constituents, including advocates from Special Olympics, CASA de Maryland, Alzheimer’s Association, North Oaks, Strong Schools Maryland, students from Bais Yaakov and more! There are only 2 more weeks, but if you have time, please visit my Annapolis office, and know that my door is always open. I'm also happy to meet back in the district after session concludes.
Mayor DeBlasio Visits Baltimore
I recently had the opportunity to meet with New York City’s Mayor, Bill DiBlasio, and discuss progressive policy ideas with him and several of my General Assembly colleagues. New York City is one of the many cities that have moved towards increasing the minimum wage and will have secured a $15 wage for all workers by the end of 2019. I enjoyed meeting with the Mayor who spoke about the importance of policies to help working families, giving me further inspiration for my advocacy in support of raising the minimum wage (HB 664).
Know Your Roads
The Maryland Department of Transportation has a resourceful tool to help residents understand who maintains the roads in their designated area and whom to call to report a concern or maintenance issues.
Taste of Pikesville
This annual Chamber of Commerce event was snowed out last week and is rescheduled for Tuesday, March 27th from 5:30-8:00 at the Suburban Club, 7600 Park Heights Avenue. For more information, click here.
If you know of a student in need of financial assistance for the 2018-2019 academic school year, please forward the following information about my Delegate scholarship. Each year, Delegates and Senators in the Maryland General Assembly award thousands of Maryland students millions of dollars in financial aid. You can apply to each of the legislators in the 11th District. Applications for my scholarship are due on April 2nd, 2018.
Who May Apply: Current high school seniors, full-time or part-time, degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students. Delegate scholarships are only awarded to District 11 residents applying for admission to an institution of higher education within the State of Maryland. If a student intends to study a unique major that is not offered at a Maryland institution, please contact the Maryland Higher Education Commission to obtain a unique major application. Please visit MD Elect to determine if you are a resident of District 11.
How to Apply: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and then complete my 2018-2019 scholarship application. Students can download my scholarship here or fill out a scholarship renewal online if they have previously been awarded a scholarship from my office.
Award Information: Delegate scholarships are awarded annually and students must re-apply every year. The award can only be applied if a student is enrolled in six or more credits per semester.
Due Date: Applications are due on April 2nd, 2018. Please contact my Legislative Director, Maureen Evans Arthurs should you have any further questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-841-3833.