The big news of the week was passing the FY16 operating budget with overwhelming support through the House of Delegates. A budget must now be passed in the Senate, and then if there are differences, those differences must be ironed out in a conference committee. After that, the House and Senate will vote on a final, identical budget bill. Once it is passed, the Budget bill goes into effect immediately - the Governor does not need to sign it. The Governor does need to sign the budget’s accompanying legislation, however - the BRFA.
Wow! What a week. I had two bill hearings, decisions in my Transportation & Environment Subcommittee, votes on the House floor and in the Pensions Subcommittee, and then, on Friday, we voted on and passed the budget out of the Appropriations Committee. It now proceeds to the House Floor next week. Here are a few highlights from the week
Bill Hearings . . .
The bills I am introducing this session each have something to do with building a better Baltimore - whether that is a cleaner Baltimore (HB 551), a Baltimore with better transit (HB 546), a more just Baltimore (HB 244 and HB 911) or a Baltimore with a stronger economy. That last point is the reason I am introducing two bills targeting the attraction and retention of entrepreneurs to our state: the Angel Investor Tax Credit (HB 789), and an amendment to the One Maryland Tax Credit (HB 810).
General Assembly Update #8
In Annapolis . . .
This week saw hearings for many contentious bills, including Governor Hogan’s bill to repeal the Stormwater Management Fee, which failed in the Environment and Transportation Committee on Friday afternoon. Our local Fox station had a short clip on the bill with some comments by me on Saturday night - check it out here.
The 2015 Budget
This past Thursday I had the opportunity to present one of my bills this session - HB 551, the Community Clean Up and Greening Act. This bill prohibits most retailers from distributing plastic bags at checkout, with exceptions for meats, produce, and limited other items. Retailers would charge 10 cents for each paper bag requested by the consumer.
We’re over halfway through the 2015 session! Friday marked the halfway point in this year’s 90-day legislative session. Veteran legislators keep telling me that it is going to get even busier in the next 45 days and I find that hard to believe - I’m not sure how I could pack more into my days! Last week was my busiest week yet, with five days of hearings in the Appropriations Committee, and four hearings in other committees advocating for bills on which I am the lead sponsor.
In Annapolis . . .
Last Thursday, the Environment & Transportation Committee held a hearing on my bill to create a board of directors for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), House Bill 546. I introduced HB 546 to start a conversation – and hopefully make some big changes – about how to ensure that the MTA is a high-performing state agency. Efficient, effective, and reliable public transportation is imperative to ensure that Baltimore and Maryland are attracting and keeping employers, millennials and others who want to be car-free, and to connecting our neighborhoods and towns.
Today, Senator Ferguson, Delegate Hammen and I hosted a Budget Town Hall for our constituents and all those interested in learning about the FY2016 budget. I was blown away by the turnout! Nearly 100 people braved the snowy forecast to join us for a discussion on this year's budget and its implications for our City, for our communities, and for our schools. We began with an overview of the budget process, talked about the structural deficit, and then moved into issue areas. Del. Hammen covered health care issues and cuts to physician payments and prenatal care, Sen.
I’m writing on a chilly Friday morning instead of this coming Monday so I can urge all of you in Baltimore to attend our District 46 Budget Town Hall tomorrow, February 21, at 11:00 a.m. at Du Burns Arena in Canton. You can read more information and RSVP online here. Please join us!
It’s only Sunday, but already last week is a blur! Between meetings with advocates and constituents, to sessions on the House floor, to Appropriation hearings, my days go by so fast!