This year’s legislative session has come to a close, and I write to update you on what we have worked on these past three months.
As one of our primary duties, we passed a budget. Although I had some reservations, I feel this budget does a good job protecting some of Maryland’s chief priorities: education, health care and job creation. It also continues our commitment to reduce spending.
The General Assembly has yet to pass a revenue package, and we will need to reconvene later this spring to do so. As part of our work on this bill I will work to ensure the middle class is shielded from an outsized tax burden.
We will also be working on the teacher pension issue. While I recognize the need for us to resolve this fiscal dilemma, I am concerned that the shift could be too intense of a burden on Montgomery County, and so when we return I will continue to work hard to minimize the impact on our community.
I also voted for the Maintenance of Effort measure to require counties to continue to invest in our children through school funding. Maryland’s schools have been ranked first in the nation the past four years, and our commitment to school funding is a major reason why.
I was also proud to vote for Governor O’Malley’s offshore wind bill, and was disappointed to see it fail in the Senate. I am a fervent supporter of investing in renewable energy, and feel this bill is a significant step towards making Maryland a leader in that regard. We need to find alternative fuel sources for the sake of our environment, and we need to find alternative economic opportunities for our citizens. Renewable energy investment accomplishes both these goals. As long as I continue to serve you in Annapolis I will continue to look for ways to move Maryland to the top of the green jobs ladder while easing our dependence on fossil fuels.
To that end, I have been working hard this year on researching the viability of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, and have found that the industry has failed to prove that this process of natural gas extraction can be done safely. Indeed, we have seen it contaminate water in Wyoming and elsewhere, and cause earthquakes in Ohio, not to mention numerous surface accidents in Pennsylvania and other states.
Although drilling has yet to begin in Maryland, I am concerned that passing regulations and taxes may bring us closer to fracking in our state. Instead, until a safe method for extracting natural gas from Marcellus Shale is developed, we should work on legislation to protect our citizens and water supply. To me, the best way to do this would be to ban the process. But even with a ban, current law allows fracking wastewater from other states to be imported into Maryland, risking environmental degradation and public health as a result. And so I filed legislation this year to ban the importation of
this toxic substance into Maryland. As a result, I will be working with Governor O’Malley’s commission in the interim to look at how we can protect Maryland from fracking wastewater, and what are the best next steps on the fracking issue in Maryland.
One of the most humbling moments of the session was being part of the legislature that passed marriage equality. I’m proud to live in a state that values its citizens’ rights no matter what religion, race, or creed, and look forward to raising my children in the diverse Montgomery County, where we celebrate what unites us rather than focus on what divides us. I continue to firmly believe our diversity is one of our greatest strengths–a vital economic asset that we must not take for granted.
As for other legislation I filed this session, three of my bills passed:
House Bill 425 requires companies doing business with Maryland to source their minerals from mines that benefit rather than destroy communities. There is no good reason for companies to purchase minerals from mines in the Congo that fuel the decades old conflict there, the deadliest since World War II. We have a responsibility to not be a cog in the wheel that finances the Congolese militias. It has been an honor to work on this bill on behalf of the Maryland Congolese Diaspora and in partnership with the Enough Project, and it was rewarding to see the enthusiastic support this measure garnered from the Jewish community and Governor O’Malley’s office.
House Bill 67 codifies that intersections with non-functioning traffic signals be treated as four-way stops. This is a common sense solution to a serious traffic safety issue, and I am glad that we addressed it this session.
House Bill 648 provides funding for the construction of bathrooms in South Valley Park in Montgomery Village. This facility was greatly needed, and I thank my District 39 colleagues–Delegates Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznik, and Senator Nancy King–for their hard work in making sure this measure passed.
It has been a pleasure serving you this session, and I look forward to doing so for at least another two years. I have heard personally from so many of you, whether by email, phone, or letter, and have enjoyed every opportunity to hear your views. I hope you continue to reach out in the future.
Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39)