Annapolis Update 3/25/11

Guest introductions on the floor

This week in Annapolis:

After a few days of debate, the House passed the budget–97-42– with only one Republican voting in favor. This budget is balanced; fully funds the Thornton education program; protects the future solvency of pensions; and doesn’t raise taxes.

I am proud of the work the House did on this year’s budget; I also feel that, going forward, we should continue to look for creative ways to increase revenue if we are to maintain the country’s highest ranked public education system, improve our infrastructure, put Marylanders back to work, and maintain essential public services.

In other news, I’m proud to report that my bill to protect the private information of senior center members — a bill that was cross-filed by Senator Nancy King — has now passed both the Senate and House. Now, it’s on to the Governor’s desk. Government should be doing what it can to protect vulnerable citizens, and this bill does exactly that. Additionally, working my first bill through the process was a great learning experience.

Further, as we finish up the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session, I’m hopeful that I will have more good news on my other bills–curbing the spread of invasive species, and instituting a regulatory program for bio-diesel. The former unanimously passed the House and is now in the Senate, and the latter made it out of committee and is on the floor in both chambers.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you as the session winds down.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update 3/18/11

Jacob Robinson giving testimony before the Environmental Matters Committee

The latest from Annapolis:

I’m happy to report that my bill designed to curb the spread of invasive plant species was voted out of committee. As I mentioned last week, House Bill 831 is a particularly exciting piece of legislation for me, because it was initially conceived of by 8-year-old Jacob Robinson. I’m hopeful the House will pass this bill sometime next week, and then the Senate will follow suit.

Also in committee, we voted to adopt a favorable report on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act. I’m a strong supporter of this bill, requiring further study of the hydraulic fracturing process of natural gas extraction. Other states have had serious issues as a result of gas companies using this process. The New York Times published an informative piece on the issue that you can find here.

Over in the Senate, the DREAM Act– a bill extending in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants, was passed by a vote of 27-20. I support this important piece of legislation, and hope to see it passed in the House.

As always, please continue to contact my office with any questions, ideas, or concerns you may have.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update 3/14/11

Jacob and Dennis Robinson outside of the Environmental Matters Committee room

The latest from Annapolis:

I’m happy to report that my first bill–HB 329–passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 140-0. Senator Nancy King has sponsored the Senate version and we’re hopeful it will pass through there as well, and eventually be signed into law.

House Bill 329 would protect the privacy of senior citizens enrolled in senior centers. Currently, under the Public Information Act, anyone can enter a senior center and require them to divulge the private information of their members. HB-329 would exempt senior centers from PIA, protecting some of our most vulnerable individuals from being preyed on by unscrupulous individuals.

In other news, I also presented two other bills to the Environmental Matters Committee last week:

 

  • House Bill 881 addresses kitchen grease theft, which has become an issue due to the rise in popularity of bio-fuel. If we are to effectively encourage a transition to cleaner fuels, we need to deal with the problems that arise as a result.
  • I also was happy to introduce House Bill 831, a bill designed to curb the spread of invasive plant species in Maryland. HB-881 was particularly exciting for me, because it was initially conceived of by 8-year-old Jacob Robinson. Through his experience as a young environmentalist, Jacob became aware of how easy it is to mistakenly purchase invasive species. As a result, he thought of a plan to provide consumers with more information. With the help of his parents, and a number of stakeholders, his idea resulted in a bill that requires clear labeling of invasive plant species at retail stores. Jacob even came down to Annapolis to testify; he did a tremendous job presenting the bill and demonstrating the strength of our democratic process.

Also, in Environmental Matters last week, it was an honor to hear the testimony of Governor O’Malley on the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2011. This measure would go a long way towards reducing the release of nitrogen from septic systems into our waterways. Most likely, this will be studied further over the summer so all stakeholders can come together and figure out how best to move forward.

As always, please continue to contact my office with any questions, ideas, or concerns you may have.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update 3/12/11

An empty House and still no equality

By now most of you have heard about the House’s failure to pass marriage equality.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t amass the votes required, and as a result gay and lesbian Marylanders will go at least another year without equal marriage rights.

As disappointed as I am, I can’t begin to imagine how my gay and lesbian colleagues and friends feel. To be told you aren’t worthy of certain rights merely because you were born a certain way is as unfair as it is degrading. Further, it stands in stark contrast to what I understand American values to be.

For me, this is a matter of what kind of country we want to be. Do we want to be a country that tells some citizens they are not worthy of the right to build a family through a strong marriage, simply because the person they love is of the same sex? Do we want to be a country that sends a message to gay and lesbian children across America that they are, as my friend Delegate Luke Clippinger put it, “less than human”? Or do we want to recognize that one of our country’s biggest assets has always been its diversity? Do we want to live up to the expectations of those who delegated us to uphold the constitution?

In spite of yesterday’s setback, I remain confident that marriage equality’s day will come in Maryland. You can only stand in the way of progress for so long before the tides of virtue wash away prejudice, and justice ultimately prevails. We have seen this throughout America’s history, and, with your help, we will see it once more when marriage equality is signed into law.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me on this issue over the past few months. I look forward to hearing from you in the future, as we focus on what the next steps will be.

Sincerely,
Shane

 

Annapolis Update 3/5/11

It has been a historic week in Annapolis:

The marriage equality bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a 12 to 10 vote, and now moves to the House floor. I look forward to the honor of voting for this measure early next week. The bill stalled briefly due to several of my colleagues prioritizing religious beliefs and personal political matters over the rights of gay and lesbian Marylanders. Thankfully, it appears that those individuals have put aside those issues, and that the measure will be voted on this coming week. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, deserve to be treated equally under the law.

Elsewhere, in the Environmental Matters Committee, we heard a bill that would prevent housing discrimination based on source of income. I’m a proud co-sponsor of this bill, and hearing first-hand from victims of this practice further solidified my support. Discrimination–in any form– is wrong, and I pledge to continue to combat and confront it whenever possible.

Also in Environmental Matters, we heard two bills vital to protecting public health. The first would prevent poultry companies from using arsenic in their feed.  The second would ban the use of atrazine–a controversial weed killer that has been linked to many health problems. We need to continue to protect the public from unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals. As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee, I will continue to look for instances where this is occurring and for ways in which I can stop it from happening.

Finally, on Wednesday I presented House Bill 473, which would ban individuals from knowingly disposing of certain electronic devices, and ink and toner cartridges, into landfills and incinerators. Currently, 97% of Marylanders have access to government-provided recycling programs designed for these items. With very little funding we could extend that coverage even further, and also institute educational outreach programs. In addition, there are numerous retail outlets and mail-in programs for free and proper recycling of these items. For more information check out mdrecycles.org.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your insight and feedback. I’m here to work for you, and will do my best to help move Maryland forward.

Sincerely,

Shane

By Authority: Friends of Shane Robinson; Mary Robinson, Treasurer.