Annapolis Update–2/24/12

Friends,
I write this morning from a more just Maryland: With marriage equality on its way to Governor O’Malley’s desk, we are one step closer to providing equal rights to all our brothers and sisters, regardless of sexual orientation.
I am humbled to be a member of the state legislature that passed this measure; 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.
Also, I want to applaud the grassroots efforts: It was inspiring to see what superior organizing can do for a good cause.  When Governor O’Malley signs the marriage equality bill into law it will be in large part due to this tireless constituent dedication.
Lastly, as we move forward with the session I will be continuing to focus–in committee and through collaboration with my colleagues–on balancing the budget; creating jobs through sustainable initiatives; green energy; repealing the death penalty; and moving my conflict minerals and hydraulic fracturing bills through the legislative process. I look forward to hearing your input on these and other issues.
Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update — 2/16/12

Friends,

It was a busy week in Annapolis: my bill to treat intersections with non-functioning traffic signals as four-way stops passed the House today, and on Wednesday I had hearings for both my wastewater fracking and conflict minerals bills. As I wrote previously, I don’t think industry has proven that fracking–a process of natural gas extraction–can be done safely. Indeed, we have seen it contaminate water in Wyoming and cause earthquakes in Ohio, not to mention numerous surface accidents in Pennsylvania and other states.

That being the case, I am concerned that passing regulations and taxes may bring us closer to fracking in western Maryland.  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; that is why HB 296 is so important.

Finally, even if a safe way to extract natural gas from Marcellus Shale is developed, we still should not over-rely on so-called ‘bridge fuels’. (It is important to remember: natural gas–when you include the extraction process–has a carbon footprint similar to coal.) Rather, we must focus on improving the viability of renewable alternatives.  If we fail to pivot our focus, we will be stuck with an antiquated economy, lose the opportunity to create a new job-creating industry, and continue our reliance on overseas fuel.

As for conflict minerals, I was honored to have members of the Congolese diaspora show up in support of the bill on Wednesday.  The conflict in the Congo–specifically, our part in it–has been ignored for too long.  This bill would bring Maryland in line with federal legislation that requires corporations to disclose the source of the minerals in their supply chains. It would also ensure that minerals in our electronic hardware come from mines that benefit–rather than destroy–communities.  Additionally, it shows our Congolese District 39 brothers and sisters who fled because of the conflict, that we care, we will do what we can to help end the senseless violence, and we welcome and value their role in our vibrant community.

Lastly, as I write this we are preparing for a special evening session to debate marriage equality. Over the past months, I have heard from countless constituents on both sides; it is clear people are passionate about this issue. Whatever happens over the coming days, I hope this doesn’t divide our community.  To those who have called and written urging me to vote ‘no': I hope you continue to contact me in the future, and appreciate that while we disagree on this issue we can collaborate on others. To those who have phoned or reached out to thank me for my support, know this: it is you who deserve the gratitude. The reason this bill may pass is not because of the work of legislators, but rather the tireless grassroots efforts of constituents; let’s hope love wins out.

Stay tuned for more following the vote, and thank you for allowing me the honor of representing you.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update–2/10/12

Friends,
I filed a bill this week that would require sludge from dredged lakes to be tested before being disposed of. This sludge can be toxic–as was recently the case with Lake Whetstone–and I don’t want children playing on fields where it has been spread. I would like to thank Senator Nancy King for spearheading this effort. Hopefully, we will pass this legislation and protect the safety of our children.

I also continue to work to pass a bill to ban toxic fracking wastewater from being treated at Maryland plants incapable of handling it. Click here for a Montgomery County Gazette piece on this year’s legislative efforts to combat this questionable process of natural gas extraction. I look forward to the Environmental Matters Committee hearing on this bill this coming Wednesday. You can view this hearing, and all others, online.

Also this week, my bill requiring that intersections with non-functioning traffic lights be treated as four-way stops was voted out of committee. I was glad to see my colleagues unanimously support this common sense solution.  Non-functioning traffic signals can be a serious source of confusion on the roads; it’s important to fix this and increase the safety of our transportation network.

Lastly, as we get into the heart of this year’s legislative session, I have appreciated the frequent correspondence with constituents. My decisions are informed by these conversations, so please continue to reach out.

Best,
Shane

p.s.– If you, or someone you know who is a resident of District 39, wishes to apply for a delegate scholarship, click on the “Constituent Services” tab. There you will find information on how to apply, and links to the appropriate websites. I am proud to be collaborating with the Universities at Shady Grove and the Montgomery County Educational Foundation in the awarding process.

Annapolis Update–2/6/12

Friends,

In Maryland there is no law indicating an intersection with a non-functioning traffic signal must be treated as a four-way stop. Last week I had my first hearing for a bill that would rectify that. I was pleased to have the Maryland State Police and AAA testify in favor of this common sense solution. I look forward to passing this bill and making our roads safer.

Also last week, Governor O’Malley delivered his State of the State address. I was honored to be in attendance and appreciate Mr. O’Malley making a strong case for marriage equality, the need to raise revenue for school construction and other public services, and the need to invest in renewable energy. We need to ensure that Maryland remains amongst the leaders in public education, and we need to secure a place for our state at the top of the green job pyramid.

Additionally, I continue to work on legislation that would limit the ability of industry to potentially use Maryland as a dump site for toxic wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. The more I learn about this process of natural gas extraction, the more concerns I have. On Wednesday, in Washington D.C., filmmaker Josh Fox was detained for trying to film a hearing on water contamination in Wyoming as a result of fracking. This was a serious violation of freedom of the press, but it is good to see the media paying more attention to this issue. Yes, we need more energy sources; but we need energy sources we can sustain, not fuels that threaten the health of the Chesapeake Bay, one of our biggest job creators.

Also, I have been working hard with my colleagues, looking over the budget and reviewing job creation proposals. We need to concentrate on ways to keep lowering our state’s unemployment rate.

Please continue to reach out with any ideas, comments, or concerns you may have.

Best,
Shane

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