Annapolis Update–3/30/12

Friends,
I write from Annapolis where we have had a busy past two weeks; we have been working hard on the budget, school funding, off-shore wind, and other important measures.

As we wait to see what the budget will look like when it comes out of conference committee, I can tell you that, although I have some reservations, I feel the House plan 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. Last year, we cut ongoing spending by $800 million. This time, we added another $400 million in savings to that total.

How did we do it? Well, let me take this opportunity to clear one thing up: 87% of Marylanders will see no increase in their income taxes in the House plan. Raising revenue on the backs of the middle and working class is not an option for me. But I do think it is necessary in these difficult fiscal times to ask the well off amongst us to pay a little more.

As for the teacher pension shift, the House plan is in line with the proposal favored by the Maryland State Education Association. Instead of adopting Governor O’Malley’s 50/50 option, our plan shifts only 1/3 of the costs to the county, and only includes current employees. However, I am still concerned that this would be too intense of a burden on Montgomery County. To that end, I voted for an amendment by Delegate Barkley to further ease the pace of the shift. Unfortunately, we lacked enough votes to adopt the proposal.

We also worked on a Maintenance of Effort proposal that protects funding for our renowned public education system. The State has a duty to provide equitable funding to all students regardless of where they live. Over the past 10 years, we have doubled our investment in education from $2.9B to $5.8B. This is part of the reason our school systems are ranked first in the country. But we also recognize that, as we continue to recover from the recession, the counties need some added flexibility to apply for waivers when they can’t find the extra funding. This plan provides for that.

Additionally, we have been considering Governor O’Malley’s off-shore wind bill. As you may know, I am an ardent supporter of investing in clean energy. I 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.

Lastly, my bill to treat intersections with non-functioning traffic signals as four-way stops is one step away from Governor O’Malley’s desk. This is a common sense solution to a serious traffic safety issue, and I am glad that we are addressing it this session.

Stay tuned for my final updates of the session over the next two weeks.

Best,
Shane

Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39)
6 Bladen St, Room 223
Annapolis, MD 21401
(301)-858-3021

Annapolis Update–3/16/12

Friends,
I write from Annapolis where my conflict minerals bill recently passed the Senate and is on its way to passing the House. 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. My bill would require companies doing business with Maryland to source their minerals from mines that benefit rather than destroy communities. 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. It also has been rewarding to see the enthusiastic support this measure has garnered from the Jewish community and Governor O’Malley’s office. Hopefully, I will write soon with an update that the bill passed the House and is on its way to being signed into law.

Also this week, I was one of a group of legislators that signed a letter urging Jorge Steven Acuna and his family be released from custody. Immigration authorities should not be wasting taxpayer money detaining model students like Jorge. Thankfully, the Acunas are no longer being detained and Jorge will be allowed to complete his studies at Montgomery Community College. However, the threat of future deportation still hangs over their heads.

This matter highlights larger issues with our immigration policy. Our economy benefits greatly from people who come here to study and become productive citizens. As we continue to recover from the recession, and funding for vital public services is increasingly hard to come by, should we really be spending money tearing families apart and dividing communities? Isn’t someone who is attending school, studying hard, and hoping to become a doctor, an individual we want in Maryland?

Targeting families like the Acunas is both unjust and counter productive. It is time for immigration reform.

Best,
Shane

Why I Support Rob Garagiola for Congress

Friend,

As you may know, District 39 is no longer part of Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s district. We are now represented by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. I’ve decided to endorse one of Congressman Bartlett’s opponents–Rob Garagiola of Germantown–and am writing to tell you why.

With all the challenges facing our country, it is vitally important we make sure we are represented by someone focused on fighting for the middle class, creating jobs, and growing our economy. That’s why I’m asking you to join me in supporting State Senator Rob Garagiola in the April 3rd Democratic Primary.

Before serving as a state senator, Rob served our nation in uniform as a Sergeant in the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion and the 150th JAG Detachment. The proud father of three kids in public schools, Rob knows the issues our families face on a daily basis.

That’s why Rob has already been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters,
teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and numerous other Democratic organizations and elected
officials. They know what I know: Rob Garagiola is the best Democrat running to represent us
in Congress.

Don’t forget to cast your ballot for Rob Garagiola on Tuesday, April 3 to send someone to stand
up for the middle class in Congress. Also, if you’d like to vote early, you can do so from Saturday,
March 24 to Thursday, March 29. Click here to find out where you can cast your ballot early.

Thanks,
Shane

Annapolis Update–3/2/12

Friends,
It was an eventful week in Annapolis. On Wednesday, my bill that would require the testing of sludge from dredged lakes was heard in the Environmental Matters Committee. Recently, sludge from Lake Whetstone was found to have several toxic substances. This sludge is frequently spread on community fields, and I don’t want children playing where toxic substances have been dumped. And so I feel strongly that we need to figure out how to prevent this from happening.  Unfortunately, some feel this would be too onerous a requirement for the agency responsible for testing. But I can assure you that, along with Senator Nancy King, I will be working hard to figure out how to solve this problem.  District 39 parents need to know their kids are safe on local fields.

Also this week, the process of natural gas extraction known as “fracking” came up in committee. Some in the legislature wish to put in place regulations and taxes that I feel would lead us closer to fracking in Maryland. I think this is unwise. Currently, there are no wells being drilled in our state; I want to keep it that way. The obvious question remains: If we are so concerned about the dangers that we must regulate this so strictly, why allow it at all?

Because of jobs? No. Studies show the vast majority of fracking jobs go to out-of-state workers.

Because of revenue? No. Is a modicum of state revenue worth risking public health and water safety?

As I have stated before: industry has not proven fracking can be done safely. Indeed, it has contaminated water, caused earthquakes, and led to numerous health issues in the unfortunate Americans who live close to drill sites. We should focus on making Maryland a leader in the clean energy industry, not continuing down the dirty, fiscally myopic fossil fuel road to nowhere.

Sincerely,

Shane

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