End of Session Letter

Dear Neighbor,

I write to you from Annapolis, following the close of the 2014 Legislative session; proud of the work the State Legislature has accomplished this year. We increased the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; banned discrimination based on gender identity; passed a balanced budget that maintains essential public services; decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana; and continued to work on cleaning up one of Maryland’s greatest assets and treasures—the Chesapeake Bay. Indeed, it has been a productive session.

 Here are a few of our accomplishments this year:

  • SB 212 – Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014
    Currently, it is illegal to discriminate in public accommodations, labor and employment, and housing on the basis of race, sex, age, creed, color, religion, national origin, marital status, disability, and sexual orientation. This bill, which has been the law in Montgomery County for several years already, simply adds gender identity to the list. The passage of this bill was very important for the advancement of civil rights and I was proud to vote in favor of it.

  • HB 297 – Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014
    This bill is the beginning of what I hope will become a universal Pre-K program for all Marylanders. While only $4.3 million was allocated, it will provide grants for 1,600 students and is a good foundation for future expansion of the program.

  • HB 296 – Natural Resources – Wildlands – Designation of New Wildlands
    On the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act which was signed into law by President Johnson, Maryland has decided to expand its own wildlands by over 20,000 acres. I was proud to be the second sponsor of this important piece of legislation.

  • SB 364 – Criminal Law – Possession of Marijuana – Civil Offense
    Assuming that Governor O’Malley signs SB 364 into law, then beginning on October 1, 2014 possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will no longer be considered a criminal offense, but instead a civil penalty. This will ensure that many nonviolent offenders will stay out of prison and not have their lives ruined by simply possessing marijuana in small amounts. Please keep in mind that possession of any amount of marijuana will remain illegal.

  • HB 295 – Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014
    Maryland’s minimum wage will increase incrementally to $10.10 per hour by 2018. While I would have preferred that we link Maryland’s minimum wage to the state’s living wage (currently $13.20 in Montgomery County), this bill is certainly an improvement over the current rate of $7.25.

  • HB 73 – Civil Actions – Personal Injury or Death Caused by a Dog – Rebuttable Presumption
    This bill is important because it removes landlord liability and breed specific standards for dogs, but it makes each owner strictly liable for their dogs. Many of you wrote to me on this issue and I welcome your thoughts on the legislation that we ultimately passed.

 Several of my bills were also successful, including two bills that will help the Chesapeake Bay Trust continue to support projects that benefit the health of the Bay, as well as a bill that will help improve the air quality in relocatable classrooms.

This legislative session was the fourth session in what has been a very successful term for the people of Maryland. Over the course of the last three years we have passed marriage equality; abolished the death penalty; passed the Dream Act; tightened our gun control laws; improved access to voting; implemented a medical marijuana pilot program; increased funding for developmental disabilities; implemented a program to deal with stormwater pollution; incentivized the construction of a major offshore wind energy project; and promoted smarter local planning and zoning policies to curb pollution into the Chesapeake Bay and coastal waterways.

In looking at our State’s recent accomplishments I can’t help but remain especially honored to be a Maryland delegate.

Sincerely,

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P.S. – Please continue to contact me in the interim with any ideas, concerns, or issues you may have: Shane.Robinson@house.state.md.us; (301)-337-7284.

P.P.S. – The Primary Election is earlier this year than in most years. This year the Primary Election is Tuesday, June 24th.

Annapolis Update — 1/10/14

Dear Friend,

Members of the Maryland General Assembly returned to session on Wednesday and we’re already in full swing. Today I cosponsored legislation that would raise the minimum wage in Maryland to $10.10 by 2016. Increasing the minimum wage is vitally important to our working families and is one of two things that we must accomplish this session. The other is securing school construction funding for Montgomery County. Our schools are over capacity and are adding roughly 2,500 students a year — the equivalent of a new high school. If we truly value education we must ensure that our children have adequate facilities, and the status quo is simply not acceptable.

Other legislation that I am working on:

Maryland Animal Welfare Act
Like us, animals are sentient beings and have needs that are not being uniformly met across the state. From factory farms, to roadside zoos, to laboratories, animals suffer needlessly every day. This bill would require those that own or care for animals to provide for five basic welfare needs: a suitable diet; a suitable environment; the ability to exhibit normal behavioral patterns; to be housed with, or apart, from other animals; and protection from pain, suffering, and injury or disease.

Poultry Fair Share Act – Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay!
Runoff from chicken farms contributes significant pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, but poultry companies are doing very little to help with the cleanup costs. This bill would charge poultry companies $0.05 per bird and the funds would go to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. We can’t afford to let polluters off the hook, and cleaning up the Chesapeake is a major priority for my office.

Fracking Ban & Fracking Wastewater Ban
Fracking damages the environment and human health, and we should keep it out of Maryland. Instead, let’s grow our economy by focusing on expanding renewable energy.

Native Plant Species
Maryland’s native plant species are in decline, and this negatively affects the ecology of our state, as well as agriculture and our economy. To address this, the Maryland Botanical Heritage Work Group is currently finalizing recommendations for the general assembly. As a member of the work group I will likely submit legislation that matches their recommendations.

I’m also looking at water consumption at power plants, as well as several other issues regarding energy and the environment. Please stay tuned, and have a great weekend!

Sincerely,

Shane

What we accomplished this session

Dear Friend,

I write from Annapolis following the close of my third legislative session and proud of the work the state legislature accomplished this year. We passed a balanced budget that includes record funding for public schools; invested in renewable energy by passing off-shore wind legislation; improved public safety with stricter gun control measures; expanded early voting; and continued to work on cleaning up one of Maryland’s greatest assets and treasures—the Chesapeake Bay. Indeed, it has been a productive session.

Our primary duty every session is to pass a budget. This year’s plan devoted 83 cents of every general fund dollar to education, health, and public safety, continued funding for programs credited with allowing Maryland to recoup 80% of the jobs lost during the recession, increased local police aid to a 20-year high, formed two new State Trooper classes, and placed more funds in the rainy day reserve to better position our state for federal cuts brought on by sequestration.

One of the most important pieces of legislation we passed repealed the death penalty. I am proud to live in a state that will no longer sanction execution. And I am proud of the tireless work of the organizers who made this victory possible. No longer will we have to worry that an innocent man or woman may be put to death by the state. And no longer will we have to waste money on a practice that has been outlawed by 128 countries.

Another vital bill that passed addressed our aging transportation infrastructure, providing $700 million annually for road and transit projects. Anyone who drives in the area understands the necessity of improving the congestion on our roadways. I am relieved that we finally began the process of investing more in road repair and maintenance.

My bills dealing with hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—both stalled in the legislature; however my concerns regarding this process of natural gas extension remain, and my work on this issue will continue. Our wastewater treatment facilities lack the capacity to handle fracking wastewater. Ignoring this problem, and sending the wastewater there regardless, is asking for trouble. What is more, spills have become increasingly common as drilling operations increase nationwide. We have a duty to protect our citizens and waterways from harmful chemicals and I will continue to work to ensure that we fulfill this obligation.

Ultimately, I remain unconvinced that fracking can be conducted safely: Water contamination and seismic activity continue to be frequent side effects of drilling operations. Making matters worse, methane leaks during the fracking process make it at least as big of a climate change contributor as coal. We should be focusing more on incentivizing the development of cleaner technologies rather than pivoting to an increased reliance on another fossil fuel. I will continue to push for our state to dedicate its resources towards researching renewable energy sources.

As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee, I have worked to implement and propose practices that ensure that our natural resources are preserved for the next generation. And so I was proud that the two bills I passed this session will do exactly that: One permanently extends funding for the Chesapeake Conservation Corps—an extremely successful program that furthers Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts; the other creates a workgroup that will research and recommend proposals designed to preserve native plant species and reverse their troubling decline.

Many of you contacted me this session about implementing a statewide spay and neuter program. After working with the task force that developed the bill, it was rewarding to see it pass this session. Over 45,000 animals are euthanized annually in Maryland due to overcrowded shelters. Hopefully, this program will be part of a comprehensive solution to this entirely preventable tragedy.

I was also a proud supporter of a measure to allow qualifying undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. Our nation was founded by immigrants who came here in search of opportunity. Currently, there are millions of undocumented individuals providing services upon which society relies. Indeed, we are stronger because of our diversity, not in spite of it. And so I will welcome with open arms any new Marylanders who may come as a result of this progressive change. And I will know that we will continue to thrive—both economically and socially—if we legislate in a manner that acknowledges reality rather than ignores it.

I was also proud to vote for a bill that empowers doctors and patients to decide what medicines work best for treating debilitating diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis. It is simply nonsensical that narcotics—infinitely more easily abused than marijuana—are prescribed daily, while cancer patients are denied a therapeutic respite because elements of our public policy remain based on culture mores from five decades ago. Science has discovered multiple medicinal uses for marijuana, and many researchers feel that removing superfluous impediments to conducting further research will result in countless more. Our passage of a bill legalizing medical marijuana is an important step forward in that regard.

It was a pleasure serving you this year and I look forward to the work that remains next session. As always, please feel free to reach out in the interim and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Shane

Annapolis Update — 3/29/13

Friend,

There has been significant progress on several issues that I have been monitoring closely this session:

  • I have watched with great consternation as a bill that could undermine future Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration efforts moves through the legislature. Senate Bill 1029 – The Agricultural Certainty Bill – would provide farms with a ten-year exemption from future regulations if they conform to new pollution standards. While I applaud the bill’s effort to incentivize farmers to commit to a higher standard, I believe it sets a dangerous precedent. Nobody knows what the next ten years will bring. When it comes to ensuring the future health of the Chesapeake Bay, I feel we should keep all options on the table. This bill limits our capacity to implement new pollution control technologies; I oppose it.
  • Physicians should be empowered to decide what medicines work best for treating debilitating diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis. Last week, the House agreed with this common sense assertion and passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. It does not make sense that narcotics–infinitely easier to abuse than marijuana–are prescribed daily, while cancer patients are denied a therapeutic respite because elements of our public policy remain based on decades old cultural mores. Science has discovered multiple medicinal uses for marijuana and many researchers feel that removing superfluous impediments to conducting further research would result in countless more. The benefits of this bill’s passage for medicine and society would be numerous.
  • The House will also take up a bill (already passed by the Senate) that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Our prisons are overflowing, our judicial system clogged, and our police overburdened with victimless crimes. Amongst them is the possession of a substance less harmful to one’s health than alcohol. Why should Maryland continue to allocate precious fiscal resources so nonsensically? My sincere hope is that we move closer this session towards treating marijuana like alcohol: regulate its use so that our roads are protected, a new revenue stream provided, and substance abuse programs remain funded. Recently, voters in Washington and Colorado decided that funding state programs through marijuana taxation would be more prudent than continuing to allow marijuana profits to flow to drug cartels in Mexico. Eventually, the rest of the country will join them. Let’s move Maryland closer to becoming a leader on this issue rather than a follower.
  • Finally, the Governor’s gun control bill – the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 – will be voted out of committee in the next few days and move to the House floor for debate and a final vote. Gun violence in this country has reached epidemic levels–over 3,000 gun deaths since the Newtown tragedy is simply unacceptable. And while regulation alone will not secure our families, we must attempt to see what change new policies can bring. I support the Governor’s approach on this issue and will be writing more about it as the legislative process continues next week.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and encourage you to reach out to my office.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update — 3/7/13

Friend,

This week, the administration proposed a $3.1 billion transportation funding bill to address road congestion, aging infrastructure and job creation. It is no secret that our state is plagued by some of the nation’s worst traffic. Decreasing the time we spend on the road not only benefits our quality of life, but our economy as well. This plan will provide $700 million annually for road and transit projects through a phased-in 4% gas tax. This approach allows us to maintain funding for public safety, schools and other vital services, unlike Virginia’s recently passed transportation plan that instituted significant cuts. What is more, there will be no tax on hybrid or electric vehicles (another tactic utilized by Virginia). We need to incentivize consumers to seek out cleaner transportation, not discourage them. Furthermore, the majority of our roadways are aging. The longer we wait to address this unfortunate truth the more expensive and burdensome it will be.

In other news, the death penalty repeal bill has passed the Senate and will likely be on the House floor next week. I look forward to voting in favor of repeal and hope we will be sending the bill Governor O’Malley’s desk.

Lastly, my bill to ban fracking failed to make it out of committee in the Senate so I decided to withdraw the bill in the House. However, the hearing on my legislation to prevent fracking wastewater storage in Maryland will be held tomorrow. Our treatment facilities lack the capacity to handle this toxic waste. Ignoring this problem and sending wastewater there regardless is asking for trouble. What is more, spills have become increasingly common as drilling operations increase nationwide. We have a duty to protect our citizens and waterways from harmful chemicals. This bill would do exactly that.

Sincerely,
Shane

2012 Legislative Session: Environmental Issues Update

Dear Friend,

Now that we have had time to digest the results of the 2012 legislative session and the May special session I wish to update you on the state of several vital environmental issues in Maryland:

First, if you agree that the issues below are important, please help me in fighting against those who are resisting change with a donation through my fundraising website here.

Arsenic in Chicken Feed– This bill was one of the biggest reality checks for me upon joining the legislature. Personally, I feel this is a prime example of common sense legislation. I don’t want our children eating arsenic in their chicken. And I also don’t want arsenic from chicken entering agricultural fields and running into the Chesapeake Bay; it is as simple as that. Unfortunately, some felt arsenic in our chicken feed wasn’t a big deal and it took us until this year to pass the bill. But make no mistake: this was a success story and we will continue to look at ways to make the bill we passed even stronger. The bill’s sponsor–Delegate Tom Hucker–did a tremendous job shepherding this through the legislature.

Fracking– While some continue to feel that the best way forward for Maryland on this matter is to enact regulations and taxes so that, if this natural gas extraction process is implemented in our state, we will have a regulatory framework in place to deal with it. I disagree, because I feel strongly that the natural gas industry has failed to prove that this practice can be executed safely. Indeed, we have seen it contaminate water and cause earthquakes in other states. My view is that implementing regulations moves us closer to fracking in Maryland. I look forward to participating in the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission meetings on this issue and voicing my concerns.

Offshore Wind Energy– While this bill passed the House it failed to make it to the Senate floor. As our economy continues to recover, creating jobs that are built to last is key. Renewable energy is the future, and the sooner Maryland realizes this the better our state will be for our children. It is vital that we position Maryland to lead on this issue rather than forcing ourselves to play catch up with other states. This is as much an economic issue as it is an environmental imperative. As long as I am a delegate I will continue to vote for legislation that promotes alternative energy sources.

Chesapeake Bay Pollution–Several bills addressing this matter passed this last session, some stronger than others. Going forward, this will continue to be an issue I will focus on. I continue to hear from critics of Maryland’s actions on this issue that the actions of our neighbors–Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia–have been insufficient in this regard, and, as such, we shouldn’t be fighting this fight anymore. I feel this is backwards logic. We have a duty to protect one of our most vital resources, and we can only control our own actions. We can’t sit and wait for others to act; we must lead.

As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee, and a staunch environmentalist, I care deeply about how these issues progress in the next few years, and will do everything in my power to see that Maryland positions itself to lead on investing in renewable energy, protecting the Chesapeake Bay, holding businesses accountable for pollution, and other matters of concern to the environmental community.

If you agree with me that a major element of ensuring that the Maryland we leave for our children is positioned to succeed is by protecting our resources, please help by donating to my campaign here. Also, you can visit my website here.

Thank you,
Shane

P.S. — Here is some information from the 2012 Annapolis Report detailing legislation affecting Chesapeake Bay pollution:

Sustainable Growth & Agricultural Preservation – Instead of an outright ban on septic systems, the legislature created four planning tiers for counties to adopt for use in approving major residential subdivisions served by onsite sewage systems and community or shared systems. Development projects in the pipeline are grandfathered in and there are protections for family farmers to ensure they can continue to farm their land.

Bay Restoration Fee/Flush Tax – In line with the federal requirements for the states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, legislation increased the statewide residential wastewater and sewerage fees (flush tax) from $2.50 to $5 per month to complete installation of enhanced nitrogen removal technology at Maryland’s 67 major publically owned wastewater treatment plants, fund cover crop programs, and replace failing septic systems across the State. The fees will revert to current levels in 2030. Exceptions were made for wastewater facilities, onsite sewage disposal systems, and sewage holding tanks that do not discharge into or are not located within the Watershed.

Stormwater Management – To comply with the federal mandate to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff on the waters of the State at the local level, new law requires the State’s largest counties to charge a stormwater fee. Local governments may also install low impact stormwater systems. Governmental properties and organized volunteer fire departments are exempt from the fee.

Annapolis Update 2/11/11

Aileen and Delegate Robinson during Developmental Disabilities Day

With the legislative session now a month old and bill hearings in full swing I want to update you on what I’m working on:

  • Earlier this week in Environmental Matters, we held a hearing on hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”). If we decide to move forward with granting permits for this process of natural gas extraction, I’m extremely concerned with the potential for contaminating our water supply. I’m a strong supporter of a bill to require a comprehensive study of all the factors involved in hydraulic fracturing that could potentially harm our drinking water, pollute the Chesapeake Bay, and endanger the health of Marylanders as result. Before we consider granting permits to gas companies to drill on Maryland soil we must make sure there are safeguards in place to protect the environment and public health.
  • Today, the Montgomery County delegation met with Senator Ben Cardin, who spoke about continuing our commitment to move Maryland forward as a leader in implementing health care reform. Let’s continue to focus on solutions, rather than implementing obstacles to progress.
Again, please continue to contact me with any ideas, questions, comments or concerns you may have; my door is always open, my phone always on, and my inbox just a click away: shane.robinson@house.state.md.us. 

Best,
Shane

P.S.- Be sure to “like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and check out the Montgomery County delegation homepage.

Annapolis Update 2/4/11

Dear Friends,

Here is this week’s legislative update:

  • Delegate Brian Feldman is introducing a bill– the Maryland Electricity Service Quality and Reliability Act– that would require the Public Service Commission to adopt reliability standards relating to the delivery of electricity, enforce penalties when the standards are not met, and credit customers as a result. I’m a proud co-sponsor, and am eager to hear PEPCO representatives answer for their failures during the public hearing this Tuesday, February 8th, here in Annapolis.
  • Today, I introduced a bill that would discourage the disposal of printer cartridges and closed electronic devices in landfills. When disposed of improperly, these devices severly pollute the environment. If we are to improve the health of this region’s economic stalwart–the Chesapeake Bay–we must get serious about targeting the most egregious pollutants.

Further, over the past few weeks I’ve been encouraged by the amount of constituent correspondence I’ve received. Hearing from you is the best part of this job, and I urge you to contact me with any ideas, questions, comments or concerns you may have. Again, my door is always open, my phone always on, and my inbox just a click away: shane.robinson@house.state.md.us.

Best,
Shane

P.S.- Be sure to “like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and check out the Montgomery County delegation website.

Annapolis Update 1/27/11

Dear Friends,

As the newest member of the District 39 legislative team, the first few weeks of Maryland’s 428th legislative session have been some of the most invigorating of my life. I feel fortunate to have arrived in Annapolis in time for what could be a landmark year for progressive Democrats:

  • 58 House members have signed onto the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, a bill that would legalize same-sex marriages in Maryland.  The time has come for Maryland to lead on this issue, and I am honored to be a co-sponsor. For more click here.
  • There is no reason that someone suffering from a debilitating disease should be deprived of medicine that could aid in their recovery or in coping with terminal illness. Therefore, I am proud to be co-sponsoring a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. Patients and doctors–not the courts–should decide what medications are suitable. For more click here.
  • On the local front, the Glenbrooke stormwater management pond in District 39 needs repairs. Senator Nancy King and I are introducing a bill that would help fund the renovation. If we are going to save the Chesapeake Bay we need to ensure that our stormwater management infrastructure is in tact. As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee I look forward to working on issues related to the health of the Chesapeake.

These are a few of the many issues I plan to work on this session. As the weeks progress I will keep you updated, and urge you to contact me with any ideas, questions, comments or concerns; my door is always open, my phone always on, and my inbox just a click away: shane.robinson@house.state.md.us.

Best,
Shane

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