Annapolis Update — 1/18/13

Friend,
I wanted to update you on several bills I will be working on this session:

Fracking Ban–You have heard from me numerous times on this issue before. At a time when we should be investing in renewable energy sources we should not permit companies to implement a process of natural gas extraction that has contaminated water, caused earthquakes, and contributed to global warming. Instead, let’s ban fracking and invest in renewable energy sources like wind. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to create jobs and implement renewable energy practices that other states can follow; we just need to seize it.

Toxic Materials– Would you be comfortable letting your children play on ball fields or in school yards that have been contaminated with dangerous chemicals? Me neither. This session, I am putting in two bills that deal with this issue. One requires that any dredged material from lakes be tested for contaminants prior to being spread on public fields; another prevents pesticides from being used on ornamental lawns outside schools and childcare centers.

Beavers– Beavers have occasionally caused problems for the population of district 39, but as it stands now they are on a list of animals that must be euthanized rather than relocated. As an animal rights activist, I feel strongly that our environmental professionals need room in our laws to operate in the manner they see fit. Wildlife management officials should be empowered with the capacity to relocate populations of animals consistent with best practices in the field.

Chesapeake Bay Conservation Corps — This program has been successful since its infancy in providing opportunities for AmeriCorps members to work towards maintaining and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, one of Maryland’s most vital economic and environmental resources. My bill would ensure that the CBCC remains fiscally sustainable.

I am also looking at filing several other bills and promise to keep you updated as the session progresses.

Best,
Shane

Special Session Update

Friends,

Governor O’Malley recently called a special session of the Maryland General Assembly which drew to a close yesterday afternoon with the passage of the Budget and Reconciliation Financing Act and the revenue bills. Had these bills not passed, $436 million in additional cuts to the state budget would have gone into effect this year. Make no mistake: These pieces of legislation were far from perfect, but the alternative was far worse.

What would have happened had we not acted? $436 million in cuts with the following consequences:

  • Job losses in the private sector. The highly successful $8 million biotechnology research and development tax credit, and the $10.4 million stem cell research program would have both been eliminated; disproportionately and negatively affecting Montgomery County.
  • Job losses in the public sector. Approximately 400 state jobs would have been eliminated, and state employees would have been forced to pay an additional $15 million for healthcare benefits.
  • Potential downgrade of Maryland’s AAA bond rating. Maryland is one of only three states that has maintained a AAA bond rating since the ratings began.
  • A 10-13% increase in college tuition. In Maryland, college tuition is still affordable for middle class families. Keeping higher education affordable is a must if we are to maintain our educated and qualified workforce–a serious economic advantage.
  • A 10% cut in community college funding. Our community colleges are some of the best in the country. Maintaining this affordable option is common sense, and the right thing to do.
  • A $138 million cut in K-12 education funding through the elimination of the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) which is a primary reason Maryland public schools have been ranked number one in the nation four years running.
  • A $20.8 million cut in local law enforcement funding.

The list goes on and on. To help avoid this we raised income taxes on individuals making over $100,000, and families making over $150,000. 84% of Marylanders did not have their taxes increased.

Was this a difficult vote for me? Yes. Do I think I made the right call? Absolutely. In these fiscal times we are faced with profoundly laborious decisions. But in these times we are also left to answer who we want to be as a people, as a community, as a state. When times are tough do we have the will to buckle down and protect our number one ranked school system, the safety of our communities, our investments in the future, our higher education systems, the safety of those most in need? Yesterday shows that we do.

Best,
Shane

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