The Time is Now. Vote for Equality. Vote FOR Question 6.

Friends,

It’s that time again. Tomorrow, we head to the polls and exercise the right at the core of our democracy: the right to vote. On the ballot, you will be asked to vote “for” or “against” several questions; I write to request you to vote for Question 6–the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which provides civil marriage licenses to committed gay and lesbian couples.

Last session, I was proud to be part of the legislature that passed this bill because I felt extending equal marriage rights to all Americans was, simply put, the right thing to do. Our nation was founded on the principles codified in this legislation. Should Question 6 pass, all of Maryland’s children, no matter their parents’ sexual orientation, would be treated equally under the law; gay and lesbian spouses would be assured of hospital visitation rights when their loved ones fell ill; and families across the state would be solidified by the unparalleled bond of marriage. We owe it to those who conceived of a nation characterized by liberty and justice, and to our gay neighbors, friends, doctors, teachers, first responders, and veterans, to create a more just Maryland. Please join me in voting for Question 6 tomorrow.

(If you need to find your polling location click here.)

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 4/12/11

The flag in the State House dome

Dear Friend,

 

I write you from Annapolis, following the close of my first legislative session, proud of the work the state legislature has accomplished this year. We passed a balanced budget in a fiscally depressed climate that maintains essential public services; increased revenue in order to allocate more funds to education and programs that assist the developmentally disabled; instituted in-state tuition rates for the children of tax-paying immigrants; targeted funds to encourage innovative companies to bring their business and jobs to Maryland under Governor O’Malley’s Invest Maryland initiative; eased the burden on seriously ill patients who need medicinal marijuana to ease their pain; 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.

Also, I feel particularly fortunate to have personally passed three bills:

  • HB-329 (cross-filed by Senator Nancy King) exempts senior centers from the public information act. Prior to this bill, predatory marketers could force senior centers to hand over the private information of their members. Thanks to HB-329 that is no longer the case in Maryland.
  • HB-881 sets up a regulatory framework for the bio-diesel/waste kitchen grease industry. If we are to successfully urge consumers to seek out greener energy sources, we need to address the issues that arise as a result. This bill targets the issue of waste kitchen grease theft from restaurants.
  • HB-831, which was signed into law this morning, was initially conceived of by eight-year-old Jacob Robinson (no relation to me). It sets up a system through the Department of Natural Resources to curb the spread of invasive plants species. Invasive plants harm the environment and the economy; this bill will help get them under control.

I was also encouraged that the electricity service reliability bill passed. This vital piece of legislation creates significant penalties if PEPCO fails to meet reliability standards. Montgomery County residents deserve decent utility service, and PEPCO’s record of service is far from decent. Hopefully, this will start to change that.

As proud as I am of the bills I’ve worked on personally and collectively, I’m equally disappointed with the failure to pass marriage equality. 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 this 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. 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.

In closing, I must add, that as I look at the political developments across the country—both local and federal—I can’t help but remain especially honored to be a Maryland delegate. For, in Maryland, we know collective bargaining rights are a necessity not a burden; we work to strengthen women’s health services not tear them down; we understand that diversity is an asset not a threat; and we have the foresight to invest in our future through our children’s education. It means something to be a Marylander. And it means an incredible amount to represent you in Annapolis.

Sincerely,

Shane Robinson

P.S. – On the local front, three bond bill projects were approved for District 39: $20,000 for Battleridge Place Stream Valley Restoration; $30,000 for Glenbrooke Stormwater Management Renovation; and $30,000 for Lewisberry Corridor Lighting Improvement. Also, the water park at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg got $225,000 for upgrades.

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

 

 

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

Annapolis Update 2/25/11

Here is what happened this week in Annapolis:

  • In what was truly an amazing moment to be a Marylander, marriage equality legislation passed the Senate. Now, it’s on to the House, where it’s important not to take anything for granted. Please call your legislators and make your voice heard. And remember, as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said :  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Let’s end the injustice of treating our gay and lesbian friends as second-class citizens.
  • Earlier this week, a bill that would require PEPCO to abide by reliability standards was heard in the Economic Matters Committee. I am a proud co-sponsor of this legislation crafted by Delegate Feldman, Governor O’Malley and Councilman Berliner. Hopefully, with bi-partisan support, this vital bill will pass.
  • In Environmental Matters we heard a bill–presented by Delegates Holmes and Mizeur–that would put a hold on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Maryland until a study is completed determining whether or not it can be done safely. There have been significant issues in other areas of the country with this process of natural gas extraction, and many environmental experts feel we should hold off until we figure out how to utilize this method without risking public health.

Further, I have enjoyed hearing from my constituents this session, and encourage you to continue to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns you may have: shane.robinson@house.state.md.us.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update 2/18/11

It was an eventful week in Annapolis:

  • On Wednesday, I presented HB-329–a bill exempting senior centers from the Public Information Act–to the Health and Government Operations Committee.  As it stands now, anyone can walk into a senior center and request the personal information of the members under the Public Information Act. I am an ardent supporter of increased transparency in government, but the PIA was not designed to make citizens’ personal information available to unscrupulous individuals.  It’s time to close this loophole and protect the privacy of senior citizens.
  • Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece for Patch.com on marriage equality. Hopefully, this will be the year we pass legislation extending equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.
  • I continue to hear from Montgomery County constituents who are rightfully concerned about K-12 funding in this year’s budget. It’s true, under the Thornton formula funding should have increased by $94 million. However, with the increase in student population and decrease in county wealth, Montgomery County will still receive an additional $33 million in K-12 funding. I’m not 100 percent pleased with this outcome, but with your support, I will continue to fight for teacher pensions and education funding.

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.