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 3/14/11

Jacob and Dennis Robinson outside of the Environmental Matters Committee room

The latest from Annapolis:

I’m happy to report that my first bill–HB 329–passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 140-0. Senator Nancy King has sponsored the Senate version and we’re hopeful it will pass through there as well, and eventually be signed into law.

House Bill 329 would protect the privacy of senior citizens enrolled in senior centers. Currently, under the Public Information Act, anyone can enter a senior center and require them to divulge the private information of their members. HB-329 would exempt senior centers from PIA, protecting some of our most vulnerable individuals from being preyed on by unscrupulous individuals.

In other news, I also presented two other bills to the Environmental Matters Committee last week:

 

  • House Bill 881 addresses kitchen grease theft, which has become an issue due to the rise in popularity of bio-fuel. If we are to effectively encourage a transition to cleaner fuels, we need to deal with the problems that arise as a result.
  • I also was happy to introduce House Bill 831, a bill designed to curb the spread of invasive plant species in Maryland. HB-881 was particularly exciting for me, because it was initially conceived of by 8-year-old Jacob Robinson. Through his experience as a young environmentalist, Jacob became aware of how easy it is to mistakenly purchase invasive species. As a result, he thought of a plan to provide consumers with more information. With the help of his parents, and a number of stakeholders, his idea resulted in a bill that requires clear labeling of invasive plant species at retail stores. Jacob even came down to Annapolis to testify; he did a tremendous job presenting the bill and demonstrating the strength of our democratic process.

Also, in Environmental Matters last week, it was an honor to hear the testimony of Governor O’Malley on the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2011. This measure would go a long way towards reducing the release of nitrogen from septic systems into our waterways. Most likely, this will be studied further over the summer so all stakeholders can come together and figure out how best to move forward.

As always, please continue to contact my office with any questions, ideas, or concerns you may have.

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