Montgomery County’s Priorities for the 2015 Session

As the Chair of the Montgomery County House Delegation, Montgomery County’s Priorities are my priorities. Below is a list of the County’s priorities. You can also find them on the Montgomery County Office of Intergovernmental Relations website.

Montgomery County’s Priorities for the 2015 Session

  1. Public School Construction
    Montgomery County continues to seek supplementary funding from the State to address critical capacity needs across the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Today’s enrollment of 154,230 is expected to grow to more than 165,300 by 2020. Between 2007 and
    2020, enrollment will have increased by more than 27,600 – more growth than that of Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick, and Baltimore Counties combined. This enrollment growth, coupled with maintenance needs in older schools, is placing enormous pressures on MCPS
    facilities. Montgomery County continues to provide substantial financial support for its school construction program; but, it cannot keep pace. In order to break the logjam of projects, the State needs to provide the County with a steady source of funds over and above
    the amounts it has traditionally allocated for MCPS school construction projects. (See Attachment 1 for listing of MCPS projects).
  2. Transportation
    The State must be a full partner in investing in Montgomery County’s transportation infrastructure to create transportation capacity necessary for reducing congestion and supporting job creation objectives. The Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway remain at the top of the County’s long list of priority transportation projects. (See Attachment 2 for listing of transportation priorities).
  3. Montgomery County Businesses
    Montgomery County must establish an active partnership with the State to unlock the County’s potential as a leader in biotech, cybersecurity, and health IT supported by a diverse economic base, state-of-the-art transit and digital networks, a ready and able workforce, and a business-friendly regulatory and tax climate.
  4. Health Care
    Because the State actively embraced the Affordable Care Act, 55,000 residents of Montgomery County that were previously uninsured now have access to quality health and behavioral health services. The County is also working on improving health access, building networks, and being innovative. The State must continue to support full implementation of the law in order for the County to maintain this momentum.
  5. Other Capital Projects
    • Libraries – $1.5 million to help underwrite the costs of capital maintenance projects at Aspen Hill (Rockville), Davis (Bethesda), and Little Falls (Bethesda)
    • National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence – $2 million to complete renovations
    • Music Center at Strathmore – $833,000 to help underwrite capital improvement costs
    • Avery Road Treatment Center – $140,000 to complete the planning phase for full replacement of this substance abuse treatment and detox facility serving suburban Maryland counties
    • Montgomery College, Germantown Campus – $15.4 million to renovate the Science and Applied Studies building
    • Universities at Shady Grove – $6 million to complete design of the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Educational Facility. The $20 million parking garage funded by Montgomery County to help support the new facility is under construction.

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 — 3/19/13

Friend,

Last Friday, we passed a bill that repeals the death penalty.  I am proud to live in a state that will no longer sanction execution, and I would like to thank the organizers whose tireless work 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.  Maryland is continuing to move forward into the 21st century and be a part of the impetus for progress.

We also passed the budget which now heads to Senate. Here are some highlights:

  • The plan continues record funding for public schools: $6 billion out of the $15.8 billion general fund will be allocated towards continuing us on the path that has resulted in Maryland schools being ranked first in the nation, $300 million of which will be earmarked for school construction. We are also dedicating funds to assure that tuition at state universities and colleges is prevented from increasing exponentially as has been the case in many other states–Maryland has gone from being the 6th costliest state in which to attend a public institution in 2007 to the 27th today.  Overall, public education would receive more funding than any budget to date.
  • In order to position Maryland to overcome the cuts brought on by sequestration, the rainy day reserve will be increased by 15 percent, to $920 million.
  • 83 cents of every general fund dollar would be spent on education, health and public safety.
  • Maryland would retain its Triple A bond rating–a signal to investors that they can remain confident in our fiscal health.
  • Programs credited with allowing Maryland to recoup 80% of the jobs lost during the recession would remain funded.
  • Local police aid would increase to a 20-year high and two new State Trooper classes would be formed (violent crime has decreased 25% in Maryland over the past seven years).
  • Environmental programs that position Maryland at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution would be prioritized.

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

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update — 1/11/13

Friend,

This week marks the beginning of my third legislative session representing you in Annapolis. As such, I write to update you on some of my legislative priorities for the next three months:

  • First, some good news. This week, Maryland’s schools were ranked first in the nation for the fifth year in a row. This is a testament to the tireless dedication of our teachers and school administrators and years of policy that have prioritized education in our state. I’m proud to live in Maryland where sending my children to public school is a privilege rather than a compromise. As long as I represent you in Annapolis, promoting and implementing sound education policy will be one of my chief priorities.
  • Ensuring that “fracking”–a process of natural gas extraction that has contaminated water and caused earthquakes–never occurs in Maryland, will also be a focus of mine this year. I have not seen evidence that fracking can be done safely, and it is bad policy to proceed as though there are no public health concerns associated with the practice. Furthermore, we should be spending more time and energy focusing on promoting investment in renewable energy sources. To that end, I will be supporting Governor O’Malley’s wind power initiative. As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee, I feel a particular responsibility to be working on these issues and hope that you will contact me with any ideas you have to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.
  • My inbox has been flooded with inquiries regarding potential gun control efforts. In the wake of the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, I think it is clear that we need to do what we can in Maryland to restrict access to assault weapons. As President Obama said: “No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction…If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.
  • “We also have an opportunity this session to abolish the death penalty. In short, I feel that the practice is immoral–the risk of executing an innocent man or woman is too high to continue instituting capital punishment. DNA testing has cast doubts on numerous prior cases, an unfortunate fact that should serve to remind us that our justice system, while undoubtedly one of the world’s best, is not infallible.

As always, please continue to contact my office with your ideas and concerns. I am in Annapolis to serve you and look forward to getting to know more of my constituents this session.

Best,
Shane

p.s.- Next week, I will be updating you on the bills I plan to file this year.

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