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.

My Speech for Humane Advocacy Day

Hello,

On Tuesday I delivered the following speech at Humane Advocacy Day in Annapolis. Animal welfare is a very important issue to me, so I thought I would share my speech with you. Here it is:

Thank you so much. And thanks to HSUS, the ASPCA and Maryland Votes for Animals for organizing and hosting this Advocacy Day.

And thank all of you for being here. If there’s going to be change in Annapolis it has to start at gatherings like these. Thank you so much for taking the time to travel here on a weekday morning to talk to your representatives about what you care about. It really does matter. And it’s especially important because in our system animals don’t have a vote, so they need a voice. And all of you are that voice. Thank you so much. It’s truly important.

I’m so honored to have been asked to speak at this gathering, because animals are an issue that is really close to my heart. If you live with a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or a chicken, or a pig, as many of you do, and if you’ve looked into their eyes, as all of you have, then you know that animals are sentient beings. Animals are sentient, just like we are. It’s the truth. I don’t know what else to say about that because it’s self evident. An argument is not required, you just need to spend quality time with other animals, besides the human animal, to know that simple truth.

The problem is that we, as a society, don’t treat animals like the sentient beings that they are. Like the Earthlings that cohabitate this planet with us, that they are. Like the beings that share this ecosystem with us, that they are.

Instead, as a society, we treat them like tools. Like commodities. Like resources. To be used. Traded. Sold. Consumed. Viewed for our entertainment. Experimented on. Abused.

As a society, we objectify every other animal on this planet. And that needs to stop. As a society, we view animals as things whose only purpose is to serve our needs. Our desires. Our wants. And that needs to stop.

Animals are not here, on this Earth, to serve us. They are here for their own ends. They are here with us. Not for us.

The reality is that we are all connected. Plant. Animal. Humans included. And although I can feel that on a spiritual level, as I know that you can, science shows us that we are indeed all connected.

We all live together in the same giant ecosystem. An ecosystem that we have put out of balance, and endangered, because of our misunderstanding of where we, as human beings, fit into this whole equation.

Look at what we’ve become as a species. We just suck everything up. We consume. We even call ourselves consumers. Our modern-day economic system is based upon that consumption. And animals are just collateral damage. That needs to change.

Look at violence in society. Until we stop abusing animals, we won’t stop abusing each other, and we won’t find peace. In 2011 Maryland had over 300 million broiler chickens on the Eastern Shore. That’s about the population of the United States. They spent their short lives crammed into dark warehouses, with their beaks cut off, living in filth and being fed drugs before being “processed”. And that’s just the female chickens. The males, useless as broilers, were immediately killed after being sexed. Likely through high-speed grinders.

If as a society we allow for that to happen then we shouldn’t be surprised at the violence in society. It’s all connected. We already know the connection between animal abuse and violence. And if factory farming isn’t animal abuse I don’t know what is.

Look: full disclosure. I’m a vegan, but I’m not saying that all of us shouldn’t ever eat meat. But we shouldn’t eat meat like that. Not from factory farms. Not from that kind of cruelty. That’s just wrong.

Chickens are social, they have needs, they have desires, they have self-awareness, and if you’ve ever been around chickens in some yard somewhere… my yard was in a rural village in Zambia while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer… then you know that chickens have opinions, preferences, likes and dislikes, and their own ideas about what they’d like to see in their life. At least that’s what it seems like to me.

What we’re doing to them in these warehouses in unconscionable, and if, as a society we’re able to look the other way, we’ll never find peace. And we shouldn’t be surprised at the violence in our society because we’ve built it from the ground up. We literally eat that violence every day.

Chickens are one example. There are so many others. But I don’t want to talk about the negative anymore. Let’s talk about the positive.

Even though animals can’t vote. We can. We can change all of this. An we will. Choose your representatives wisely. Make sure they consider these issues and do the right thing. They will listen to you.

We have had successes. We’re lucky in Maryland to have organizations like the ones that organized this advocacy day. They’ve worked tirelessly for animals and deserve our support. Last year they ensured passage of the spay and neuter fund. Which was huge. And this year they’ll likely negotiate a fix for the pit bull issue.

Next year, in conjunction with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we’ll continue working on a bill that will ensure basic welfare needs for all animals. Including the need for a suitable environment; the need for a suitable diet; the need to be able to exhibit normal behavior patterns; the need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals; and the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease. Basically the beginning of an animal bill of rights. Are you with us? If so stay tuned for more about that as the year progresses.

But in the meantime, go out there and speak truth to power. For the animals. Those wonderful sentient beings that share our lives with us but have no say in our political system. Or what our broken society inflicts upon them. Be their voice because you are the only voice that they have. Be their voice to save them, because that is the only way that we will save ourselves. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Shane

 

Annapolis Update — 1/28/14 — expanding healthcare, designating wildlands, and animal rights

Expanding Healthcare Coverage
Today the House passed SB 134 – Maryland Health Insurance Plan – Access for Bridge Eligible Individuals — which is an emergency bill that expands the Maryland Health Insurance Plan (MHIP) to retroactively include individuals that through no fault of their own thought they had coverage through MHIP, but in fact did not. I voted in favor of this bill, and it was actually the first bill that the House voted on this year.

Designating New Wildlands
I’m proud to be the second sponsor on HB 296 – Natural Resources – Wildlands – Designation of New Wildlands, which would add approximately 25,000 acres of new wildlands across Maryland. Good biodiversity is essential if we are to protect the environment, and new protected wilderness areas will help.

Animals Rights
Next week I plan to introduce the Maryland Animal Welfare Act, which would require caretakers to take positive steps to ensure for the following welfare needs: the need for a suitable environment; the need for a suitable diet, the need to be able to exhibit normal behavior patterns; the need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals; and the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease. Animals are sentient beings that share this planet with us. This bill would ensure that they are treated accordingly.

Also, I recently cosponsored two important bills authored by my colleague, Delegate Ben Kramer:

  • Devocalization of cats and dogs – This legislation would prohibit the cruel practice of severing vocal chords of any cat or dog.
  • Research use of cats and dogs – humane treatment – This legislation would establish a licensing procedure for research facilities using dogs and cats for experimentation, and would provide for humane treatment of dogs and cats who are often exposed to painful and frightening experiments. The bill also requires alternative methods to animal experimentation be used whenever possible, along with routine inspection of these facilities to ensure proper treatment of dogs and cats. My personal opinion is that we should not be experimenting on animals at all, but for the time being this bill is a good step forward.

Finally, I’m opposed to the 2012 opinion issued by the Maryland Court of Appeals in Tracey vs. Solesky declaring pit bull-type dogs to be “inherently dangerous,” and am working hard with my colleagues to repeal the ruling.

On a personal note…
This has nothing to do with the legislative session in Annapolis, but I can’t help myself. I am very happy this week because my little sister just had a baby girl. My first niece!

 

Annapolis Report — 3/12/13

Friend,

Many of you have contacted me about passing a bill that would implement a statewide spay and neuter program.  As a member of the task force that developed this legislation, I am an enthusiastic supporter and will be voting for the bill when it hits the House floor this week.  If passed, this program would provide access to affordable spay/neuter services for low-income residents.  Over 45,000 animals are euthanized annually in Maryland due overcrowded shelters–an entirely preventable tragedy. This bill would be part of the solution.

Another bill that has garnered a lot of attention deals with pit bulls; this legislation would rectify the issues created by the recent court ruling singling them out as a dangerous breed.  However, it is currently in danger due to an amendment adopted in the Senate. I hope that a compromise can be reached so that no pet owner has to choose between their dog and their housing. Pit bulls are not inherently dangerous. We need to ensure that the law doesn’t treat them as such.

 

Best,
Shane

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