Annapolis Update — 3/29/13

Friend,

There has been significant progress on several issues that I have been monitoring closely this session:

  • I have watched with great consternation as a bill that could undermine future Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration efforts moves through the legislature. Senate Bill 1029 – The Agricultural Certainty Bill – would provide farms with a ten-year exemption from future regulations if they conform to new pollution standards. While I applaud the bill’s effort to incentivize farmers to commit to a higher standard, I believe it sets a dangerous precedent. Nobody knows what the next ten years will bring. When it comes to ensuring the future health of the Chesapeake Bay, I feel we should keep all options on the table. This bill limits our capacity to implement new pollution control technologies; I oppose it.
  • Physicians should be empowered to decide what medicines work best for treating debilitating diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis. Last week, the House agreed with this common sense assertion and passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. It does not make sense that narcotics–infinitely easier to abuse than marijuana–are prescribed daily, while cancer patients are denied a therapeutic respite because elements of our public policy remain based on decades old cultural mores. Science has discovered multiple medicinal uses for marijuana and many researchers feel that removing superfluous impediments to conducting further research would result in countless more. The benefits of this bill’s passage for medicine and society would be numerous.
  • The House will also take up a bill (already passed by the Senate) that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Our prisons are overflowing, our judicial system clogged, and our police overburdened with victimless crimes. Amongst them is the possession of a substance less harmful to one’s health than alcohol. Why should Maryland continue to allocate precious fiscal resources so nonsensically? My sincere hope is that we move closer this session towards treating marijuana like alcohol: regulate its use so that our roads are protected, a new revenue stream provided, and substance abuse programs remain funded. Recently, voters in Washington and Colorado decided that funding state programs through marijuana taxation would be more prudent than continuing to allow marijuana profits to flow to drug cartels in Mexico. Eventually, the rest of the country will join them. Let’s move Maryland closer to becoming a leader on this issue rather than a follower.
  • Finally, the Governor’s gun control bill – the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 – will be voted out of committee in the next few days and move to the House floor for debate and a final vote. Gun violence in this country has reached epidemic levels–over 3,000 gun deaths since the Newtown tragedy is simply unacceptable. And while regulation alone will not secure our families, we must attempt to see what change new policies can bring. I support the Governor’s approach on this issue and will be writing more about it as the legislative process continues next week.

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

Best,
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 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

Annapolis Update — 3/7/13

Friend,

This week, the administration proposed a $3.1 billion transportation funding bill to address road congestion, aging infrastructure and job creation. It is no secret that our state is plagued by some of the nation’s worst traffic. Decreasing the time we spend on the road not only benefits our quality of life, but our economy as well. This plan will provide $700 million annually for road and transit projects through a phased-in 4% gas tax. This approach allows us to maintain funding for public safety, schools and other vital services, unlike Virginia’s recently passed transportation plan that instituted significant cuts. What is more, there will be no tax on hybrid or electric vehicles (another tactic utilized by Virginia). We need to incentivize consumers to seek out cleaner transportation, not discourage them. Furthermore, the majority of our roadways are aging. The longer we wait to address this unfortunate truth the more expensive and burdensome it will be.

In other news, the death penalty repeal bill has passed the Senate and will likely be on the House floor next week. I look forward to voting in favor of repeal and hope we will be sending the bill Governor O’Malley’s desk.

Lastly, my bill to ban fracking failed to make it out of committee in the Senate so I decided to withdraw the bill in the House. However, the hearing on my legislation to prevent fracking wastewater storage in Maryland will be held tomorrow. Our treatment facilities lack the capacity to handle this toxic waste. Ignoring this problem and sending 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. This bill would do exactly that.

Sincerely,
Shane

Annapolis Update — 2/22/13

Friend,

Maryland is headed in the right direction. Yesterday, the death penalty repeal passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee; it will be on the Senate floor on Tuesday. We are one step closer to fixing a glaring problem with our justice system and saving the state millions of dollars. I will continue to do whatever I can to help shepherd the bill through the House and send it to Governor O’Malley’s desk.

As for offshore wind power, the House did its part Friday–the bill passed 86-48. Now, we wait and hope that the Senate follows suit. If this bill passes, Maryland will position itself as a leader in the renewable energy movement. The project will create hundreds of jobs, but that is just the beginning. You see, Maryland can carve out a niche in this arena that can attract investment and motivate other states to join us in being part of the solution to our energy crisis rather than the problem.

“Fracking” is another vital front in this fight. As you know, I introduced a bill that will prohibit this process of natural gas extraction. In Maryland, we are listening and have been for some time. Many of us understand that what is billed as a panacea is frequently far from it. Such is the case with natural gas. Significant amounts of methane leak during fracking, rendering it more of a greenhouse gas contributor than coal. What is more, even if regulations are adopted to address this concern, fracking requires massive amounts of water–approximately, 3.5 million gallons per well head. As sources of clean water dwindle worldwide, how can we justify that
resource allocation?

Add in the opportunity cost–researching fracking in Maryland prevents us from focusing on developing renewable energy sources like wind and solar–and that Maryland sits on a relatively minuscule amount of natural gas (undermining the argument that it would bring a significant amount of jobs to our state) and it should be easy to understand why Marylanders like me aren’t drinking the fracking kool aid.

So yes, I want to ban fracking in Maryland. No moratorium. No myopic regulations. And no adding another method of
releasing carbon and methane into our imperiled atmosphere.

Best,
Shane

p.s.– On Friday, we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage procession from New York to DC in 1913. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go until there is true equality between men and women. We must use this moment as an impetus to pass laws that move us closer to realizing that goal. The memory of those who we honored this morning deserves as much.

Annapolis Update — 2/8/13

Friend,

A vibrant and vigorous democracy relies on voter participation, that is why I firmly support Governor O’Malley’s proposal to expand early voting. The bill would increase the number of days when early voting could take place, add three more early voting sites in Montgomery County, and allow same day early voter registration.

I have also been researching what it would take to allow Marylanders to vote at any precinct in their county and may file a bill next session that would permit this practice.

Please let me know what you think of this proposal.

Best,
Shane

p.s.– Three of my bills made the Maryland League of Conservation Voters “Environmental Hot List” this week. For more information click here.

Annapolis Update — 1/31/13

Friend,

Yesterday, Governor O’Malley delivered his State of the State address, a stirring reminder of all that we have to be grateful for as Marylanders and the difficult work that remains on issues like climate change and job creation. For video of the speech click here.

First, the good news: Through hard work and difficult budget choices we have been named the #1 state in public education, innovation and entrepreneurship, human capital capacity, research and development, businesses owned by women, and median family income. We have passed marriage equality and the DREAM act, two vital measures for moving us closer to full legal equality for all minorities. We have taken decisive action to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. We have cut spending without sacrificing public safety and health. And we have added jobs more rapidly than our neighbors. With your help, we will continue these positive trends.

But for Maryland to truly lead on the seminal issues of our time we must remain diligent in pursuing true change. As Governor O’Malley stated, the debate on climate change is over. There is no question that our planet is fundamentally changing. And so I enthusiastically welcomed the governor’s assertion that we must ignore those who say Maryland is merely a state, and any action we take will be too minuscule to have a significant impact. We have a duty to lead on this issue, part of which includes positioning Maryland at the forefront of the green energy revolution. Becoming the first eastern state to build an offshore wind farm would be a boon to our economy and a clean energy example for other states to follow. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to vote for this legislation this session.

And, hopefully, I will have the opportunity to vote to end the death penalty in Maryland as well. Politicians obsessed with cutting spending should look at this as an opportunity: The death penalty–which does not deter crime–is a financial burden. Life imprisonment is cheaper and ensures that no innocent man or woman is executed.

As always, I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update — 1/25/13

Friend,

I want to share some highlights from Governor O’Malley’s budget proposal. Should this budget be adopted:

  • 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;
  • Public education would receive more funding than any budget to date;
  • College tuition rates would remain steady (Maryland has gone from being the 6th costliest state in which to attend a public institution in 2007 to the 27th today);
  • $336 million would be allocated for school construction and $280 million for public colleges and universities;
  • 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;
  • $325 million in spending cuts would be implemented.

Indeed, there is a lot to like about Governor O’Malley’s proposal. As the session continues, I will work diligently with my colleagues to ensure that Montgomery County’s priorities are sufficiently funded. I want us to pass a budget that continues to invest in our #1 ranked education system, positions Maryland to lead the clean energy revolution, and keeps us on the path of declining crime rates; Mr. O’Malley’s proposal is a good starting point. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Best,
Shane

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

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.