Annapolis Update 4/1/11

This week in Annapolis:

  • The Montgomery County Gazette featured me in a piece you can check out here.
  • The PEPCO reliability bill was amended in the Senate to allow for the possibility of stronger and more immediate penalties if PEPCO fails to meet reliability standards. Now, the amended bill will head back to the House. The new bill looks promising, as Senator Frosh said: “All they have to do is give us decent electrical service.” Montgomery County residents deserve better than PEPCO has been able to provide over the past few years, it is time for something to change.
  • Also in the Senate, the alcohol tax passed by a 27-19 margin. Once fully adopted, the measure is expected to raise $85 million at a time when funding for essential public services is difficult to find. I’m hopeful this bill will pass the House as well.The Direct Wine Shipping bill has now passed both the House and Senate, and once Governor O’Malley signs the legislation, Maryland will join three-dozen other states that allow wineries to ship directly to consumers. Now, Maryland residents can have their favorite wines sent directly to their homes. This is a common sense bill, and I’m happy to have supported it.
  • Unfortunately, it appears as though a bill to prevent discrimination of transgendered individuals has stalled in the Senate after passing the House. The bill is being unfairly subjected to frustration over marriage equality making it through the Senate but not the House. I was a proud supporter of the legislation, and as my colleague Senator Raskin said: “We shouldn’t express our disappointment in the failure of one major civil rights bill by killing another one.”

With only one full week left in this year’s legislative session I want to thank all those who contacted me over the past few months. It has been a pleasure listening to you weigh in on the issues, and I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Sincerely,
Shane

Annapolis Update 3/25/11

Guest introductions on the floor

This week in Annapolis:

After a few days of debate, the House passed the budget–97-42– with only one Republican voting in favor. This budget is balanced; fully funds the Thornton education program; protects the future solvency of pensions; and doesn’t raise taxes.

I am proud of the work the House did on this year’s budget; I also feel that, going forward, we should continue to look for creative ways to increase revenue if we are to maintain the country’s highest ranked public education system, improve our infrastructure, put Marylanders back to work, and maintain essential public services.

In other news, I’m proud to report that my bill to protect the private information of senior center members — a bill that was cross-filed by Senator Nancy King — has now passed both the Senate and House. Now, it’s on to the Governor’s desk. Government should be doing what it can to protect vulnerable citizens, and this bill does exactly that. Additionally, working my first bill through the process was a great learning experience.

Further, as we finish up the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session, I’m hopeful that I will have more good news on my other bills–curbing the spread of invasive species, and instituting a regulatory program for bio-diesel. The former unanimously passed the House and is now in the Senate, and the latter made it out of committee and is on the floor in both chambers.

I look forward to continuing to hear from you as the session winds down.

Best,
Shane

Annapolis Update 3/18/11

Jacob Robinson giving testimony before the Environmental Matters Committee

The latest from Annapolis:

I’m happy to report that my bill designed to curb the spread of invasive plant species was voted out of committee. As I mentioned last week, House Bill 831 is a particularly exciting piece of legislation for me, because it was initially conceived of by 8-year-old Jacob Robinson. I’m hopeful the House will pass this bill sometime next week, and then the Senate will follow suit.

Also in committee, we voted to adopt a favorable report on the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act. I’m a strong supporter of this bill, requiring further study of the hydraulic fracturing process of natural gas extraction. Other states have had serious issues as a result of gas companies using this process. The New York Times published an informative piece on the issue that you can find here.

Over in the Senate, the DREAM Act— a bill extending in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants, was passed by a vote of 27-20. I support this important piece of legislation, and hope to see it passed in the House.

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

Best,
Shane

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 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 2/11/11

Aileen and Delegate Robinson during Developmental Disabilities Day

With the legislative session now a month old and bill hearings in full swing I want to update you on what I’m working on:

  • Earlier this week in Environmental Matters, we held a hearing on hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”). If we decide to move forward with granting permits for this process of natural gas extraction, I’m extremely concerned with the potential for contaminating our water supply. I’m a strong supporter of a bill to require a comprehensive study of all the factors involved in hydraulic fracturing that could potentially harm our drinking water, pollute the Chesapeake Bay, and endanger the health of Marylanders as result. Before we consider granting permits to gas companies to drill on Maryland soil we must make sure there are safeguards in place to protect the environment and public health.
  • Today, the Montgomery County delegation met with Senator Ben Cardin, who spoke about continuing our commitment to move Maryland forward as a leader in implementing health care reform. Let’s continue to focus on solutions, rather than implementing obstacles to progress.
Again, please continue to contact me with any ideas, questions, comments or concerns you may have; my door is always open, my phone always on, and my inbox just a click away: shane.robinson@house.state.md.us. 

Best,
Shane

P.S.- Be sure to “like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and check out the Montgomery County delegation homepage.

Annapolis Update 2/4/11

Dear Friends,

Here is this week’s legislative update:

  • Delegate Brian Feldman is introducing a bill– the Maryland Electricity Service Quality and Reliability Act– that would require the Public Service Commission to adopt reliability standards relating to the delivery of electricity, enforce penalties when the standards are not met, and credit customers as a result. I’m a proud co-sponsor, and am eager to hear PEPCO representatives answer for their failures during the public hearing this Tuesday, February 8th, here in Annapolis.
  • Today, I introduced a bill that would discourage the disposal of printer cartridges and closed electronic devices in landfills. When disposed of improperly, these devices severly pollute the environment. If we are to improve the health of this region’s economic stalwart–the Chesapeake Bay–we must get serious about targeting the most egregious pollutants.

Further, over the past few weeks I’ve been encouraged by the amount of constituent correspondence I’ve received. Hearing from you is the best part of this job, and I urge you to contact me with any ideas, questions, comments or concerns you may have. Again, my door is always open, my phone always on, and my inbox just a click away: shane.robinson@house.state.md.us.

Best,
Shane

P.S.- Be sure to “like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and check out the Montgomery County delegation website.