February 2020, Week One

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Hello again, everyone. Last week was a busy one so let’s get right down to it. On February 5, Governor Larry Hogan delivered his State of the State address. While things might be heated and fractured in D.C., in Annapolis the legislature is working hard in conjunction with the Governor in order to move our state forward. Key areas where we see eye to eye include school construction funding, taking on the violence problem in Baltimore City, and making sure neighboring states are carrying their portion of the load when it comes to improving the Chesapeake Bay and the entire watershed. On school construction, we’re moving towards a multi-billion dollar endeavour which would see capital improvements made throughout the state, which is an absolute necessity. Gov. Hogan stressed a need to come together to curb the deadly violence in Baltimore City, which is something we can all agree on. He wants to see harsher punishment in certain situations, which would help keep violent offenders off the street, as well as more funding for witness protection. He also highlighted the need for the EPA and Pennsylvania to hold up their ends of the deal on Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Considering the incredible work we have done on Bay restoration, we can’t allow our efforts to be bludgeoned by a neighboring state and inaction from the EPA. I also support Governor Hogan in wanting to tighten up our ethics laws in government. These last few years have produced some terrible stories of lawmakers behaving unethically and corruptly. Public trust us of the utmost importance, and we need to tighten things up. While I agree on those issues, there are a few areas where we are in disagreement. First and foremost is on Kirwan funding. The needs of our children must come first, and the best way to support our children is via the implementation of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations in full. Governor Hogan’s proposal, while less costly, does not go far enough. My colleague in the Senate, Bill Ferguson, was right to point out to reporters that accountability measures only do so much, and issues like the economic need to be addressed.

Overall, we’re fortunate to have a legislative and executive branch that are able to work together. There will always be ideological and political differences, but the manner in which we approach and handle those differences of opinion is what separates functional and dysfunctional government. And anyone who watched or listened can tell we are currently in a very good place.

MY BILLS

With three pieces of legislation submitted last week, the grand total of bills where I am primary sponsor doubled from three to six, and I am proud to say that two of these new pieces of legislation have been cross-filed in the Senate. First is HB1229, which essentially clarifies how an authorizing agent can be assigned for disposal of remains. Essentially, it’s much like how an executive of an estate handles the execution of a will, but instead for how remains are to be handled. This bill also clarifies the order of priority of persons that have the right to serve as the authorizing agent for a decedent, as well as ensure that an authorizing agent is bound by certain documents, like DoD emergency forms where a designation has already been made. This bill was cross-filed by Senator Chris West. HB1484 was also introduced last week, and was cross-filed in the Senate by my District 8 colleague, Senator Kathy Klausmeier. Essentially this legislation would make it so funds collected by the State Board of Environmental Health Specialists go back into the General Fund. Finally, HB1564 codifies certain steps a peace officer needs to take during an emergency evaluation. First, a peace officer must give advance notice to a facility that they are arriving. Second, it changes language that allows for any medical professional — as opposed to just physicians as is currently the case — to request a peace officer stay if the situation demands it. And finally, if such an instance arose, it would push the person in need of evaluation to a priority position.

BALTIMORE COUNTY DELEGATION

Finally, we were visited last Friday by Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis, President of the Community College of Baltimore County. It’s always a pleasure to hear from Dr. Kurtinitis, and I can’t imagine a more passionate or talented leader for our community college system. Her ingenuity, understanding of the need for public and private partnerships, and her drive have been invaluable in building such a tip-tier system. Dr. Kurtinitis updates the House Delegation on a number of things. First, the College Promise program has been wildly beneficial to those looking to continue their education after high school. The average GPA of those who received College Promise scholarships was 3.16 last year. Dr. Kurtinitis told us she would like to expand the program to those who have been out of school for two years, which can only be beneficial. She also talked about a partnership with Tradepoint Atlantic, which would see CCBC students have the opportunity to receive training, on-site, in logistics, distribution, truck driver training, and more. Considering the success CCBC has had in keeping their students in the local workforce once their schooling bus finished, this potential pipeline could be a boon for the east side. Dr. Kurtinitis did point out that, per a funding formula that has been in place since about 1995, funding in the budget proposed by Gov. Hogan falls short by a few million. Considering the success of CCBC and the strong stewardship demonstrated over the years by Dr. Kurtinitis, I think we should work to secure that funding for the system and will do what I can to help.

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