Thank you again for your help, advice, and support during the 2003 legislative session. While headlines focused almost exclusively on the budget challenge, many other important things happened. I'll try to summarize these briefly; if you'd like further information or details on any topic, please let me know. You can also get information from my web site and the Maryland General Assembly site.
Maryland, like almost every other state, faced a marked downturn in revenues due to the slumping economy and an upsurge in social needs. At the same time, we all desire quality schools, a sound health care system, public safety, a growing economy, and a better environment. Since the state constitution mandates that a balanced budget be passed (unlike the Federal government, the State cannot deficit spend), a difficult and emotional debate ensued, and the legislature was faced with a difficult assignment. Regardless of whether or not slots are included in the equation, it is clear there will be unpleasant cuts to services and tax hikes.
For my part, I believe there are areas within government where spending can be more efficient and strategic. (Please see the attached editorial as one example of this in health care, and my web page for other examples.) In my new position as Chair of the Government Operations subcommittee of the newly constituted Health and Government Operations Committee, I have the opportunity to do just that. This committee oversees procurement/purchasing, minority business enterprise, and other related issues. Because the state spends over $5 billion each year, this area becomes increasingly important. As Chair, I am making sure that each tax dollar is spent wisely. I was the House floor leader for much of the successful legislation in this area, notably the bills that improve 911 emergency phone service, help small businesses and minority contractors seek resolution for disputes, facilitate the way contractors and building trade workers get paid, and review the state's procurement process to find efficiencies.
As someone who was an early critic of the proposed CareFirst conversion from nonprofit to for-profit status, I was heartened by the Insurance Commissioner's report forbidding the change. It is vital that this company continue in its nonprofit mission to take care of Marylanders. I cosponsored legislation to keep CareFirst true to this goal while maintaining it as a strong and viable company and a large employer in the region.
This year I was also appointed to the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) Committee. This important committee oversees the regulatory process, ensuring that State agencies follow the direction of the Governor and the legislature.
Other significant legislation that I introduced this year included: House Bill (HB) 702 which keeps marijuana illegal but permits limited use for patients suffering from cancer and other serious diseases; HB 343 protects health care workers and first responders from infectious disease, especially AIDS; HB 172 promotes "green" building design, which saves money and protects human health and the environment; HB 911 promotes recycling of computers, an increasingly needed service; HB 231 would help people use living wills; HB 232 would reform Medicaid by emphasizing prevention; HB 174 helps limit noise pollution; and HB 230, supported by dentists and hygienists, makes delivery of dental care easier. I sponsored bond bills for Sheppard-Pratt Hospital, the Irvine Nature Center, and the Odyssey School, all important parts of life in Baltimore County.
I also worked on local and regional issues with my colleagues Senator Paula Hollinger, Delegates Jon Cardin and Bob Zirkin; County Executive Jim Smith, Councilmen Ken Oliver, Kevin Kamenetz, Sam Moxley and T. Bryan McIntire and; Congressmen Elijah Cummings, Ben Cardin, and Dutch Ruppersberger. The Beltway interchange at Reisterstown Road was completed, and the new Garrison Police Station construction is well underway. I continue to press for a middle school in Owings Mills, as well as to ensure adequate community input into new school boundaries and the proposed development of the Owings Mills Metro Station property.
This year marked the beginning of my third term representing you and I am grateful for the trust you have placed in me. When the legislature adjourns, I will return to my regular job as an emergency physician. I am fortunate to have direct experience with patients from every part of our community, with my fellow health care workers - doctors, nurses, pharmacists, PA's, technicians, paramedics, and others - and with the larger health care system. I look forward to working with you during the interim as we lead up to the 2004 session. Please stay in touch on any issue!
Dan K. Morhaim, M.D.
Delegate, District 11