January 2, 2013




On Wednesday, January 8, the 434th session of the Maryland General Assembly will convene.  This will be the fourth session of the current term and the last session before the June 24, 2014 primary election.  Traditionally, pre-election sessions are less fractious than other sessions.  There are usually fewer hot-button legislative issues.  However, the upcoming session might break that tradition.  Among the debated issues will be:

THE BUDGET - Because of lower than predicted revenue returns and unexpected expenses, the $300 million surplus predicted when the last budget was approved has disappeared.  Instead we are facing a $400 million budget deficit.  In addition, the Governor is pushing to increase state borrowing capacity by $375 million to pay for the State Highway Administration’s massive upgrading of outmoded stormwater management systems and thousands of miles of impervious road surfaces.  This will add to the debt service, already the fastest growing budget item.

MARIJUANA LAWS - Legislation will be introduced to decriminalize marijuana.  Supporters want to follow the example of Colorado and Washington, the two states that have already done so.  Opponents are either flat out against it or want to wait to see how legalization works out in those two states.  A proposal will be debated to allow those over 21 years of age to expunge their records of marijuana possession acquired as minors.

MINIMUM WAGE - Increasing the state’s current $7.25 minimum wage.  One proposal would set the minimum wage at $8.25 an hour and include a constitutional amendment to tie the minimum wage to inflation.  Some local governments have the authority to raise the rate higher than the state minimum. Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties have already raised their minimum wage to $11.50 over a three year period.

EDUCATION - COMMON CORE - Legislation to repeal Common Core will be debated.  Common Core is a different way to teach K-12 current curriculum to enable students to think analytically in order to solve problems and express themselves in writing.  Nearly two decades of teaching to the test has produced a generation of “parrots”, who need only to give the right answer to questions without knowing necessarily how they arrived at those answers.  While Common Core standards have been spearheaded by the bipartisan Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, it is not without controversy.  Maryland is among the 45 states and D.C. that have adopted Common Core standards.  The Program for International Student Assessment found that among 65 of the world’s wealthiest countries, the U.S. students placed 30th in math, 23rd in science and 20th in reading.  Those scores leave little doubt that students in other countries are outpacing U.S. students in reading, science and math.  We cannot ignore that fact.

RAIN TAX - I am in full support of repealing or completely revising the “Rain Tax” which is costing small businesses in Baltimore County thousands of dollars.  I did not support the rain tax when it passed two years ago, and I certainly don’t support it now that we see the huge bills that could very easily destroy a small business in our County.  I don’t think even the most staunch supporters of this tax realized the negative impact it would have on Maryland businesses in the State’s 10 largest jurisdictions.  Even County Executive Kamenetz, who initially asked the Baltimore County Delegation to fully support the legislation, is now back-peddling since the County adopted a hefty portion of the tax last Spring.  Other jurisdictions decided not to impose the tax (Carroll County), or imposed a tax of $.01 (Frederick County).

It has been an honor serving you in the Maryland House of Delegates for the past eleven years.  As we begin my twelfth session in the Maryland General Assembly, I continue to ask for your input, ideas and criticism.  Without hearing from my constituents, I cannot accurately represent you.  So please keep calling, e-mailing, and passing along my periodic updates to anyone who has an interest in making Maryland a better place to live.  Happy New Year and God Bless!