Following is the letter from District 39's Senator.
April 18, 2009
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2009 Legislative Session has come to a close and I would like to share with you news about the issues and initiatives in which I have been involved. I would also like to thank you for contacting my office with your thoughts and concerns about the budget and bills that were introduced. I am pleased that over one thousand residents of District 39 contacted me, as it is your thoughts on legislative issues that guide my decisions.
As a member of the Budget & Taxation Committee, this 2009 Session presented us with very difficult decisions as we worked through the process of passing a balanced budget in this economic downturn. The process was further challenged this year as revenue estimates continued to tumble during the 90 days we were in session. It was my position throughout that we not raise any taxes which would place a further burden on our citizens who were already feeling the pinch of a global economic crisis. We were successful in accomplishing that goal. And while we cut over $850 million from the budget, we were able to protect core priorities like K-12 education.
Real ID and Driver's Licenses
The House of Delegates voted out a bill which would allow those without documentation of legal presence to be able to renew their license but that license could not be used for identification purposes to board a plane or enter a federal building. The Senate amended that bill and passed a version which would end the issuance of licenses to undocumented immigrants and removed the proposed "two-tiered" system of licensure. Members of the Senate and House met to work out a compromise bill. I voted in favor of that compromise which does the following: prohibits the issuance of a driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants after June 1, 2009; allows a window for undocumented immigrants who hold current licenses to prove legal presence; voids all licenses issued to undocumented immigrants by July 1, 2015. While I preferred the bill that was originally amended and passed by the Senate, I feel the worst alternative would have been no bill at all.
The experience of speed cameras in Montgomery County has been varied. Since there are areas in our community where the cameras have caused traffic problems and have not increased safety, I voted against the speed cameras bill. The Senate reconsidered the issue and limited speed cameras to work zones and school zones. Based on assurances that the county would re-visit those cameras which are not in work and school zones, I agreed to vote for the bill.
The Death Penalty
I have been contacted by District 39 residents on this issue more than any other this session and the overwhelming majority are in favor of repeal. I have struggled with this difficult issue for many years; but after hearing enough evidence of the chance of executing an innocent person, I supported the repeal efforts this year. While a full repeal did not pass in the Senate, we did require more stringent evidentiary standards which will make the imposition of the death penalty more difficult and this version of the bill did pass. While disappointing to those in favor of repeal, these limitations are a step forward.
I have heard from so many people about the increases in their energy bills and I have experienced the same at my home. The Senate passed a bill which would re-instate energy regulation in the state, but I voted against it and here is why: first, I felt the bill was hastily drafted and came to us late in the session. There were many questions about the bill that could not be answered and many concerns about what re-regulation would do to emerging energy production sources like solar, geothermal and wind power. Even the proponents of the bill were quick to point out that this would not save consumers any money in the short term and in fact the bill required the imposition of new fees to all state consumers. The House of Delegates voted unfavorably on this bill so it did not pass this session. Re-regulation may be the best way for the state to proceed, but I think an issue as important and complex as this one should be studied over the interim for the best possible outcome for Maryland's citizens.
Bills that I sponsored in this 2009 Session which have been passed by the Legislature and are headed to Governor O'Malley for his signature:
SB550 - Child Online Safety Act of 2009 will require Internet access providers to make available to their subscribers a product or service which enables the subscriber to restrict, monitor or completely block their child's use of the Internet. The United States courts have continued to uphold the right to free speech on the Internet but have been vocal in their support of tools such as filtering and blocking technologies. Senate Bill 550 will empower parents to allow their children to benefit from all the Internet has to offer while protecting them from those sites that may cause them harm.
SB800 - Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit Program - In 2005, the Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit Program was established to encourage investment in the growing biotechnology industry. Senate Bill 800 simply clarifies two aspects of the program by defining language and timeframes for credits. The biotech industry is critical to the economic growth of the state and the I-270 corridor in particular. These clarifications will allow the Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit program to move forward and help build an industry which has the capacity for significant job growth in Maryland.
SB 413 - Committee on Children, Youth, and Families - Repeal of Sunset - In 1999, the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Families was created to focus on issues related to the education, health, safety and economic well-being of children in Maryland. This Committee, of which I am the current Chair, continues to provide a forum for collaboration and coordination among all agencies and groups concerned with child welfare. In these times of economic crisis, it is as important as ever for state agencies, legislators and children's advocates to have a forum to explore new and cost effective ways to meet the needs of our children. The authorization for the Committee is set to expire on June 20, 2009; this bill will remove the sunset clause and allow the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Families to continue its work.
SB234 - Education - Maryland's Preschool for All Business Plan - Final Report Requirements - Studies clearly show several educational benefits for children who attend high-quality preschool programs including greater academic achievement, lower rates of grade retention and higher rates of high school graduation. A 2007 Task Force on Universal Preschool Education report to the Governor recommended a program called Preschool for All. The Task Force charged Maryland State Department of Education to develop a business plan, including cost estimates for expanding the program. Senate Bill 234 requires MSDE to finalize that report with input from county school superintendents and local governing bodies. The report would include, among other things, a cost projection for the staged implementation of the finalized business plan, allowing us to look at the feasibility of implementing such a plan in Maryland.
SB305 - Mortality and Quality Review Committee - Sunset Extension and Membership - In 2006, legislation was enacted which required that incidents of injury or fatality that occur in a facility or program licensed or operated by the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) must be reported to the Mortality and Quality Review Committee. This committee takes that information and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Secretary of Disabilities to prevent future avoidable injuries and deaths and improve quality care. The requirement to report certain data to that committee is set to expire in 2009. The new legislation will extend the reporting requirements for three more years and provide a continued commitment to the safety of a very vulnerable segment of our citizens.
SB621 - Sales and Use and Property Tax - Exemptions - Solar Energy Equipment and Property - During the 2008 Session, the Legislature passed a bill that exempted the purchase of specified solar energy and geothermal equipment from sales and use tax and exempted specific solar energy equipment from property tax. The Maryland Energy Administration determined that the language in that legislation could impose an unintended limitation. Electricity generated by a solar panel, along with use in a structure, can also be used to send electricity back to the power grid through net-metering. Senate Bill 621 makes a technical change to the current legislation which will accomplish the original intent of the legislation by including in the exemption equipment which supplies energy to the grid. The legislation passed last year with bipartisan support will encourage the use of renewable energy sources and help to create "green collar" jobs. The technical changes in Senate Bill 621 will allow Maryland to continue moving forward with its commitment to renewable energy.
Along with passing state-wide legislation, I was successful in securing funding for three important District 39 projects. The first provides $40,000 for the addition and upgrading of lighting in the Northgate Homes Corp. Upgrading and adding equipment will improve the lighting levels in the community to ensure the residents' nighttime safety, security and productivity, and provide for safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians. The second provides $80,000 for repairs which will bring areas of the Lake Whetstone facility up to current code as well as extending the building and adding new windows. Lighting will be added for improved safety. The Lake Whetstone Facilities are enjoyed year round by the residents of Montgomery Village. These improvements will allow the residents to safely enjoy the facility for years to come. The final bond bill will provide $30,000 to upgrade group homes dedicated to adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Funding will provide for the necessary repairs in these homes and allow their tenants to continue living independent lives.
Bills I sponsored that did not get passed this session:
SB354 - Correctional Services - Crimes of Violence - Diminution Credits - Under current law, offenders convicted of crimes of violence (as defined in Title 14-101(a)), are eligible for parole upon completion of 50% of their sentence. If the parole board refuses parole for the offender, then the offender may use diminution (good behavior) credits to reduce their sentence. Senate Bill 354 would require those offenders convicted of crimes of violence, who have been denied parole, to continue to serve at least 85% of their sentence, no matter how many diminution credits they have earned. Unfortunately, this bill, which was heard in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, did not come out for a vote. I believe very strongly in the importance of this legislation and will work over the interim with public safety officials, Maryland prison system officials and the Judicial Proceedings Committee members to see how we can move this legislation forward.
SB799 - Health Care Facilities - Certificates of Need - Hospitals - Under current law, the Maryland Health Care Commission may only consider one application at a time for a new health care facility. Montgomery County has found itself in a unique position where two health care providers are looking to build new facilities in the upcounty. The legislation I proposed would have allowed the Health Care Commission to review the two applications simultaneously thus ensuring a more efficient process with the best outcome for the county. While the legislation did not pass, it did bring this issue to light and we have received assurances from the health care commission that they will do their best to review both applications before making any decisions. Go to the following link to read an op-ed which I wrote with Delegate Barkley on this issue: http://www.gazette.net/stories/02182009/montcol174835_32471.shtml
During the interim
I can be reached during the interim at my Annapolis office number - 301-858-3686 as well as by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I am honored to serve you here in Annapolis and I look forward to hearing from you on any issues or concerns you may have.
Senator Nancy J. King
Paid for by Friends of Nancy King; Joli McCathran, Treasurer
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Following is the letter from District 39's Senator.