Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bill Frick's End of Session Letter

Following is the end of session letter from Delegate Bill Frick (D-16).

Dear Friends,

With the stroke of midnight on Tuesday morning, the House of Delegates concluded its 2009 session. While Governor O'Malley sifts through the bills for final decisions, I wanted to provide you with this brief update on how the legislature handled some of the key questions before us this session.

Many observers think that the 2009 session was the most challenging session in decades. Certainly, we had to confront bleak revenue forecasts and to resolve contentious social issues. In my view, however, the General Assembly can be particularly proud of this year's session, because we succeeded in addressing the serious challenges facing the state. When necessary, we were able to reach compromises without compromising our values.

A Balanced, Responsible Budget

As the economy has deteriorated, Maryland policymakers have had to confront a paradox: our resources have declined, but the needs of our citizens have increased. The Governor and General Assembly managed to carefully navigate this challenging environment using a balance of cuts, transfers, and – of course – a little help from the federal government.

The final budget:

* enacted $825 million in spending cuts;
* did not increase taxes, fees, or tuition;
* did not require layoffs of state employees; and
* employed federal stimulus funds to address critical needs, including healthcare and education.

The more austere budget reflected the our citizens' spending priorities. Maryland will invest $260 million into school construction, and has increased aid to community colleges. We fully funded the Geographic Cost of Education Index ("GCEI"), which will provide critical funds for Montgomery County Public Schools. The House and Senate even restored $3 million of funding that was proposed to be cut from the State Arts Council.

Perhaps most important, we defeated attempts to shift liability for teacher retirement costs from the state to the county. That would have devastated the Montgomery County budget. Defeating a cost shift in retirement was County Executive Leggett's top priority this session, and our success will avoid severe cuts to social services in Montgomery.

Cool Heads Prevail on Hot Button Social Issues

In addition to resolving a difficult budget puzzle, the General Assembly addressed some contentious social issues, and largely found common-sense, progressive solutions. We passed two bills to protect women, by taking guns out of the hands of respondents in domestic violence restraining order cases. We created new rules and restrictions to protect civil liberties, responding to evidence that Maryland law enforcement engaged in undercover spying on activist groups. We paved the way for early voting in future elections, and found money for optical scan voting machines that will ensure the integrity of the elections process.

As you probably have read, the State Senate voted not to repeal the death penalty. As a proponent of repeal, I was disappointed by that outcome, particularly after a state study commission recommended repeal. The evidentiary rules that the General Assembly voted to impose on capital cases are nevertheless a step in the right direction, and will substantially reduce the possibility of executing an innocent person.

Progress on the Environment

The 2009 session saw significant progress on environmental and global warming issues. The General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020. We enacted Governor O'Malley's Smart, Green and Growing legislation to limit sprawl and create green jobs, and strengthened Bay cleanup efforts by requiring septic systems in the critical area to include new nitrogen removal systems.

Success for District 16

The District 16 delegation was particularly busy and particularly successful this year. Senator Brian Frosh, Delegate Bill Bronrott, Delegate Susan Lee and I succeeded in obtaining state support for Imagination Stage in Bethesda. Just as important, we obtained state matching funds for Bethesda's National Center for Children and Families, which is investing in facility upgrades that will benefit their needy residents and the entire neighborhood.

I was particularly proud that an issue I have championed, protecting consumers from arbitrary rate increases by credit card companies, won overwhelming approval from the House of Delegates and earned attention in the Washington Post and other media outlets. The State Senate failed to pass the legislation this year, but we have sent a message that abuse of Maryland consumers will not be tolerated. I was encouraged to learn that President Obama intends to take action on abusive credit card practices, perhaps as early as this week.

Thank you for the honor and privilege to represent you. I hope you will stay in touch during the interim and as we prepare for next year's session.

Sincere regards,
Delegate Bill Frick

(301) 858-3454 office
(301) 858-3457 fax

Come visit me in Annapolis

Office of Delegate Bill Frick
Room 217
House Office Building
6 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401