Wednesday, May 05, 2010

District 16’s Town Hall, Part One: The Long Goodbye

By Marc Korman.

On April 26th I attended the District 16 town hall. With Delegate Bronrott’s resignation effective at midnight on the 26th, it was his last official act as a legislator and a chance for him and his colleagues to update their constituents on the legislative session.

Delegate Bill Bronrott

Delegate Bronrott spoke last, but in tribute to his service I am moving him to the front. Everyone who spoke mentioned Bronrott’s 12 years of service, with Delegate Frick even tearing up a bit. In his own comments, Bronrott took a moment to discuss each of the District 16 legislators he worked with over his tenure including the current crew and former Delegates Goldwater and Kopp.

Bronrott compared the House of Delegates to any family’s house. You love it and the people inside, but you do not always love everything they do. He then spoke about the changes over 12 years in the state. He discussed the improvements in K-12 Education, emergency medical services, the University of Maryland, improved environmental standards, the increased interest in pedestrian safety, and the decline in drunk driving from 50% of all traffic deaths being alcohol related to 33%. That work is not done of course and in response to a question, Bronrott promoted interlock devices and an alcohol tax increase, two efforts that did not pass during the session, as further solutions.

The first questioner of the night was Simon Atlas, my fellow central committeemember from District 16. He told everyone in the audience the procedure for filling the vacant delegate seat at our May 11th meeting. Simon confirmed that a caretaker was going to be appointed who would not run in the fall election.

Bill Bronrott helped immerse me in District 16 politics, including inviting me to my first meeting of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club and giving me a list of people to approach for Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Spring Ball donations. He was a tireless advocate for his issues and a solid progressive vote who will be missed by his constituents.

Delegate Susan Lee

Delegate Lee framed her comments in terms of the budget. She said it was a tough session with painful cuts including furloughs and cutting positions. But there were real results including: a budget that is smaller than last year, though that is partly due to a decline in federal funds; the state has maintained its AAA bond rating; the rainy day fund has $633 million in it, which is 5% of general fund revenues and important in keeping the AAA bond rating; and there is a fund balance of $195.5 million, which means if spending and revenues exactly match projections $195.5 million will remain in the state’s coffers at the end of the year. Of course, when was the last time the projections exactly matched the reality?

Lee talked about some of her own legislative initiatives. Her signature issue has been identity theft and in 2010 she continued that pursuit. She successfully shepherded through two bills on the topic. HB 785 requires uniform reporting of identity theft cases so the state and local law enforcement can share information with each other and share it with the Federal Trade Commission. HB 779 requires specialized police training for identity theft.

Next time we will take a look at the other District 16 legislators’ comments.