Tuesday, April 19, 2011

District 18 End of Session Letter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Monday night marked the end of the 428th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly. As always, it is an honor and privilege to represent you in the State House. Your District 18 Team—Senator Rich Madaleno and Delegates Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, and Jeff Waldstreicher—has continued working together this year to advocate for the issues, programs, and services that best meet the needs of District 18 and Montgomery County. We appreciate the thousands of emails, postcards, letters, phone calls, and office visits we received throughout the 90-day session.

Balancing the Budget and Ensuring Fiscal Responsibility
This session, we were able to move our state forward despite the challenging budget climate. We passed a balanced budget that reduces the size of government while retaining essential services. To do so, we made difficult decisions about where to cut, but protected the most vulnerable members of our society: seniors, children, working families, and disabled Marylanders.

Our budget maintains our commitment to public schools and protects our investment in higher education. Two of us—Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez—serve on budget committees. We also ensured that the budget sustains affordable healthcare for low-income Marylanders. We took important steps toward making our teacher and state employee retirement system solvent for future generations. We fought to help small businesses create jobs, and for a modest increase in the alcohol tax that will provide badly-needed resources to help people with developmental disabilities. Finally, we invested in our future by passing landmark legislation providing all Maryland high school graduates with in-state tuition at our institutions of higher education.

Protecting our Environment and Preserving our Quality of Life
Your District 18 Team once again championed legislation to protect the environment and improve our quality of life. We successfully passed the Maryland Electricity Service Quality and Reliability Act, which will set strict standards for utilities and give regulators the ability to hold Pepco financially accountable for their abysmal performance. Del. Al Carr led the fight in the House of Delegates to strengthen this legislation by working to include more specific requirements for monitoring and inspecting Pepco’s aging infrastructure.

The General Assembly also passed several bills to protect our environment and promote clean energy. We made progress by banning harmful chemicals in baby products and worked to decrease the use of toxic pesticides in farming. We increased penalties for poaching in the Chesapeake Bay and maintained our critical investment in the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund. Finally, we paved the way for a dramatic increase in wind energy, which will likely pass legislatively next year.

Fighting for Victims and Protecting our Community
We also continued our efforts to protect victims and keep our communities safe. Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, led the effort to end bullying in our schools and provide restitution for victims of human trafficking. The General Assembly also passed important new laws protecting animals, including one that bans convicted animal abusers from owning pets. The entire District 18 Team also proudly voted for marriage equality, and to protect victims of discrimination based on gender identity. Unfortunately, both bills failed to pass the General Assembly this session.

Investing in Local Priorities
The District 18 Team also obtained capital bond funding to directly benefit our neighborhoods. We secured $200,000 for design and renovation at the MacDonald Knolls Center, which supports people with disabilities. We also secured $100,000 for Warner Manor in Kensington and $50,000 for the historic Noyes Children’s Library. This year, the Montgomery County Delegation was able to secure more than $30 million in state funds for school construction.

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Over the next few weeks, we will continue preparing individual responses to many of the letters and emails we received during the session. In addition, the General Assembly’s website (http://mlis.state.md.us) contains a great deal of information about our work, including the soon-to-be-released 90 Day Report. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email us at District18Team@gmail.com or at our individual email addresses below. Thank you again for your comments and support this year. We are grateful to serve as your District 18 representatives in Annapolis.

Senator Rich Madaleno
Delegate Al Carr
Delegate Ana Sol Gutiérrez
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher