From Del. Mary-Dulany James:
I hope this email finds you all well. There are some exciting developments happening down in Annapolis, and I’d like to share some of them with you now.
New Coalition: Tired of feeling like you don’t have a home on either the right or the left? Or that thoughtful voices can’t be heard over the partisan rancor at the extremes? There are a considerable number of lawmakers who agree, and are dedicated to effectively managing the fiscal matters of the state and growing the economy regardless of partisan politics. Banding together, we have established what we are calling the ‘Blue Dog Coalition’. The Blue Dogs, as we call ourselves, are lawmakers who are fundamentally dedicated to the financial stability of the State of Maryland and to non-governmental economic growth.
We believe that in many instances, the government inadvertently stands in the way of economic progress and that, like its citizens, the government must live within its allotted resources. You can read our mission statement here
We also believe, for example, that red tape should be minimized in order for our citizens and small businesses to interact with the state. We all know that in order to facilitate a flourishing economy, we need to free entrepreneurs from onerous regulations.
Some of our positions are already getting attention. The Governor’s State of the State Address last week made note of a report outlining ways to reduce, reform, or eliminate state regulations. Slashing burdensome red tape was an issue that Blue Dogs in the state pushed for last year, and we are pleased that the state is moving in that direction.
Blue Dog Agenda: Below is a list of issues that the Blue Dogs believe can have a potentially harmful or beneficial impact on private sector economic growth:
Public Private Partnerships (P3)
I am going to briefly share some information about three of these issues in this update; stay tuned for information about the others in the coming weeks.
Septic Systems: The divine beauty of the Chesapeake is a state treasure. The upkeep of the bay is therefore an issue of spectacular importance. The state already has in place many protections for the bay, but with 4-6% of Maryland’s pollution in the Bay coming from septic runoff, one would think that a bill which was introduced last year tackling this issue would be well received, right?
Wrong. The effect of that bill would have prohibited all developments relying on septics in parts of each county regardless of whether they had a harmful effect on either the bay or water quality.. This bill was unacceptable on many levels, doing considerable harm to businesses and the many people they employ. It did not allow for the kind of flexibility that can only come from the local level. Instead, it unnecessarily created another level of bureaucracy at the state level. Additionally, the EPA required counties to develop and implement Water Implementation Plans (WIPs) which would require local governments to reduce nitrogen runoff, including nitrogen from septic systems.
After going back to the drawing board, a new proposal has hit the floor in the form of SB 236, which is better designed to work within existing local planning programs.
While there is some state government oversight, the bill encourages local governments to more accurately assess impacts and costs of septic system development. Some of the main aspects of the bill are:
– Each county will designate portions of their land into 1 of 4 tiers, which are created to help guide the plans for central sewer and septic systems. For tier 1 and 2 lands (generally urban and suburban lands), this bill will have little to no effect. For tier 3 land, major and minor subdivisions will need approval. For tier 4 land, minor subdivisions will need approval, and major subdivisions are prohibited.
– There is also a grandfather clause in the bill, so any plans that have already been approved will not be affected by this legislation. Only the plans approved after the fact will be required to comply with the provisions in the bill.
There are some definite improvements to be made to this proposal before it becomes law. Among the problems is the apparent disconnect between the intent of the bill and the practice- if the goal of the legislation is to combat current nitrogen run-offs into the bay, then why aren’t current septic systems addressed? Also, concerns exist on whether the tier scheme created by this bill is truly the most efficient and fair way to achieve the ultimate goal of reducing the nitrogen load in the Chesapeake Bay. The Blue Dogs are working with local leaders of businesses to improve the legislation.
Transportation Funding: Roaring to life like a supped-up Ferrari, an increase in the gas tax has gained much attention as a possible way to fill our funding gap and bring some much needed money back into transportation infrastructure projects and maintenance. According to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation , a gap exists between the amount of money we need to fund necessary transportation projects and the amount we currently have. An increase in the gas tax is just one of the recommendations of that Commission. The Blue Dogs, however, are not in favor of this proposal, and believe our efforts will be part of the reason a gas tax does not happen this year.
Maryland is a unique state in that, like the single-payer system in the health care field, the state is responsible for financing all transportation costs from a single fund. Because of this, many of my constituents in rural areas feel uneasy about paying for metropolitan mass-transit projects.
Perhaps, the answer to the problem lies in a more creative funding approach, where those who receive the benefits of the transportation trust fund the most are paying their fair share for those services.
I’m currently working on a proposal supported by the Blue Dogs which would study the effectiveness of a regional transit financing authority, and whether it would ultimately benefit Maryland as a whole.
Public-Private Partnerships (P3): I am cosponsoring a bill that is the product of a report that the General Assembly commissioned last year to reduce the costs to the state of major capital projects, while still promoting economic development by having these projects go forward creating jobs and the positive ripple effect into the economy. The report studying Public-Private Partnerships in Maryland can be found here.
P3’s can be tremendously beneficial to the state, potentially creating thousands of new jobs. Also, it’s important to note that P3 does not privatize government en masse- it merely leverages resources that would not exist otherwise. With that said, though, seeking private-sector solutions to public agency problems are a great way to keep the state economically viable in the 21st century.
As always, I am here to serve you, my constituents. If you have any questions on these or any other topics, please let me know. I am blessed to be given the opportunity to represent you in Annapolis. If you have any concerns about what happens at the state capitol, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Very Truly Yours,