From State Sen. Bob Cassilly:
2016 Legislative Session in Review: An end of session letter from Senator Bob Cassilly
Dear Harford County Neighbor,
The 2016, ninety day legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly concluded on April 11th. Once again it has been my privilege to serve the citizens of Harford County as your Senator for Legislative District 34. I very much appreciate the considerable citizen input that I received throughout the session and I am very pleased to report that although the session was filled with many challenges, the citizens of Harford County and Maryland were well served by the Harford County Delegation to the General Assembly.
I was elected to the Senate in the same election that made Larry Hogan our second Republican governor in the past 40 years. I work hard to support Governor Hogan’s goals of creating good jobs and empowering people by cutting taxes, controlling spending, and unleashing the awesome productive power of the private sector. I also work hard to protect our public safety by serving our police and prosecutors as their advocate in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. And I work closely with our County, municipal, and community leaders to advocate for the communities of the 34th Legislative District as they work to improve our schools, transportation, public services, and the environment.
In this end of session letter, I would like to provide you with some details on how I have been working for you to generate economic opportunity, protect public safety, and advocate for Harford County.
Thank you for corresponding with me throughout the legislative session, and I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me.
With my best wishes,
Senator Bob Cassilly
Promoting a Healthy Economy
A balanced budget and tax relief are critical components of the Governor’s plan to bring jobs back to Maryland by making us more competitive with neighboring states in attracting new businesses, improving existing businesses, and keeping hard working and retired taxpayers from moving out of Maryland.
For the second year in a row, the Senate passed Governor Hogan’s balanced budget. The 2017 operating budget, as amended by the legislature, is an important step in the direction of sound fiscal management. Governor Hogan inherited from the previous administration a structural deficit of $5.1 billion, which though his sound fiscal management has been reduced to $283 million, a 94% reduction. I am proud to support the Governor’s responsible stewardship of our tax dollars.
Unfortunately, the House of Delegates killed a bill, passed by the Senate, which would have provided about $100 million in State income tax relief over five years. Our progress toward fiscal responsibility is also challenged by numerous spending “mandates” imposed by the Legislature. These mandates greatly limit the Governor’s discretion to respond to future needs and resources by forcing him to include the Legislature’s pet projects in future budgets, regardless of the future availability of funds to support the increased spending and without an annual showing that the projects are actually giving taxpayers a positive return on their investment. These mandates are really just a “sleight of hand” that enables the General Assembly to maneuver around the Governor’s constitutional authority over the budget.
Protecting Public Safety
I introduced a number of public safety bills that cleared both houses and will become law:
Senate Bill 160 – Enhanced penalties for subsequent offenders who cause death or life-threatening injuries by motor vehicle – establishes tougher penalties for subsequent alcohol offenders who kill or seriously injure someone while driving.
Senate Bill 157 – Protecting jurors from retaliation- penalizes retaliation against a juror for performing their official duties in the court.
Senate Bill 637 – Admissibility of DNA Evidence in criminal trials – updates the standards used to establish the admissibility of a DNA profile in our trial courts.
House Bill 773 (Senate cross-file SB 1008) – Drunk Driving – Blood Test – Evidence – removes a considerable burden on emergency room nurses and saves hundreds of thousands of dollars for Maryland’s hospitals by removing the requirement that a nurse who drew blood used in a test in the case of a drunk or drugged driving offense must appear in Court to testify that they simply followed the procedures for drawing the blood. This requirement has been misused by defense attorneys to have drunk driving cases dismissed when the nurse who drew the blood sample was unavailable to appear in court.
I also supported the following bills that will enhance public safety.
SB 945 – Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 (Noah’s Law) – requires mandatory participation in the Ignition Interlock System Program (IISP) for persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.
SB 564 – Criminal Law – Providing Alcohol to Underage Drinkers – enhances criminal penalties for adults who furnish alcohol to unrelated individuals under 21 or allow unrelated individuals under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol at a residence the adult owns or leases.
SB 1005 – Justice Reinvestment Act – The Justice Reinvestment Act is a sweeping policy shift on how we address entry level drug possession crimes. This bill increases drug treatment and rehabilitation options, aside from incarceration, in an effort to reduce recidivism. Our State is paying far too much to warehouse drug addicts. Studies show that with this new approach we will both reduce our prison cost, and reduce recidivism.
Working for Harford County
As the Governor and the General Assembly were drafting this year’s budget, I worked to ensure that the final budget reflects our County’s needs. In the FY2017 operating budget, Harford County saw the following increases in State aid from FY2016 levels:
Education – 1.3% ($2.69 million increase)
Libraries – 3.5% ($51,963 increase)
Health – 8.4% ($174,000 increase)
Transportation (highway user revenues, etc) – 3% ($88,700 increase)
Public Safety (police/fire) – 7.1% ($225,000 increase)
District 34 will also benefit from five projects that improve our quality of life. Our community will receive support for the following upgrades to parks, museums, and performance spaces:
Center for the Visual and Performing Arts Amphitheatre – This $100,000 grant will help secure a very generous $9 million gift of land at the corner of Rt. 24 and Wheel Road which by the terms of the gift must be used for a cultural arts center.
Rockfield Park – This $116,000 funds improvements to the Bel Air park.
Historic B&O Railroad Station Restoration – Provides up to $50,000 toward restorations on the historic B&O Railroad Station in Aberdeen.
American Indian First Contact Waterfront Heritage Park – Provides up to $100,000 for the American Indian First Contact Waterfront Heritage Park, located along Water Street in Havre de Grace, just north of John Roberts Memorial Park.
Historical Society of Harford County Building Restoration – Funds up to $50,000 for a new roof on the Society’s headquarters in the old post office building in Bel Air.
After two Harford Sherriff’s Deputies were killed in the line of duty, I supported efforts to ensure that these officers and families will get the recognition and support that they needed and deserve.
Keeping our Promise to the Families: HB 1581, the Harford County Deputy Sheriffs Daily and Logsdon Benefits Memorial Act, ensures that when a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty, their children receive state death benefits until the age of 26. With this assistance, the children of Deputies Dailey and Logsdon will have the support they need to finish their educations and begin their adult lives.
Heroes Highway: SB 1104 renames the section of Maryland Route 924/Emmorton Road between Route 24 and Singer Road as “Heroes Highway.” This new Heroes Highway will permanently honor the service and legacy of Deputies Patrick Dailey and Mark Logsdon.