From State Sen. J.B. Jennings:
With less than one month to go until the end of session, both the House and the Senate are busier than ever trying to get legislation passed before the last day on April 9th.
Crossover Day, which is the deadline for both Chambers send each other the bills they intend to pass favorably, was Monday. But more attention has rightly shifted back to the issue of school safety in the wake of the incident that unfolded at a high school right here in Maryland this week.
School Resource Officers – Senate Bill 1226
It has been three weeks since I introduced Senate Bill 1226 and Senate Bill 1264, both would require a Student Resource Officer (SRO) be placed in every public elementary, middle and high school in Maryland (it would also allow private schools to hire them for protection). Finally, the Senate has scheduled a hearing date for THIS FRIDAY, March 23rd. While incredibly tragic, the shooting at Great Mills High School could have been much worse. Luckily, further carnage was averted by a highly skilled, well-trained SRO. Now more than ever, it’s time to put the safety of our children before partisan political rhetoric. I’m urging all of my colleagues in the Senate to do right by our kids. All of them deserve safer places to learn. This bill goes before the Judicial Proceedings Committee tomorrow. I will continue to keep you updated as SB 1226 and SB 1264 navigates the legislature.
In other news, I’m happy to report that the Senate has unanimously passed the state’s $44.5 billion budget for FY2019, which includes increases in both Medicaid and school spending. Disappointingly, my amendment to take away $1 million in funding that was slated to Office of the Attorney General for the sole purpose of suing the Trump Administration, did not pass. I firmly believe we should be using state resources to fight issues we are dealing with here, not on frivolous national lawsuits.
I’ve been busy trying to combat a series of other particularly bad bills including:
Senate Bill 317 – Free Community College for Undocumented Immigrants
This $30 million bill would provide free community college to income-eligible graduates of Maryland high schools, including those who are undocumented immigrants. Many Maryland families are struggling to afford higher education for their children. It is simply not fair to the tax paying citizens of Maryland to have to compete for funding assistance with people who are not legal citizens of the state. Despite the best efforts of myself and other members of the Senate last week to amend the bill stating that potential recipients of this program must be legal residents of Maryland, the bill passed the Senate with a vote of 31-13 and is scheduled to be heard in the House Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees.
Senate Bill 790 – Repealing Maryland’s State Song
“Maryland, My Maryland” has been the state’s official song since 1939. While people mainly identify with its melody, which is the same as the song “Oh Christmas Tree,” the nostalgia I and so many others feel when singing the words “Maryland, My Maryland” on an international stage along with the Naval Academy Glee Club before Preakness, is something unique that unites us as fellow Marylanders.
There’s no denying that the song has anti-Lincoln overtures; at the time it was written, there was a lot of animosity toward him in Maryland. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s racist. Songs tend to reflect the events of the generations in which they were written. Music is a part of our history and every song tells a story, for better or worse. I’m a firm believer in the notion that we can’t move together as a unified society if we choose to erase our past.
Like many other state symbols, our song is steeped in tradition. The questions I’ve asked my fellow legislators who support this bill are: “When does all of this stop? What else are we going to alter regarding our heritage and our history?” And they don’t have the answers. In fact, they don’t even have a solution to replacing our state song with anything else. There’s no plan in place, except to distract people from what we should really be addressing in Annapolis right now: how to make Maryland a safer, more affordable place to live, work and visit. We need to get back to working on real issues that impact the lives of every Marylander.
Senate Bill 1048 – Automatic Voter Registration
This bill would require the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE), the Mobility Certification Office (MCO) and local departments of social services to automatically register anyone who has an interaction with any of these agencies to vote. These agencies currently provide Marylanders with the ability to register if they choose to. However, you, the individual, have to complete the form. This bill would allow the state agency to automatically register you unless you say “no.” Quite frankly, this bill is not only incredibly redundant, as any qualified person has the ability to register to vote through the board of elections, it’s also an infringement of privacy. Not everyone wants to be registered to vote, and not everyone wants to share personal information like their phone number and where they live.
Welcome Senator Linda Norman
Last week Governor Hogan appointed Linda Norman to her late husband’s seat in the Maryland Senate after he unexpectedly died earlier this month. Our hearts are still heavy with the passing of our good friend and colleague, Senator Wayne Norman, but we know Linda is the person he’d want to continue proudly representing District 35, which covers northern and central Harford County and western and northern Cecil County. Welcome to Annapolis, Linda. How wonderful that we still have a Senator Norman on our team.
Senator Jennings’ Night in Annapolis
Mark your calendars! My Annual Night in Annapolis is Monday, April 2nd at 6:30PM in the Miller West Conference Rooms. It’s always a fun (free) way to meet your neighbors, some of my fellow legislators and my staff while enjoying Hors d’oeuvre’s and refreshments from Richardsons Farm. Afterwards, guests can head to the State House to watch the legislature in action. Please RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you there!