From Del. Kathy Szeliga:
There was just too much to share in one email about the 90-day legislative session! Here is part 2 of 2.
April 9th was Delegate Sue Aumann’s last day serving on the floor of the House of Delegates. Delegate Aumann has served the people of Maryland with integrity and honor for the last 16 years. Sue is an exemplary public servant who has earned the respect of her constituents and her colleagues. On a personal note, Sue Aumann has been a true friend and mentor and I will miss her positive influence on our entire House of Delegates and me. Delegate Sue Aumann is remarkable woman who has chosen to retire from the House to spend more time with her family.
Legislative Session Review – Part 2:
As a parent, grandparent, and former teacher, I am committed to ensuring access to a world-class education for every child, regardless of their zip code. Governor Hogan is also committed to education and has funded PK-12 public education at the highest level in the history of the state. The chart below illustrates the current spending per pupil. These amounts do not include the funds spent on capital projects (buildings, air-conditioning, fields, etc.).
#1. Worcester Co – $18,312 per pupil
#2. Somerset Co – $17,945 per pupil
#3. Baltimore City – $17,211 per pupil
#11. Baltimore Co – $14,798 per pupil
#23. Harford Co – $13,498 per pupil
#24. Talbot Co – $13,414 per pupil
It is interesting to note that Parkville’s St. Ursula parochial school tuition for K-8 is about $5,100 per pupil and they also serve students from low-income neighborhoods. Funding education is important, but we need to ensure we are using tax dollars effectively and efficiently.
I cosponsored Governor Hogan’s bill to create an Inspector General for all 24 public school systems. The IG is an independent unit in the State to investigate, analyze, and report on educational standards and investigate fraud, abuse, and waste in our schools. Our education funding levels are some of the highest in the nation, yet our students perform in the middle of the pack. We need more efficient use of dollars to get more resources to the classroom. Unfortunately, that bill did not pass. Hopefully, we will get it through next year.
The liberal leadership in Annapolis pushed through a bad education bill to transfer the accountability for construction of public schools from Governor Hogan, Comptroller Franchot, and State Treasurer Nancy Kopp to an unelected and unaccountable bureaucratic commission. I voted against this and I am concerned about the coming large expansion of funds into a system without an Inspector General or elected officials’ oversight. The veto was overridden. All but one Republican stood with Governor Hogan on this veto override. Every major media outlet opposed the veto override and shared concerns about petty partisan election year political moves like this.
AG BRIAN FROSH AND HIS ENDLESS LAWSUITS
AG Frosh continues to waster taxpayer money as he has filed more than 25 lawsuits against President Trump’s policies. The latest suit he joined is to stop the US Census from asking if a respondent is a US citizen. There is not a follow-up question for those who are not citizens to include legal status. All information gathered by the US Census is protected for confidentiality. The census is a data driven tool used for, among other things, the creation of political election districts. If the federal government is going to do their job and address immigration policies, having information about citizenship is important.
I voted to transfer the $1 million in the AG budget from Frosh’s petty partisan political lawsuits and invest that in additional school safety. It failed on a party-line vote.
I have been a cosponsor of Governor Hogan’s redistricting reform bills. We need to implement a non-partisan panel to draw our state and federal districts. Maryland has some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation. The Supreme Court is reviewing Maryland’s congressional districts now.
Governor Hogan’s redistricting bill was voted down again this year on a party-line vote. Hopefully, Governor Hogan will get a chance to lead redistricting in 2021 after the 2020 census is complete and all 50 states undertake this decennial charge. The current process deprives Marylanders of real choices and a fair political debate. Voters should choose their representatives instead of politicians choosing their voters.
The predicted demise of Obamacare has caused skyrocketing health insurance rates and the destabilization of the individual market. The Affordable Care Act has become unaffordable as we were facing another huge insurance premium increase of 50% this fall. Without action from Washington D.C., states are forced into repairing the ACA. As a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, I worked with Governor Hogan, and Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer to create a bipartisan one-year fix for next year. A reinsurance program, also being considered at the national level and passed in other states, will stabilize the individual insurance market and may even bring reduced premiums.
I also introduced a bill to offer lower premium plans in the individual market. This value plan, the Copper Plan, offered a higher deductible and covered the ten essential benefits mandated in the ACA. The Copper Plan reduced monthly premium costs significantly. There are too many people who would like to have health insurance but cannot afford it. The health committee liked the plan and we may get it passed next year.
The program is finally up and running. A couple of tweaks were necessary this year, increasing the number of growers by about 5 and expanding processor licenses. Patients will have better access to medical marijuana going forward.
VICTIMS OF CRIME
For many years, victims advocacy groups and prosecutors have tried to pass a law to allow a criminal’s history of prior sex offenses be used during the prosecution of a subsequent sex offense. This year Governor Hogan called it the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act. After languishing in the Judiciary Committee, Leader Nic Kipke and I, on behalf of the House Republican Caucus, threatened to petition that bill out of the committee and force a vote on it. The bill was then released out of committee and passed into law. I also supported a bill to terminate parental rights of rapists. We increased penalties for witness intimidation from 5 to 10 years, protecting those who are working to clean up their neighborhoods.
The violent crime and murder rate in Baltimore City has garnered national attention. I joined Governor Hogan and others in calling for tougher penalties on repeat violent offenders who are terrorizing our communities. Criminals convicted of drug trafficking while using an illegal gun will be subjected to a mandatory minimum 5-year sentence on top of their other sentences. Violent offenders will face at least ten years in jail. We made it easier to prosecute high-volume drug dealers and increased penalties for dealers selling deadly fentanyl. We took action this year.
It is truly my honor and privilege to represent you in the Maryland House of Delegates. Your thoughts and views are very important to me. I’m grateful for the many people who take the time to call, email, and talk to me out in the community. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance to you and your family.
Thanks for your interest in the important issues facing Maryland today. Please be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the most up to date information.
God bless you and your family!