From Del. Kathy Szeliga:
The 2014 Legislative Session ended on Monday, April 7 at midnight. Last week, I sent you part 1 of my two part wrap-up of the 2014 Legislative Session highlights. Please email me if you missed out on last week’s email and I can send it to you.
The next legislative session is scheduled to begin on Monday, January 14, 2015. I do not anticipate any Special Sessions during this year, an election year.
Maryland continues to have an excellent education system in most jurisdictions. Funding for schools has risen dramatically over the last ten years. The list below illustrates the current spending per pupil. These amounts do not include the funds spent on capital projects (buildings, fields, etc.).
Rank County $$
#1. Worcester Co $17,086 per pupil
#2. Baltimore City $16,904 per pupil
#4. Montgomery $15,619 per pupil
#11. Baltimore Co $13,960 per pupil
#20. Harford Co $12,934 per pupil
#24. St. Mary’s Co $12,407 per pupil
HB 929, Speed Monitoring Systems Reform Act of 2014, passed. The first action taken on the House floor was to offer an amendment to ban them outright. That failed by 46 to 87. I voted to ban speed cameras.
HB 929 does reform the program and gives drivers more protections. The legislation raises the standards for speed camera vendors, ensures investigation of erroneous tickets and tightens the definition of a “school zone.” I voted for HB 929.
This year, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I was able to protect funding for our local Department of Aging. There are programs and services that are administered through these local departments that are vital to our senior citizens. We trimmed some funds from the state administration and beefed up the local funding. They are generally well run programs. I hear great reviews from seniors on these services.
The “Bathroom Bill”
SB 212, Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, passed this year. Don’t we want “fairness for all Marylanders?” What SB 212 really does is jeopardize the safety of women and little girls by allowing predators and pedophiles access to the women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, shower rooms and other similar places. This bill is poorly written and ignores the responsibility to protect us from those who would do harm to others.
SB 212 says a person can change their gender identity by “any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.” Pedophiles and sexual predators are clearly mentally ill. All they must do now is to claim that they are in the women’s bathroom or locker room because they have a, “sincerely held belief” that they are a woman. This is terrible policy and law making. I vigorously opposed this bill and voted against it.
I offered a great amendment to exclude facilities where women do not expect to see men, like public bathrooms. It was revealed on the House floor that a man who “sincerely believes” he is a woman (yet with male parts) would be able to use a women’s shower room/locker room at a public pool. Can you imagine your young daughter or granddaughter in the pool changing room or bathroom with a fully grown man? The amendment failed 57 for and 80 against.
The both Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown are proponents and advocates for this law. While Anthony Brown attended the bill hearing for this bill and helped to get it passed, he was visibly absent from that same committee during hearings on the Maryland Health Exchange. Their priorities are clear. I’m sure we will see the Bathroom Bill signed into law with much fanfare in our State House soon.
This is another feel good/sounds good issue with terrible unintended consequences. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that 12,000 jobs will be lost in Maryland with a $10.10 minimum wage. It will seriously limit entry level jobs for our young workers. There will also be businesses that will be forced to close because they cannot absorb the increase or pass it along to the public. Both job losses and business losses are both predicted outcomes from the CBO and a non-partisan study commissioned from George Mason University specifically about Maryland.
The minimum wage will be phased in very awkwardly over the next few years to $10.10 per hour. I voted against this measure. I supported increasing the earned income tax credit instead because that would truly help the working poor rise out of poverty. Raising the minimum wage to the extreme $10.10 will only cause unemployment, especially among our youth.
We all started climbing the career ladder from the bottom rung. The minimum wage is not meant to support a family, and there are very few families living on a minimum wage. Any family living on minimum wage needs job training and earned income tax credits to build their career. These are common sense approaches to the wage issue that were offered as alternatives to raising the minimum wage to the extreme $10.10 per hour.
Marijuana – Going to Pot
Medical Marijuana This year a better version of medical marijuana passed. I have opposed this in the past because I think the FDA should regulate medical marijuana. However, this year I voted for it because I am confident that it will only be given to truly chronically sick children and adults who have seen health benefits from marijuana, like kids with uncontrolled epileptic seizures. I hope the FDA will take the lead on this drug, as they should.
Decriminalization of Marijuana Marijuana will now be decriminalized for possession of 10 grams or less, which equals about 15 joints. I just said no. We are sending the wrong message to our youth, who are seeing an ever increasing rate of drug use.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has a clear conclusion from numerous studies. Marijuana use among our youth has lasting effects and can, “jeopardize a young person’s chances of success – in school and life.” What mixed messages coming from Annapolis – cigarettes and alcohol are bad, but pot is A-OK.
This is another rushed through and poorly crafted law. An amendment was offered to keep all marijuana use a misdemeanor in “Drug Free School Zones.” This was rejected! I’m not sure how legislators could possibly not crack down on pot usage on school grounds. The hypocrisy is ripe as some counties are banning cigarette smoking on school property yet turning their heads to pot smoking! Purchasing pot is still illegal and these actions will only fuel the illegal drug market as more people think it’s “legal” to smoke pot. I’m worried about the consequences on our youth and crime.
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.
Delegate Kathy Szeliga