From Del. Mary Ann Lisanti:
Thank you for the privilege of representing you in the 435th session of the Maryland’s General Assembly. I am proud to be part of a Harford County and State of Maryland team working hard to enhance the lives of our citizens. As one of the 69 new members, I have begun to develop a better understanding of the difficult challenges we face as a growing state.
During my first year, I’m pleased to report that we have made progress in securing a strong economy, protecting the environment, supporting our veterans and first responders. I would like to take this opportunity to sum up my first Session and initiative I supported. I believe they are important to moving Maryland Forward.
I introduced a number of bills this year on behalf of constituents:
HB 884 to protect voter rights, particularly the rights of our seniors and soldiers. This bill passed both the House and Senate with nearly unanimous votes (in fact there was only one legislator that voted against this bill). When the Governor signs this bill into law we will be able to ensure that all properly cast ballots will be counted.
HB 831, the first bond bill I introduced, will provide $100,000 to Susquehanna Hose Co. and the City of Havre de Grace for a fire and rescue boat. This is a much needed resource for our fire and rescue volunteers that will provide not only rescue, but fire suppression for emergencies on the water in the Upper Bay.
HB 1280, the second bond bill I introduced, provides $500,000 to the City of Aberdeen for assistance with needed safety repairs to Ripken Stadium. The stadium is owned and maintained by the City of Aberdeen.
HB 920 was introduced to help pay for the relocation of water and sewer lines. This issue was brought to my attention when utility lines needed to be moved due to federally mandated construction along Rt. 22 in Aberdeen to enhance the entrance to APG. In lieu of changing state law I was able to strike a compromise with the State Highway Administration to help pay for the relocation.
A Responsible and Bi-Partisan Budget Passed
The Governor sent the House of Delegates a budget. We worked through Session to improve upon the budget and succeeded in initially passing a budget with 129 Delegates from both sides of the aisle voting for the budget. The budget subsequently approved by both the House and Senate is responsible and meets the priorities of the people of Maryland. It does not raise taxes, raid funds or expand the structural deficit. At the same time we were able to restore cuts to education, health care, and programs that provided service to the mentally ill. Much of the changes met Governor Hogan’s initial request to the General Assembly. Currently the budget awaits the Governors final approval.
The budget we passed closes the 69% of the structural deficit and will close 82% if across-the-board agency cuts proposed by the Governor move forward. Our budget results in a structural deficit that is $500 million smaller over the next 5 years. We leave a cash balance of $32 million and a reserve of $814 million in the “Rainy Day Fund” as a hedge against economic uncertainty. This budget modernizes pension funding by adopting the funding methodology recommended by pension experts and bond rating agencies. We continue to protect our AAA bond rating, a sign of fiscal responsibility. Maryland is one of 10 states to maintain an AAA bond rating, the highest possible rating. A high bond rating means low borrowing costs, which mean more money for critical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and universities.
Protecting the Environment
Numerous bills relating to the environment were introduced during the session. Legislation that was passed this year included:
SB 863 ends the stormwater management fees mandate, but ten counties will need to show they are paying to clean polluted stormwater as required by the Federal Government – balancing environmental concerns while giving the counties greater autonomy to decide how to pay for these mitigation efforts. Some jurisdictions may choose to maintain a separate stormwater fee instead of burdening the property tax base.
HB 449 imposes a two-year moratorium on “Fracking” in Maryland to allow time for studies to be completed and for the General Assembly to look at best practices in other states.
HB 1087 establishes a Community Solar Energy Generating System Program enabling groups of Marylanders to share the cost of construction of solar panels in return for a share of the electricity generated by those panels.
HB 514 makes the Maryland Climate Change Commission permanent and requires the use of science based sea level rise projections to conduct an assessment of the impact that climate change has on agriculture in the State.
SB 694 increases the Oyster Shell Recycling Tax Credit from $1 to $5 for each bushel of oyster shells recycled per year.
Improving the Business Climate in Maryland
We passed five bills to implement the recommendations of Maryland’s Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, which are supported by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and many local businesses includes:
HB 939 creates a stronger process to determine whether new regulations have an impact on small businesses, based on an evaluation by an advisory commission that includes private sector stakeholders.
HB 940 – the Governor’s Office will now establish a new state customer service training program for front-line state agencies that interact with the private sector and the public.
HB 941 creates a new pilot program, “Apprenticeship Maryland,” to improve technology transfer from higher education into the marketplace.
HB 943 creates a new economic development structure, with a Secretary of Commerce, realigning functions to build upon organizational strengths and ensure the clarity of state resources to better serve the private sector.
Criminal Justice Reforms
HB 236 expands Maryland law providing increased penalties for assaults on first responders.
HB 105 aligns marijuana law by closing loophole that left marijuana paraphernalia as a jailable offense, while possession of marijuana was a citationable offense.
HB 533, supported by law enforcement across Maryland, enables the use of body cameras in police departments, ensuring the program does not violate Maryland law.
HB 954 requires each local law enforcement agency to provide the State Police with information about each “officer-involved death” and “death in the line of duty” that involves a law enforcement officer employed by the agency.
Supporting Our Veterans
HB 1118 – March 30th will now be commemorated as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in Maryland, to honor the sacrifice and courage of veterans of the Vietnam War.
SB 592 expands the military retirement pension’s exemptions for people over 65 from $5,000 to $10,000.
HB 799 aligns Maryland with the federal CHOICE Act, which requires Maryland public universities and colleges to provide in-state tuition to veterans and dependents eligible to receive GI Bill benefits.
The Maryland Public Information Act will be updated to include a five member compliance board to address fee disputes and handle agreements between government agencies and the public attempting to access records. Private donation towards the governor’s inaugural events will need to be disclosed. Whistleblowers with information about fraud against government could receive an award if they come forward with information allow the government to recoup losses.
Protection will be added preventing foster care children from being returned to abusive parents. The state will create a program to find missing drivers in hit-and-run accidents resulting in serious injury. Additional funds have been identified to expand treatment for heroin addiction. Implementation of Kari’s Law – Direct Dial 911, helping to save lives by requiring new multi-line telephone systems to directly dial 911.
The State’s maximum speed limit could be raised from 65 to 70 mph in some areas. Sale of Electronic Cigarettes components and supplies will be prohibited to minors, closing a loophole from a previous law.
During the interim I look forward to working with you as we develop legislation for the 2016 session. Should you require any assistance, please contact me at 410-841-3331 and or by email at MaryAnn.Lisanti@house.state.md.us
Mary Ann Lisanti
State Delegate, District 34A