From State Sen. J.B. Jennings:
UPDATE ON THE 2016 GENERAL ASSEMBLY ACTIONS
We are entering the 5th week of the 2016 Legislative Session. To date, roughly 40% of the record 3400 bill requests have been filed. Below are a few pieces of legislation that have been dropped, as well as other issues that are being discussed in Annapolis.
Governor Hogan identified redistricting reform as one of his top priorities. As Senate Minority Leader, I have co-sponsored this bill, which takes the form of an amendment to the state constitution. That means the bill needs 24 Senate and 85 House votes to win approval. The bill establishes an independent nonpartisan commission to draw the congressional and legislative voting districts. If approved, it will be on referendum in the November 2016 general election for Maryland voters to approve or disapprove it. A recent Gonzales poll of Maryland indicated that 73% of voters want an end to gerrymandering. I agree, and believe that Maryland is one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation. Both the Senate and House leadership have stated they do not want to work on state redistricting reform until Congress completes the national redistricting reform….if it ever does.
Combat Heroin Addiction and Overdose Epidemic
Governor Hogan announced his plan to combat the heroin addiction and overdose epidemic. His bills are based on the recommendations given by a task force. One bill changes the state’s gang laws to be similar to the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). This change in the law has already been made in 33 states. Baltimore County State’s Attorney, Scott Shellenberger, called the change a “powerful tool for police and prosecutors.” Another bill I have co-sponsored, will require doctors and pharmacists to use the Maryland Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which records; opioids prescribed, the doctors who prescribe them, the patients seeking to have those prescriptions filled and the pharmacy that fills them in a databank. Currently, use of the Monitoring Program by doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers is not mandatory. By making use of the program mandatory, a clear picture of overprescribing can be seen and hopefully stopped.
Baltimore County School Air Conditioning
The Board of Public Works announced by a unanimous and bipartisan vote that school construction funds could be used to purchase window air conditioning units for public school classrooms. As of now, in Baltimore County, approximately 30% of schools are without air conditioning; many of the schools in Southeast Baltimore County. Last September, Governor Hogan stated “there is no excuse for the school’s not to have air conditioning.”
Early Graduation Scholarship Program
Governor Hogan announced his Maryland Early Graduation Scholarship Program which will provide up to $6,000 for tuition and expenses at two-year community colleges, for-profit schools and public or private four-year universities in Maryland. Several states have established such a financial incentive for students who graduate early, including; South Dakota, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Indiana, Minnesota and Kentucky. Indeed, by encouraging high-achieving students to complete high school a year early, the state can reallocate what would have been spent on a student’s last year of public high school and instead help with their first year of college.
Sales and Use Tax Exempt –Firearm Safety Devices
Additionally, I am the primary sponsor of a piece of legislation (SB 351) that will exempt the sales and use tax for the sale of firearm safety devices, including; a firearm safe, firearm lock box, trigger barrel lock or any device to enhance firearm safety. If the legislation is successful, Maryland would join Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Washington in exempting these devices from the sales tax. The broad geographic range of states that have already enacted this legislation shows this is not a liberal or conservative idea but a common sense approach to creating an incentive to use these safety devices. I hope that by exempting these devices, it will make them more affordable, which in turn should lead to an increase in the purchase of them, and by effect increase gun safety in our state.
District 7 Night in Annapolis
Join me and my District 7 Delegates for this years “District 7 Night in Annapolis.” As always, Richardson Farms will be catering the event so be sure to bring your appetites. The event is FREE and held in the Miller West I Conference Room, located at 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401 on Monday, February 15 from 6:00pm-8:00pm. Please remember to bring a photo ID in order to enter the building.
Please do not hesitate to contact me on these issues or any other issues of concern to you. Your input is important to me. It helps me bring your voice to Annapolis. I encourage and welcome your input.
Senator J.B. Jennings