Progress on #FIXTHEGAP and Community Solar Program
With one week left in session there are a lot of updates! This week was a busy one in my role as House Democratic Caucus Chair. The Caucus was able to move in tandem with the Senate almost thirty critical bills to be signed by the Governor before the end of session. Traditionally, the legislature waits until the end of session to send bills to the Governor for signature, but by sending them this Wednesday, the Governor must sign or veto the bills before the end of session. The House and Senate will then be able to override a veto for those critical pieces of legislation in the 2017 session and not have to wait until next year.
#Fixthegap - This week the Governor signed into law two significant bills that originated in the House that are pieces of the complex work the legislature has undertaken to ensure Baltimore City Schools and several other jurisdictions receive the funding their students deserve. HB 1109 which, "frees up nearly $20 million in state money to help local school districts pay their share toward teachers' retirement pensions." Also HB 503, sponsored by Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh, which changes how the state predicts the amount of money coming in from capital gains. According to the Sun, "Capital gains revenue to the state can swing significantly from year to year, so the new system will use a multi-year average. If capital gains revenue exceeds predictions, it can go into a special account to use for education."
Next week the Governor will sign or veto these critical pieces of legislation:
a fracking ban that would make it illegal to use hydraulic fracturing to mine natural gas
the state's $1 billion capital budget for construction projects;
a prohibition on opening oyster sanctuaries to harvesting;
a three-year promise to give school districts with declining enrollment, including Baltimore City, extra money;
a law requiring the state to make up for any federal money withheld from Planned Parenthood;
and an extension of the statute of limitations for child victims of sex abuse to file civil lawsuits against their abusers.
Once the Governor weighs in, we will then work as a Caucus to override any legislation that may be vetoed to ensure Marylanders don't have to wait.
Earned Sick Leave - On Friday, after only a few minutes of debate, the Senate voted to give preliminary approval to an amended version of the House's Earned Sick Leave HB-1. While it has been a long road, it has been a pleasure to champion this necessary legislation as it nears the finish. Maryland Sports- This week, I hosted a favorable hearing in the House Appropriations Committee for HB1619 Establishment of Maryland Stadium Authority - Maryland Sports and Affiliated Foundations. HB 1619 would create an office known as Maryland Sports, a nonprofit program to bring regional, national, and international sporting events to the State to maximize utilization of sports facilities in the State, to enhance economic development, and to promote the State as a sporting events destination, within the Maryland Stadium Authority. We expect a vote in front of the full House early next week. Cross Street Market - The entire District 46 Team hosted a hearing in front of the House Baltimore City Delegation to approve an amendment related to Cross Street Market. This issue has been a challenging one to navigate for the 46th District Team and the community. This measure received approval from the Baltimore City Delegation. Additionally, we were able to include $200,000 in the Capital Budget to go directly support the existing merchants.
We as a delegation, have had more than 350 constituents from the 46th District directly reach out about the revitalization of the Market. 315 of those contacts expressed their support of the market revitalization and many from that group expressed reservations about the proliferation of alcohol in that area. In the long term, as the 46th District team has said since 2013, a more comprehensive solution is needed to deal with alcohol in this area. We are committed to working with the community towards a long term solution. Maryland Community Solar Program Lunches - In 2015, I led the successful charge to create Maryland's Community Solar Progam as the lead sponsor of HB 1087. It was an honor to work on behalf of a broad coalition to get this legislation enacted, but I am even more proud to see this program come to fruition. This week the Maryland Public Service Commission announced that program is ready to begin accepting applications.
Beginning April 10, 2017, subscriber organizations can apply to the Commission for initial approval to participate in the program. Applications received between April 10 and May 5, 2017 will be included in the initial group of subscriber organizations to participate in the first year of the program; once approved, a subscriber organization must first apply to a utility for interconnection and then apply for project capacity in that utility’s program. Utilities will accept projects with completed applications on a first-come, first-served basis until each utility’s program capacity has been met. Participating utilities include Baltimore Gas and Electric, Delmarva Power & Light, Potomac Edison and Potomac Electric Power Company. Subscriber organizations can obtain applications on the Commission’s website (www.psc.state.md.us).
Push to the End - So far it has been an incredibly productive session. I'm excited to share all that we have been able to do so far and look forward to a strong finish. Please reach out to share your thoughts or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-989-3876.
KEEP IN TOUCHVisit us in Annapolis! If you are in Annapolis we love to see constituents, families, and school groups. You can always reach me at email@example.com or call 410-841-3303. We hope to see you soon.
If you live in the 46th District and are interested in applying for a Legislative Scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year from my office. Please call or email my office and we will send you an application. We have extended the deadline until April 8, 2017!