March 21, 2019
This week included “Crossover” and a review of the State budget, the very most important bill we consider each year. Labored over by legislators, fiscal analysts, and committee staff, the proposed version is presented to the full body for amendments, debate, and approval.
Debating a Balanced State Budget That Reflects Our Values
Led by Montgomery County Senator Nancy King, the new Chair of the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee, the Senate has crafted a balanced budget of $46.7 billion to support Maryland’s future. Highlights include:
- Strengthening Our Schools: The Senate proposes to fund a record $6.97 billion to support our students and teachers.
- Investing in Education: The Senate budget allocates $225 million toward addressing recommendations made by the Kirwan Commission. This is the first step towards fully funding our schools and regaining our stature as a national leader.
- Preparing for the Future: Exercising fiscal responsibility is critical to Maryland’s future. The Senate has proposed $1.3 billion in savings for our “Rainy Day” Fund. This fiscal prudence is another reason we have retained our prized AAA Bond Rating.
- Building our Community: I am thrilled that the Capital Budget includes $1,000,000 for an urgently needed new police station for Gaithersburg. In addition, the House and Senate awarded funding for both Manna Food Pantry (the food source for those in need) and Sunflower Bakery (which hires and trains those with disabilities).
During the debate, I raised questions about using public taxpayer money for private schools ; planning for new voting machines next year that incorporate new technology; and restricting funding for an entity allegedly dedicated to creating Maryland jobs… but recently investing our money around the country. This year’s budget passed unanimously.
Reporting On The Senate’s Priority Issues
Now that “Crossover” is behind us, I thought I’d review some of the top legislative priorities and assess our progress. These issues were selected by the legislative leadership in January:
- Protect Insurance Access for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions: Last week, the Senate passed SB868. If enacted, this bill would retain Obamacare protections regardless of what happens nationally with ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
- Curb the Cost of Prescription Drugs: The House and Senate continue to work on legislation to limit the costs of drugs. To date, legislation has not yet passed either chamber.
- Increase Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21: The Senate voted to raise the age for purchasing tobacco to 21. Smoking is implicated in over 90% of lung cancer deaths, and over 80% of smokers take their first puff before the age of 18.
- Raise the Minimum Wage to $15: The two chambers came together to find a compromise that will phase in a living wage for working people with protections for small businesses.
- Ban Creation of 3D Printed & Ghost Guns: The House passed a bill to ban guns created with a 3D printer. At a press conference the same day, Gov. Hogan criticized this bill, claiming that legislators are “talking about silly things.” However, the Washington Post reports that he may sign the bill if passed. (The Senate is expected to act soon.)
- Reduce Child Care Costs for Parents: The Senate passed a bill to increase the tax credit for child care in order to make it more affordable. The bill is now being considered in the House.
- Make Maryland “Foam-Free”: Please see below for more on this important environmental legislation I’ve been working on for three years!
Leading the Nation By Going “Foam-Free!”
Last week, the House joined the Senate in passing legislation with a veto-proof majority to ban expanded polystyrene foam (EPS, or “Styrofoam”) food packaging in the State. This common substance does not biodegrade and can not be recycled. It accounts for 40% of the litter in our waterways. Fish and mammals eat it, thinking it is food; we then ingest the toxic chemicals.
EPS has already banned for over half the residents of our state– including Montgomery County. If Gov. Hogan signs the bill, Maryland will be the first state in the nation to ban Styrofoam . I am proud of the work I’ve done with Del. Brooke Lierman over the past 3 years, as well as Trash-Free Maryland, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and others to pass this bill.
With just 19 days until adjournment, things will continue to move quickly! In addition to these weekly emails and my Facebook Live videos , y ou can follow me on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram. Please check my website for information about Senatorial Scholarships for this fall and much more. And, you can always send questions or comments to me via email.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
(Gaithersburg & Rockville)
P.S.: Today, I attended the funeral service for former Governor Harry Hughes . He was known for being gracious, ethical, and visionary. I had the honor of going to his home for lunch in 2017, where we talked politics and policy. Rest in Peace, Governor. Thank you for your service to our State when we needed it most.