June 24, 2016: Two Years Later

June 24: Two Years After Primary Election

Two years have come and gone so fast. Two years ago today, the polls had just opened and I was standing at William Paca Elementary School greeting voters. Today, I’ll be starting my day at Maree Farring Elementary/Middle School in Brooklyn, talking with the principal and others about expanding its capacity to make room for more students who want to attend this thriving school.

For me, June 24th marks a great time each year for reflection on why I ran and what I am doing to serve as your State Delegate – and also a good excuse to share photos from my Community Picnic. Breaking down invisible barriers between neighborhoods is a job I take seriously – my Community Picnic invites residents from all over the district (and state!) to come together for an opportunity to learn about non-profits, meet elected officials, and enjoy some great food and good fun.

 

This year’s picnic was hugely successful, despite the stormy day! We held it in a fun covered space at Patterson Park Public Charter School, and welcomed nearly 250 adults and dozens of children for BBQ, ice cream, face painting, games, and camaraderie. We had numerous community organizations, like Creative Alliance and Downtown Sailing, bring volunteers and information to share.  And, we were joined by a variety of public servants – local and federal – including incoming BCPS CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises, Sen. Cardin, and Reps. Sarbanes and Ruppersberger – in addition to Sen. Catherine Pugh, many Delegates and Councilmembers, and Council President Jack Young.

Check out the pictures here.

Save the date for next year’s picnic on the Sunday after Memorial Day – June 4, 2017.

Continuing to Advocate …

When I ran for office, I didn’t run just to hold the job – I ran to do the job. Although session is over, the work certainly is not. My nights have been filled since session ended in April with visits to community association meetings and events, where I’ve discussed the work we did and the continuing work we have to do. I’ve shared my End of Session Report as well – which you can find on my website here.

PHoto of Brooke giving a speech in front of a big American flagI passed several bills during session, and all of them (or their Senate cross-files) were signed into law except one – the MTA Board of Oversight & Planning, HB 1010. Unfortunately, the Governor decided to veto HB 1010 on the last day that he had the option. Many of you wrote in to tell me that you supported an override of the Governor’s veto – I have not heard yet whether the House and Senate leadership will support an override, but I’m hopeful and continuing discussions with them. This is a vitally important bill that will help improve transit for the region.

The Baltimore Sun ran a very strong editorial in support of an override of the Governor’s veto on this bill.  The Sun noted:

Perhaps the most inexplicable of the vetoes was Mr. Hogan’s vituperative rejection of Del. Brooke Lierman’s legislation to create an advisory council for the Maryland Transit Administration. . . . . Planning and oversight boards like this one are common in transit agencies, and it would help the MTA in its efforts at long-term planning and building support for its priorities. In announcing his effort to revamp Baltimore bus lines, Mr. Hogan called the MTA deeply dysfunctional. He should welcome the help to fix it.

Public transit is not just a matter of convenience – it is a matter of social justice.  I will continue to work for better public transit to ensure that people have access to good jobs, and we are reducing traffic and congestion in our city.  To that end, see below for a list of workshops that MTA is holding around the City regarding the updated Baltimore Link system.

In the Community…

In addition to attending community meetings all around District 46, I have also been busy going to community and advocacy events! For instance –

  • Speaking at the release of the 2015 Harbor Report Card, sponsored by Blue Water Baltimore and Healthy Harbors  Picture of Brooke with students from Curtis Bay Elementary
  • Receiving an award for passage of Alicia’s Law from the Baltimore Child Abuse Center
  • Speaking on June 14th – Flag Day – at the Flag House on Pratt Street (see photo above)
  • Visiting schools around the district, including Highlandtown 237, Federal Hill Prep, Maree Farring Elementary/Middle, and having lunch with students at Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School
  • Awarding ~$40,000 in scholarships to District 46 students who are attending college or graduate school next year
  • Celebrating the anniversary of Sail Baltimore, the organization responsible for bringing the Tall Ships to Baltimore since 1976
  • Joining residents for the annual Prayer Walk in Cherry Hill

Coming up in District 46 . . .

MTA Baltimore Link Workshops: Please attend one of the upcoming MTA workshops on BaltimoreLink – the new bus service coming to our region. There are several hearings in District 46 in July and September. Check out the information and schedules atwww.baltimorelink.com.

Banner Neighborhoods Crab Feast: Tomorrow (Saturday June 25th) from 1-4 p.m. at 2900 E. Fayette Street (in the yard). Tickets are $45 advance or $50 at the door!

INSPIRE Meeting in Cherry Hill to shape the blocks around the two new schools being built: June 28, 2016 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Arundel Elem/Middle, 2400 Round Road.

Summer Food Lunch Program: From June 27 through August 26, all Community Action Partnership Centers will offer FREE summer lunches from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.. For information, call 410-545-6958 or visit your local community action partnership center. Southern – 606 Cherry Hill Road; Southeast – 3411 Bank Street; Eastern – 1400 E. Federal Street

I am often asked about school construction and demolition, so am sharing the links about those projects with you as well:

21st Century School Reconstructionhttp://baltimore21stcenturyschools.org/  This website provides information on the schools being rebuilt and timelines.

Project CORE: Visit http://dhcd.maryland.gov/ProjectCORE/Pages/default.aspx for information on demolition and deconstruction in Baltimore. This plan is pursuant to a bill passed by the General Assembly and an MOU signed with the Maryland Stadium Authority, which is handling the funds and helping to oversee the project.

 

Constituent Services…

At the end of the day, I am here to serve the residents of District 46!  That means, if you live in District 46 and you have a problem – I’d like to do all I can to help. Brooke and others getting Baltimore Child Abuse Center award You can email me at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us and my legislative director, Michele Lambert, and I will help figure out how to solve the issues you’re confronting. (And, if you’d like a Brooke Lierman #BmoreLocal reusable bag to use when grocery shopping, just send me an email with your address and we’ll mail you one!)

Two year after one of the most exciting days I my life – June 24, 2014 – I am eternally grateful to all of you for placing your trust in me in this important role. I continue to try to do my best each and every day to build a better Baltimore, and a better Maryland.

Have a great summer, and keep in touch!

My best,

Brooke

 

PS: In case you missed it, I was named one of the Top 10 Freshman Delegates by Josh Kurtz in Center Maryland! Josh wrote:

Born on Valentine’s Day, she combines sweetness with steely determination. No one works harder or is better prepared for a hearing, an election, an issue campaign. No one learns lessons more quickly when she falls short. She has already worked an extraordinary array of issues, and is a very effective advocate for her city and her constituents.

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June 24, 2016: Two Years After the Primary

Two years have come and gone so fast. Two years ago today, the polls had just opened and I was standing at William Paca Elementary School greeting voters. Today, I’ll be starting my day at Maree Farring Elementary/Middle School in Brooklyn, talking with the principal and others about expanding its capacity to make room for more students who want to attend this thriving school.

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Statement on Veto of HB 1010

Statement on Veto of HB 1010

Today, the Governor dealt another blow to public transportation in the Baltimore region when he vetoed a bill to create an oversight and planning board (HB 1010).  I am very disappointed and frustrated by the Governor’s decision to veto a bill that would make structural reforms to public involvement, oversight, and planning at MTA.

Just a few months ago, the Governor and Secretary Rahn announced that public transportation in Baltimore was broken.  Now, in his veto letter, the Governor states that “MTA is succeeding according to every measurable metric in its core service area….”  The Governor could not be more wrong, both in fact and in outlook. MTA can and must be held to a higher standard.

 

Until we roll up our sleeves and take action, claims that Maryland is “Open for Business” mean little.  Public transit is a powerful job creator. Transit projects create far more “construction multiplier” jobs than highway projects do. Employers and businesses like the FBI, McCormick, or Under Armor prioritize good public transportation when they choose where to locate. Depriving the Baltimore region of transit reform undermines our national and global competitiveness.

MTA stakeholders—from the 1/3 of Baltimore City residents who do not own a vehicle, to countless institutional and business stakeholders—know the value of public transit services. Unfortunately, the Governor has demonstrated not only a lack of knowledge of public transit best practices, but a lack of interest in working with stakeholders to address MTA’s longstanding issues.

HB 1010 would have established a board made up of users of MTA services and the local governments whose roads and streets MTA services use.  The board membership would have reflected MTA stakeholders, and would have included riders, local governments, businesses, and the disabled community.  All of these groups are directly affected every day by the subpar MTA service that the Governor says is “succeeding.”

HB 1010 would have also addressed the fact that MTA has no reporting or planning requirements that are specifically responsive to customer feedback, and no comprehensive and long-term planning of any sort.  This lack of strategic direction has been a key structural impediment to improvement at MTA.

Although I was disappointed by the decision of the Governor, I was surprised and appalled by his verbally-abusive veto letter. Although the Governor and I may have our differences on policy, I believe it is important to use thoughtful language and refrain from direct attacks.  Policy ideas should be debated with reason, not rhetoric – and I plan to continue doing that.

The Governor’s three main concerns seem to be that (1) the bill is “politically-driven,” (2) that not every Maryland county is equally represented, and (3) that the LOTS do not have a seat on the Board.  None of these reasons is valid or accurate.

1) After researching transportation policy and speaking with MTA and MDOT officials, I campaigned on the idea of creating a Board of Directors for MTA because it will lead to more efficient, effective, and responsive public transit service. I introduced the bill in 2015 – well before cancellation of the Red Line. Moreover, the Governor has appointments on the Board. This is about good governance – not ideology.

2) The Board membership accurately represents the ridership of MTA. Even without including MARC, nearly 90% of the ridership in 2014 was within the greater Baltimore region.  Thus, giving the jurisdictions and riders in that region the most seats on the Board is easily justifiable. Because I do believe in One Maryland, however, I accepted amendments to add seats for a commuter bus user, and seats for the three councils that are codified – all or any of those riders may come from outside the Baltimore region.

3) Finally, the locally-operated transit systems report directly to their local governments (who have seats on the Board) and are not governed by MTA at all – MTA simply provides direct grants to these agencies. Therefore, it is not appropriate for the LOTS to have a seat on the Board.

I believe in responsible and responsive government, and high-quality public transit to serve all Marylanders.  No one could seriously deny that today, MTA is not “succeeding”. If the Governor does not believe that a Board will lead to more efficient and responsive public transit, then I await his suggestions. I will continue advocating on public transit issues until every Marylander has access to the high quality public transit that we deserve.

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2016 End of Session Report

2016 End of Session Report

After a demanding 90 days, the General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session has ended. From January 13th – April 11th, the General Assembly met to debate and pass bills that affect residents across the State, including the FY17 operating and capital budgets. I have continued to advocate for causes important to Baltimore, including more efficient and effective transportation, criminal justice reform, environmental issues, and support for Baltimore City and its schools.  I am excited to share my second End of Session Report to keep you updated on my work in Annapolis this year.  To download a PDF of this report, click here.

 

In this report, I’ll provide updates and summaries on the major issues from this session, but with limited space I cannot report on all of the bills that we worked on. To read more, please sign up for my email updates and visit my blog at www.brookelierman.com. If at any time you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact my office at (410) 841-3319 or brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.

THE BALTIMORE CITY PACKAGE

This year I worked with my colleagues to pass a $300 million package of bills dedicated to improving and expanding services in Baltimore. The “Baltimore City Package” includes the following bills, which all passed this year:

  • Apprenticeship Career Training in Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) Program (HB 290) – Creates an apprenticeship program that provides employers $1,000 per new apprentice and is targeted to zip codes with poverty rates of at least 20%.
  • P-TECH Schools Act of 2016 (HB 464) – Helps fund a model that allows students to graduate from public high school with a diploma and an associate degree or other pre–apprenticeship or career certificate. Two Baltimore City High Schools will offer this new program.
  • Smart Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund (HB 686) – Codifies the Strategic Demolition Program that provides state funding to local governments, including millions for Baltimore.
  • Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative (HB 684) – Codifies the successful neighborhood revitalization grant program with an annual appropriation of $12 million starting in FY18 to provide flexible funding to community development corporations in designated and under-served communities (including Southeast Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Curtis Bay).
  • Seed Community Development Anchor Institution Fund (HB 1400) – Provides matching state funds to anchor institutions to leverage their resources in under-served communities.
  • Enoch Pratt Free Library Funding (HB 1401) – Provides funding for expanded access to public libraries and bolsters the role of libraries as community anchors.
  • Next Generation Scholars of Maryland (HB 1403) – Expands eligibility to 7th and 8th grade students for the Guaranteed Access Grant program. This Grant provides college scholarships to students who meet a rigorous academic and social criteria through middle and high school.

THE FY17 BUDGET

I serve on the Appropriations Committee, and two of its subcommittees – the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee and the Pensions Subcommittee. Much of my time and effort during session involved work in these committees on our state’s FY17 operating and capital budgets. Under the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly must pass a balanced budget each year. Maryland has a “strong executive” model: the Governor proposes the initial budget early in session and the Assembly can then only cut or restrict funds in the operating budget (although it can add to the capital budget).

Some highlights of the FY17 budgets include:

Commitment to Public Schools

In the budget, the State’s support for public schools exceeds $6.3 billion. The budget also includes $19.4 million for five school systems that have lost enrollment and aid in recent years, including over $10 million for Baltimore. An additional $19 million in budgetary savings is restricted for grants to help school systems fund the increase in their share of teachers’ retirement costs. Community colleges will receive a 5.4% funding increase.

 

Providing Vital Health Care Services

This budget provides nearly $10 billion in funding for Medicaid, including $346 million for rate increases for health care providers. The Affordable Care Act has expanded Medicaid coverage to an additional 1.2 million Marylanders. The budget also includes over $63 million for the developmentally disabled and $36 million for the required 3.5% community provider increase to help ensure patients are able to find doctors who take Medicaid and that providers for the developmentally disabled are appropriately paid.

Structurally Balanced

The operating budget is balanced and closes the structural deficit. Ongoing general fund revenues exceed ongoing expenses by $139 million. We have a general fund balance of over $400 million, and our Rainy Day Fund exceeds $1 billion. The budget fully funds our pension obligations as well.

 

Protecting Natural Resources & Promoting the Arts

Our budget fully funds the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund for the first time since its creation. The budget also adds $60 million in funding to land preservation programs over the next two years. The budget includes a record $20.3 million appropriation for the Maryland Arts Council.

 

Focusing Resources on Substance Abuse Treatment and Opioid Addiction

This budget provides a $12 milion increase for treatment of substance abuse disorders, including $5.4 million for new and expanded services and treatment for individuals with a substance abuse disorder, $3.7 million for initiatives recommended by the Governor’s Emergency Task Force, and $3 million to increase the number of placements available for court commitments to treatment. The budget also has a 2.0% increase for all behavioral health providers.

Reporting Requirements from Agencies

Through budget narrative, I worked with the Committee to secure language requiring DNR to submit plans to maintain & expand state parks; Dept. of Planning to report on status of preservation programs; DLLR to report on enforcement of wage/hour laws; University of Maryland to provide information on the fees its schools charge; and MDE/MDA to report whether they have adequate staff to enforce environmental regulations. Other budget language will require additional reports from other Agencies.

 

The FY17 Capital Budget – Local Projects

The District 46 team secured funding for multiple projects in our district, including the following: Port Discovery – $500,000; Baltimore Regional Ed & Training Center (CASA & SE CDC collaboration) – $430,000; Creative Alliance – $250,000; Leadenhall Community Outreach Center – $500,000; The Baltimore Museum of Industry – $200,000; Peale Museum – $400,000; Healthcare for the Homeless Dental Clinic – $17,500.

For more information on the State budgets, visit: www.brookelierman.com/news/FY17Budgets

MY BILLS

In addition to supporting the Baltimore City legislative package and advocating on other major bills this session, I worked hard to pass several pieces of legislation that I introduced, including:

Transportation Transparency & Accountability

  • Maryland Transit Administration Oversight and Planning Board (HB 1010) – This bill creates an MTA Oversight and Planning Board, codifies existing advisory councils, and requires MTA to begin engaging in comprehensive planning for transit systems in the greater Baltimore region.  The Board will allow for increased effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability to the people and local governments that MTA serves.  This bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk!
  • Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016 (HB 1013) – Although not the lead sponsor, I was asked by my Committee Chair to be the Floor Leader on this important transparency bill. I lead the floor debate to both pass the bill and to override the Governor’s veto. HB 1013 requires MDOT to create a project-scoring system based on our state transportation goals to provide objective and transparent data on certain projects in MTA/SHA.

Promoting Strong Communities

  • Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2016 (HB 31) – Plastic bags make up a large percentage of the litter in our neighborhood streets, communities, and waterways, including streams and rivers that flow to the Chesapeake Bay. HB 31 would have banned disposable plastic bags and required retailers to charge 10 cents for each paper bag requested by a customer. Unfortunately, the bill died this year when the Committee gave it an unfavorable report.
  • Civil Penalties for Shoplifting and Employee Theft–Repeal (HB 190) – Current law allows for private corporations to send extortionate letters demanding up to $1000 in compensation to people they suspect of shoplifting or theft (regardless of guilt). The original bill would have repealed the law. In its final form, it reforms the law to provide safeguards for innocent consumers, and requires reporting by any company wishing to engage in this practice.  This bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk!

Promoting College Savings & Cutting Red Tape

  • Income Tax Subtraction Modification – College Savings Plans (HB 335) – This bill reduces the administrative burden of saving money in a college savings account by allowing anyone to take the available deduction (of up to $2,500) for investing in a student’s §529 college savings plan. It reduces red tape and encourages saving for college. It is on its way to the Governor’s desk!

Protecting Children and Seniors

  • Alicia’s Law (HB 1490/SB 864) –More than 10,000 computers have been identified as trading depictions of child sexual exploitation in Maryland. This bill creates a special fund to investigate and prosecute internet-based crimes & sexual exploitation of children. It will provide $2 million per year to law enforcement and child advocacy centers. SB 864 is on its way to the Governor’s desk!
  • Food Stamp Program – Minimum Benefit (HB 445) – Over 29,000 Marylanders receive only $16 per month to help pay for food.  Because the federal government has cut the SNAP program, many Marylanders – especially seniors – are going hungry. This bill supplements the federal SNAP benefits to ensure that no Maryland SNAP recipient aged 62 or over will receive less than $30 a month. This bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk!

 

OTHER MAJOR LEGISLATION  

I am also proud to have co-sponsored other important measures that passed this year, including:

  • Justice Reinvestment Act (SB 1005) – One of the most important bills the House passed this session, the JRA, could be called the “Smart on Crime Act.” This bill enacts several proven and important criminal justice reforms, including expanded use of drug treatment instead of jail, and additional expungement & reentry resources. I offered an amendment that was adopted to fund re-entry programs through the use of an opportunity compact or social impact bond. Passed.
  • Clean Energy Jobs Act (HB 1106) –Increase the State’s use of solar energy and the total amount of clean energy required under the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.  Passed
  • Freedom to Vote Act (HB 1007) – Lowers the barrier that voter registration causes by requiring various state agencies and boards of elections to adopt measures that increase access. Passed.
  • Public Safety and Policing Workgroup Recommendations (HB 1016) – Focuses on police accountability and will address training, mental health evaluations, community policing, whistleblower protections, and civilian participation on police review panels.  Passed.
  • Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 580) – Requires businesses with more than 15 employees to provide earned sick leave to employees who work 8+ hours per week. Passed the House; failed in the Senate.
  • Baltimore City – Pub Crawl Promoter’s Permits (HB 1068) – Creates a permit process to help the City regulate pub crawls.  Passed both chambers.
  • Ken Capone Equal Employment Act (HB 420) – Phases out the use of sub-minimum wages for employees with a disability.  Passed both chambers.

CONSTITUENT WORK

Over the past 90 days, I received over 1,215 contacts from constituents! I love hearing from you and do my best to respond to each person with a thoughtful reply.  Here is a rough breakdown on topics:

Environmental Issues  305+ contacts

(Poultry litter, pollinator, bag ban, animal rights etc.)

Transportation Issues  45+ contacts

(Transportation package, MTA board, farebox recovery repeal, etc.)

Budgetary and Tax Issues  75+ contacts

(Program open space, bond bills, earned income tax credit, etc.)

Education Issues – 105+ contacts

(Education tax credit, standardized testing, etc.)

Criminal Justice Issues  245+ contacts

(Override vetoes, legalize marijuana, justice reinvestment, police accountability, etc.)

Health Issues – 185+ contacts

(Keep the Door Open Act, earned sick leave, etc.)

If you are facing any difficulty working with a State agency or have other concerns, please contact my office. My (new) legislative aide, Michele Lambert, or I will be happy to work with you to try to remedy the issue. Our office phone number is (410) 841-3319, and Michele and I can be reached by email at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.Please keep in touch.

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2016 Annapolis Dispatch: Halfway Done

The past two weeks were busy with budget briefings and visits with constituents! Last week, I was honored to speak at a rally to preserve funding for providers treating behavioral health conditions. The rally to help “Keep the Door Open” to patients was a huge success, and I hope that we are able to pass this important legislation to make sure anyone can get the treatment they need.

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2016 Annapolis Dispatch: First Week, Veto Overrides

This is the first of the bi-weekly updates that I will send out and post on my website regarding the 2016 General Assembly Session.  The 2016 Session has started off strong! Leaders have informed us that there have been a record-level of bills requested for drafting, meaning we may have some very long days in hearings and on the floor voting. (This is a picture of me and my friends and fellow Baltimore legislators, Cory McCray and Antonio Hayes).

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New Year & New Session

Another year has ended, and a new one has begun.  Today we are one week away from the start of my second session in the General Assembly.  Last year was certainly a milestone year for me and my family, as I was sworn in as a State Delegate in January, appointed to the Appropriations Committee, and worked to effectively represent District 46.  It was also a milestone year – in a very different way – for Baltimore.  The unrest and uprising that occurred in April following the tragic death of Freddie Gray lead to a renewed call for urgency to address the longstanding disparities in our City – disparities caused by a long history of racism and segregation, but disparities that every person I have met in Baltimore truly desires to end. It is my hope that in 2016 we will continue to be vigilant and urgent in our work to address the housing, educational, social, and economic disparities plaguing our City.  We will only succeed as a City when every child has an equal opportunity for success.

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June 24: One Year After the Primary

Dear Friends + Neighbors –

What a difference a year makes.  This time last year, the polls were just opening.  I was standing at William Paca Elementary School, waiting to greet the first voters of the day, and knowing that no matter the outcome of the election, I had run the best campaign I could. Looking back over my campaign, as I do from time to time, I am still inspired and grateful for the many people who helped carry me across the finish line – into a first place victory! If not for you and them, I would not be where I am today – able to represent the residents of Baltimore City in the General Assembly.

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