In February, we celebrate Black History Month and take time to learn about and commemorate the important and often-overlooked contributions of African Americans. This week marks the 101st birthday of one of the most important and influential Marylanders of all time – Frederick Douglass. Although his exact birthdate was unknown, he chose to celebrate February 14 as the date of his birth. A new biography has recently been released to complement his own writings and past biographies. Douglass not only escaped slavery and was one of the greatest orators and abolitionists of his day, he also attended the Seneca Falls Convention and spoke out in favor of women’s suffrage. He was an exceptional American – who lived for a time in District 46 – from whom we still have much to learn.
We are now more than 30 days into the 90-day legislative session and the bill deadline has passed for both chambers – that means that if any more bills are filed, they require special permission to have a hearing. The final bill I filed last week was to increase funding for bike infrastructure around the state through MDOT’s Bikeways Program. This statewide program helps create and maintain trails around the state, from adding bikeshares near Grosvenor Metro to installing bike routes in Ocean City to designing bike lanes on Eutaw Street in Baltimore City. The program could do much more though, and as recent studies highlight, the bulk of those riding bikes cannot afford cars and depend on bikes to access work.
We have had thousands of Marylanders come to Annapolis to testify on bills, join for a rally, or simply come about a bill they care about. We had hundreds of Baltimore residents come last Monday for Baltimore Night in Annapolis – it was great to see our Youth Commission there!
I am thrilled to announce that we have formed a Public Transit Caucus in the General Assembly. For several years, my colleagues Dels. Marc Korman and Erek Barron led a workgroup on WMATA. This year, we have expanded it into a new Caucus – with both Delegates and Senators – to learn about and discuss the challenges and opportunities facing public transit in our state. We meet weekly on Fridays at noon in Room 170 of the House Office Building and the public is welcome to join for the presentations. This past Friday we had an overview of MTA and next week we’ll learn more about Southern Maryland’s transportation needs and the work of the WMATA Inspector General. I’m excited to be leading this endeavour with Dels. Korman, Barron, Fraser-Hidalgo and Senators Augustine and Beidle.
I was appointed by House Speaker Michael Busch to the new House of Delegates Study Group on Economic Stability in Maryland. This working group will explore pathways to opportunity for all Marylanders and be led by Del. Steve Lafferty. We must do better as a state to combat poverty by creating opportunities and breaking down barriers. Our study group meets on Monday afternoons to review challenges and discuss solutions.
I spend much of my time each week in budget briefings and hearings. Here are a couple highlights from the past two weeks –
On February 5th, my subcommittee held a hearing to review the budget of the Public Service Commission (PSC). I had many questions about third-party retail suppliers offering variable rate contracts that end up costing Maryland consumers more in the long run. Some of these providers are targeting low-income neighborhoods and the salesmen sometimes get paid based on how many plans they sell. Maryland consumers overpaid for energy by more than $55 million in 2017! Our Public Service Commission is currently not equipped to adequately is not curtailing bad actors and intervention is needed. This is an issue many of us are following and we will be meeting with the PSC and suppliers and advocates for consumers more in the coming year to determine next steps. Click here to learn more about third party energy supply. You can see the hearing here.
On Friday, we held a thorough budget hearing with the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Rahn, to receive an overview of the Department of Transportation. Although we will have more hearings with the individual modes – MTA, MVA, etc. – it was an important hearing to highlight some of the failures to invest in transit and expose some of their disingenuous scoring of potential transportation projects. For the first time in my time, we also had a robust showing from the public – folks from Southern Maryland, Baltimore City and County, and business and environmental and bicycle leaders who also came to present compelling testimony about the lack of investment in transit. We face huge transportation challenges in our state with very limited dedicated resources. To see the hearing, visit here.
You can see all the budget overviews online here and watch videos of the proceedings by clicking the camera icon next to each Department’s budget briefing date – http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmbgtnfiscal.aspx?pid=bnfpage&stab=06&id=sk001_tab06&tab=subject4
I spend a lot of time working on budget issues and focusing on Baltimore City, but I also introduce statewide legislation. If my legislation this year could be summed up in one phrase, it would be “standing up for the little guy (or gal).” I have a bill to help right the balance of power between college student athletes and Universities (read about it here), a bill to provide funding for students with Title IX claims against assailants (HB 633), funding for the Thrive by Three infant care coordination program (HB 520), legislation to help victims of domestic violence access family law attorneys even if they can’t afford to pay (HB 665), a bill ending unfair drivers license suspensions on people who cannot afford to pay court fees (HB 1267)… and a bill to require local jurisdictions to (finally!) make plans on how to build adequate affordable housing for their residents (HB 1045)… not to mention my environmental bills and my ranked choice voting bill. I’m also working hard through the budget process to ensure Baltimore City is receiving needed public safety and violence prevention dollars and will be continuing to push for a strong Kirwan Commission bill, also setting aside funding to implement the program. I have a robust package of legislation and I’m looking forward to continuing to present it to the Committees this session.
If you have any questions about these bills or any other, please be in touch!
Apply to be a Neighborhood Liaison to Assist the Consent Decree Monitoring Team Implementing the Consent Decree well and thoroughly over the next few years is a hugely important issue. The Monitoring Team that acts as the Judge’s oversight arm is seeking individuals to serve as neighborhood liaisons to keep folks updated and take feedback. Each Neighborhood Liaison is paid $20 per hour, up to a total of fifteen (15) hours per month and $25 monthly for travel expenses. Please consider applying to get involved in this important work!
Applications are Open for Delegate Scholarships! Scholarship applications are now available for District 46 constituents. There are separate steps for Returning Applicants and New Applicants and applications must be submitted by May 1, 2019. Read more and download the application here.
Less Waste, Better Baltimore. Get involved in the Less Waste, Better Baltimore Plan. DPW needs your help as it conducts a master planning effort to identify options for improving solid waste diversion, recycling, and disposal in the City.
Join me and Senator Ferguson and Delegates Clippinger and Lewis for ourAnnual Town Hall on February 23 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the National Federation of the Blind in South Baltimore.
RSVP here to let us know you’re coming!
In the News
- Debate over Post-Labor Day school year start continues as Democrats try to give local school boards back their traditional authority that was taken by the Governor several years ago through executive order.
- Johns Hopkins University has submitted its bill to create private police force. What do you think?
- The Washington Post covered one of my bills that would require additional local input before creating toll roads – read here.
- I made my debut in the Post’s sports section with an article about my bill to protect college student athletes – see here.
- A new report from the Urban Institute shows how African American neighborhoods in Baltimore are continuing to face disinvestment compared to white neighborhoods