I would like to thank each of you for giving me the privilege of representing District 29 as your Senator in Annapolis. I served on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee for this legislative session. I also serve as the Senate Chair for the Sportsman Caucus, the Senate Vice-Chair for the Veteran’s Caucus, the Senate Representative for the Southern Maryland Agricultural Developmental Commission, and serve as a member of the Waterman’s Caucus.
Over the past several months, I met and spoke with our citizens, community leaders, and elected officials and there were several key items: The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (now the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland); minimum wage; veteran’s needs; the rights of gun owners; landowner rights and oyster leases. I would like to update you on these points:
University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland (formerly Southern Maryland Higher Education Center) - $11,953,000
Maryland’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget passed with funds to complete the design and begin construction of the University of Maryland Academic and Research Center (the Third Building) at USMSM. We worked with and received letters of support for this project from the Commissioners of Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Charles Counties. Additionally, we received letters of support from the three Southern Maryland delegations, the Prince George’s County delegation and our elected federal officials. This was a complete effort by all of the Southern Maryland elected officials to ensure this funding stayed in the budget and passed. This project is crucial to growing our local economy, as we need to continue to produce and attract highly skilled individuals. When completed, this $86 million facility represents a critical investment in bringing expanded higher education research opportunities to Southern Maryland.
SB 521 Veteran Suicide Prevention - Comprehensive Action Plan
I am proud to co-sponsor this bill and work with Secretary Owings of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and Senator Smith on this bi-partisan legislation that increases the accessibility of professional veteran health services with the hope to prevent suicides. This bill raises awareness and will provide extensive resources to our veterans who desperately need our help.
SB 737 Rifles and Shotguns – Sales, Rentals, Transfers, and Loans
This bill would have required a licensed firearms dealer to facilitate the sale of a rifle or shotgun. I fought to protect your second amendment rights and placed an amendment on this bill and the Republican Caucus worked hard to ensure its defeat.
SB 1000 – Handgun Permit Review Board – Repeal
Second Amendment rights were under attack in Annapolis during this session. Even though the Handgun Review Board had been in place for decades, the Handgun Review Board was abolished which will make it more difficult to receive a handgun permit.
SB 876 – Aquaculture – Lease in Water Column – Riparian Right of First Refusal
This bill gave a property owner the right of first refusal to apply for and obtain a water column lease for aquaculture. The property owners are assessed a premium on their waterfront property, yet the Department of Natural Resources is issuing water column leases that restricts use of the water. While this bill failed to come for a vote in the Senate Committee, I will continue working with the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources to address the concerns of the stakeholders.
Governor Hogan vetoed several pieces of legislation during this session and the Republican Caucus fought on the floor in support of each veto. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in upholding the veto, as the votes went along party lines.
SB 280 Labor and Employment - Payment of Wages - Minimum Wage and Enforcement
I strongly opposed this legislation and I stood by Governor Hogan’s veto of the ‘Fight for 15’ but after many long, tough debates we lost the fight and the Senate overrode the Governor’s veto. Despite major pushback from our local businesses, Maryland’s minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour by January 2025. Businesses with less than 14 employees will have an extra year to reach the $15 requirement. Thank you to everyone who called and provided testimony, it made my job easier to have first-hand accounts of how this will affect your businesses.
SB 128 Community Control of School Calendars Act
I opposed this bill and voted in favor of the Governor’s veto, but unfortunately, the veto was overridden on a straight party line vote. This bill repeals Governor Hogan’s 2016 Executive Order for a post-Labor Day start date for public schools and disregards the majority of our citizen’s wishes to start after Labor Day. Each local Board of Education will now set their own start and end dates.
HB 298 Oysters – Tributary-Scale Sanctuaries – Protection and Restoration
The five sanctuaries referenced in this bill were already protected under current law. This bill actually exempts aquaculture operations and allows private financial interests to grow non-native genetically engineered sterile oysters on the native oyster reef sanctuaries. I opposed this legislation.
SB 703 – Alcohol, Tobacco, and Motor Fuel Commission
This bill removes the enforcement officers from the Maryland Comptroller’s Office and places responsibility with a newly formed Alcohol, Tobacco, and Motor Fuel Commission. I reviewed numerous letters from leaders of law enforcement agencies throughout the State who opposed this bill and I fought against it in committee and on the Senate floor. With the removal of the law enforcement officers from the Comptroller’s Office, this weakens our ability to track illegal activities such as smuggling and terrorism.
Two other major pieces of legislation that grabbed headlines this session was the Kirwan Commission and the End of Life Option Act.
SB 1030 The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan)
I offered amendments on this bill and fought while it was in committee to ensure that our rural counties received as much funding as possible. This bill establishes the Maryland Office of the Inspector General for Education, which will help to ensure accountability of the use of education funds.
SB 311 End of Life Option Act
Thankfully, this bill was defeated in the Senate with a tie 23-23 vote, with one senator abstaining. I had numerous conversations with constituents who wanted to make sure that I was voting against this bill. I understand how important and personal this issue is and appreciate the feedback from everyone.
The following is a quick synopsis of funding that District 29 received through the State budget and bond initiatives:
St. Mary’s College of Maryland - $16,971,000
The College will receive funding for the final design and initial construction of a new academic building, 700-seat auditorium, and infrastructure improvements throughout the campus.
Historic St. Mary’s City – $3,500,000
Historic St. Mary’s City will receive funding to build a new replica of the Maryland Dove and establish the Maryland Heritage Interpretive Center. Both of these projects will provide great educational and tourism opportunities for Historic St. Mary’s City.
Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) - $999,000
SMADC will receive the funding for its Southern Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation budget. This funding, along with federal funds, will help to preserve our farms in Southern Maryland.
Airport Autonomous Systems Center – St. Mary’s County Airport - $500,000
This state money supports infrastructure projects at St. Mary’s County Airport.
HB 358 St. Mary's County - Public Facility Bonds
This bill allows the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County to issue up to $30 million in general obligation bonds for the acquisition, construction, improvement, or renovation of public buildings, facilities, and public works projects.
Calvert Marine Museum Paleontology Collections and Research Center - $250,000 Bond
I sponsored this legislation and worked with local legislators to secure funding to design a new paleontology center that will include space for fossil preparation, collection storage, and its library.
Three Notch Theatre - $100,000 Bond
I sponsored this legislation in the Senate and worked local legislators that will provide funds for theater improvements. These upgrades and improvements will help ensure this cultural gem in our county will continue for many years.
During this session, I sponsored or co-sponsored several bills that would benefit our constituents in District 29:
SB 292 Property Tax Credit – Public Safety Officer – Definition
I sponsored the legislation that allows volunteer emergency medical technicians to be defined as public safety officers so that they may be eligible recipients for local property tax credits. Alongside my colleagues, I take pride in serving those who serve our community and this bill passed unanimously through the legislature.
SB 390 Natural Resources - Sunday Hunting – St. Mary’s County
This bill allows individuals in St. Mary’s County to hunt any game bird or game mammal, except game birds, on any Sunday during the open season for that appropriate bird or mammal. The bill applies to private property or public land designated for Sunday hunting by the Department of Natural Resources. This is a huge victory for St. Mary’s County, especially our young hunters who may not have been able to hunt because of school and extracurricular activities, which typically take place on Saturdays.
SB 947 Calvert County - Correctional Officers' Bill of Rights
This legislation establishes the rights of a correctional officer relating to the employment, investigation, and discipline of correctional officers in Calvert County.
SB 957 Calvert County - Office of the Sheriff - Correctional Deputies
This bill authorizes the Sheriff of Calvert County to appoint correctional deputies who serve under the direction of the Sheriff and adds “correctional deputies” to statutory provisions regarding deputy sheriffs in Calvert County.
SB 946 State Prescription Drug Benefits - Retiree Benefits – Revisions
This bill allows State of Maryland retirees who participate in a drug benefit plan to select coverage for a spouse or dependent child. It also requires the Department of Management and Budget to create a plan to communicate with retirees regarding this legislation. The bill was filed because of the State’s proposed changes in prescription coverage for retirees. There is an ongoing court case regarding prescription drug coverage, and in the meantime, no changes can be made to prescription drug coverage until the court case is resolved.
It was a busy legislative session and I worked with both boards of county commissioners and all of the Southern Maryland delegations to ensure that St. Mary’s and Calvert counties received the support and commitment that they needed. I worked very hard to bring as much funding back to District 29 as possible to continue to support our community programs, tourist locations, and educational facilities.
Our staff was busy representing all of our constituents in District 29. In our Annapolis office, we have Alicia Luckhardt, Chief of Staff; Amy Scott, Legislative Director; and Randy Rice, Legislative Assistant. I am also pleased to announce that we will soon be opening our local office in Hollywood and Lynn Delahay will be our local liaison.
I would like to conclude this letter by thanking each of you once again. I am grateful to have had so many of you reach out to my office via telephone, letters, and email and I encourage you to contact my office to express your views on legislation, reach out for assistance with an issue or concern you may have, or to simply say hello. My office door is always open. If you would like more information on any of the bills listed above, please visit http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frm1st.aspx?tab=home and don’t forget to follow my Facebook, Instagram and twitter.