An Annapolis Agenda for 2017
The 437th Session of the Maryland General Assembly convenes today. Although the legislature only meets for 90 days, as your Delegate I work year-round to represent each of you and our district. But the next 90 days will be a sprint of legislative productivity in Annapolis.
I will be called upon to consider and vote on numerous legislative issues during the session, many of which you may have read about in the news. Below are some of the major issues on my own Annapolis agenda for the year. Many of these issues will be the subject of future emails
Since being elected Delegate, I have explained my view that only a part of the job is passing my own bills. Much of the work involves oversight efforts and assisting others with their legislative efforts. In particular, as a member of the Appropriations Committee much of my annual work involves participating in oversight hearings on individual state agencies. Three ongoing efforts, however, are of particular importance to me this session.
As of now, I am planning to introduce eight pieces of legislation this session:
You can always keep up with what I am doing by following me at @mkorman on Twitter or clicking "Like" on Delegate Marc Korman on Facebook.
The Maryland Department of Legislative Services prepares "issue papers" each year to preview matters that may be before the General Assembly in the upcoming legislative session. The 2017 batch has been released. These are organized by subject matter in case there are particular issues you care about.
Earlier this year the Maryland General Assembly passed the College Affordability Act. Included in the bill was an amendment I drafted requiring Maryland 529--the agency that runs the savings plan program--to draft and implement a marketing plan. The use of college savings plan accounts is high in Montgomery County but lags in most of the rest of the state and is dramatically lower than their use in Virginia (even controlled for population, Virginia has almost 2.5 million account holders compared to less than 300,000 in Maryland).
The marketing plan was recently submitted and I am pleased the agency is already moving forward with simple web advertising, outreach at events, and partnering with relevant groups. I look forward to discussing this further when Maryland 529's budget hearing occurs. You can read the plan online.
Delegate Platt and I sent a letter to the State Board of Elections (SBE) regarding their post election audit plans. SBE conducted a post-election audit as required by the legislature not because of the results of the election--because that was not an issue in Maryland--but to improve future election administration. Delegate Platt and I expressed our concern with SBE's decision to not review and audit any actual ballots.
A few weeks ago, Senator Manno, Delegate Kramer, and I asked the Maryland Attorney General if the state was following federal law in its treatment of HAWK signals, which can be useful in making roads work for both pedestrians and drivers. We did not receive back the answer we had hoped for, but it was still worth trying. Senator Manno is working on legislation which will resolve the issue if passed.
The 2016 report of the Governor's Regulatory Reform Commission has been released. Rather than the general comments in the 2015 report, the 2016 report lists numerous regulations that the Commission believes can be amended or repealed. I do not have the subject matter expertise to know whether each individual recommendation makes sense, but generally I applaud this type of effort to review old regulations and make sure they match modern needs. In fact, there is an existing process to do this by which each agency must review their regulations on a continuing cycle to determine if they are still effective or should be modified or repealed. Unfortunately, many agencies have not kept up with the required schedule. The agency approach is slightly preferable to me because it ensures a more comprehensive look at all of an agency's regulations and does not pre-screen which regulations may be modified or amended through a group of commission members who are business heavy (the Commission has no public health or environment advocates, for example, and no government administration experts).
One of the issues I hear the most about from constituents are concerns about the State Highway Administration (SHA). Many major roads in District 16 are controlled by SHA including Wisconsin, Old Georgetown, Bradley, River, and Massachusetts. Many neighborhoods and advocates believe that SHA is not as responsive, open, or communicative as they would hope for an agency dealing with our local roads.
Delegate Aruna Miller and I worked to include language in last year's budget requiring SHA to study its organization and staffing. SHA recently submitted its report which is linked here. A major focus of the report is the need to reduce employee turnover--which is challenging because SHA salaries are not competitive. District 3--which includes Montgomery and Prince George's County--has 266 employees in its district office, the most of any of the seven districts around the state.
The local Montgomery County Delegation Committee I serve on held an oversight hearing last year on SHA's ability to issue access permits. I hope we will continue that oversight function this year and discuss how SHA interacts with local neighborhoods.
One of my goals in Annapolis has been to increase the attention paid to Metro and provide more oversight. Once again, the WMATA-Metro Work Group will hold a series of meetings on particular Metro-related issues. Unlike many hearings, these are not being held in response to a particular incident or bad headline. They are part of the ongoing and necessary oversight of any large agency.
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