Last Friday, the Governor introduced his first budget proposal. It is made up of three components: the operating budget; the capital (or construction) budget; and a Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) which proposes changes in statute to support a balanced budget. You can review the budget submission here.
Later today the General Assembly will have its annual fiscal briefing as we begin to dig into the proposal. Over the next few weeks we will continue to go through the budget on an agency-by-agency basis as we work with the Governor to finalize the budget.
Here are some of the highlights of the budget:
As I said, we will dig more deeply into the budget over the coming weeks.
Last week, I joined my colleague Senator Cheryl Kagan for "Kibbitzing with Kagan." You can hear our conversation on YouTube.
In my update two weeks ago I mentioned a forthcoming announcement from Montgomery County Park & Planning regarding Little Falls Parkway. That announcement came a few days ago. On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, from 7 – 8:30 p.m, Parks will hold a virtual meeting to present data from traffic studies conducted on Little Falls Parkway between Arlington Road and Dorset Avenue. After the meeting, Parks will present the findings of the traffic studies to the Planning Board in a hearing during which members of the public will have the opportunity to testify. The Planning Board will then review the Parks Department’s recommendations and the public testimony and determine whether to proceed with the pilot project in a subsequent meeting. The Planning Board public hearing and meeting dates are yet to be determined but will likely be held in late March and early April. Once the dates are set, they will be publicly announced and posted on the Parks Department’s website on the project page.
Work continues on the Purple Line, but the construction contractor has recently claimed that delays on utilities relocation will extend the construction by several months. The state's view is that the delays can be mitigated but you can read more about the situation here.
Governor Moore recently announced his new Secretary of Transportation: Paul Wiedefeld. Mr. Wiedefeld is best known in our area for his work as the General Manager of Metro, but he has also led the Maryland Aviation Administration and Maryland Transit Administration, and worked at the State Highway Administration. Read more about the announcement here.
We are now in week two of the 90 day legislation and I am finalizing the bills I will be the primary sponsor of this year. I currently plan to sponsor nine pieces of legislation. That said, there are some significant issues the General Assembly will address that I may not be the sponsor of, but will take up significant time. This includes the annual budget which goes through the committee I serve on (Appropriations) and all of the major bills, which as the Majority Leader of the House I will have some involvement in.
The legislation I currently plan to sponsor includes:
-State and Federal Transportation Funding Act (HB 51): The bill allows the state to use Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) Bonds to finance certain transportation projects.
-Maryland State Agency Transparency Act of 2023 (HB 58): The legislation expands various open meeting and transparency requirements--including web streaming meetings--to the Maryland State Ethics Commission.
-Net Metering Flexibility Act (HB 68): Thanks to a constituent, I learned that our state policy for net metering credits--the credits earned for generating energy from solar panels--is not as consumer-friendly as it could be and this legislation seeks to improve that.
-Maryland Rail Investment Act of 2023 (HB 74): This is a repeat of last year and would use road, tunnel, and bridge tolls to fund a new rail authority to invest in needed transit rail projects around the state.
-Young Readers Program Expansion Act: Last year we passed a bill to create a state match program for Imagination Library-type programs (every kid under five gets a book a month from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library). This year's bill would move the program from the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention and put it in the Maryland State Library Agency and add further funding.
-Arbitration Reform for State Employees Act: Another repeat from a prior session, this would allow our state workers to engage in binding arbitration as part of the existing collective bargaining process.
-Special Needs Teacher Pay Parity Act: The state's "non-public placement" program is for students with special needs who the local school district decides to send to a school outside of the traditional public program. This bill would rename the program and alter the funding to increase special needs teacher pay.
-The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority Sunset Act: I previously served on Governor Hogan's State Transparency and Reform (STAR) Commission that looked at several quasi-governmental state agencies. This bill takes a close look at one of those agencies to determine if it should continue.
-Board of Public Works Public Comment Act: This legislation would set up a more formal process for the state Board of Public Works--which approves all state contracts--to accept and consider public comments.
The Maryland General Assembly website has many great resources if you are interested in following our work over the next 90 days. I will highlight just a few:
The general schedule is available here:
You can look up legislation and track its progress here. Every bill introduced by the bill introduction deadline is guaranteed a hearing and before the hearing, a fiscal and policy note about the bill will be published.
You can view the Committee Schedule, which will be regularly updated, here.
I also recommend a few different news resources for those of you interested in the legislature. In addition to the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, there are three websites that specialize in coverage of Annapolis:
Maryland Reporter: http://marylandreporter.com/
Maryland Matters: https://marylandmatters.org/
Center Maryland: http://www.centermaryland.org/
The Daily Record is a paid site, but the Twitter feed of their ace reporter, Bryan Sears (@bpsears) is a good one to follow. There are also a few good podcasts that cover the legislative session including the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Conduit Street Podcast. For more local coverage, Bethesda Beat.
Today is the start of my new term and the beginning of the annual legislative session. I am honored to be serving in a new role this year, having been recently named Majority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates by Speaker Adrienne Jones. I look forward to serving my district and state in this new capacity.
And speaking of new roles, congratulations to District 16's State Senator Susan Lee, who earlier this week was tapped by Governor-elect Wes Moore as Secretary of State. Delegate Ariana Kelly will be seeking the Senate seat and I look forward to supporting Ariana in this new role.
But what most of you want to read about are roads, roads, roads. Three different roads have been dominating the communication we receive from constituents these past few weeks.
Little Falls Parkway: Montgomery County Park & Planning has been piloting a "linear park" concept on Little Falls Parkway. This involved reducing traffic to two lanes and shifting it all to one side of the median. We have heard from many constituents concerned with the changes and expect an announcement from Park & Planning this week regarding the path forward. We have also been working with the State Highway Administration on the Little Falls Parkway and Massachusetts Avenue intersection and expect State Highway to provide recommendations in February.
Old Georgetown Road: As I wrote in a previous newsletter, in December the State Highway Administration used a repaving contract to install two bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road, removing one of three lanes of traffic in each direction. I spent most of the holidays responding to emails and phone calls about the bike lanes, some favorable but most concerned about the impact on through traffic flow. I have driven up and down the road at numerous times of day, including with some local neighborhood association representatives, to have a closer look at the situation.
The purpose of the lanes is to improve safety on the corridor in response to historic incidents--including deaths--along the road (including creating a buffer between the side walks and auto traffic). But this must be done in a balanced way. The lanes are both available for bikes and can act as a buffer for those on the sidewalk. You can see State Highway's presentation on the project and you will note that their estimates of through traffic time increases are far less than what people have experienced in the early days of the bike lanes.
We have been in regular contact with State Highway since the lanes' installation sharing concerns. State Highway considers the project incomplete, as certain paint and sign elements are not complete. They are also working with Montgomery County's Department of Transportation on potential signaling changes. That said, State Highway has committed to more real-time monitoring and a post-installation study to assess if and how the lanes are working. Here is their recent statement:
[Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA)] will soon be completing remaining improvements of the project and will coordinate closely with MCDOT traffic engineering staff to improve operations through signal timing adjustments and other engineering enhancements. MDOT SHA will assess traffic operations throughout January and February to examine corridor performance and travel time impacts. The assessment will examine travel times using field collected travel time run data and vehicle probe data, speed using field collected data, lane utilization using traffic counts, origin-destination patterns, Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress (BLTS), Pedestrian Level of Comfort (PLOC), safety, and mobility (vehicular and multimodal).
We expect further feedback from State Highway on the path forward soon and will strive to keep you informed.
American Legion Bridge/I-495/I-270: With Governor Hogan about to depart office, I am regularly asked about the fate of the private toll road expansion project he has been promoting for several years. Last year, the Governor entered the state into a Public Private Partnership with an entity called Accelerate Maryland Partners. That entity was due to submit a section proposal for the American Legion Bridge, 495 connections to I-270, the two spurs, and I-270 to Gaithersburg. Late last year, however, the Governor announced an extension of the section agreement deadline until later this year, placing the project in the hands of the incoming Moore Administration.LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Incumbent legislators can "pre-file" bills before the legislative session begins. 130 Senate and 123 House bills were pre-filed this year and you can review them all here.
I will talk more about my legislative agenda in a future email but, for now, I have four pre-filed bills on transportation funding, clean energy, and government transparency.
TRANSPORTATION UPDATEThe Maryland Transit Administration is now required to submit bimonthly reports on the Purple Line as a result of provisions we have placed in the state budget. The January report is available here.
Since release of the report, which unfortunately shows extremely limited progress, I have been meeting with Maryland Transit Administration staff to discuss the project and hope to have more to report soon.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.