I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. In addition to our usual load of constituent service--my office has approximately 55 active constituent service cases right now--and preparing for the next legislative session, I am spending the summer traveling around the state meeting with the members of my new committee (Environment & Transportation) in their districts. Some of those meetings are nice and close--fellow District 16 Delegate Sara Love is on the committee--but it also means trips to Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore, and Southern Maryland. There are 22 members of the committee besides me and by the time you read this, I will have met with 17 of them with the rest scheduled for July and August.
RECREATIONAL CANNABIS UPDATE
As of July 1, recreational cannabis is legal in Maryland. Dispensaries that were previously only available to medical users are now available for those over 21 years old. As with alcohol, cannabis should be used responsibly and consistent with the law. Learn more about it here.
During the 2023 legislative session, one of the issues we confronted was the mess with Maryland 529’s Prepaid College Trust (which are separate from the college investment accounts that are also a part of Maryland 529). After altering the interest rate on the accounts a dispute arose and many accounts were frozen with an uncertain interest rate. This year we moved the program to the State Treasurer's office to resolve the issue and last week he announced that a 6% retroactive interest rate would be applied.
PURPLE LINE UPDATE
Last week, the Moore Administration provided an update on the Purple Line. The upshot is a delay in the opening date until Spring '27 and an added cost to the state of $148.3m.
We have actually known some version of this was coming for a while because the bimonthly reports the legislature began requiring as part of oversight a few years ago told us 2 things: 1. Utility relocation had stalled; 2. The vendor and state had different views on when the Purple Line would open.
What we have learned is that the state did not do everything it said it would between when the prior construction contractor walked off the job and when the new one stepped in. Specifically, the state did not do the utility relocations it said it would. Because the delay in the utility relocations delayed other work, the fall 2026 completion date was not feasible for the contractor. And because the state took responsibility for utility relocation, that's a risk to the state (i.e., added cost to the state). There are some other contributing factors to the delay, apparently both state and contractor risk, but the lion's share is the state's responsibility.
Here is the Board of Public Works item on the contract change. You will note it includes a potential contingent payment regarding further delays IF they are the state's responsibility.
And here is the latest bimonthly status report showing overall progress.
Metro is important to District 16 because we are home to five Red Line Metrorail stations and many of us rely on it to get to work or play. Metro recently began releasing information on its next budget year (which commences around a year from now) and there is a large budget gap largely because of the expiration of federal COVID aid, ridership that is still below pre-pandemic numbers on the rail line during the day, and increased operating costs related to inflation (mostly) and some improved service. As part of the WMATA Compact that created Metro, Maryland is a funding jurisdiction so we will be a part of discussions over how to address this challenge. A recent Metro Board presentation outlines the situation for those who are interested.
Several District 16 residents have been appointed to county boards and commissions since my last update:
Congratulations to District 16's Vernon Ricks on receiving a Montgomery County African American Living Legend award.
Each July 4th the Village of Friendship Heights gives out Community Service Awards. This year's recipients were Beryl Blecher, Joan Lewis, and Elena Marra-Lopez. Congratulations one and all.
Two District 16 residents were elected to the Woman's Democratic Club of Montgomery County Board. Tazeen Ahmad is the new President and Melissa Bender is the Third Vice President. And thank you to Diana Conway, the now former president.
The Jewish Community Relations Council has named its new board and it includes four District 16 residents: Debra Feuer, Rabbi Jonathan Miller, Isaac Snyder and Larry Sidman.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.