My monthly update for September is fairly long and I hope you find it useful. I share a lot of this information--and more--throughout the month via social media channels. You can "like" or "follow" me on:
FACEBOOK: Delegate Marc Korman
I should add that while the Facebook page above is used entirely for my state legislative life, I do not maintain separate legislative and personal Twitter and Threads profiles.
Last session, Senator Cheryl Kagan and I sponsored the Maryland State Agency Transparency Act of 2023 to require the State Ethics Commission to webstream their meetings.
That began with their most recent meeting which you can watch here.
And you can read the bill online from last session.
Thank you to former Delegate Al Carr for first raising the prospect of including this commission as part of this years long effort to expand streaming and transparency at different state government entities.
The Maryland State Highway Administration released the post-installation analysis for the Old Georgetown Road/MD-187 bike lanes. You can read it here.
The Assistant District Engineer working on the project has offered to make himself available for any neighborhood, homeowner, building or other group meeting to discuss. If I can help facilitate that, please let me know.
The Moore Administration released their draft Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) on September 1st, as required by law. You can read it here, but I read through it so you don't have to!
The CTP lays out capital spending for the current fiscal year and the next five fiscal years. The next fiscal year is known as the "budget year" because it is adopted by reference into the state budget when the final CTP is submitted with the Governor's budget request in January. Capital projects are important but actually the third priority for the state's multi-billion dollar transportation budget after debt service--incurred from issuing bonds to fund capital projects--and operations. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the draft CTP--and you will note some overlap in these categories.
-Approximately $100 million in Complete Streets funding is now shown as its own project sheet. These are for State Highway projects to support Vision Zero (the idea that there eventually be zero car-related deaths) projects.
-Several federal programs have been added or included with their own project sheets including the Carbon Reduction Program (approximately $95 million in federally funded transportation emissions reduction programs); National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) (approximately $60 million in federal funding across multiple years); and the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program (approximately $107 million in federal funding for resiliency)
-The Maryland Transit Administration project sheet for I-495/I-270 corridor investments remains in slightly reworked form from the Hogan-era P3 plan.
-Separate funding was added for the next phase of work on the 270 corridor north of Gaithersburg, where the road thins out to two lanes in each direction. $10 million is budgeted for next year for environmental work.
-There is continued funding for MD 188 (Wilson Lane)/MD 187 (Old Georgetown Road) and Cordell safety improvements from the Transportation Alternatives Program.
-The Maryland Transit Administration is continuing the legislatively required transition to zero emission buses partly facilitated by federal infrastructure bill funding. BWI Airport is also replacing its parking shuttles with electric vehicles.
-Transit Oriented Development Planning has been added to the CTP in recognition of this Moore Administration priority, although the initial focus is in Baltimore.
-A Project sheet for MARC Improvements on the Camden, and Brunswick lines was added last year because of legislation. Those projects and some actual construction work continues.
-There is a project sheet for the Baltimore City Red Line program for the first time since the FY15-FY20 CTP (before Governor Larry Hogan turned down federal funding and canceled the project). There is approximately $100m included in the draft CTP although the project will ultimately cost much more as that is just some planning and engineering funding.
-An additional $10 million has been added for work on the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit system, beyond the amount mandated by the legislature.
-The draft CTP is not balanced. The document explains "Sufficient funding is available in FY 2024; however, beginning in FY 2025, an increase in revenues, a reduction of spending in the operating and/or capital programs, or a combination of these actions is required to match planned spending to forecasted revenues. In FY 2025, an additional $100 million is needed, and the structural gap increases to $500 million per year in FY 2026 and beyond, resulting in a $2.1 billion total gap in the six-year program" This is unusual, as the draft CTP is typically balanced across all of the included years. That sometimes means removing or delaying projects in the draft.
-Transit spending is up as a percentage of the total but only from 35.6% in the last CTP to 36.8% in the draft CTP. Surprise, surprise, I would like to see this number higher!
-We continue to operate in some type of weird budget fiction when it comes to the Kim Lamphier Bikeways Network Program. It receives $2.7m in the next budget year--down significantly from $12m in the current budget year but consistent with historical spending--but assume no funding in later future years, which will not be the case.
-There is a small increase for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel--a Baltimore-area tunnel replacement project critical for MARC and Amtrak service--but the full cost of Maryland's participation in the largely Amtrak-led project is not accounted for.
-Corridor Cities Transitway is zero funded as usual, although unlike in the early Hogan years they have not attempted to entirely remove the project.
-The project sheet for I-270/I-495 Phase 1 South has been reworked but $56.5m is being budgeted for the next year. It would be better to have a clearer understanding of what this is for under Governor Moore's vision.
-The so-called Chapter 30 scoring--a compromise result of the General Assembly's effort to bring transparency to the prioritization process for transportation funding--remains in its totally pointless form with no correlation to what is funded. However, the Department has removed many of the projects it had initiated and scored favorably for itself.
-The Secretary's opening letter says "This draft CTP is largely reflective of the previous administration’s priorities and does not include all the projects necessary to truly build a better transportation system for all Marylanders" Why? We are nine months into the Moore Administration. If projects are not Moore Administration priorities then the Department should specifically explain why each is included or remove it. And if the Administration sees unmet needs and submitted an unbalanced CTP anyway, they should include those needs.
Recently, the Moore Administration announced some of their next steps on the proposed changes to the American Legion Bridge, portions of I-495, and I-270 and announced that the state had once again applied for a federal grant to support the project. The proposal--which in broad form dates back a few years to the prior Administration--has generated significant feedback in the community. To put it plainly, some of you will write to me that this is the most important thing ever and will immediately end traffic problems and save our economy. Some of you will write to me that this is the worst proposal imaginable and will destroy our environment. Most of you will say nothing and probably have a more nuanced view in between. I am supposed to have a simple tweet or press quote for stuff like this but I find it is too large and complex for that and want to share some of what I have been thinking over.
Although the Administration's press release lacks crucial details, the press release along with the submitted grant application do make a few things clear.
First, Governor Moore largely agrees with the prior Administration's plans to add two new lanes in each direction—at least as it relates to the American Legion Bridge and 495 from the American Legion Bridge to 270. Around the 270 spur, the project now appears slightly reduced from what was approved in the Final Environmental Impact Statement based on the maps provided.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement also called for one new lane and one repurposed HOV lane north on 270 up to 370. The press statement says this will be addressed in a later phase because this will allow for a "rational and fiscally prudent phased development." Of course, one of the challenges is that 270 is already six lanes in each direction south of 370 whereas 495 leading up to 270 is four lanes—six if this plan goes forward—meaning that subsequent 270 expansion could undo any bottleneck relief the 495 expansion could potentially bring…and then we can start talking about widening 495 even further to match the newly expanded 270.
On 270 north of 370, the Administration's press release says they will launch the long-awaited environmental study for that section, something I view as critical because 270's reduction to two lanes in each direction north of 370—in my opinion—could use some right-sizing along with an equal investment in transit options (MARC rail’s Brunswick Line runs along a similar corridor and would be a good candidate for this). Indeed, further expansion of 270 North from the Beltway to 370 from its current six lanes will exacerbate the existing bad afternoon bottleneck so frustrating to my county neighbors to the north and those in Frederick.
Second, Governor Moore wants to have an honest conversation about funding, as well as whether a public "delivery method" or a Public Private Partnership (P3) makes sense. The prior Administration spent years pretending this project could be done with no public (i.e., taxpayer) expense besides tolls. That was never true. The conservative Reason Foundation--a fan of P3s--have found that most roadway P3s require public subsidy, as was the case for the Virginia beltway toll lanes. The prior Governor essentially acknowledged this when he eventually sought a federal grant--which Maryland did not win--prior to leaving office. I am happy to see Governor Moore not fall into the same rhetorical trap of the past. Moreover, I am glad he will be considering whether a more traditional procurement makes sense compared to a P3. I am not personally opposed to P3s in all cases—I have no quibble with our state port operator or the I-95 travel plaza P3 partner—but the record is extremely poor in Maryland for using a P3 for complex projects and whatever financing benefit they might offer, it does not seem worth the oversight headache and mortgage of public property to the private sector to me for this project.
Third, Governor Moore is interested in transit and multi-modal alternatives. Whereas the prior Administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make transit a component of the project, including a shared use path on the new American Legion Bridge, and using concessionaire payments for transit investment, Governor Moore seems to be putting this front and center with its placement in his press release. Unfortunately, there are almost no details or plans actually provided. The press release and grant application reference Metro and Fairfax plans to offer express bus service but no detail is provided on precisely where (beyond two Metro stations referenced in the Fairfax plans), what hours, what headways, what fares, and what Maryland's contribution would be. Many critics of Governor Moore's announcement have circulated a list of "Comprehensive Smart Growth and Transit Alternatives to I-495/I-270 Toll Lanes" and one of them is Express Bus "I-495 from Montgomery Mall to Tysons (single dedicated bus/HOV-3 lane in each direction)." Great idea, but repurposing an existing lane in each direction across the bridge is impractical. But what if we built the bus lanes? Better yet, what if we built them paid for by tolls of willing drivers (more on that below)? There are lots of perfectly nice statements in the grant application and press release about transit including improving the MARC Brunswick Line. I think this Governor means it, but Maryland transportation officials have not always followed through on their vague policies and a lot more detail and assurances are required.
Fourth, and perhaps most controversial (in a very controversial project), Governor Moore's plan uses toll lanes. It's not popular to be for tolls but I will say two things. First, if—and it's a big if—the plan is to expand a highway, tolling is absolutely, although painfully, necessary to limit the problem of induced demand (when the road just fills right back up because of the available space). We know this from many studies and our own experience on 270, where the road was expanded in the late 80s/early 90s and the traffic engineers were surprised at how fast those new lanes just filled back up. Second, tolls can help pay for major projects. We know that from many projects around the country but also the ICC, Bay Bridge, Harry Nice Bridge, and many other bridges and tunnels in Maryland. Tolls are one of the tools—along with federal aid, gas taxes, and more, that we use to fund infrastructure in the state. The level of tolls is important—and for some reason the current Administration seems to be accepting the toll plans of the prior Administration in the grant application—and we should structure tolls so they are fair and not oppressive, something that should be easier with a non-P3 project. We also need to be honest about what it means to have toll lanes alongside free general purpose lanes: the toll lanes will move faster than the general purpose lanes.
Going through what are apparently Governor Moore's views help to expose some of the issues of concern and possibility here. There's more. For example, the environmental impact of any type of project is real. I was surprised that the grant application essentially adopts the prior Administration's rhetoric about this project. Policy involves trade-offs. Many environmentalists—not all, I know I will hear from some of you! —supported the Purple Line despite the environmental impacts such as tree canopy loss. I do not think we have an accurate accounting of the trade-offs here and the Administration should talk a lot more about the environmental impacts and mitigation it proposes.
The American Legion Bridge and 495 run through my district alongside neighborhoods, a school, a historic African American cemetery and more. There is a lot of skepticism of the Maryland Department of Transportation from the last few years of strained community engagement. The Administration has announced open houses for the next steps and the Governor is a big proponent and practitioner of engagement and partnership. That's all well and good, but I would like our transportation officials to walk with my interested constituents and me with a map along the corridor to show exactly what land they need to permanently take, what land they need to temporarily take, where they plan to improve the highway noise barriers, where they expect to damage creeks and streams, how massive new interchanges will impact River Road and other affected areas, and how they will avoid damaging the historic African American Cemetery. Both sides need to listen in such a discussion and be open to the possibilities.
Every year after the fiscal year concludes, the Comptroller of Maryland releases a close-out report. The report for fiscal year 23 close-out was released earlier this week.
It shows a fund balance for fiscal year 23 of around $555m that will roll over for future year needs. The report shows that revenue estimates were fairly accurate overall (revenue was .2% lower than estimated).
Within that, corporate income taxes were higher than expected and non-withholding income (such as capital gains) was lower than expected (they were expected to drop but not at this rate). The state began using a volatility adjustment for capital gains revenue a few years ago that softens the impact of that revenue decrease because not all of the projected revenue was budgeted.
Because of a provision in the state budget, Maryland Transit Administration submits bimonthly Purple Line status reports. The full report is available here.
We are discussing with the agency the addition of a metric to track progress on trail reconstruction. Our partners on the Montgomery County Council's relevant committee had a Purple Line briefing recently and the presentation for that briefing is available online.
COMMUNITY NEWSOne of the items in the Downtown Bethesda Sector Plan was a study of converting the one-way street sections (Woodmont, Montgomery, EW Hwy, Old Georgetown Road) to two-way traffic. Montgomery County Planning recently discussed the Montgomery County Department of Transportation study of the issue.
Below are the primary sources but the short answer is the study doesn’t recommend conversion. Instead, it recommends maintaining the one-way streets combined with road diets for separated bike lanes.
Planning Board Hearing Video: tinyurl.com/2p998s7u
Downtown Bethesda Two-Way Study: tinyurl.com/nysuph4b
Study Memo: tinyurl.com/2p8kshc
Beginning the week of September 26th, Clark Construction will perform night work activities on Old Georgetown Road between 9pm and 5am until late October.
Each year the Montgomery County Delegation to Annapolis holds a series of pre-session meetings. More information about each will be available at www.montgomerycountydelegation.com.
On October 26 at 7pm, the Delegation will hear from the Maryland Department of Transportation about the Consolidated Transportation Program (described further above). The meeting will be at the Montgomery County Council building.
On November 14 at 7pm, the Delegation will host its annual Joint House & Senate Priorities Hearing where anybody can share their views on what should be working on. Sign-up is through the delegation website referenced above.
On November 27 at 7pm (virtual) and December 4 at 7pm (at the County Council building), bill hearings will be heard on local legislation introduced for the 2024 legislative session. The bills, what night they will be heard, and testimony sign-up will be at the delegation website.
I hope everyone is enjoying the waning weeks of summer. I recently received a new summer (and beyond) assignment when I was appointed as a member of the Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs ("TRAIN"). The Commission is the result of a bill passed last legislative session that I was the House sponsor of. The Commission has 31 members from the executive branch, legislature, local government, business community, environmental community, and other sectors and will study and make recommendations regarding Maryland's transportation revenues and investment needs. The Commission is scheduled to meet for the next two years, with reports due January 1, 2024 and January 1, 2025.
LEGISLATIVE NEWSWe pass a lot of bills in the state legislature and one thing I have tried to do is keep an eye on implementation of those laws.
For example, back in 2019 I sponsored the Energy Storage Pilot Project Act. The bill requires the state's four investor-owned utilities to pilot two energy storage projects each based off of four different models. Energy storage is an important element to meeting our state's goals for renewable energy as storage addresses the intermittent nature of wind and solar.
Pilots were supposed to be operational by February 28, 2022. For a variety of reasons, none of the pilots met the operational deadline but at this point one from each of the four utilities is operational. The Maryland Public Service Commission (our state regulator of utilities) requires a status report every six months with an update on the delayed pilots and those were filed recently. You can read them in the docket. Pepco's second pilot appears a long way from operation (fourth quarter of 2024 at the earliest). Delmarva's second pilot may not become operational until December of 2024. Potomac Edison's 2nd pilot project is projected to be operational by the end of January 2024. BGE's second pilot should be operational in November of this year. One piece of good news is that even though the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative was exempt from the legislation, it is voluntarily pursuing a pilot program.
During the 2023 budget process, I worked to continue funding for the Maryland Humanities' Strengthening the Humanities Investment in Nonprofit for Equity (SHINE) program, which provides operating support for small humanities programs. The Bethesda Historical Society, for example, has benefited from this program. Details to apply for the grant are here.
COMMUNITY NEWSAs part of the current Downtown Bethesda Sector Plan--which sets the zoning rules for Downtown Bethesda--an annual monitoring report must be submitted each year. The recent report covers May 2022-May 2023. You can read the entire report here and watch the Planning Board's discussion of the report here.
We receive a lot of reports in the legislature and one that recently caught my eye was on the economic impact of the Montgomery County Conference Center in District 16 (the conference space attached to the Marriott on Marinelli Road). The most recent report is for fiscal year 2022 (prepared in December 2022). Because of the impact of COVID-19, it is also useful to compare this to a pre-COVID report from fiscal year 2019. In Fiscal Year 2022, the conference center represented a net loss to the state because the state (taxpayers) paid $1.6m for debt service on the conference center and the generated tax revenue was less than that. But prior to COVID, the debt service payment was less than the generated tax revenue.
From the week of September 5th through the week of September 18th, there will be sidewalk closures at River Road and Brookside Drive as part of road work related to the Westbard Road Realignment. The bus stop will also be temporarily shifted to the south.
Congratulations to several District 16 residents recently appointed to the new Friendship Heights Urban District Advisory Committee: Jad Donohoe, Clara Lovett, Ellen Coren, and Danielle Leopold.
Several District 16 residents are also part of the new Leadership Montgomery Class. The core program includes Whitney Ellenby, Craig Small, Ronald Sitrin, and Linda Parker Gates. The emerging program includes Katelyn Maurer. Finally, the encore program includes Joan Ronnenberg.
UPCOMING EVENTSOn Tuesday, September 19 at 2pm, a virtual hearing will be held on the permanent closure of Westbard Avenue at River Road. You can read the application here, view an overhead image here, and register here.
The Maryland State Highway Administration is holding a virtual meeting on Thursday, September 21st from 6:30pm to 8:00pm regarding corridor safety on River Road (MD 190) between Springfield and Little Falls Parkway. Anyone can access the meeting here and more information is in the below image.
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.
Thank you to so many friends, colleagues, and constituents who joined us at the Conways' home for my first in person event since 2019. I appreciate your support.
As discussed at the event, Speaker of the House of Delegates Adrienne Jones recently named me chair of the Environment & Transportation Committee, one of just six standing committees in the House of Delegates. Here is the message I shared on social media regarding my new assignment:
I am thrilled to share that Speaker Adrienne Jones has appointed me to be the new chair of the Environment & Transportation Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates, one of our six standing committees. Ever since I knocked on the first door for my first campaign (ten years ago), the issues this committee covers are what I have discussed with voters more than anything else except, perhaps, education. In addition to the subject matter in the name, the committee’s jurisdiction includes housing, ethics, local government, land use, and agriculture. That means the committee is on the front lines of promoting transit and other transportation alternatives while ensuring our roads, tunnels, and bridges are safe and efficient; stewarding and protecting our Chesapeake Bay, state parks, and other natural and environmental resources; with our friends on the Economic Matters Committee, facilitating the transition to an electric economy and zero emission vehicles; tackling housing affordability; supporting our agricultural community and economy; and so much more.
I have loved my time as House Majority Leader supporting our Democratic Majority, but I am happy to serve in a body where chairing a substantive policy committee is a logical next step from there. Indeed, the last two chairs of the committee—the magnificent Kumar Barve and my former chair and mentor, Maggie McIntosh—both followed this same course from Majority Leader to chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee. And the Majority Leader’s desk is in great hands with my friend and colleague, David Moon.
The Committee’s new vice chair is Delegate Regina T. Boyce from Baltimore, who coincidentally went to the same elementary school as me so two Beall Elementary School Dragons (our school’s mascot) will be leading the committee. As I succeed Kumar, who heads to the Public Service Commission, Regina succeeds Dana Stein, who is the Speaker’s nominee for the important leadership position of Speaker Pro Tem. I look forward to supporting Dana in that new role, but he will also be staying on as chair of the Environment Subcommittee and will continue to bring his subject matter expertise, insight and voice into the work of the committee.
Of course, this does mean a conclusion of my nine years on the Appropriations Committee where I have chaired both the Personnel and Transportation & Environment Subcommittees. Thank you to former Chair McIntosh and current Chair Ben Barnes for those opportunities. It has been a great experience helping in even a small way to shape the state budget and priorities and ensure that Montgomery County and District 16 have their funding needs met when it comes to school construction, transportation, and other programs. But I am comforted to know that District 16 is now represented on the Appropriations Committee by Delegate Sarah Wolek.
My other district 16 colleague, Delegate Sara Love, is a senior member of the Environment & Transportation Committee and I am excited to join her, the other subcommittee chairs, the members from both parties, and the committee’s terrific team of staff and analysts as we work together to move Maryland forward.
Last month, the District 16 Team held our annual post-legislative session town hall. If you missed it, you can watch it online anytime.
Prior to my last newsletter, Governor Moore had taken action on many of the bills passed by the General Assembly this year. However, he held his final day of bill signings on May 16 including legislation related to firearms safety, community solar, attorneys fees for legal challenges for special education services, and two bills I sponsored related to special education teacher pay parity and young readers programs. Every bill the Governor signed is here.
On May 19, the Governor took his final actions and vetoed a few bills and allowed several others to become law without his signature. You can see the Governor's final actions here. And, as always, if you have a question about a specific bill, just click reply and ask.
As a result of successful legislation, plug-in electric vehicles may now be eligible to obtain a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane permit to ride in HOV lanes. Visit the website to learn the details.
Congratulations to District 16's Samir Paul, who was recently appointed to the Maryland State Board of Education by Governor Moore.
Last month I emceed the event at the Downtown Bethesda Bike to Work pit stop. Among other events, Bethesda Transportation Solutions gave its Bike Spirit Award to Chevy Chase West's Mark Fernandez.
The long-awaited upgrades to Caroline Freeland Park at Arlington Road near downtown Bethesda are commencing. The park will close sometime in June through the end of the year. Read more here.
There is a neat little bit of Bethesda news. The Navy is naming its new Expeditionary Medical Ship USNS Bethesda because of the connection to Naval Support Activity Bethesda.
It has now been about one month since the 2023 legislative session came to a close. Join your District 16 legislators on Wednesday, May 17 at 7pm for our virtual town hall. You can register here.
And if you appreciate the work I am doing, don't forget you can join Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Speaker Adrienne Jones at an event in support of me on Saturday, June 10th at 1:00pm. You can contribute here.
Governor Moore has been considering the legislation passed by the General Assembly during the month of May. You can see what bills he has signed by clicking here or if you have a question about a bill just hit reply and ask. I am pleased that the Governor has signed several bills I sponsored related to education, clean energy and the environment, transportation, and government transparency.
The most comprehensive summary of the legislative session is prepared by the Department of Legislative Services in the 90 Day Report. You can review that document here.
For the real wonks out there, the Joint Chairs Report (JCR) accompanies the state budget and summarizes all of the legislative actions on the budget. The JCR is one of our major executive branch oversight tools, as it contains various requested reports from the executive branch. These requested reports help provide the legislative branch information on executive branch operations and ensure the laws are being executed as intended.
Because of language in the state budget, the Maryland Transit Administration has to submit bimonthly reports to the General Assembly on Purple Line progress. You can read the May report here.
Many of you have written to me about the changes on Little Falls Parkway. Last year, Montgomery County Parks put in a pilot project to convert Little Falls between Dorset Avenue and Arlington Road to a two-lane configuration all on one side of the median. Last month, the Montgomery County Planning Commission voted to make this configuration permanent. The Montgomery County Council, however, voted to halt any funding for permanent changes until plans are submitted to the County Council.-----
Earlier this year, Montgomery County's Department of Transportation proposed a road diet pilot on Tuckerman Lane between Old Georgetown Road and Wisconsin Avenue. After a public meeting and further consideration, the County has instead decided to make other improvements to try and make the bicycle and pedestrian crossings of Tuckerman Lane on that segment safer. These improvements include:
Raised Crosswalks/Speed Humps -
Tuckerman Lane at Bethesda Trolley Trail and Tuckerman Lane at Valerian Lane crossings
Additional Lighting and enhancements -
Tuckerman Lane at BTT
Tuckerman Lane at Valerian Lane
The Gaithersburg Book Festival is on Saturday, May 20th, 10am-6pm at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg. Now I know what you are thinking, Gaithersburg is not in District 16. True enough, but if you come to the festival you can see me interview Gabriel Debenedetti, author of The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, June 14 at 7:30am, the Bethesda Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club will hear from Senator Brian Feldman. Email email@example.com if you would like a link to the breakfast.
On Sunday, June 11 at 3:00pm, the Friendship Heights Neighbors Network will hold an event featuring Councilmember Andrew Friedson, Delegate Sarah Wolek, and me. Learn more about the event here.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go on the Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU. You can hear the interview here.
Over the years I have worked with my colleagues to establish a grant program for non-profits focused on aging in place. I am excited to report that a local non-profit, Little Falls Village, was one of the grant program's first recipients. Funding is now available for next year and more information is available here.
Senator Ben Cardin recently announced that he will retire at the conclusion of his Senate term. Thank you to Senator Cardin for your lifetime of service to the State of Maryland.
Two of our District 16 municipalities recently held elections. In the Village of Friendship Heights, Mayor Melanie White, Councilmember Paula Durbin, and Councilmember Michael Mezey were all re-elected. And Cheryl Tyler, Bobby Pestronk, Mathoa Solt, and Roy Schaeffer were all elected for the first time. In the Town of Glen Echo, Councilmember Julia Wilson was re-elected and Dawn Tanner was elected for the first time. Congratulations one and all.
Some of our District 16 neighbors have been appointed to Montgomery County boards. Congratulations to:
Congratulations to Former White House staffer and District 16 resident Jeff Nussbaum on his new position with Bully Pulpit Interactive (https://www.axios.com/2023/04/19/jeff-nussbaum-bpi-biden).
We celebrate the birth of Hazel Rosenthal, granddaughter of long-serving District 16 precinct official Beth Rosenthal!
Several Friendship Heights residents recently received Community Service Awards:Joe Bucherer
Congratulations to District 16's Stephen Rockower on his appointment to the Prescription Drug Affordability Board and Stakeholder Council. And congratulations to former District 16 Delegate Bill Frick to the Montgomery County Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commission.
At midnight, the House of Delegates adjourned the 2023 legislative session. For the next nine months, my newsletter will return to its monthly format. Below is an update on some of what occurred during the legislative session. Your District 16 legislators will also host a town hall soon and I will share that information as soon as it is available.
It has been an exciting and historic session with the inauguration of a new Governor. The District 16 Delegation also changed as State Senator Susan Lee joined the Moore Administration and Senator Ariana Kelly succeeded her. As a result, Delegate Sara Love and I were recently joined in the House by your newest legislator, Delegate Sarah Wolek. I also took on a new role as House Majority Leader, a part of the leadership team of the House of Delegates. I continued to chair the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and served as a member of the Capital Budget Subcommittee and the Oversight Committee on Personnel.
Below is a synopsis of some key highlights from the legislative session. We work on thousands of bills each legislative session so if an issue you care about is not addressed here, please email me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The one piece of legislation that we are constitutionally required to pass each year is a balanced budget. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I worked throughout the session on fiscal issues and was pleased to see the passage of a robust and bipartisan budget that funds our legislative priorities. The budget includes:
Full funding for K-12 and community college formulas. This includes $8.7 billion for public school support, with more than $940 million allocated to Montgomery County Public Schools.
$900 million for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future fund, which sets aside dollars for future year public education expenditures.
$100 million in additional transportation funding, beyond the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, targeted to support significant transit projects around the state.
Support for colleges and universities to cap in-state student tuition increases at 2%.
The full actuarially required contribution to the state’s pension fund plus an additional payment above and beyond the requirement.
In District 16 and across Montgomery County, the capital–or construction–budget as passed includes:
$84 million for Montgomery County school construction.
$800,000 to replace and upgrade the irrigation system at Povich Field (home of the Bethesda Big Train).
$1 million for the Bethesda Market Park project adjacent to the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market.
$2.6 million for the White Flint/North Bethesda Metro Station second entrance.
$2 million for the new Institute for Health Computing in North Bethesda.
$27 million for Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit.
$5 million to purchase zero-emission buses.
$1 million for Round House Theatre renovations.
$500,000 for improvements to the Maplewood Alta-Vista Local Park.
$1 million to modernize the Glen Echo Fire Department.
$900,000 for capital improvements for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s headquarters.
$271,000 to construct a Respiratory Isolation Suite at the National Institutes of Health’s Children’s Inn.
Protecting Reproductive Rights
In the wake of the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Maryland is taking bold steps to protect a woman’s right to choose and make her own medical decisions. I was proud to support and co-sponsor the Right to Reproductive Freedom (HB 705), which will place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in the November 2024 general election where voters can decide whether to enshrine protections for reproductive health care in the state constitution. The General Assembly also passed legislation to provide legal protections from civil and criminal consequences for medical providers and others who help an out-of-state resident access reproductive health care in Maryland through the Reproductive Health Protection Act (HB 808), to prevent the disclosure of sensitive medical information (HB 812), and to improve access by directing public higher education institutions to develop a plan for the provision of reproductive health care services to students (HB 477).
Supporting Maryland students at every age and ensuring that they have access to a quality education is one of my top priorities, and this session, the Maryland General Assembly took many steps to strengthen Maryland’s education system. As described above, the state budget fully funds our public education formulas in the coming year. Teachers are the backbone of our schools, and the Maryland Educator Shortage Act of 2023 (HB 1219) provides funding for and improves teacher recruitment and retention efforts in the state to address high vacancy rates and attract educators from underrepresented communities. One of the major issues for Maryland students and families is the affordability of college, especially given the missteps of the Maryland 529 Program as it relates to their pre-paid trust program (not their investment account program). The General Assembly moved quickly to pass legislation to reform the program and provide relief for affected families (SB 959). I also supported alterations to the state’s student loan debt relief tax credit to increase student loan debt relief for state workers (HB 680).
Several of my own enacted bills dealt with education. I introduced the Teacher Pay Parity Act (HB 448), which requires the state and counties to provide teachers in special education placement programs with a salary that is equivalent to salaries received by special education teachers in public schools. The program is for public-school funded students who are placed in a non-public facility to better meet their unique educational needs. As an avid reader, I am particularly excited about another bill I sponsored, entitled the Young Readers Program Expansion Act of 2023 (HB 243). The legislation builds on a bill of mine that was passed last year to support nonprofits that provide free books to children under five.
Expanding Economic Opportunity
During the legislative session, I supported several bills that make it possible for individuals and families to thrive in Maryland. The Fair Wage Act (SB 555) sets the minimum wage for all employers at $15 per hour beginning on January 1, 2024 instead of 2025. The Family Prosperity Act of 2023 (HB 547) moves the state closer to its goal of eliminating childhood poverty by making permanent expansions to the state Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit that were originally enacted during the pandemic. Building off of last year’s work establishing a paid parental and medical leave program in the state, HB 988 alters the implementation date to allow time for the Department of Labor to build out the necessary infrastructure, sets the cost share for employers and employees, requires the state to cover certain contributions, and makes other changes to strengthen this important program that will provide economic stability for so many. I was also proud to support the Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act of 2023 (SB 551), one of the pillars of the Governor’s agenda, which creates a service-year option for high school graduates to work for community organizations and nonprofits.
The General Assembly also passed legislation to protect and support renters in Maryland by requiring landlords to notify tenants about upcoming rent increases (HB 151) and establishing a Statewide Rental Assistance Voucher Program to provide assistance for low-income families on the waiting list for federal housing vouchers (SB 848).
Increasing Access to Health Care
Expanding access to health care has been a critical priority for the Maryland General Assembly. I supported HB 279, an emergency bill that removes the termination date on Maryland’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board and allows it to continue doing its important work to lower the cost of prescription drugs in Maryland.
While gender-affirming care has been under fire in other states, Maryland has been making strides to protect access to the necessary care. I am proud that the General Assembly passed the Trans Health Equity Act (HB 283), which requires Maryland Medicaid to cover the same gender-affirming care for low-income Marylanders in the transgender community that is offered to those with private insurance.
Environment and Energy
Since I was elected to the House of Delegates, I have worked to make Maryland a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making us a greener state. This year, the General Assembly passed the Clean Transportation and Energy Act (HB 550) and the Clean Trucks Act of 2023 (HB 230), which increase funds to help make transportation in Maryland cleaner and to expand the network of electric vehicle recharging stations in the state and require the establishment of new regulations for the sale of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks. We also passed legislation to protect Maryland’s natural resources and land by establishing the Environmental and Natural Resources Crimes Unit in the Office of the Attorney General to prosecute those that violate state environmental protection laws (HB 874) and updating state forest preservation and retention laws (HB 723).
In addition to strengthening environmental protections and expanding our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I have been committed to ensuring that Marylanders have the option of transitioning their own homes to green energy. That is why I was proud to support legislation which makes the Community Solar Program permanent and the distribution of generated energy more equitable (HB 908). We also passed legislation to establish a state goal of generating 3000 megawatts of energy storage by 2033 and to grant the Public Service Commission (PSC) the authority to accomplish this goal in a cost-effective manner (HB 910). I have worked on energy storage legislation in previous sessions and was proud to support this bill. I also introduced the Net Metering Flexibility Act, which makes net metering for home solar panels more consumer friendly by giving consumers greater options for how to redeem the energy credits they generate. The Senate version of the bill (SB 143) has been sent to the Governor.
I previously served as a member of the State Transparency and Reform Commission to provide oversight to the state’s quasi-governmental agencies and ensure that they are carrying out their duties effectively. As a result of this work, I learned about the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, which is a 40-plus year old agency set up to support incineration in the state. In order to ensure that we have a forward-looking waste policy, I sponsored the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority Sunset Act (HB 161) to require a sunset review of that agency to determine whether its functions could best be performed instead by the Maryland Environmental Service.
Cannabis Legalization and Public Safety
In 2022, Maryland voters approved a referendum to legalize recreational cannabis use for those over 21. As a result, the General Assembly was tasked with creating a regulatory framework that establishes cannabis business licensing, taxation, and enforcement. Using lessons and best practices from other states, HB 556 sets up the new legal cannabis industry with a focus on keeping tax rates competitive to diminish the illicit market as well as developing an equitable licensing process and market through support for applicants from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis laws.
The legalization of recreational cannabis requires associated reforms to the state’s criminal laws. The General Assembly passed legislation to prohibit a law enforcement officer from initiating a stop and search of a person or motor vehicle based solely on the odor of cannabis and other factors (HB 1071). The bill treats cannabis like alcohol by restricting the area of a vehicle that may be searched if the individual is under suspicion of driving impaired or under the influence of cannabis.
Ensuring the safety of Marylanders is one of the most important duties of the General Assembly, and I am proud to have supported many efforts this year to improve public safety. Gun violence remains a serious problem facing our state and our nation, and Maryland has taken steps to protect our communities. I supported HB 824, which makes the process for purchasing a firearm in Maryland more comprehensive and improves training requirements, as well as (SB 858) which updates firearm storage requirements. In addition, the Gun Safety Act of 2023 (SB 1) strengthens restrictions on where a person can carry a firearm. After being stalled for a number of sessions, the General Assembly finally passed HB 4, which repeals the spousal defense for rape.
I am heavily involved in transportation issues as Chair of the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee of Appropriations. Additionally, I am a co-founder of the bipartisan Transit Caucus. This year the General Assembly made progress on several bills to improve transportation funding. The legislature passed the Senate version of my bill, the State and Federal Transportation Funding Act (SB 24). The bill allows for Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE) bonds to be used to fund critical transportation projects in Maryland. The legislature also passed HB 524 to establish a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Fund, of which Montgomery County will receive at least $20 million of funding to support the vital BRT system in the county.
Although not legislative, there have also been recent developments regarding former Governor Hogan’s plan to widen I-495 and I-270 with toll lanes as part of a public-private partnership. Last month, the private contractor Transurban exited the project. Whether any aspect of the project will continue and in what form is now in the hands of the Governor.
This session, I was proud to pass two bills expanding on my previous efforts to increase government transparency in Maryland. The Board of Public Works Comment Act (HB 498) requires the Board of Public Works to allow members of the public to submit public comments electronically and requires the comments to be included in meeting materials and posted online. My other bill, the Maryland State Agency Transparency Act of 2023 (HB 58), builds on prior work I have done with Senator Cheryl Kagan to make various agencies’ governing boards more transparent. This bill applies web streaming and agenda posting requirements under the Open Meetings Act to the State Ethics Commission.
My Office Outside of Session
Thank you for contacting me during the legislative session. I strongly value the input of my constituents on the issues before the General Assembly. While the state legislature only meets for 90 days each year in Annapolis, I am working for you 365 days a year. As we progress throughout the year, my office will continue to be a resource to help connect you to state and local officials.
If you have any questions about the material in this letter, other questions about the recently concluded legislative session, ideas regarding policy issues, issues with a state agency that require constituent services, or are interested in my office’s legislative scholarship, please contact me any time. I can be reached by phone at 301-858-3649, or by email at email@example.com.
Earlier this week Delegate Sarah Wolek was sworn in to the House of Delegates representing District 16 alongside Delegate Sara Love and me. Delegate Wolek fills the term of now-Senator Ariana Kelly, who was appointed to fill the term of Susan Lee who joined the Moore Administration. For those who are interested, the process for filling vacancies in the Maryland General Assembly is enshrined in the State Constitution at Article III, Section 13. Congratulations Delegate Wolek!
We are now just a few days from adjournment of the 2023 legislative session and I wanted to offer a brief update on some of the major issues we have been addressing this legislative session. This certainly does not encompass every issue or bill we have worked on so if you have a question about something not included here, please click reply.
Reproductive Health: Because of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade (in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health), the General Assembly has been considering a package of bill's related to the right to choose this year. Chief among them is a measure to enshrine the right to choose in Maryland's constitution, which will be on the ballot in 2024. Both the House and the Senate have also passed versions of the Reproductive Health Act, which ensures that those who come to Maryland for reproductive health services and their medical providers are protected. HB 812 has passed both the House and the Senate and enhances certain privacy protections related to reproductive health. Finally, HB 477 addresses access to reproductive health at our institutions of higher education.
Cannabis Reform: Last year, the voters passed a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis in Maryland. The House and the Senate continue to negotiate the precise final language of the legislation that would establish the regulations, taxation, and licensing of recreational cannabis. Differences still to be resolved include the tax rate, whether an independent agency or an expanded Alcohol and Tobacco Commission will regulate, and how on-site consumption will work.
Family Prosperity Act: The proposal from Governor Moore extends and expands the state's earned income tax credit and the state child tax credit. It should be heading to the Governor's desk by the time you read this.
Minimum Wage: Governor Moore proposed a faster implementation of the $15.00/hour minimum wage and the Senate sent it over to the House making the wage effective January 1, 2024 instead of January 1, 2025. The bill passed the House on Tuesday and now awaits the Governor's signature.
529 College Pre-Paid Trust: There have been heavily reported problems with the Maryland 529 College Pre-Paid Trust plan (separate from the savings accounts known as Maryland College Investment Plans). As a result, the House and the Senate have been considering legislation to reform the program but negotiations on the details are still under way.
Firearm Safety: The Supreme Court's New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision has caused some reconsideration of the state's firearm safety laws, including permits to wear, carry, and transport a handgun; handgun permit fees; who can obtain a handgun permit; altering the locations of where a firearm can be carried; and so forth. The House and Senate have passed different bills and whether no bill, both bills, or one bill passes will need to be determined this week.
Transgender Health Equity: Many private insurers in Maryland provide coverage for gender affirming care that our state's Medicaid program for low-income residents does not cover. The Trans Health Equity Act would create parity and is already on its way to the Governor's office.
Paid Family and Medical Leave: Last year, we passed legislation to create a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program that is still being implemented. Legislation being worked on by the House and Senate would make certain modifications to assist with program implementation, such as clarifying the employer/employee contribution percentages and delaying the timeline for program enactment.
Earlier this week, the House and Senate passed the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2024 state operating budget. As always, the budget is balanced, sets aside 10% of General Fund revenue in the state's Rainy Day fund, pays our actuarially required contribution to the state pension fund, and projects a structural balance in the next fiscal year. It does all of this while fully funding our state's public education K-12 and community college formulas, provides funding to keep higher education tuition increases to 2%, and makes investments in our state workforce, parks, and transportation network. The budget passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Yesterday, the House also passed the state's capital (construction) budget. It includes significant investments in and around District 16 that I will share more about following Senate action on the budget.
As I have shared in prior emails, we have received significant communication regarding Little Falls Parkway and Old Georgetown Road.
Little Falls Parkway: The Montgomery County Planning Board has authority over Little Falls Parkway and recently held a public hearing on the proposed linear park and lengthy road diet on the Parkway. The Planning Board will take up the issue at their April 13th Planning Board Meeting.
Old Georgetown Road: As regular readers are aware, the State Highway Administration (SHA) installed bicycle lanes along Old Georgetown Road (MD 187) between Tilden Lane and Ryland Drive late last year (bicycle lanes were previously installed between Ryland Drive and Cedar Lane in 2020). As you also know, there has been some loss of life and serious injury along the road in recent years and SHA installed the bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road in an effort to create a buffer between the road and sidewalk and accommodate many uses. As background, you can read SHA’s Corridor Needs Analysis regarding Old Georgetown Road here. And here is a presentation regarding the Tilden to Ryland stretch.Since the bike lanes were installed, my office has relayed many implementation questions and concerns from the public to SHA. As a result of the feedback received, SHA agreed to perform an Interim Analysis to examine the impact of the bike lanes on traffic times and safety. It is available here. Some of you may have received this directly from SHA late last week. Because SHA is still adding features to the bicycle lanes (mostly paint that was challenging to apply during the winter months), the agency has committed to conducting a “post-installation analysis” later this summer.
Once SHA sent out the Interim Analysis, the District 16 state legislators met with them to get answers to some immediate questions we thought constituents would have. For example, we confirmed that all data collected for the Interim Analysis was done during the middle of the week (Tuesday to Thursday) in line with traffic analysis standards. No data was collected on a public holiday, school break, school early release, or during any inclement weather period or special event that would impact normal traffic times in the area.
The crash data provided in the analysis also seemed flawed, because it was not comparing the period with the bicycle lanes to comparable periods in prior years. SHA has agreed to provide a comparison of crash data on Old Georgetown Road between December 15, 2022 and March 15, 2023 and the same prior two year period, which we will share when available.
The Interim Analysis also does not include data regarding usage of the bike lanes themselves, which SHA has now agreed to provide for the post-installation analysis this summer. My office will continue to relay constituent feedback to the State Highway Administration. That said, SHA’s contact information is also included at the end of the analysis document if you prefer to reach out to them directly.
If you know of an upcoming District 16 event or a District 16 resident who merits recognition or condolences, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I spend a lot of time in this weekly newsletter talking about the work of the House of Delegates. No surprise there. I am a Delegate after all and, these days, House Majority Leader. But this is the time of the year that members of the House and members of the Senator quickly remember that like 48 other state legislatures--all but Nebraska--Maryland has a bicameral legislature. The story goes that George Washington said that the U.S. Senate's purpose was to "cool" U.S. House legislation just as a saucer is used to cool hot tea. I do not think it works quite the same way in Maryland where the Senators and House members represent the same constituencies and serve the same overlapping terms, but each chamber does bring different perspectives to bills.
This is the time of year we are all reminded of the other body because members from each are marching across the hall (really between our separate legislative buildings) to present our bills that passed our own chamber to the other. For example, last week I presented the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority Sunset Act to the Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee. Unlike most of my other bills, this one had no "Senate cross-file"--an identical bill introduced by a Senator--so it was the first time any Senator was really hearing or thinking about my bill. And earlier this week I presented the Teacher Pay Parity Act to the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee.
Earlier this week, the Governor sent down a supplemental budget making various changes to the proposed operating and capital budgets. You can review it here.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am also part of the "conference committee" on the budget when the House and Senate budget leaders get together to sort out differences. As I draft this, I am between meetings of the conference committee.
Condolences to the Temple Beth El community on the passing of Rabbi Emeritus William Rudolph.
Three District 16 residents were recently nominated to state boards and commissions by Governor Moore:
Two District 16 residents were also nominated to County Boards and Commissions by the County Executive:
District 16's Dr. Kevin Cullen has been added to the Baltimore Sun's Business and Civic Hall of Fame for his work on cancer care.
If you know of an upcoming District 16 event or a District 16 resident who merits recognition or condolences, please email email@example.com.
Just before I finalized this weekly newsletter, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee selected Sarah Wolek to fill now Senator Kelly's unexpired term as Delegate for District 16. Sarah's name now goes to Governor Moore for appointment to join Delegate Sara Love and me in representing you in the House of Delegates. Congratulations to Sarah!
Monday was the so-called "crossover deadline," the date by which bills need to move from one chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to the other to avoid being sent to the Rules Committee (significantly harming the chance of final passage).
The Maryland General Assembly deals with thousands of bills each year and as House Majority Leader, I am proud to be in the mix on many of them related to choice, healthcare, firearm safety, the environment, the economy and more. But the crossover deadline is a good time to assess the status of the ten bills of which I am the primary author.
The State and Federal Transportation Funding Act (HB 51) allows so-called GARVEE and GAN financing for certain transportation mega projects. It has passed the House.
The Maryland State Agency Transparency Act (HB 58) applies certain Open Meetings Act requirements including web streaming of meetings to the State Ethics Commission. It has passed the House and the Senate version has passed that body.
The Net Metering Flexibility Act (HB 68) makes net metering for home solar panels more consumer friendly. It is still in committee but the Senate version has passed.
The Maryland Rail Investment Act (HB 74) to create a state rail authority funded by tolls on existing tolled facilities is stuck in committee.
The Board of Public Works Public Comment Act (HB 498) will bring more transparency to that unique body. The House and Senate version have each passed.
The Teacher Pay Parity Act (HB 448) reforms special needs school teacher pay. The bill has passed the House.
The Arbitration Reform for State Employees Act (HB 380) would allow binding arbitration for our collectively bargaining state employees. It is stalled in committee.
The Young Readers Program Act (HB 243) expands a program created last year to support books for those under 5 years old. It has passed the House and the Senate version has passed that body.
The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority Sunset Act (HB 161) requires a sunset review of that quasi-governmental agency. It has passed the House.
HB 377 is a Montgomery County Delegation bill I am championing with Senator Ariana Kelly and Delegate Sara Love to reform procurement policies for the Village of Friendship Heights in District 16.
District 16's Anna Palmisano is the recipient of the Robert Wears Award for National Leadership in Patient Safety in the volunteer category. I have seen Anna up close advocating for patients' rights and improved healthcare in Annapolis.
Congratulations to District 16's Robert Chanin and Judith Rivlin on their reappointment and appointment, respectively, to the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board.
Congratulations to District 16's Judith Hallett, whose book Ancient Women Writers of Greece and Rome, has been selected to receive the 2023 Bochazy Pedagogy Award from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South.
Condolences to the family of Norman Knopf on his passing. Norm was an attorney who had long been active in county land use issues.
State legislators have the opportunity to award scholarships to our constituents for their higher education. If you are interested in a scholarship, please visit https://www.marckorman.com/scholarship.html for further information about how to apply.
If you know of an upcoming District 16 event or a District 16 resident who merits recognition or condolences, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The one piece of business the General Assembly is required to address each year is the annual budget. This year's budget originates in the House of Delegates. As I have shared before, the Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, considers the budget through different subject matter subcommittees. I chair the Subcommittee on Transportation and the Environment. Last week, each subcommittee made its recommendations to the full Appropriations Committee which passed the budget on a bipartisan basis. You can read the reports of each subcommittee here:
As I have shared before, this year's budget fully funds the various statutory formulas in law for public education (including $1.1 billion in aid for Montgomery County Public Schools); is balanced, as required by Maryland laws; holds tuition increases at the University System of Maryland to 2% and fully funds the state's community college funding formula; and more. Combined with the state capital budget, it also funds school construction, parks infrastructure, and transportation projects.
This action on the budget comes just after our state's Board of Revenue Estimates made some revisions to the current and next fiscal year provisions. They expect less growth in both the income and sales taxes and noted that the state's economic strength was a little weaker than the country as a whole. It's a $477m reduction across both fiscal years (out of an almost $25b general fund). Of course, we have to balance our budget every year so we adjusted the budget described above to account for this. The slide deck from the BRE's meeting is available here.
Three more of my bills passed the House of Delegates last week: The Maryland State Agency Transparency Act, which would expand certain Open Meetings Act requirements--including web streaming of meetings--to the State Ethics Commission; The Young Readers Program Expansion Act, which would build on a program created last year to support county-based programs that send books to young Marylanders; and the Board of Public Works Public Comment Act, which would bring new transparency to items voted on by the Board of Public Works.
This week, the House will take up my legislation, the State and Federal Transportation Funding Act. The bill authorizes grant anticipation financing (known as GARVEE or GAN) for some of the state's largest transportation projects.
Several major initiatives passed the House of Delegates last week:
-Family Prosperity Act: Tax legislation that permanently extends the state's Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
-Reproductive Freedom Constitutional Amendment: This will place on the ballot next year a constitutional amendment regarding reproductive freedom.
-Cannabis Reform: The bill puts in place the licensing, regulatory, and taxation framework for the recreational cannabis market authorized by the voters last year.
And this week we will be taking up firearm safety legislation as the state responds to the Bruen Supreme Court decision. The bill modifies the qualifications for a wear and carry permit in Maryland.
Earlier this week, State Treasurer Davis announced that Maryland had retained its AAA bond rating from all three major ratings agencies. Although these bond rating agencies do not always get it right, their view does impact the cost Maryland pays to borrow for construction projects. The ratings reports also provide a nice little fiscal check-in. You can read all three of the reports here.There's actually a minor error in the Fitch report, as it says that Maryland "established the nation's first taxes on digital goods and downloads, including advertising." That's only half right, the digital advertising was the first in the nation and currently under litigation but many states preceded Maryland in taxing digital goods and digital downloads.
The reports all emphasize their appreciation for Maryland's fiscal management policies and that is a big part of why we get strong ratings.
The vendor for the I-495/I-270 private toll lanes project has announced that they are withdrawing from the project. The current Administration has made clear that they plan to continue the project in some form, relying on the environmental documentation and Record of Decision obtained last year. Because of the method by which the vendor withdrew, the state owes them no funds and the vendor owes no funds to the state. Whatever you think of the project or the use of Public Private Partnerships (P3), let me just suggest that large multi-national companies do not just walk away from multi-billion dollar projects without a fight. But the reality of this project has always been that the P3 could not do what the Hogan Administration said it could do: magically solve traffic at no net cost to the taxpayers. This is something even the Hogan Administration acknowledged late in the game when they sought a federal bridge grant (that MD was not awarded) on their way out the door. As I told the media, “I trust we will now have a more honest and cooperative process.” Read an article about the project change.
In a prior email, I shared the news that former District 16 Delegate Marilyn Goldwater passed away. The Washington Post recently published an obituary on her passing.
State legislators have the opportunity to award scholarships to our constituents for their higher education. If you are interested in a scholarship, please visit https://www.marckorman.com/scholarship.html for further information about how to apply.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.