Happy holidays from my family to yours. It's been another strange year but I hope you and your loved ones can enjoy the holiday season. As you do so, please continue to be safe and stay healthy. Scroll down for a big event announcement and my usual monthly update.
On January 5 at 7:30pm, the District 16 Team will hold its annual legislative send-off virtually. Go to bit.ly/d16-01-05 to register.
Special Session Wrap-up
As I previewed last month, the Maryland General Assembly met in special session earlier this month and took up three items of business.
Veto Overrides: During the special session, the General Assembly voted to override numerous gubernatorial vetoes from the spring. Some of the most significant pieces of legislation removed the Governor from the parole approval process--as most states have done; increased safety investment for the Maryland Transit Administration, set limits on how local law enforcement can interact with federal immigration officials, and my legislation on transparency in the budget reduction process. The complete list is here.
Treasurer: The General Assembly had the task of appointing a replacement to our long-time State Treasurer, District 16's own Nancy Kopp. The new Treasurer is long-time delegate Dereck E. Davis. You can watch his swearing-in online.
Redistricting: The General Assembly also passed the new Congressional district lines, as required after the decennial census. The new map can be viewed here and will go into effect for the 2022 election.
I have spent a big part of the last year serving as a Speaker Adrienne Jones appointee to Governor Hogan's State Transparency and Accountability Reform (STAR) Commission, chaired by former State Senator (and Delegate) Andrew Serafini. The final report is here.
The STAR Commission was set up to address "quasi-governmental" MD agencies that stand somewhat apart from the normal executive branch, such as the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Maryland Clean Energy Center, the Maryland, Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority, Maryland Environmental Service, and Bainbridge Development Corporation.
On the surface, many of these organizations are doing great work under the oversight of their boards of directors. But too often problems emerge in the governance and ethics at these organizations, significantly with the Maryland Environmental Service.
The purpose of the Commission and report is to avoid the ongoing whack-a-mole each time a problem crops up and, instead, propose broader and systematic changes to all of these organizations. It is hard to legislate good behavior but many of these recommendations should increase the likelihood that any bad behavior is identified, exposed, and rectified sooner.
Each year, the non-partisan Department of Legislative Services releases issue papers that preview the upcoming legislative session. You can read the latest issue papers here.
One of my responsibilities is to serve as the House Chair of the Spending Affordability Committee, which meets each year to set the basic guidelines for our upcoming budget process. The Committee met last week and you can read the adopted report. You can also watch the meeting online. We are in a moment of unexpected cash surplus and the Committee recommends bringing the state's Rainy Day Fund up to 9% of revenue, repaying some other unfunded liabilities, and prioritizing some one time construction costs. That leaves what they call the "structural surplus" for ongoing programs or other incurred costs. We also follow the Governor's recommended capital (construction) debt limit while specifying certain funding priorities.
The Spending Affordability Committee described above was in the context of the latest Board of Revenue Estimates (BRE) projections, which were recently released. The projection tells us what our state government is capable of doing in the near term regarding services, construction, and so on. The fiscal picture is currently bright. In sum, around a half a billion increase in revenue is expected in both the current and next budget years. The corporate income tax "declines" are from September's estimated increases, not a true decline. Sales tax growth is even stronger than the major increases expected from 2020/COVID. Tobacco tax revenue was surprisingly high, because less were deterred than expected from the tax.
The BRE economist emphasized that this is very much a story of federal aide bolstering our economy and working its way through the system. It is positive, but may not be long-lasting. Maryland is also down 90k jobs from pre-COVID (although we were down 400k at the low). You can see his summary in the links below as well: revenue looks strong, federal stimulus helps a lot, inflation is positive for revenue but will also impact expenditures, and this is a good report but likely not sustainable. The video of the meeting is here and the slide deck from the meeting is here.
During the last legislative session, a deal was negotiated with the Governor that included state grants for businesses directly impacted by Purple Line construction. The Department of Commerce has partnered with Montgomery County to facilitate the grants and you can read more about the Council's work with the state grant here.
Unfortunately, there is a gap in funding because of a bill vetoed by Governor Hogan (but since overridden). We are working with Prince George's County to fill that gap. Read our letter to the Governor and his team here.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.