Breadth and Depth - October Update
When selling his library to Congress to replace the books torched by the British during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson wrote that there "is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer." While the range of topics I deal with is slightly narrower than a federal legislator--I never have to vote on war resolutions--I think it is generally true that we deal with a wide range of issues and topics. As I think back over the work I have done the past month, I am reminded of the discussions I have had about abortion, healthcare, sustainable food, flooding and draining, Eastern Shore economic development, and a lot more. To be sure, the legislature is also a place that rewards specialization and I certainly go more in depth on topics such as the state budget, transportation, and the environment--topics regular readers see me mention in almost every newsletter. But one of the great pleasures of this job is to learn a little about quite a lot. Read on for some of that information.
As always, you can keep up with what I am doing by following me at @mkorman on Twitter or by clicking "Like" on Delegate Marc Korman on Facebook.
October 1 is the implementation date for a number of new laws in MD. Here is the complete list. Some of the highlights include expanding the number of early voting centers; removing life without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders; improving access to law enforcement records, and creating a new office of immigrant affairs. Three pieces of environmental legislation I sponsored became effective today: Reforming the Office of People's Counsel (our consumer advocate on utilities issues) to advocate on environmental issues; making it easier for homeowner and condo owner association members to get access to charging equipment; and electrifying our state bus fleet.
Regarding the reform to the Office of People's Counsel, I published an op-ed with David Lapp, the People's Counsel, about the transformative changes of the changes. You can read it here.
The major accomplishment of my first term was helping to pass the regional and bipartisan dedicated funding for the area Metro system. I ride Metro less often in the age of COVID but as a semi-regular rider, I know it has a long way to go. But there are greenshoots of progress and Governing Magazine wrote about the success.
I get a lot of questions about the Purple Line and the lack of progress has been disappointing, at best, given the construction contract issues I have previously written about. One piece of unreported good news, however, is that when the Purple Line is complete the Capital Crescent Trail will reopen alongside it. The County Planning Board reviewed plans for the trail last week, including the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue. You can read a lot more detail here.
The Hogan Administration has released the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding the I-270/I-495 private toll road expansion project. The deadline to file comments is November 15, 2021. Among other changes, the SEIS delays further action on 495 east. You can read it here.
The Comptroller released the "close-out" report on the last fiscal year which ended over the summer. Even while many of our friends and neighbors struggle, the state's finances appear relatively healthy with a $2.5 billion fund balance (dollars remaining after all expenditures and obligations) and tax revenue around $1.7 billion more than projected driven by income, sales, and corporate taxes.
A major reason for this relative stability is the federal government's direct state support and indirect support which kept the economy afloat.
You can read a lot more detail here.
The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates has just released it latest estimates. You can watch the meeting here.
The overall story is that revenue was higher than expected last year and this carries through to the current and next fiscal year. Estimates are up for most components, although corporate income tax expects a one year decline driven by last year's unusually high growth and the hope that corporations will divert more revenue to payroll.
The complete presentation from the staff is here.
Overall, the recovery is broad-based but those in the upper income brackets have done much better than others. That is where having a progressive income tax can help stabilize the budget, and allow services for those who need them to be funded. The importance of the federal stimulus cannot be overstated. The presentation credits it as what "Saved the country from deep recession."
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is asking all families to consent for their children to receive free COVID-19 testing at their school. Testing helps to keep schools open and students and staff safe.
Two types of tests are available and the one given to students depends on the situation. The tests are fast, safe, and painless. A cotton swab is used on the front part of the nose. Students say it feels like a tickle! The tests are:
● Screening tests for students with no COVID-19 symptoms
● Rapid tests for students with COVID-19 symptoms
Parents/guardians must consent for their children to participate in the COVID-19 screening and rapid tests. They only need to fill out one form to give their permission. The consent form is available in multiple languages and can be filled out online (https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/coronavirus/random-testing.aspx) or schools can provide paper copies for families.
The weekly screening tests for a random sample of students with no symptoms can limit the spread of the virus. These tests are especially important for younger students because they are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
The rapid tests for students with COVID-19 symptoms will help keep students in the classroom. Results are available in 20 minutes and if a student tests negative, classmates can remain in school and will not have to quarantine.
The tests are an important part of MCPS' plan to keep students learning in school, five days a week, and to keep our community safe.
Given the unfortunate passing of our local, long-time School Board Member, Pat O'Neill, the Montgomery County School Board is beginning the process of appointing a replacement (who will hold the seat until the next election). Learn more about the process and how to apply here.
On Thursday, October 21 at 7:30am, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club will hear from Gubernatorial candidates Peter Franchot and John King. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
On Thursday, October 21 at 7pm, Montgomery County Planning and the Friends of White Flint will host a community meeting on the Pike District Streetscape Design Guidelines. RSVP here: https://montgomeryplanning.org/events/pike-district-streetscape-design-guidelines-community-meeting/
On Thursday, October 28 at 7:30am, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club will hear from Gubernatorial candidates Rushern Baker and Ashwani Jain. Email email@example.com for more information.
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