On Monday, the legislative session passed the "cross-over" deadline. "Cross-over" is the date by which bills must pass one chamber to be guaranteed a hearing in the other. This meant a flurry of legislative activity over the past few days, including aSaturday floor session. Part of the pre-crossover activity was House passage of the Capital Budget. Last week I discussed the progress of the operating budget. I am pleased to report the operating budget was ultimately adopted by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 135-6. This week we passed the capital budget, which is the state's construction budget. The legislation includes many important programs but the highlights are:
The Capital Budget is now pending before the Senate.
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Two pieces of legislation I sponsored have made progress in the past week. The State Board of Elections Transparency Act unanimously passed the House of Delegates. The Energy Storage Study Act passed more narrowly, but on a bipartisan basis. Both bills will now be heard in Senate committees.
I was given the opportunity to serve as "floor leader" on a somewhat obscure but important bill regarding state budget reform. Currently, Maryland budgets on the basis of revenue estimates. These estimate have been volatile over the years, meaning the legislature appropriates funds that may never materialize. A workgroup made up of the Department of Budget and Management, the Comptroller, and the Department of Legislative Services issued a report on suggesting reforms to reduce volatility. The approach adopted by the House limits the use of estimated revenue that is non-withholding income tax, which historically has been the most volatile component of revenue estimates. Should the funds ultimately materialize, those dollars will be allocated to the state's Rainy Day Fund (the state's reserves) and "paygo" capital construction for education (i.e., construction projects for K-12, community colleges, and four year public higher education).
Late last week, the Governor announced his position on two major bills moving through the legislature. First, the Governor threatened to veto the earned sick leave bills moving through the House and Senate chambers. Second, the Governor announced his support for the fracking ban recently passed by the House.
Following a recent community meeting regarding River Road traffic safety near Whitman High School, I joined the other District 16 legislators, Senator Van Hollen, and Councilman Berliner in checking in on progress with the State Highway Administration. As I have previously reported in this space, the State Highway Administration has been communicating on the issue, but not acting quickly enough. The letter we sent is here.
Many of our neighborhoods have experienced increase noise from airplanes over the past year or so. Elected officials from our US Senators on down have been engaged in this issue. I have attempted to involve the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA), our state's regulator of airports, given their expertise with the issue around BWI. I recently received a formal reply from the MAA--after months of informal communication back and forth--expressing at least some interest in the issue.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report regarding Metro's SafeTrack program, including recommendations for how Metro should approach any future major capital programs. You can read the report online.
I have been talking about Metro for years, including since I began running for Delegate in 2013. But what awoke many non-riders to the issues was last year's all day, weekday shutdown of the system. The Washington Post recently ran a detailed story on that shutdown.
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