Leg­is­la­tors pre­pare for Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion

Trans­porta­tion still a big is­sue for del­e­ga­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Mary­land’s 188 leg­is­la­tors will re­turn to An­napo­lis Wed­nes­day, Jan. 11, to be­gin 90 days of dis­cussing, de­lib­er­at­ing and pass­ing bills into law. That in­cludes rep­re­senta- tives from Charles County, who have no re­duc­tion in con­cerns de­spite Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s re­cent prom­ise of a re­place­ment for the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memo­rial Bridge.

And with the Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump (R) set to take the reigns of the pres­i­dency in just a few weeks, many state-level Democrats are con­cerned with the lev­els of federal fund­ing they could see drop as the new ad­min­is­tra­tion moves

for­ward.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Mill- er (D-Charles, Calvert, Prince Ge­orge’s) said, “We are go­ing to be on the de­fen­sive be­cause of our pres­i­dent[-elect] and his cab­i­net.” When it comes to is­sues such as the en­vi­ron­ment and other reg­u­la­tions, the peo­ple who will be in charge in Wash­ing­ton have “a his­tory of un­do­ing reg­ula- tions,” he said. The goal for the Gen­eral As­sem­bly will be not to go back- wards, he said.

But still, Miller said, the goal is to also work as a bi­par­ti­san group and get things done rather than ar­gue over the pol­i­tics of is­sues. Se­na­tor Thom- as “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) agreed with Miller and said the goal is to work with Repub­li­cans to reach so­lu­tions — but Repub­li­cans also have to be will­ing to work with the other side.

For ex­am­ple, Middleton said, on the is­sue of HB1013, re­ferred to by Ho­gan (R) as the “Road Kill” bill, which re­quires the gov­er­nor to rate trans­porta­tion projects and their im­por­tance on dif­fer­ent scales such as eco­nomic im­pact, en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and safety im­pact.

Last month, Ho­gan said he would make it his top pri­or­ity to re­peal the bill. But Middleton said the gov­er­nor has re­fused to dis­cuss with leg­is­la­tors how they can im­prove upon the bill.

“It goes with­out say­ing that there’s cer­tainly a leg­is­la­ture will­ing­ness to sit down with the gov- er­nor,” Middleton said. “Just show us what your pri­or­i­ties are. Peo­ple want trans­parency. We heard this in the last elec- tion. We want to see the emails; we want to see the tax re­turns.”

As far as cre­at­ing any pro­tec­tions for HB1013, Middleton said the leg- is­la­ture must wait to see what move Ho­gan makes to re­peal it. But they will over­ride what­ever is passed, he said.

Middleton also said just be­cause the Nice bridge re­place­ment has been mapped out by Ho­gan does not mean work sur­round­ing mak­ing the bridge a re­al­ity is fin­ished. The leg­is­la­ture still has to look through the pro­posal and make sure the fund­ing for the bridge will be there, he said.

“We’re still deal­ing with a struc­tural deficit,” he said. “That’s some­thing we’re go­ing to have to work around.”

As far as Charles County and South­ern Mary- land ini­tia­tives, Middleton said there were many bond bills sub­mit­ted this year that still re­quire ap­provals. But only so many can be ap­proved be­cause of the state’s bud­get con­straints. And they may be get­ting less help from the federal level be­cause of the tran­si­tion of power, he said, which could ul­ti­mately af­fect lo­cal lev­els of gov- ern­ment as well.

Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) agreed. This year, she said, she has been less will­ing to spon­sor pieces of leg­isla- tion be­cause of the other com­mit­ments she has and the pack­age com­ing from the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers. And with the tran­si­tion of power, there may be some things the com- mis­sion­ers are ask­ing for that they may not get.

“The hard­est part for us is de­ter­min­ing if they need it or if they don’t need it,” Jame­son said. “Some of those things they can do lo­cally and we don’t even need to make it part of the con­ver­sa­tion. But there can be a ques­tion whether they need a state statute.”

At this point, Jame­son said, there is noth­ing from the county that stands out. Ji’Aire’s Law, which would al­low a par­ent or guardian to take a su­per­vi­sory role in the care of an adult suf­fer­ing from a men­tal ill­ness, is still be­ing re­viewed in a “work study,” Jame­son said, so there may po­ten­tially be move­ment on that.

How­ever, she nor the del­e­ga­tion have had an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally read into the county com­mis­sioner’s leg­isla­tive packet at this point. The del­e­ga­tion will meet on Jan. 11, she said, when the as­sem­bly process starts and will dis­cuss the Charles County pack­age.

Del. Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles) said she has dou­bled up with work as the chair­woman of the Charles County Del­e­ga­tion and as vice chair- woman of the Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus.

She said she is pri­mar- ily fo­cus­ing on is­sues in ed­u­ca­tion, health and poverty, in­clud­ing school tru­ancy, equal­ity for his­tor­i­cally black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties and paid sick leave.

But another is­sue she wants to con­tinue to look at, Pat­ter­son said, is mak­ing sure mi­nor­ity busi­ness own­ers are in­cluded in the med­i­cal cannabis ap­proval pro­cesses. Up un­til now, she said, they have not been, and the process has to be re­viewed to find out why and how it can be changed.

“It cen­ters around the as­sign­ment of li­cens­ing and pro­cess­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. It did not fol­low the law in the past,” Pat­ter­son said. “The fo­cus is cor­rect­ing that and mak­ing sure each county re­ceives eco­nomic com­pen­sa­tion for these li­censes that have been awarded.”

All of these is­sues will be brought to the ta­ble when the del­e­ga­tion meets next week, Pat­ter­son said. They are all im­por­tant, she noted, but will not all make the cut.

Jame­son said what­ever the del­e­ga­tion de­cides to get be­hind, it will be to the ben­e­fit of the cit­i­zens of South­ern Mary­land.

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