Legislators prepare for General Assembly session
Transportation still a big issue for delegation
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
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.