Charles County Del­e­ga­tion re­flects on 2017 assem­bly

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

The Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly has ad­journed its ses­sion un­til Jan­uary next year, but that does not mean that the work is done for the Charles County Del­e­ga­tion.

Del­e­ga­tion Chair­woman Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles) said she is look­ing for­ward to see­ing the re­sults of the pieces of leg­is­la­tion the over­all Gen­eral Assem­bly passed and see­ing how the dis­cus­sion shapes it­self out on things that did not pass.

From achiev­ing paid sick leave for work­ers across Mary­land to now al­low­ing the Charles County Gov­ern­ment to take over trash col­lect­ing du­ties from pri­vate com­pa­nies in the county, there were many things that were ac­com­plished Pat­ter­son said.

The most im­por­tant of which, she said, was prob­a­bly the paid sick leave bill which re­quires com­pa­nies with 15 or more

em­ploy­ees to of­fer seven days of paid sick leave to their em­ploy­ees.

“The ma­jor­ity of us voted for that,” Pat­ter­son said. “I feel good about that.”

There are hun­dreds of thou­sands of fam­i­lies and peo­ple who will be im­pacted by that bill, Pat­ter­son said. They do not have to live in fear of los­ing their jobs be­cause of any ill­ness or health is­sue in their fam­ily.

Their ben­e­fits are not cul­pa­ble to what most work­ers have in ben­e­fits, she said.

But not ev­ery­one in the del­e­ga­tion sup­ported the bill. Pat­ter­son and Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) both sup­ported the bill on the house side and Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) sup­ported the bill for the se­nate, but Del. C.T. Wil­son (D-Charles) said he could not sup­port the bill as it was writ­ten.

“We’re hold­ing small busi­nesses and small busi­ness own­ers to the same stan­dards as big busi­ness,” Wil­son said. “We didn’t do enough for small busi­nesses in the ses­sion. I’ll call it a re­gret.”

Wil­son is the chair of the busi­ness reg­u­la­tion sub­com­mit­tee for the Eco­nomic Mat­ters com­mit­tee. He said many of the busi­ness own­ers in South­ern Mary­land who he came in con­tact with said this bill could hurt them.

They will now have to pay for work­ers who aren’t there on cer­tain days and pay for some­one to do that work in their place, he said. They may have to hire more em­ploy­ees, he said.

Wil­son said he sup­ports paid sick leave, but said there should have been a dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tion for smaller busi­nesses and more speci­ficity in the bill

between busi­ness sizes. That would have made it eas­ier to sup­port, he said.

But Jame­son and Mid­dle­ton both said they have been in con­tact with small busi­ness own­ers who al­ready of­fer a sim­i­lar pol­icy for paid sick leave.

“For many of them, there won’t be much change,” Mid­dle­ton said. Jame­son said she agreed and thought many busi­ness own­ers would be able to ad­just to the pol­icy with­out strug­gle.

De­spite the dis­agree­ment on paid sick leave, Wil­son said he saw the ses­sion as a suc­cess. Wil­son’s bill that would in­crease the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for in­di­vid­u­als who have been sex­u­ally as­saulted was passed after three years of pre­sent­ing it in the Gen­eral Assem­bly.

Dur­ing the last gen­eral assem­bly ses­sion, the bill was not voted on be­cause of op­po­si­tion from fel­low leg­is­la­tors. This time around, Wil­son said, the vote was unan­i­mous from both the House and Se­nate.

“It’s a weight off my shoul­ders,” Wil­son said. “That’s not some­thing that I re­ally wanted to do, to put my per­sonal his­tory out on a state level. But I hope that I’ve helped peo­ple. I’ve got lots of let­ters and calls from in­di­vid­u­als that suf­fered through.”

Wil­son was re­peat­edly beaten and raped by his foster fa­ther from in his early child­hood un­til he was adopted and taken out of foster care. Prior to that, he was also moved from foster home to foster home with­out a fam­ily.

Wil­son’s bill would al­low sex­ual as­sault vic­tims to pur­sue civil charges against the as­sailant up un­til age 38.

Wil­son said he did not know be­fore the ses­sion if the bill would pass, but had it failed he said he would have brought the bill back up dur­ing the next ses­sion. Luck­ily, he said, many peo­ple were open to it after rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Catholic Church sup­ported it.

An­other suc­cess, Wil­son said, was the Trust Act not mov­ing out of the Se­nate. The dis­cus­sion was worth­while, Wil­son said, but ul­ti­mately the bill pro­tects felons and con­victs who would oth­er­wise be de­ported.

“There are peo­ple who end up in our coun­try for the right rea­sons, they work hard and want to make a liv­ing,” Wil­son said. “But for those who do the wrong things, we should not [have] more pro­tec­tions for them than we do for Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.”

The Trust Act would have lim­ited gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and law en­force­ment in­ter­ac­tions with fed­eral deportation agen­cies. As a lawyer, Wil­son said that puts lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies in a place where they would not be able to do their jobs well.

But Pat­ter­son dis­agreed. Many peo­ple who are in the coun­try and un­doc­u­mented are here with­out pro­tec­tions, she said, de­spite be­ing hard work­ing cit­i­zens who are not do­ing wrong.

There are some peo­ple who are afraid to call author­i­ties, go to the doc­tor and get proper care, she said, be­cause they may be de­ported de­spite search­ing for help from lo­cal author­i­ties.

“We don’t need peo­ple liv­ing in fear,” Pat­ter­son said.

Aside from those bills, both Mid­dle­ton and Jame­son said re­new­able en­ergy strate­gies were a pri­or­ity for the del­e­ga­tion this year. Jame­son spon­sored a bill re­quir­ing the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources to con­duct a study on the state’s re­new­able en­ergy port­fo­lio stan­dard and re­lated is­sues.

The state has put a pre­mium on look­ing for re­new­able en­ergy re­sources over the last few years with funding in­creas­ing year after year. And now, with a state law re­quir­ing busi­nesses to use more re­new­able en­ergy re­sources like solar pan­els, wind tur­bines and dams, find­ing more re­sources is be­com­ing more im­por­tant.

The bill Jame­son put forth gives the depart­ment $263,000 each year un­til 2020 to re­search re­new­able en­ergy, the costs be­hind it and to ul­ti­mately find the most ef­fi­cient and cost ef­fec­tive re­sources.

“Hope­fully, we’ll be able to try to nar­row the path we’re go­ing to move for­ward when it comes to mak­ing our en­ergy cleaner and greener here in the state,” Jame­son said.

Over­all, Pat­ter­son said, this ses­sion was a suc­cess. This was her first year as the chair­woman of the Charles County del­e­ga­tion and, she said, there was a real bi­par­ti­san ef­fort to get things done.

There were not al­ways agree­ments across the board, she said, but there was al­ways a good dis­cus­sion.

“That, for me, is the good news,” she said.

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