With a special session planned for May 14, state legislators have more work waiting for them in Annapolis. Still, representatives reported back to the community on major trends and legislation Wednesday night at the Perry Hall Library.
The Perry Hall Improvement Association's annual legislative wrap-up began at 7:30 p.m. on May 9.
The following updates were recorded live during the meeting.
Patch was absent for the beginning of State Sen. Kathy Klausmeier's remarks.
Klausmeier spoke about several pieces of legislation she faced during the most recent session, including her opposition to tax increases in the state budget and the special session.
Her final point covered banking legislation, including a possible sweepstakes program with banks and credit unions. She also said she supports additional protections for seniors at banks, so tellers can help seniors combat fraud.
Klausmeier said she will not be able to attend the special session next week because she has prior plans.
She took questions from the audience, but had to leave the PHIA meeting early for a previous engagement.
Del. Joe Boteler began speaking.
"We heard a lot about what they called the doomsday budget. I just want people to understand that the budget was last year's budget with a $750,000,000 increase. I happen to sit on Ways and Means and we work a lot with the budget."
"We're going back into session over $500,000,000 basically."
"What you hear on the news is not really what's going on. It in no way affects the state's credit rating."
"The deal that the governor wants is to add another sales tax to gasoline, 2 percent each year for three years. They say it's about infrastructure, but it's not. We took money out of transportation to balance the budget."
He said he supports virtual classrooms, which support children who, for mental or social reasons, cannot participate in schools. He said he was very impressed with kids graduating from program.
Del. Eric Bromwell began speaking.
"I want everyone to understand how we got where we are and why we're going back on Monday."
"I don't think any of us feels a pressing need to go back on Monday or spend another $500,000,000. Things are going to be cut that people depend on, including 500 state jobs."
"They call it the doomsday budget, which I think is a poor choice of words. The hardest vote I've ever had to make was to furlough state jobs. It's never an easy decision to make. Given the outcry from my district, I do not support tax increases."
He is a member of the health committee, which he said draws much of his focus.
"It's very, very rare that a bill comes in that isn't changed in committee."
It was the failure of a budget bill and a gambling bill that led to the return to session, he said. The budget bill was being held so legislators would be forced to vote on the gambling bill.
The gambling bill did not gain enough support in Montgomery County, PG County and Baltimore City. Counties asked for votes and funding in exchange for voting in favor of gambling. Baltimore County requested that the hybrid school board bill be approved in exchange for votes on the gambling.
The county executive of Baltimore County did not support the hybrid school board bill, he said, and following other events, support for the gambling bill crumbled.
Bromwell said he will not vote for tax increases.
Del. John Cluster began speaking.
He is a member of the judiciary committee and said there is an attack on criminal justice and that on the committee, lawyers outnumber former police officers.
He shared a story about a tragic accident in Ocean City, involving a man on drugs who nearly killed a female driver.
Cluster helped increase the penalty for driving drugged, rather than just driving drunk.
"There is constantly an attack on criminal justice from Montgomery County, PG County and Baltimore City," including, he said, a law proposing that only tickets be written for those committing misdemeanors, instead of arresting them.
"Montgomery Co, P. G. Co and Baltimore City were the counties attacking the system not Baltimore County. Baltimore County continually comes down to Annapolis and tries to fend off back bills in the Criminal Justice area," Cluster wrote in an email to Patch following the meeting.
"They want to expunge criminal records, so no one will know they have a criminal record ... we fought that," he said. "If a warrant is not served within three years, they want it to disappear. We were able to increase that to 10 years."
Cluster has called for "good" audits in every department by an outside firm for every department.
He talked about wasted time on the last day of the session.
Sen. J.B. Jennings began speaking.
He apologized for the absence of some of the 7th district delegation, as they had to attend a scholarship dinner.
He said he dealt with the increase of the flush tax, which is expected to double, from $30 to $60. It will go back to $30 in 18 years. He said he opposed it.
He said he is a farmer by trade. A bill is intended to protect farm land by changing septic system. He does not agree with how this impacts landowners.
He said it devalues land for farmers and other homeowners.
"I don't love development, I'd rather see fields with cows, but I don't believe you should take value away from people," he said.
He said elected school boards are common on Maryland. He spoke about a commission that he served on, and said the hybrid school board bill had bipartisan support.
He said the special session is not needed, and that he will fight "tooth and nail" against tax increases.
Del. Pat McDonough began speaking.
He said there are two trends, one is spending increases every year. He called the community members the state's ATMs.
"We have 43 Republicans, we vote against the budget, I've voted against the budget for 10 years. Taxes increase every single year," he said.
They passed several bills to benefit criminals, he said, including a university in the criminal system, that will give them time off their sentences if they take classes. He said he tried to eliminate murderers from getting the benefit.
The other trend is "Big Brother, this is the year of Big Brother. Agriculture, zoning, it's all going to the state." He said that PG County and Montgomery County will make decisions for Baltimore County.
"This is a radical, liberal tax-and-spend state. It's a radical state run by PG County and Montgomery County," he said.
"People ask me all the time, what is wrong with the Maryland General Asylum?"
"We're outnumbered. This is what is setting policy in Maryland."
"They don't worry because they have ATM machines. What is it about? It's failed leadership."
"This is the doomsday session, they are going down there to steal your money."
"The people of Maryland do not understand what is happening to them in this budget."
Del. Kathy Szeliga began speaking.
"We live right around the corner here in Perry Hall."
She is on the appropriations committee, she says, because she is a small business owner.
She said Perry Hall remains largely the same in terms of redistricting, although changes have been made to Rep. Andy Harris' district.
She said her district now stretches up to the PA line.
"The budget is what we're all concerned about today. It goes up about a billion per year."
"I'm making less than I did in 2007 and I think a lot of people would say the same. The trajectory of state spending is out of control. We're trying."
"The Republicans did put in a level headed budget, but it was rejected along party lines."
She spoke about her blog post on Patch about what she calls the marriage penalty, which requires higher taxes for a married couple with an income of more than $150,000.
"Let's not penalize marriage, we spent two months arguing over gay marriage and now they're going to tax it."
She encouraged people to get her weekly emails.
Boteler answered a question about the potential for putting transportation funding a lock box where money cannot be removed. Boteler said he would support the lock box if it come up in special session.
Cluster said Montgomery County and PG County and Baltimore City support the special session, while the rest of the state does not.
Bromwell said those counties and areas are affected most by spending cuts.
Cluster says they're really not cuts to the budget, just cuts to increases.
Boteler said the budget has increased significantly since 1990, but the population has not increased.
"It's being spent on programs the state has not right to be involved in. We've got to make this government smaller. The prevailing will has a different philosophy and it's one of socialism. They also want to tax luxury items. That's another tax that's coming," Boteler said.
An attendee asked about a raise to the governor's wife's salary, she is a judge.
Cluster: "The judges all got a raise, a huge raise. If the legislature did not approve their raise, they would have gotten double. Next year we're going to go back and fix this. We were held ransom."
McDonough said it also affects raises for retired judges.
Jennings: "That was a no-win situation, no matter how you voted for it."
McDonough said they need to get rid of the "phony" commission that suggests judges pay raises.
Someone asked why the budget needs to end at midnight on the last day of the session.
McDonough made fun of the usual applause and balloons at the end of the session, which he said signals new taxes.
Someone asks why there isn't more of a partnership between Democrats and Republicans, not just Bromwell and Klausmeier. "When do we stop worrying about parties?"
Szeliga said it has less to do with parties and more to do with geography, with very left leaning people in the city and around D.C.
McDonough called very left leaning delegates "bullies." "The problem rests with the public, they keep sending these people back there."
Boteler said very left leaning leadership have told Republicans, "we don't need you." He said there are more Democrats who are voting against the budget every yesar. "We're making progress ever so slowing. The government belongs to the people and we need a louder cry. We are doing it, we are offering compromises to people but they're not interested at this point," he said.
McDonough said there need to be more Republicans in the legislature in order to get more compromise.
Bromwell: "I guess I'm not quite as willing to hold parties harmless. Every four years the Republican party and Democrats party are trying to swell their numbers—they're going to go after the people they can win. So you end up battleground areas like Baltimore County. These are the targeted areas. Baltimore County has less seniority because there's turnover. A lot of people in Annapolis don't know what it's like to have a general election. I think we try as well as we can to get our input. No one is saying 'forget about them.'"
Dennis Robinson closed the meeting.
With a special session planned for May 14, state legislators still have more work to do. Regardless, representatives are expected to report back to the community Wednesday night at the Perry Hall Library.
The Perry Hall Improvement Association's annual legislative wrap-up is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on May 9, and all are welcome to attend. The meeting is slated to include state senators and delegates from legislative districts 7 and 8:
- Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-8)
- Del. Eric Bromwell (D-8)
- Del. Joe Boteler (R-8)
- Del. John Cluster (R-8)
- Sen. J.B. Jennings (R-7)
- Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-7)
- Del. Pat McDonough (R-7)
Del. Rick Impallaria (R-7) cannot attend because of a prior commitment, according to Dennis M. Robinson, Jr., PHIA president.
Check out Patch's coverage of last year's wrap-up here.
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