This year’s budget totaled $32.3 billion which represents a 3.5% increase in spending. This figure also includes $2.5 billion in federal stimulus funds for fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010. Medical assistance and education continue to make up the largest parts of the budget.
Education K-12: Elementary and secondary public education will receive $5.5 billion, an increase of $131.7 million. Nonpublic schools will receive $2.4 million in textbook aid. Federal monies were used to fully fund the Bridge to Excellence (Thornton) commitment and the Geographic Cost to Education Index (GCEI).
Medical Assistance: Funding for medical assistance totaled $5.8 billion, an increase of $200 million over last year. $652 million of that figure came from federal stimulus matching funds.
Concern for the Future: The federal stimulus funding is one-time only funding. This means that we still have not solved the structural deficit problem in Maryland. Spending continues to outpace revenues and in two years, we will be facing a $1 billion deficit again. Ultimately, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted against the budget based on those concerns.
The Death Penalty in Maryland
In December 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals found that Maryland’s lethal injection regulations had not been adopted properly. To date, the Governor has not issued new regulations which has resulted in a de facto moratorium on executions ever since. This year, the O’Malley Administration proposed legislation to completely repeal the death penalty from Maryland’s law.
Amendments were added to the bill in the Senate that changed it from a repeal of the death penalty to restrictions on when and how it could be used. Now, the death penalty can only be sought in cases with DNA evidence, a video tape that links a defendant to a murder or a voluntary, videotaped confession. The amended bill also rules out cases where the State relies solely on eyewitnesses. In a news interview, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler called the changes to the legislation “”ill-prepared, ill-thought-out, awkward and clumsy”” (Baltimore Sun, March 17, 2009). Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted against the bill, which passed.
REAL ID Act: Amnesty vs. Proof of Lawful Presence
As of May 11, 2008, Federal agencies may not accept driver’s licenses or identification cards for any official purpose if they are issued by a state that is not complying with the Federal REAL ID Act. “”Official purpose”” means boarding aircraft, entering nuclear power plants, entering federal facilities (including court buildings) and any other purpose defined by the Department of Homeland Security through regulations. Because Maryland has not complied with the requirements yet, the State had to file for an extension to the deadline. Although the extension was granted, many legislators feel that it is time to start moving toward compliance. To date, Maryland is one of only four states in the country that give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration estimates that over 300,000 licenses have been given out to illegal immigrants by our State.
Delegates Ron George (R-Anne Arundel) and Jim Malone (D-Baltimore County) introduced legislation that would have brought Maryland into full compliance. Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio was one of over sixty cosponsors. In a voting session, the House Judiciary Committee amended the bill to create a two-tiered system for Maryland’s driver’s licenses that granted amnesty to the illegal immigrants that have already obtained Maryland licenses.
The bill was then brought to the full House of Delegates for a vote. In an historic moment, over forty cosponsors from both parties voiced serious objections to changes in the bill and one by one offered amendments to have their names removed as cosponsors. The most telling moment came when the bill’s lead sponsor stood up and also asked to have his name removed.
Likewise, the Senate expressed their displeasure by passing legislation that was a true proof of legal presence bill. As a result, a conference committee had to be appointed to reconcile the differences. On the last day of session, House Bill 387 had been amended again to create a temporary two-tiered system with temporary amnesty for illegal immigrants already in possession of a driver’s license. Their licenses will expire on July 1, 2015. The bill passed by a narrow margin. Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted in opposition.
Salivia divinorum is a psychoactive herb that is being used as a recreational drug because of its hallucinogenic properties. While many health officials consider it to be stronger than LSD and the drug has serious side effects, it is widely available on the Internet, in retail shops across the country and even along the boardwalk in Ocean City. Many countries and states have banned it, including Sweden, Japan, Australia, Belgium, Spain, Italy, California, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Ohio and Virginia. Legislation is pending in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio introduced legislation to ban Salvia divinorum in Maryland by adding it to the Controlled Dangerous Substances list. Instead of an outright ban, the House Judiciary Committee combined Delegate Haddaway’s bill with a similar bill and amended it to ban sales to individuals under 21 years of age. The bill passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the Governor.
House Bill 583 will help prevent financial exploitation of senior adults by prohibiting a person from knowingly and willfully obtaining the property of an individual by deception, intimidation, or undue influence. Additionally, HB 317 establishes a statewide Silver Alert Program, similar to the Amber Alert Program. Silver Alert assists with locating missing persons with a cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia by quickly disseminating information to law enforcement and the general public. Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio supported both bills, which passed and are awaiting signature by the Governor.
Audits of Nonprofit Organizations
Under current law, non-profit organizations with gross income from charitable contributions of $100,000 or more are required to have a financial review by an independent certified public accountant. Non profits organizations with gross income from charitable contributions of $200,000 or more are required to have an audit by an independent certified public accountant. Financial audits can cost on average $10,000-$20,000, meaning 10%-20% of a non-profit’s budget could be diverted from their core mission for this purpose. Legislation introduced by Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio modernizes the law and reduces the burdenon non-profits by increasing the current thresholds to $200,000 and $500,000 respectively before a review or an audit is required. The legislation passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the Governor.
Property Tax Credit for Habitat for Humanity
Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio introduced legislation that would authorize both Talbot and Dorchester Counties to exempt properties owned by Habitat for Humanity of Talbot and Dorchester Counties, Inc. The property tax credit will allow real estate transactions to go more quickly and will free up funding for future purchases of land.
To date, there are more than 1,500 Habitat for Humanity affiliates operating in the United States and Habitat has built more than 300,000 houses around the world, providing shelter for more than 1.5 million people.
Talbot County YMCA
The YMCA of Talbot County recently learned that they were responsible for installing a sprinkler system that will cost them nearly $400,000. Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and Senator Richard Colburn introduced bond bill legislation to help the YMCA and were successful in securing $100,000 and $25,000 respectively in the capital budget.
BUYING LOCAL and AGRICULTURE
In the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle the author Barbara Kingslover states: “”If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.””
In addition to the environmental benefits, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio believes that “”buying local”” is an important way to support local farmers and helps keep agriculture more viable in the State. With that in mind, she introduced several pieces of legislation that promote and enhance “”buying locally”” in Maryland.
Maryland Organic Transition Investment Pilot Program (MO-TIPP)
Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio cosponsored legislation with Delegate Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County) that creates a voluntary pilot program in Maryland to help farmers transition from traditional methods of agriculture to organic methods. The legislation passed unanimously in both Houses and is awaiting signature by the Governor.
Eggs at Farmers’ Markets
House Bill 1542 was introduced by Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and will make it easier for farmers to sell eggs at multiple farmers’ markets. Under current law, a farmer wishing to sell eggs at farmers’ markets must comply with different sets of regulations for each county in which they want to sell. Additionally, the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have regulations that must be complied with. As amended, the legislation simplifies the process so that only one set of regulations would apply. The bill has passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the Governor.
Farmstead Cheese Pilot Program
Under current Maryland law, raw milk cheese can be bought, sold and consumed in Maryland, but cannot be produced in the state. This has caused many dairy farmers to haul their milk to Pennsylvania and other border states for processing. Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio initiated a pilot program a few years ago that would allow one farm in Talbot County to produce raw milk cheese. Last year, the pilot program was expanded to five farms in Maryland. However, because the pilot programs included a sunset date, many farmers were having difficulty getting loans to start their operation. As amended, House Bill 243 would remove the sunset date and allow five farms with less than 100 cows or goats to participate in the pilot program. The bill has passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the Governor.
Wine Production at Talbot County Wineries
House Bill 105 authorizes a holder of a Class 4 manufacturer’s (limited winery) license in Talbot County to produce wine and pomace brandy at each warehouse for which the holder has been issued an individual storage permit. This legislation addresses a situation at the St. Michaels Winery in Talbot County in which the winery, the vineyard and the warehouse are located in different places. The bill gives the winery the flexibility to expand production at its warehouse since it does not have room to expand in its downtown St. Michaels location. It passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
ENERGY and the ENVIRONMENT
Re-Regulation of Utilities
The Maryland General Assembly considered legislation this session that would have re-regulated utilities in Maryland. As a member of the Public Utilities Subcommittee, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voiced concern and opposition to the measure citing cost, consumer choice and the negative effect it would have on renewable energies as her main points of contention.
Utility Costs – Testimony in the House Economic Matters Committee consistently pointed out that rates will not go down as a result of re-regulation. Additionally, the legislation included a tax called a “”bypassable wires charge””. Haddaway argued that adding another charge, or tariff, to consumers’ bills will only exacerbate an already bad situation.
Consumer Choice – The legislation not only affects residential customers, but small commercial customers. In the hearing, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio referenced a constituent who is saving $300 a year with a competitive supplier that gets 5% of their energy from wind power. Under that ratepayer’s same scenario, they could be purchasing up to 50% wind power and still pay cheaper rates than those offered by Delmarva Power. Another example she used is the Eastern Shore of Maryland’s Education Consortium’s Energy Trust, which purchases power collectively for public schools on the Eastern Shore. To date, they have saved taxpayers over $7 million in electricity costs. In similar fashion, the Delmarva Poultry Industry has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Under the legislation, none of these consumers would be allowed to continue exercising consumer choice.
Renewable Energies – Renewable energies benefit from a competitive market. According to Haddaway, companies such as Clean Currents are offering competitive rates right now, which in her opinion, is evidence that the market is working. In a recent newsletter, Clean Currents was quoted as saying “”[Re-regulation] would not only take away green power options…it would put the solar and wind industry in Maryland in jeopardy.””
The legislation was defeated in the House Economic Matters Committee by a vote of 21-2.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009
In the absence of a federal law to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States, many states have chosen to implement their own laws. House Bill 315, which was supported by Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, sets a goal for the State of Maryland to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 2006 levels by the year 2020. Maryland is already half way to achieving that goal by passing legislation such as the Healthy Air Act and the Clean Cars Act and by participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The legislation passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the Governor.
Pollution: Coal Combustion By-Products
HB 1305 requires the Maryland Department of the Environment to propose regulations on fugitive air emissions from the transportation of coal combustion byproducts (CCBs), also known as fly ash, by December 31, 2009. The Department is also required to decide on permissible beneficial uses within the State of Maryland such as including it in cement production. The legislation was in part a reaction to a recent case in Anne Arundel County, where drinking water was contaminated. Residents of Gambrills filed a class action lawsuit that resulted in a $54 million settlement. Also in December 2008, the largest CCB spill in U.S. history occurred in Tennessee. An estimated 5.4 million cubic yards of wet coal ash was spilled. The legislation passed both houses and is awaiting signature by the Governor. Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted in favor of it.
For more information or for more specific reports, please visit www.votehaddaway.comwww.votehaddaway.com including:
· Green Report
· Realtors Report
· Business Regulation Report
· Eastern Shore Report”