Senator Colburn Reports from Annapolis Statewide Issues

“Senator Richard F. Colburn (R. Eastern Shore) reported on the status of key legislation from the 2009 Session of the Maryland General Assembly. Senator Colburn stated,
“”On the last day of the 2009 General Assembly Session the Senate gave approval to the State’s nearly $14 million operating budget. The operating budget for next year is $13.8 billion; this is down from $14.3 billion last year. When adding the federal stimulus money and other funding sources, state spending for next year will actually be up by $1 billion. Many Republicans are afraid that we are spending money that we don’t have and could create more financial problems in the future. As a result, about $100 million is in a fund balance for next year. The Fiscal Year 2010 Budget does the following:

* Incorporates Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 Monies – Combined, the fiscal year 2009 and 2010 State budgets include $2.5 billion in federal funds resulting from the ARRA of 2009.
* Constrains Spending to Offset Significant Decline in Revenues – Current revenues are projected to decline 2.3% in fiscal 2009 and another 1.6% in fiscal 2010. Although there is a $1.6 billion, or 21.1%, increase in federal funds, therefore, the total budget grows a modest 3.5%.
* Maintains the State’s Commitment to the Public Schools – Education aid will be $5.5 billion. This is an increase of $131.7 million, or 2.5%. Utilizing education aid allocated under the ARRA of 2009, all the Bridge to Excellence formulas are fully funded. In addition, there is $193 million in the ARRA of 2009 funds that will flow through the State budget to local school systems.
* Continues to Make Higher Education More Affordable – The budget will hold in-state undergraduate tuition rates level for the fourth year. Aid for community colleges is one of the few areas of the budget that is increasing, as $7.7 million is provided to accommodate enrollment growth.
* Continues Efforts to Protect the Environment and Restore the Chesapeake Bay – Bay Restoration Funds for enhanced nutrient removal total $130 million. There is approximately $145 million in federal funds for the water quality and drinking water loan funds. Also, a bill was passed that will require homeowners who live in the Critical Areas to upgrade failed septic systems with a nitrogen removal system to prevent further pollution from entering the Bay.
* Enhances Fund Balance and Maintains 5% of General Fund Balance in Rainy Day Fund – The proposed budget actions result in a fund balance of $96.2 million. This is twice the general fund balance under the Administration’s proposed budget. In addition, the balance in the State’s Rainy Day Fund is estimated to be $651.1 million or 5% of general fund revenues at the end of fiscal 2010.
These are the results of other key pieces of legislation:
* A bill was passed giving the State the power of Eminent Domain to keep the Preakness and other horse racing assets in Maryland as their land owner (Magna Entertainment) prepares to liquidate in a bankruptcy proceeding.
· Maryland’s death penalty statute has become one of the most restrictive in the nation. Prosecutors must now have DNA or biological evidence or a videotape or video-recorded confession of the crime. Fingerprint evidence will no longer be used for death penalty convictions.
* Efforts failed to dramatically overhaul or privatize the Maryland State Police helicopter program, Medevac. Instead, lawmakers agreed to spend $52.5 million from the capital budget to replace three of the fleet’s 11 helicopters.
* A bill was approved eliminating illegal immigrants’ access to driver’s licenses. It will allow those holding licenses to get a limited driving permit that would expire in 2015. They will receive a “”not federally compliant”” license that would not be accepted to board planes.
* There will be a statewide expansion of speed cameras in highway work zones and within a half-mile of a school. $40 fines will be given to someone traveling at least 12 mph over the posted speed limit.
* Lawmakers banned sending or writing text messages while operating a vehicle with a fine of $500.
* Legislation was passed requiring teens to have a learner’s permit for nine months instead of six and a restricted provisional license until age 18.
* Energy re-regulation – A bill to give state regulators the ability to order utilities to build power plants which would have moved the state back to a more regulated system for residential customers, died in the House of Economic Matters Committee.
* Two bills were passed to give judges more authority to confiscate firearms from those accused of domestic violence.

For more information on this and other issues, please feel free to contact Senator Richard Colburn’s office by calling (410) 841-3590 or (800) 492-7122 ext 3590 or by emailing
Richard.Colburn@senate.state.md.us.”

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