Annapolis update from Delegate Kathy Szeliga

(Updated 2/22/17)

- By Delegate Kathy Szeliga (R-7) -

This week, Attorney General Brian Frosh brought fear mongering to Annapolis and he was granted a blank check to sue Washington. We are supposed to believe that after three short weeks in office, President Trump has given Maryland cause to sue the federal government. The reaction, or overreaction, of some in Annapolis was to give AG Frosh open ended powers to bring suit for anything!

AG Frosh pushed through a Joint Resolution that passed purely along party lines. There is no sunset, or ending date, to these powers granted to the Attorney General, whomever he or she may be. AG Gansler could have used this against Gov O’Malley in his run for governor. Who knows what future AG’s can and will do.

I voted against this bill. The Constitution of Maryland, like the US Constitution, focuses on restricting the power of the government and a system of checks and balances. This unprecedented move was taken because of an emotional reaction to President Trump and a Republican congress rather than a long range view of this historic change.

Despite his current rhetoric, AG Frosh should not make petty partisan attacks on the President or Congress. Maryland is extremely dependent on the federal government and we are asking for help; Prince George’s County is bidding for the new FBI headquarters, we need Howard St. tunnel expansion for the Port, we want help with the Chesapeake Bay and more.

Some in Annapolis have been obsessed with hurting the governor politically and this is yet another attempt to nationalize Maryland’s politics in an attempt to damage Governor Hogan. In the end, should AG Frosh wage war on President Trump and Congress, it will only be the citizens of our great State who get damaged.

The murder rate in Baltimore City has hit an all-time high in January with 32 homicides. In 2005, there were also 32 murders, but more people lived in Baltimore then. Per capita, we are breaking records no one wants to break.

While AG Frosh and partisans in Annapolis are screaming at Washington about things they are afraid will happen, they have turned their backs on the people of Baltimore and what is actually happening now. Where is the outrage about the murder rate, gun violence, skyrocketing number of car-jackings and the escalating youth violence?

The House and Senate leaders in Annapolis last week pushed through a fake crime bill instead of dealing with the real crime happening in our City. They passed a bill to bar law abiding citizens who have legally obtained a concealed carry permit from possessing a firearm on college campuses. This is a complete distraction from the real issues of gun violence. The proponents of this bill, along with AG Frosh, should be calling for the judges in Baltimore to stop letting career criminals out of jail rather than focusing their attention on possible problems that might be created in DC. You’ve seen fake news, now you’ve seen fake problems. These are masterful diversionary tactics to distract from real problems like a heroin epidemic across our state and an escalating murder and violence problem in Baltimore City.

Critical investments in our aging schools continue in eastern Baltimore County

Critical investments in our aging schools continue in eastern Baltimore County

(Updated 2/20/17)

- By County Executive Kevin Kamenetz -

As part of Baltimore County’s $1.3 billion Schools for our Future program, I am pleased to share several important school projects that have started or will start shortly in southeastern Baltimore County.

In 2010, 90 county schools did not have air conditioning. Working with the County Council and our state delegation, we’ve been able to reduce that number dramatically. This August, there will be only 13 schools without air conditioning. In 2019 there will only be three schools left and those are brand new replacement schools, two of which - Berkshire and Colgate elementary schools - are right here in the southeast. Our investment in Dundalk’s Berkshire and Colgate elementary schools will be more than $100 million.

The following schools will have central air conditioning in place this summer:

  • Battle Grove Elementary, $6 million
  • Bear Creek Elementary, $5.7 million
  • Chapel Hill Elementary, $5.8 million
  • Charlesmont Elementary, $4.8 million
  • Chase Elementary, $4 million
  • Grange Elementary, $4.5 million
  • Kenwood High, $20.5 million
  • Middle River Middle, $9.7 million
  • Oakleigh Elementary, $4 million
  • Orems Elementary, $4.8 million
  • Stemmers Run Middle, $12.1 million
On top of these projects, we continue to move forward with four brand new schools at Victory Villa, Dundalk, Berkshire and Colgate elementary schools. It is estimated those new schools will cost over $140 million combined.

Additionally, the county is also proceeding with a $46 million project at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts this summer. The project calls for a complete renovation of the school, including electrical, plumbing, mechanical and infrastructure upgrades for the entire school. Upon completion, it will look and feel like a brand new school.

Leading by Example, Baltimore County continues to make historic investments in our education system. Since 2011, we have been building 15 new schools, 11 additions, eight major systemic renovations and, of course, bringing central air conditioning to all our schools. We are excited about how far we’ve come.

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Charter Review Commission should focus on term limits, budget reforms

(Updated 2/17/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

This spring, the Baltimore County Charter Review Commission will begin its work. The creation of the panel was required once Baltimore County voters approved Question A during the 2016 general election. I was the principal sponsor of the legislation that led to this referendum.

Each Council member picks a representative to serve on the Commission, with the County Executive selecting two members. I chose to appoint Dr. Antonio (Tony) Campbell, a political science professor at Towson University. I picked Dr. Campbell because of his academic background, his interest in the issue of County Council redistricting, and his ability to bring an outsider’s perspective to this important body.

The Charter Review Commission will make recommendations - and only recommendations - that can then be acted upon by the Baltimore County Council. Should the Council agree with any change by a super majority vote, the change will then be placed on a referendum. Ultimately, the voters must approve any amendment to the county charter. The process is purposely designed to require intense scrutiny and support by the voters of Baltimore County.

I am most interested in the following possible changes:

Term Limits: In 2012, I introduced legislation that would amend the charter to restrict County Council members to three terms. Term limits provide an automatic turnover in government, and I believe voters deserve the opportunity to place them on Council members as well as the County Executive, who already has a two term limit.

Size of the County Council: The charter established a seven-member Council in the 1950s when Baltimore County was much smaller in population. I support enlarging the Council to nine members, which would likely give the Towson area its own representative.

County Attorney: The County Council shares its legal counsel with the executive branch of government. The Commission should consider whether the County Council needs a distinct legal counsel.

Department of Public Works: Baltimore County needs a public works department that looks at transportation from an intermodal perspective, including more robust support for bicycling and pedestrian projects.

Budget Authority for the County Council: Right now, the County Executive has tremendous power over the budget he or she submits. The County Council can only delete items. I believe the Council should have the power to place conditions on spending, as well as spending between categories if there is sufficient support among legislators. As an example, right now the Council has very little ability to place restrictions on items like the school system’s technology initiative.

Delaying the creation of this advisory commission eliminates an opportunity for citizens to provide input on these and other reforms.

Our Fifth District commission representative is a good man who wants to hear from you. Please contact Dr. Campbell at if you have any suggestions.

McDonough files legislation to stop sanctuary policies

(Updated 2/13/17)

- By Del. Pat McDonough (R-7) -

Recently I filed legislation entitled, “The Citizens’ Rights Act” which gives people the right to initiate a civil suit against a politician who undertakes an action that violates The Federal Immigration Act. Sanctuary policies promoted by local elected representatives like the Baltimore Mayor or Baltimore County Executive clearly violate the Federal Immigration Act.

This legislation would not be necessary if elected representatives upheld their oath of office and did not violate the law. The same elected representatives would never refuse to enforce the Federal Civil Rights Act or the Federal Housing Act. However, failure to enforce the Federal Immigration Act is the same as ignoring Civil Rights and Fair Housing.

There are about 340 jurisdictions in the United States that are considered sanctuary places. Baltimore City and Baltimore County and even the state of Maryland could be classified as promoting sanctuary policies. All of these entities refuse to cooperate with the Federal Immigration Enforcement authorities including when it comes to criminal immigrants. Approximately 9,300 criminal immigrants were released from state prisons and local jails without prior notification to federal immigration authorities. Even though they had detainers upon them, they simply vanished into the streets. Almost 1,000 criminal immigrants were charged with murder last year.

“Welcoming Cities” is a political feel-good designation promoted by elected officials who oppose the Federal Immigration Act. It is a fake and misleading title. These are not welcoming cities; they are law-breaking cities. The local elected officials create these unlawful policies without conducting public hearings or legislation. The same situation occurs with sanctuary action by a state university president who fails to consult with the governor or state legislature. The voices of the people are ignored.

Many of the advocates for illegal immigration support the protests that are occurring around the country. Every American should support “The Citizens’ Rights Act” because it is the ultimate form of protesting which is the right to a day in court. The sanctuary policies created by elected officials have consequences for the people they represent. The citizens will become the victims because of these unlawful policies and will suffer from tax increases generated by a loss in federal revenue. Baltimore City receives about $220 million in federal grants. Illegal immigration has a negative impact on jobs, public safety, auto safety, loss of public benefits and education, and it supports gangs and drugs. Illegal immigrants do not take jobs from lawyers, teachers or legislators. They displace low-skilled young people, working people and entry level opportunities. This is not economic justice.

Sanctuary advocates claim that local police are obligated to protect safety and not to enforce the Immigration Act. The Federal Immigration Act is about public safety. Just ask the family of Kate Stenle in San Francisco who was murdered by a criminal immigrant with a detainer. Ask the numerous Marylanders who have been victims of criminal immigrants.

We are a generous and compassionate nation. America allows more than 1 million legal immigrants into the country every year. Advocates for illegal immigration often cite the Statue of Liberty as a symbol supporting their cause. They fail to acknowledge that Lady Liberty is caressing, in her right arm above her heart, a law book. That law book symbolizes the rule of law which is the foundation of our liberty. The Federal Immigration Act is the law.

If you visit the home and museum of our first President George Washington, you will see on the wall in bold letters the beginning statement contained in his last will and testament. The opening statement reads, “I, George Washington, citizen of the United States of America, and lately president of same...” The founder of our nation was making it clear that holding the office of Citizen of this great country was more important than holding the nation’s highest office. Those sentiments explain clearly the reason to support “The Citizens’ Rights Act.”

Board of Education takes steps to address Perry Hall Middle overcrowding

(Updated 2/9/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Baltimore County Board of Education approved two measures to deal with overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School.

Without immediate relief, Perry Hall Middle School’s enrollment is expected to climb from 1,737 students in 2015 to 2,048 students by 2024, according to Baltimore County Public Schools projections. More than 25 parents and advocates packed the School Board meeting to demand a solution.

School Board member Julie Henn, a Perry Hall Middle parent, made the two motions. The first measure added funding in the amount of $250,000 for a comprehensive middle and high school enrollment study. The study aims to address enrollment growth and distribution and will result in recommendations to address overcrowding at the county's middle and high schools. Those recommendations could include redistricting, new construction or both. The study will look across all schools countywide and will include opportunity for community input which will factor into the recommendations.

The second motion added funding in the amount of $1 million for increased contracted student transportation services to lower the student-to-bus seat ratio from 3-to-1 to 2-to-1.

"I would like to thank the Superintendent for working with me on these measures, and my colleagues for their support of relief at Perry Hall Middle School," Henn commented. "Continued community involvement will be needed during the enrollment study to voice our concerns and make sure Perry Hall is represented in those discussions."

State Delegate Christian Miele and I attended the meeting to lend support.

As Perry Hall's Councilman and the parent of a student at this school, I know it is critical to advance solutions to overcrowding. We lowered the development potential of thousands of acres during the 2016 rezoning cycle, but much of this overcrowding comes from demographic changes as younger families move into older communities."

Delegate Miele added: "I will do all I can to help the parents and children at Perry Hall Middle School. The advocates who came to this School Board meeting were motivated and are ready for action."

Marks calls for boundary review at Perry Hall Middle School

(Updated 2/5/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

I would like to thank the dozens of parents who, over the past two weeks, have written to the Superintendent and County Executive in support of an immediate plan to reduce overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School.

At the Thursday, Feb. 2, Planning Board hearing, it became clear that obtaining immediate funding for a new middle school - or an addition to an existing school - will be difficult. The Superintendent made it clear that he understands the problem, but funding is contingent on the executive branch. You should continue to contact the County Executive at, and the Superintendent at

Keep it up.

It is still possible for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to add funding in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. But at this point, I believe the Board of Education should take an extraordinary and immediate step to relieve the situation at Perry Hall Middle School by creating a boundary study committee.

Adjacent middle schools are significantly under capacity, as shown in Students Count 2015, the school system’s report on enrollment, available at While it is unusual for the Board of Education to change boundaries unless a new school is opening, the situation is dire without immediate relief. Perry Hall Middle School’s enrollment is expected to climb from 1,737 students in 2015 to 2,048 students by 2024.

A boundary review is not easy. Final decisions are made by the Board of Education. The County Council has no formal role. But I believe that, barring a sudden infusion of a commitment of immediate funding, the Board of Education should consider this step as part of the operating budget it will adopt on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

Tree plantings, public education campaign, and other projects to improve water quality in eastern Perry Hall

Tree plantings, public education campaign, and other projects to improve water quality in eastern Perry Hall

(Updated 2/3/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

The Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, the Maryland State Fish and Game Protective Association, and the Master Gardeners of Baltimore County have kicked off an effort to improve water quality and enhance the environment in a 25-acre region of Perry Hall.

The effort will target the Maryland State Fish and Game Protective Association, one of the largest privately-owned environmental conservation areas in northeastern Baltimore County. An education campaign will target 11,000 local residents. Several on-site projects will also aim to improve conditions at the Maryland State Fish and Game Protective Association. With community participation, for example, volunteers will install 200 trees, three micro-bioretention systems, a rain garden and other improvements to the property. Local Boy Scout units and community organizations will be invited to participate.

The project exceeds $143,000 and is funded by a variety of environmental foundations.

I was delighted to write a letter of support for this project and attend the kickoff for this event. This volunteer effort is a perfect example of how we can work together to improve our local environment.

In 2012, I championed an effort to protect 11 acres of land next to the Maryland State Fish and Game Association. Once threatened by development, that land eventually became part of Honeygo Park.

For more information, visit the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy website at

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Message from the Councilwoman

Message from the Councilwoman

(Updated 2/3/17)

- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -

I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year. This year is off to a fast start for the Council; we elected Councilman Tom Quirk as the 2017 Baltimore County Council Chairman and several bills and resolutions have been introduced. January brought with it many legislative breakfasts and lunches as the Maryland General Assembly began a new session. I was happy to attend these events, especially those sponsored by TABCO and CCBC. Education has always been one of my top priorities, and I am going to work with Baltimore County Public Schools and CCBC Essex to make sure that our students receive the best education possible and that they are ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

January also brought with it the sad news of Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson's retirement. I have known Chief Johnson since before I was on the Council and under his leadership the Baltimore County Police Department has become a model for departments nationwide. In his nearly 40-year career, Chief Johnson rose from cadet to chief - only the second person in Baltimore County history to do so. Chief Jim Johnson is an excellent public servant and I wish him all the best in the future. I remain committed to ensuring that public safety is a priority; once confirmed I look forward to working with Terrence Sheridan as he begins his second tenure as the Baltimore County Chief of Police.

Many residents have been concerned about the recent fish kill on the Bird and Gunpowder rivers. The Maryland Department of the Environment conducted an investigation which found that the fish kill was caused by toxins produced by saltwater algae due to unusually high levels of salinity that can help sustain an algae bloom. My office has been working closely with the County Department of Public Works and Solid Waste Management to assist residents in cleaning up the dead fish. The Bureau of Waste Management has stated they will accommodate residents along the affected rivers by lifting some restrictions on heavy collection for trash haulers, allowing them to collect heavy and large amounts of dead fish. Residents can also dispose of the dead fish at the Eastern Sanitary Landfill.

Finally, February is Black History Month. It is important for all of us to remember the rich heritage of African Americans and how their culture has shaped our country. Please look at any events in your area to see how you can celebrate and learn about the important role black Americans played in our nation's history.

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Keeping Grandma in Maryland

Keeping Grandma in Maryland

(Updated 2/1/17)

Delegate Kathy Szeliga votes to protect your electric bill

- By Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-7) -

Your electric bill is going up. In a party-line vote on Tuesday, Jan. 31, Democrats acted to once again increase your utility bills and taxes. Masquerading as a green jobs and green energy bill, Governor Hogan’s veto of HB 1106, dubbed the “Sunshine Tax,” was overridden despite the well documented effect of higher utility bills and forcing Marylanders to fund green jobs in other states.

I weighed in during the debate on the veto override in the House of Delegates that we are working hard to reduce taxes and fees in Maryland. Working families and retirees cannot afford to foot the bill for the lofty goals of the Democrats in Annapolis. This is one more reason for grandma and grandpa to move to Florida and have more than enough savings to fly up to Maryland to visit the grandkids.

We may have lost this battle, but we will not give up the fight for working families, retirees and all Marylanders for lower taxes, fees and utility bills.

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Marks: Ignoring Perry Hall Middle’s overcrowding is unacceptable

(Updated 1/30/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

As you know, one of my priorities as Perry Hall’s County Councilman has been to reduce overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School. It was the primary reason why we downzoned, lowered and blocked development in 2016 on more than 1,268 acres of land in eastern Perry Hall.

Last fall, Superintendent Dance committed to me that funding would be in place to address the severe overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School. A similar commitment was made to at least one of our School Board members. Now, there is suddenly no funding in the proposed capital budget to begin this process. No funding has been proposed for either an addition at Pine Grove Middle School – one option – or to build a separate middle school. No plan is in sight.

I am appalled by this. It is an affront to the thousands of parents who have children at Baltimore County’s largest middle school, to the teachers and faculty at PHMS and to northeastern Baltimore County at large. Without immediate relief, Perry Hall Middle School’s enrollment is expected to climb from 1,737 students in 2015 to 2,048 students by 2024, according to Baltimore County Public Schools projections. Put another way, the school was at 105.7 percent capacity last year, a figure that will soar to 124.7 percent in 2024. This is unacceptable!

Unfortunately, as a Council member, I cannot add to the budget request that is sent to me in April. The Board of Education makes the request, then the county executive presents the proposed budget to the County Council. I can lobby for funding, but at the end of the day, I can officially only delete from the budget request.
So now is the time for you – the parents and citizens of northeastern Baltimore County – to make noise.

Inform Dr. Dance and County Executive Kamenetz that you support immediate funding to begin the process of reducing overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School. Their contact information is, 410-887-2450, for the County Executive; and or 443-809-4554 for Superintendent Dance. Please copy me at and School Board member Julie Henn at

Delegate McDonough supports new Patients’ Rights Act

(Updated 1/30/17)

- By Del. Pat McDonough (R-7) -

More than 650,000 patients are admitted to Maryland hospitals a year and millions more are seen as outpatients or in emergency rooms. Unfortunately, Maryland hospitals rank at the very bottom in the United States and are tied with Nevada in 50th place, according to a national patient satisfaction survey conducted by the federal government.

Twenty other states have a comprehensive and transparent bill of rights for patients. Currently, Maryland has a 1978 law containing only two sentences and the rights are not listed! Instead, the law refers to a joint commission which withholds information from the patient. The 1978 law states that the hospital will “make available” a list of rights to the patient only if they ask for them. Many patients never know they have rights.

The current law lacks detail and transparency. Analysis of online patients’ rights shows a huge variability among hospitals. The rights vary from hospital to hospital. The grievance and complaint process is broken. Complaints filed to the joint commission or the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are routinely returned back to the hospitals to investigate themselves. Amazingly, the patient is not allowed to see the results of these investigations.

The New Patients’ Bill of Rights lists those rights in plain language. It will require that patients will receive a written copy of their rights and the rights must be posted in a visible location. The staff must be trained annually about patients’ rights and the rights must be applied consistently among all hospitals.

I am proud to be the first co-sponsor of this important legislation that will protect all Marylanders when they are in their most vulnerable time of life. It is embarrassing and unacceptable that our state would be last in the nation in the protection and safety of our medical patients. Marylanders are proud of the hospitals and health care institutions we have in our state, but there is a regrettable lack of quality when it comes to the rights of patients and this problem will finally be fixed with the new legislation.

For additional information, you may contact Del. McDonough at 410-841-3334 or

Miele named chairman of Public Safety Committee

Miele named chairman of Public Safety Committee

(Updated 1/26/17)

- From the office of Delegate Christian Miele (R-8) -

Delegate Christian Miele has been named chairman of the Baltimore County House Delegation’s Public Safety Committee. The appointment was announced by Delegate Steve Lafferty, chairman of the delegation, on Friday, Jan. 20, at the delegation’s 2017 organizational meeting held in the House Office Building in Annapolis.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this additional capacity, and I look forward to working with my colleagues across the county to improve public safety on our streets and in our communities,” Miele wrote in a statement.

Miele represents Legislative District 8 in the Maryland House of Delegates. The district includes the Carney, Fullerton, Loch Raven Village, Nottingham, Overlea, Parkville, Perry Hall, Rosedale and White Marsh communities in northeastern Baltimore County. Miele serves on the House Health and Government Operations Committee and the Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders. He also sits on the Baltimore County Delegation’s Education Committee.

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Delegate Grammer opens scholarship application

(Updated 1/26/17)

- By Delegate Robin Grammer (R-6) -

This week, my office will begin accepting requests for scholarships for the 2017 - 2018 academic year.

The Maryland State Higher Education Commission has established minimum criteria for the House of Delegates Scholarship Program. To be eligible for a Delegate Scholarship you must currently attend a Maryland college, university or private career school, or must have been accepted into a Maryland college, university or private career school for the 2017-2018 academic year.

If you attend an out-of-state school and the academic program which you are studying is not offered in Maryland you may be eligible for a Delegate scholarship. However, written permission must first be received from the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

You must also be enrolled as an undergraduate full-time or part-time student. You may also be a graduate full-time or part-time student. Audited courses cannot be used to reach the minimum credit hours.

You can acquire an application package at my website,, by calling my office at 410-841-3298 or emailing us at All application packages can be printed and mailed to our office at the address below. Alternatively, electronic copies can be completed and emailed to

Our office has helped hundreds of students achieve their academic goals. Please submit the required information and I will try to help you achieve your goals. Packages can be sent to: Delegate Robin L. Grammer, Jr., House Office Building, Room 307, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401.

President Trump makes a difference

(Updated 1/23/17)

- By Del. Pat McDonough (R-7) -

President Donald J. Trump, in his inaugural address, made clear that his mission was to put America and its people first. His remarks were forceful and inspirational. For those who doubt the new chief executive’s ability to achieve his goals, let them not forget that he defeated the Republican establishment, the Obama and Clinton dynasties and the dishonest national media.

The arrival of Donald Trump as our new president may have come just in time. The power of the radical left was clearly on the rise under the administration of Barack Obama. The attack on law enforcement with groups like Black Lives Matter, growing political correctness, excessive executive-order decision making, weakening of America around the globe, open borders and other dangerous policies have come to an end. These reckless pursuits were some of the driving forces that elected President Trump. Now, we will enter an age abolishing Obamacare, defeating ISIS and radical Islam, bringing power back to the people and making America great again.

The usual cast of critics, especially the dishonest media, claims the president’s speech was “dark.” Anytime a leader with power states to the world that he pledges to return power back to the people, it is a lofty commentary based on a foundation of liberty. As usual, the critics are wrong. President Trump is not interested in or attempting to appeal to the establishment, power brokers, the elite or the national media. He is on a mission to restore tradition to America. His decision to present six religious leaders to speak to the world and cabinet selections who are outsiders is an indication of where Trump’s administration will lead America.

I had the privilege of supporting President Trump while I was a candidate for Congress. Although my campaign was not successful, a solid majority of the voters on the east side of Baltimore County honored me with a winning margin. The greatest reward is that the principles I and my supporters believe in are now residing in the White House.

This is a historic moment for our nation. In my opinion, we were moving rapidly in the wrong direction. There is a left-wing movement in our country dedicated to the transformation of America into a big government socialist enterprise. A special quality about President Trump is that he appears to understand the dangers of this challenge. That is why he frequently uses the terms “revolution” and “movement” when referring to his victory and the people who are supporting his cause.

Yes, this victory is more than winning an election by a political party. It is truly a victory for a new movement to protect America and make it great again. I hope you are part of the new revolution.

Ruppersberger on boycotting the inauguration

(Updated 1/19/17)

Last week, nearly 60 Congressional Democrats announced they would be boycotting President-elect Trump’s inauguration ceremony. I was not among them.

In November, the American people spoke and elected Donald Trump as our new Commander in Chief in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. I believe we must respect and uphold the tradition of the peaceful transition of power. It is a cornerstone of our democracy.

Whether you supported Donald Trump in November or not, his administration is the new American reality. As a member of Congress, I am committed to working with his administration whenever I can, and holding him accountable when I cannot. This is why our forefathers created the great system of checks and balances that exists among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

My office was happy to help more than 200 constituents from the Second District attend Friday’s inauguration. I was proud to stand with them to, once again, witness history.

- C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger
Second Congressional District, Maryland

Fracking opponents fight to ban fracking in Maryland

(Updated 1/19/17)

- By Del. Eric Bromwell (D-8) -

The 2015 General Assembly approved legislation to put a two-year moratorium on fracking in Maryland and ordered the state's Department of the Environment (MDE) to draft regulations to govern the practice. The moratorium ends in October 2017.

The chairperson of the Senate committee that will hear the bill to ban fracking supports fracking. However, the chairperson of the House committee that will hear the bill supports a fracking ban or at the very least, an extension of the moratorium. It should be noted that 60 percent of Marylanders oppose fracking.

In December, the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) met to review the proposed fracking regulations. The secretary of MDE described the proposed rules as "the platinum standard" compared to other states. That is hardly a recommendation when fracking regulations in other states are viewed as lax.

The proposed regulations leave much to be desired. First, MDE is charged with oversight of the fracking operation. Yet, the fracking company's Comprehensive Development Plan does not need the approval of MDE and MDE is not allowed to make any changes. While the regulations call for public meetings to be held, there is no requirement for a fracking company to pay any attention at all to citizen concerns or suggestions. The penalties for violations of regulation are laughable. They call for fines of $10,000 per day for a violation, up to $50,000, but fracking operators will barely notice such low fines given the amount of money that they will be making on the fracking operation. Attention needs to be called to the regulation, which allows explosive blasting within 500 feet of any occupied dwelling, commercial building, school, church or hospital. Furthermore, pollution issues are inadequately addressed.

The fracking process uses millions of gallons of pressurized water and over 500 chemicals, many of which are carcinogens. It is foolhardy to ignore the potential danger of these chemicals poisoning a community's air and drinking water. A study by Duke University researchers found evidence of increased levels of methane in groundwater in northeastern Pennsylvania and the methane levels increased with proximity to the gas wells.

Frankly, I do not believe there is such a thing as safe fracking. The Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's County Councils have banned fracking within their borders. After seven years of study, New York State banned fracking. The state's Department of Environmental Conservation concluded that fracking "poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated."

I fully support an extension of the moratorium, or ideally, a permanent ban on fracking in Maryland.

Please do not hesitate to contact me on this or any other issue of concern to you. Your input is important to me and helps me bring your voice to Annapolis. As always, I encourage and welcome your input.

An update from Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

An update from Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

(Updated 1/14/17)

- By County Executive Kevin Kamenetz -

January is jumping!
Winter’s here and that means things are gearing up in Annapolis for the 437th session of the Maryland General Assembly. I’ll be spending a lot of time at the State House advocating for you and your family’s needs. Topping my legislative agenda are securing state funding to advance our $1.3 billion Schools for our Future program and ensuring that we get our fair share of the state’s investment in transportation, which we need to help Baltimore County and the region reduce traffic gridlock and boost jobs and the economy.

Schools for Our Future
We strongly support the Baltimore County Public Schools request for $135 million in state matching funds to keep the momentum going in our $1.3 billion Schools for our Future program. We are completing 15 new schools, 11 additions and eight major renovations. In 2010, many of the Baltimore County Public Schools were in disrepair. Ninety schools did not have air conditioning.

As a result of our efforts, when school opens this fall, there will only be 13 schools left without central air conditioning - 86 percent of the central air conditioning projects will be complete. This year alone, an additional 21 schools are receiving central air conditioning in the same amount of time it would have taken to install portable air conditioning units in those schools.

I am very proud that we are completing these projects the Baltimore County way - on time and on budget. The remaining 13 schools are comprised of six brand new schools, six high school projects and the renovation at Dumbarton Middle School that is currently underway. At the beginning of the 2019 school year, there will only be three new elementary replacement schools to complete. We are very proud of this historic progress. I want to thank Dr. Dance and his entire team, the County Council and our state senators and delegates for working as a team to get this done.

Keeping us and our economy moving
Some of our top transportation priorities for the state include widening projects on I-695, projects to maximize job creation at Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point (bus routes, bridge repair and interchange projects), designating the MD Route 43 federal depot site as a transit-oriented development to jump-start an exciting redevelopment there, widening of Philadelphia Road (MD-7) from Mohrs Lane to Campbell Boulevard, and streetscape and sidewalk improvements on Kenwood Avenue and Eastern Avenue.

Public safety is job one
Also high on our list of legislative priorities are protecting victims of sexual assault by making sure that all Maryland jurisdictions follow Baltimore County’s lead and store almost all rape evidence kits indefinitely, and supporting Attorney General Brian Frosh’s call to create uniform state guidelines in handling these crimes and respecting victims. Plus, I am committed to working to help everyone in Maryland have access to affordable prescription drugs and am very supportive of a proposed state overhaul of the money-based bail system.

Dining deals
Don’t miss Baltimore County’s Winter Restaurant Week, Jan. 20 through Feb. 4, when participating restaurants will feature special menus at discounted, fixed prices, offering one- to three-course brunch, lunch and dinner specials ranging from $15 to $35. Details at

Snow on the way?
You now have a direct line to get storm updates and communicate snow and other storm-related concerns. Stormfighter, a new interactive, web-based storm reporting feature on the county website offers the latest on road conditions, current plowing operations, winter storm tips, county road closures and live traffic feeds from the State Highway Administration. Plus, it lets you report storm-related issues, rather than phoning the Department of Public Works. You can also go to Twitter @bacoemergency for the same updates.

Overall, I’m pleased to report that things are looking good in Baltimore County. Our jobs reports are positive with Baltimore County’s November unemployment rate falling to 4.3 percent - down 0.2 percentage points from the previous month - a strong employment trend in Maryland’s third largest jurisdiction. We continue to earn the highest possible credit ratings from all three of the bond rating agencies, and we haven’t raised property tax rates in 28 years or income tax rates in 24 years. Here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2017 for all of us!

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Klausmeier urges DHMH and Hogan Administration to seek federal funding to fight heroin and opioid crisis

<span class="font-size-default">Klausmeier urges DHMH and Hogan Administration to seek federal funding to fight heroin and opioid crisis</span>

(Updated 1/11/17)

Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D-Perry Hall) has written a letter to the secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dennis R. Schrader, asking the Department and the Hogan Administration to seek available federal funds to fight heroin and opioid abuse.

The federal funding is now available with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. The Act provides $1 billion in funds for drug treatment. According to Kana Enomoto, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Maryland would be eligible for $10 million of those funds. Senator Klausmeier has asked that DHMH and the administration seek all of the $10 million available from the federal government.

“It is extremely important that this funding come to Maryland,” said Klausmeier. “We’ve done great work over the past few years to combat the heroin and opioid crisis, and this funding will allow us to address the problem in a much stronger role.”

In her letter, Senator Klausmeier talks about recent achievements that the General Assembly has accomplished with regard to the crisis, including increasing the availability of Naloxone and expanding the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).

“I have diligently worked with the governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly on this very important issue. As the senator on the governor’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force and the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders, we have made much progress in our battle against addiction. Much of the progress was possible with the increase of funding levels. By seeking the $10 million available to us, we can fight this growing epidemic and save lives each and every day.”

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Preview of the 2017 Legislative Session

Preview of the 2017 Legislative Session

(Updated 1/9/17)

- By Del. Eric Bromwell (D-8) -

The Budget: Once again, Maryland is facing a budget deficit - $400 million this year and another $400 million next year. It's not Governor Hogan's fault and it's not the General Assembly's fault. The Board of Revenue Estimates did not project the state's revenue intake correctly. This has happened before. Projecting revenue is not an exact science. Future events are uncertain and anything can occur to throw projections off. When the Assembly adjourned in April, the state was in great shape. A $42.3 billion balanced budget was approved - $1 billion was put in the Rainy Day Fund - and we had a $400 million surplus. We have to make cuts. There is bipartisan agreement that we will not fix the deficit with tax or fee increases. However, cuts will not be easy because over 80 percent of spending in the budget is mandated and increases every year.

Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Prices: Both federal and state law making bodies are seeking solutions to stop rapidly escalating prescription drug prices. Since 2007, Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that produces EpiPen - a life-saving treatment for millions whose allergies can send them in to severe shock - has raised the drug's price 17 times or 548 percent. A pack of two doses of EpiPen now sells for $608.61. I am the prime sponsor of legislation to halt this unconscionable fleecing of people who need prescription medicines. The bill, similar to a law recently approved in Vermont, requires drug companies to reveal how they set their prices, as well as how much they spend on research, advertising and production. In short, it establishes prescription drug transparency. In addition, the legislation authorizes the Maryland Attorney General to take legal action to prevent price gouging. A recent poll taken by Opinion Works showed that 84 percent of Marylanders want prescription drug transparency.

Transportation Scoring: Governor Hogan has said that his top priority is the repeal of the transportation scoring law approved during the 2016 session. Opponents of the bill are convinced that the scoring system will favor rail over road projects and urban projects over rural ones. The governor insists that the legislation “axes” road projects throughout Maryland, including several in Baltimore County. He has repeatedly stated that his hands are tied by the law, which was approved in 2014. The Governor subsequently vetoed the bill, which was then overridden by the legislature.

After the 2014 election, I made a promise to you that I would not support bills that I believe to be partisan in nature, regardless of the bill sponsors. I saw this bill as a response to Gov. Hogan cancelling the Red Line and, therefore, voted no. I then supported the governor by voting against the veto override.

However, I feel that there is misinformation being spread about this legislation. While I did not support the bill, we insisted the bill include the following language: “AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That nothing in this Act may be construed to prohibit or prevent the funding of the capital transportation priorities in each jurisdiction.” This protective language is key to understanding the, “teeth” of this legislation. As enrolled, the law determines which transportation projects that cost over $50 million get priority, based on a scoring system which weighs factors such as public benefit from the project, environmental benefit, increases in highway or transit capacity and safety. The governor can choose to begin a project which has a lower score over one with a higher score, but has to justify the departure in writing. As you can see by the language above, the bill absolutely does not tie the hands of the governor to fund road projects anywhere in the state.

Bail Reform: For years, nationwide and in Maryland, attempts have been made to change the bail system. All too often, the current system leaves poor people in jail for months awaiting trial, while those with the same charges against them are not confined to jail, awaiting trial only because they can pay the bail. A commission to reform Maryland's pretrial system has called the state's bail system grossly unfair, if not unconstitutional. Maryland's Attorney General, Brian Frosh, has stated it's most likely unconstitutional to set the amount of bail higher than the defendant can afford. In 2015, more than 8,000 people were jailed in Baltimore City awaiting trial, which cost taxpayers $100 - $159 per person, per day. The 2017 Assembly will consider legislation to prohibit Maryland judges from setting bail higher than the defendant can pay, unless the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to society.

Paid Sick Leave: The General Assembly in both 2015 and 2016 rejected paid sick leave legislation that originated in the House of Delegates. Governor Hogan will now ask the 2017 General Assembly to once again consider paid sick leave legislation. The Hogan bill applies to businesses that employ at least 50 employees, who work at least 30 hours a week. The Hogan bill is much weaker than the House of Delegates bill, which applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, as well as a great number of part-time workers.

Fracking: In 2015, the legislature approved a two-year moratorium on fracking, which ends in October of this year. The legislature also ordered the state's Department of the Environment to draft regulations to impose safety standards on fracking. Fracking opponents believe no amount of safety precautions can prevent negative public health impacts from fracking. In November, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York released the fourth edition of their “Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.” The report contains more than 200 studies published this year alone. The top finding is that growing evidence shows that regulations are incapable of preventing harm. Opponents believe there is no such thing as safe fracking. So do I. Sixty percent of Marylanders polled want a permanent fracking ban. During the upcoming session, fracking opponents will fight to extend the ban or impose a permanent ban.

Shackling and Strip-Searching Juveniles: I have voiced my concern at the routine of shackling and strip searching juveniles detained in the state's 14 juvenile facilities. These practices are performed on every juvenile whether or not they are a flight risk or pose a danger to the public. The Secretary of Juvenile Services, Sam Abed, has consistently defended these practices as a safety precaution. The Department's own figures show that of 4,300 juveniles detained, 70 percent were neither a flight risk, nor a threat to public safety. The legislature established a 19-member task force to study the restraints and strip searching practices, as well as the needs of the children in the juvenile justice system. The task force recommendations included that strip searches be banned unless there is an "articulated reasonable belief" that a juvenile is hiding drugs or anything that could be used as a weapon. Shackling was limited to eight hours with a five minute break every four hours. The recommendations will be debated and voted on by the upcoming General Assembly.

Severe Shortage of Mental Health Beds: The shortage of mental health beds is now approaching crisis proportions. Over the years, an increasing number of people with mental illness have been arrested and booked into jails. However, state mental facilities have not kept up with the rising number of people needing mental health care. Added to this increase is the fact that patients stay longer for acute illnesses and private care providers refuse to accept criminal defendants who need ongoing help. Ninety percent of patients in state health department facilities are referred to the criminal justice system. That represents an increase from just 38 percent 15 years ago. Mental health facility workers say that the increase has contributed to making the workplace more dangerous. The shortage of mental health beds also exists in juvenile facilities, the state's five mental hospitals and inpatient care for drug addicts.

Please do not hesitate to contact me on these or any other issues of concern to you. I will be reporting to you on a regular basis during the 2017 General Assembly, which convenes on Wednesday, Jan. 11. As always, I encourage and welcome your input.

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Delegate Robin Grammer releases legislative agenda for 2017 session

Delegate Robin Grammer releases legislative agenda for 2017 session

(Updated 1/2/17)

- By Del. Robin Grammer (R-6) -

With the 2017 legislative session less than two weeks away I share this list of legislative priorities that I will pursue during the coming 90 days.

New Issues

Community Protection
– Community leadership has contacted my office about problems at the heroin and opiate treatment centers in our district that have gone unaddressed. We are seeing examples of patients who leave the facilities only to physically harass local businesses and their customers, wander into traffic on state roads and gather in residential areas.

This is completely unacceptable. I will be putting forward legislation that will regulate the areas at which these facilities can be placed and prevent them from operating in residential spaces.

Skilled Trades Employment – When I started high school, my school was known as “EVT” for “Eastern Vocational Technical.” By the time I graduated, the name had been changed to “Eastern Technical” despite the outcries of the surrounding communities, parents and alumni. Robert Kemmery, the school's principal, described vocational jobs as “terminal.” This change reflected a political shift away from vocational training across Maryland.

The idea that vocations would die and that we needed to ram every student through college has proliferated over the last 30 years, and the direction of our education policy has reflected that idea. This change has been to the great detriment of our district and our state as we have managed to create a shortage of skilled tradespeople in every industry and at the same time create entire communities of people who cannot find jobs.

I will be submitting legislation that will reinvest in “on the job” training and reconnect young Marylanders with skilled trades.

Revisited Issues

Foreclosure Reform – I continually hear reports of vacant homes that have become the target of copper theft, dumping, squatters, drug traffic or have become havens for rats. The state of Maryland’s foreclosure laws are idling thousands of vacant properties in our communities in a legal limbo that prevents us from taking action to address these community quality of life issues.

In 2016, I put forward a bill that would reform the process and provide a pathway for action in fixing these blighted properties. The bill passed in the House of Delegates but did not make it through the Senate. In 2017, we will revisit this issue and engage community members to join us in Annapolis to fight for the health of our communities.

Open Roads – To bolster revenues, the Maryland Department of Transportation directs traffic between Broening Highway and I-695 through the toll at the Key Bridge even though the traffic does not cross the bridge. The massive consequence of this decision is that many commercial and residential commuters decide to travel through the community streets of Dundalk to access I-695 at the next exit to avoid the toll at the interchange. This is the shortest route between the Port of Baltimore and Sparrows Point. As we experience the redevelopment of Sparrows Point and see continued growth at the Port of Baltimore, we expect to see massive amounts of traffic on this route. If this issue is not fixed, Dundalk will be inundated with traffic over the next 10 years.

In 2016, I submitted a bill to prevent this unethical practice and direct the agency to fix this inefficient route. At that time, the House of Delegates' Environment and Transportation Committee provided the Department of Transportation an opportunity to fix the problem. Given that opportunity, the agency did nothing. We will be pursuing this issue once more in 2017.

Patriot Java Expansion – In 2016, we passed a bill that handcuffed the Maryland Department of Education and reopened the Patriot Java Stop at Patapsco High School. After the successful revival of the program, I have received requests from elected leaders in other parts of the state who look to implement the program in their county. We will be submitting legislation in the coming session that will expand this program to other parts of the state.

Potential Action Items

Testing Reform – It is a commonly held belief that the amount of mandated testing in Maryland is a detriment to both our students and our education system. There is a significant desire to change the direction we are taking with Maryland’s mandated testing. If the legislature does not present a bill which actually accomplishes this, our office may take on the challenge this year.

There will be opportunities for constituents and organizations from District 6 to take part in these hearings. Community members interested in testifying on behalf of these bills can email Delegate Grammer at

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Progress made in 2016 to reduce school overcrowding and preserve open space

Progress made in 2016 to reduce school overcrowding and preserve open space

(Updated 12/28/16)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

In 2016, the Baltimore County Council completed the most intense responsibility of its four-year term. During the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, the County Council looks at the development potential of thousands of acres of land.

In the Fifth District, which I represent, I initiated most of the 181 rezoning issues. My constituents want land preserved from development and school overcrowding addressed.

As a result of the 2016 rezoning process, about 1,690 acres of land between Perring Parkway and the Harford County line in the Fifth District now has the Neighborhood Commons designation. Development is expressly prohibited in these areas. I was the lead sponsor of the legislation that created this "open space zoning" in 2012, and since then, Council members have applied it throughout Baltimore County.

Since I was elected, four new parks have opened in northeastern Baltimore County. This fall, we celebrated the completion of Angel Park. But the Neighborhood Commons zoning also protects ribbons of green space that will never be actively used and will function as sanctuaries for wildlife.

We also downzoned acreage that was in imminent likelihood of being developed. Between Perring Parkway and Harford County, more than 2,860 acres in the Fifth District now have the lowest level of residential zoning - one house per acre. While downzoning private property can be unpopular with landowners, I believe we needed to take these steps to deal with school overcrowding.

The County Council recently approved $49 million to construct the new Honeygo elementary school near Chapel Road, Perry Hall's first new school in two decades. The elementary school is scheduled to open in August of 2018. I am now working to obtain county funding to alleviate the overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School, and work toward the goal of a new high school in eastern Baltimore County.

These are not inexpensive projects, and quite candidly, we are years behind where we should be. But I believe the downzoning in 2016 at least lightens future school overcrowding while we work toward new schools.

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Pedestrian safety improvements planned at Perry Hall Middle, High Schools

(Updated 12/22/16)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

The Baltimore County Department of Public Works will install improvements along Ebenezer Road in Perry Hall to slow speeding near Perry Hall Middle and High Schools.

Two raised crosswalks with pedestrian refuge islands will be installed in front of Perry Hall High School. The raised crosswalk is slightly lower than a speed hump, but will help slow the speed of motorists. Additionally, the pedestrian refuge island will allow students a safer place to stand as they cross. Pedestrian ramps will make the area compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A third crosswalk with a pedestrian refuge island will be installed in front of Perry Hall Middle School at Yvonne Avenue.

The total cost for the project is $60,000. The improvements will be built next spring. The project is possible because the Baltimore County Council recently modified the county’s traffic calming policy.

The county reached out to the principals of Perry Hall Middle and High Schools, and Senator Kathy Klausmeier sent a letter of support for the project.

"We thank Baltimore County and Councilman Marks for working to improve safety in this area near Perry Hall High School,” said PHHS Principal Andrew Last.

The Perry Hall High School Alumni Association has also been a strong advocate of the project.

Over the past six years, we have worked with neighborhoods and schools to slow traffic throughout the Fifth District. Moving forward, our office will be working with other elected officials and residents to see where safety can be improved at other locations throughout Perry Hall.

See detailed diagrams of the proposed improvements below.

Periodic Update: Stopping soaring prescription drug prices

(Updated 12/19/16)

- By Delegate Eric Bromwell (D-8) -

I will be introducing legislation in the upcoming 2017 General Assembly session to address skyrocketing prescription drug prices and alleged price gouging. Soaring prescription drug prices threaten accessible and affordable health care, put financial strains on hospitals and force increases in insurance premiums and Medicaid and Medicare expenditures, which are supported by our tax dollars. Maryland Insurance Commissioner and former District 8 Delegate Al Redmer said in a recent hearing before the Health and Government Operations Committee that the increase in pharmaceutical costs over the past several years constitutes about 25 percent of the increase in overall insurance rates.

Even generic drug prices are soaring. In 1984, Congress approved laws to create the generic drug industry in an attempt to make drugs more affordable, but some generic companies have become the new price-gouging villains of health care.

Public outrage was sparked at the obscene price increase of EpiPen, a life-saving treatment for millions whose allergies can send them into severe shock. Since 2007, the pharmaceutical company Mylan NV increased the price of EpiPen 548 percent to $608.61 for a pack of two doses.

Similarly, Turig Pharmaceuticals suddenly raised the price of Daraprim, an anti-malaria drug, 5,000 percent from $13.50 for a single pill to $750. Gylycopyrrolate, a drug used before surgery to dry secretions spiraled from $5 to $23 a unit over two years, driving hospital spending from $5 million to $73 million. Between 2013 and 2015, the price of the decades-old pain reliever, acetaminophen, soared from a unit price of $13 to $30, driving spending from $43 million to nearly $100 million. According to a survey of more than 700 community hospitals, drug spending on hospital-administered inpatient drugs is increasing faster than retail drug spending.

My legislation, supported by the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, requires prescription drug companies to disclose how they set prices, notify the public of significant price hikes and authorizes the state attorney general to take legal action to prevent price gouging. Fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical industry is a certainty.

A poll taken by Opinion Works revealed that 84 percent of Maryland voters want prescription drug transparency, which would require drug companies to explain how they set their prices, including their profits, and how much they spend on research, advertising and production. The poll also found widespread support for requiring drug companies to notify the public if they plan to increase prices by 10 percent or more, as well as a provision enabling the state attorney general to take legal action to prevent unfair price hikes.

An August 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 86 percent of people supported requiring drug companies to release to the public information explaining how they set their prices.

Please let me know your thoughts on this issue or any other issue of concern to you. As always, I welcome your input.

Appointment of Wilbur Ross should have eastside residents fuming

(Updated 12/14/16)

- By Patrick Taylor -

As the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump draws nearer, he has been in the process of filling his cabinet. Throughout his campaign, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and be a friend to the middle class as opposed to the elites. So far, his cabinet choices have been more of the same.

While Trump decried opponent Hillary Clinton and accused her of “pay to play” tactics, so far many of Trump’s appointees have been big campaign donors, including Linda McMahon (Small Business administrator), Andrew Puzdner (Labor secretary), Betsy DeVos (Education secretary), Todd Ricketts (Deputy Commerce secretary), Steven Mnuchin (Treasury secretary) and Wilbur Ross (Commerce secretary). Together, these appointees donated a whopping $11.6 million to Trump’s campaign. It’s also worth noting that so far, Trump’s selections have a total net worth of $14.5 billion.

But one name on that list should stick out to eastside residents more than any, and that’s Wilbur Ross. For those unaware, Ross, a billionaire himself, has made hundreds of millions of dollars gutting businesses in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and flipping them for personal profit.

One of his more notable acquisitions was Bethlehem Steel in the early 2000s. Ross bundled money from investors and, under the banner of the International Steel Group, he purchased Bethlehem Steel. Less than two years later he would flip it for approximately $4.5 billion, with over $250 million going into his personal coffers.

At the time, Bethlehem Steel was days away from closing. Wilbur showed tremendous business acumen and foresight by buying up multiple steel businesses, including Acme and LTV, betting that American steel would become an in-demand commodity once again. The stock market collapse in 2000/01, coupled with 9/11, provided plenty of opportunity for Ross, and so he raised $250 million more to pour into distressed businesses. Wilbur also guessed correctly that then President George W. Bush would be enacting tariffs on foreign steel. When Bethlehem Steel was signed over to the International Steel Group, it kept the doors at Bethlehem Steel open and the workers producing.

It looks like a win, but in actuality it was a last-gasp effort that hampered workers’ ability to earn. One of the more appealing aspects of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the fact that pensions can be shed. For a company as old as Bethlehem Steel, pension payments were through the roof. Suddenly, they were off the books and a 401(k) option was put in place for workers. While poor negotiating from union heads certainly plays a part, the fact remains that tens of thousands of retirees and families were suddenly left without pensions. Besides pensions being shed, many workers were laid off - about a third in total. All former workers were left without healthcare. At the mill, vacation time was reduced, discipline was tightened. Job classifications sunk from 35 down to just five. All the while, Wilbur promised to keep the doors open and offered prosperity. So much for that.

While the case can certainly be made that Ross helped keep the doors at Sparrows Point open, the cost to workers was exorbitant. And the motive was never to keep the doors open to help workers, it was to make a pretty penny for those at the top. Mission accomplished.

Besides being a steel magnate, Ross is also known for purchasing coal mines, like the Sago mine in West Virginia in the mid 2000s. On Jan. 2, 2006, an explosion at the mine caused a collapse, trapping 13 miners. Only one survived. In 2005, the mine had been hit with 208 safety violations, with 96 being considered “substantial and serious.” During the mid 2000s, Sago also had continuous issues with safety, with the accident rate three times the national average. Compared to other local mines of that size in West Virginia, it was over 10 times the average.

According to the Department of Commerce’s website, “The Department works with businesses, universities, communities, and the Nation’s workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans.” Ross’s history on the eastside, and elsewhere, betrays him. He’s made a living as a bottom feeder, using his immense capital to ring out every last dollar from dying businesses as he can, without any regard for the livelihood of the blue collar worker. Considering the Sixth District voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the election, his appointment is nothing less than a slap in the face.

The above opinion reflects that of the author and not necessarily that of The East County Times. To contact the author, email him at

Another slap to Dundalk’s face

(Updated 12/13/16)

- By Senator Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) -

If there was any doubt that County Executive Kamenetz ignores the needs of Dundalk, all doubt has been erased with his latest maneuver to ask the State to contribute $2.3 million from Program Open Space to build a new 9,800 square foot indoor horse riding center in campaign donor-rich Cockeysville, while at the same time planning to sell the North Point Government Center to a developer.

Kamenetz cloaked the development of the riding center in secrecy, failing to obtain input from the community or the nonprofit Maryland Agricultural Resource Council and doing away with a public presentation. The rush to complete this Kamenetz pet project is all too obvious. George Mayo, president of the nonprofit agricultural council only learned of the project’s details two weeks before grading of the site started.

When it comes to foot-dragging Kamenetz is a master at dragging his feet regarding Dundalk’s needs. He has let the North Point Government Center, which could have served many needs of the Dundalk community, fall into disrepair and dilapidation. Kamenetz plans to sell the Center to a developer who will replace it with a mall and fast food restaurants.

Thank goodness, Dundalk has two very good supporters in Governor Larry Hogan and State Comptroller Peter Franchot. They have fought with us against County Executive Kamenetz to install window air conditioners in our sweltering public school classrooms. And they have, at least temporarily, stopped the Kamenetz plan to sell the North Point Center to a developer.

Adding to his perfect record of ignoring Dundalk’s problems, Kamenetz continues to withhold his consent to a state plan to eradicate midges in the Back River area.

I am quite aware that Dundalk and our 6th Legislative District is neither a democrat stronghold nor where the big campaign donors live. However, County Executive Kamenetz was elected to serve all of Baltimore County citizens equally and to the best of his ability. Where the Dundalk area is concerned, he does neither.

I am against County Executive Kamenetz’s indoor riding complex. The needs of Dundalk have been ignored by him for far too long.

Councilman Marks honors Perry Hall area volunteers as Citizens of the Year

(Updated 12/9/16)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

My office recently honored nine local volunteers as Fifth District Citizens of the Year.

Eight of the recipients are members of the senior leadership team for Angel Park: Paul Amirault, Judi Coleman, Andrew Hacke, Jackie Hacke, Michelle Yeager Streckfus, Jolene Dambeck Sosnowski, Laurie Tice Wagerman and David Dunstone. They, along with past recipients Kelli Szczybor, Dennis Hoover and Bill Paulshock, helped lead the community build this summer that resulted in the Angel Park playground and amphitheater.

This year’s recipients in Perry Hall were obvious choices. The team that helped lead the construction of Angel Park invested thousands of hours to help build this extraordinary facility.

My office and the Citizens of the Year program also recognized Peggy Winchester, president of the south Perry Hall Improvement Association, for her work improving building standards in the White Marsh area of the Fifth District. Peggy has been a tireless advocate for her community.

The Fifth District Citizens of the Year program has honored outstanding volunteers since 2011.

Councilman Marks: Extend Commercial Revitalization District to fill Mars site

Councilman Marks: Extend Commercial Revitalization District to fill Mars site

(Updated 12/7/16)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

In 2011, the Baltimore County Council created the Perry Hall commercial revitalization district to spur redevelopment near Belair, Ebenezer and Joppa Roads. Since that time, occupancy has increased from 60 percent to 90 percent at the Perry Hall Square Shopping Center, and we have been able to redevelop the area near 8833 Belair Road.

In the coming weeks, I will introduce legislation to change the boundaries of the district, eliminating areas where there has been some improvement but adding properties that need help. One such property is the shopping center at Belair and Silver Spring Roads.

I am concerned about the unoccupied Mars Supermarket site. There have been a lot of rumors about future tenants, but nothing confirmed. I want to provide incentives that can attract tenants to this property. The commercial revitalization district program offers grants and tax incentives that may make a difference.

I believe the commercial revitalization district program can not only help with the Mars location, but can also benefit some of the properties between Blakeley Avenue and Silver Spring Road.

For more information, visit

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Kamenetz tells county colleges undocumented students will be protected

(Updated 12/1/16)

- By Patrick Taylor -

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz added his name to a growing list of Democrats taking a stance against deportation of illegal immigrants on college campuses.

In a letter sent to the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland as well as the presidents of the Community College of Baltimore County, Goucher College, Stevenson University, Towson University and UMBC, Kamenetz said, “I strongly support your efforts to protect undocumented students from deportation in the wake of the recent presidential election.”

The issue of sanctuary schools has grown over the course of the year as, over the course of the election cycle, President-elect Donald Trump promised to deport millions of illegal immigrants. In his letter to the presidents of Baltimore County colleges, Kamenetz stated that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was instituted in 2012 and allows children who were brought here illegally to pursue education without fear of deportation, should continue to be followed by the local colleges.

Kamenetz also stated in his letter that he advised Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson that “the Baltimore County Police Department should not participate in any effort to identify otherwise law-abiding students from our college campuses that would  subject them to deportation.”

While the immigration issue has heated up, Kamenetz’s letter and stance are largely symbolic, as it remains highly unlikely that college campuses would be raided. That’s coupled with the fact that local police departments are limited in their ability to enforce immigration laws, which are predominantly enforced by federal agencies. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s law allowing suspected undocumented immigrants to be stopped and asked for papers was unconstitutional, and that police can only ask about immigration status as part of another routine interaction as long as the inquiry doesn’t prolong the interaction.

While it may be largely symbolic, the letter and press release sent out by the Kamenetz administration rubbed many east side Republicans the wrong way. State Senator Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) told the East County Times that he believes in legal immigration, and that the process of legal immigration needed to be followed.

“When you break the law there is accountability and when you break the law being an illlegal here there should be accountability,” said Salling.

Delegate Pat McDonough (R-7) referred to Kamenetz’s letter as a political ploy to pull in voters from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as he mulls a bid for governor in two years.

“Once again Kamenetz shows that he’s more interested in helping himself than the citizens of Baltimore County,” said McDonough.

McDonough stressed that the Trump administration is “deathly serious” about pursuing sanctuary cities, and stated that Kamenetz’s stance is “wreckless” and “endangers” Baltimore County residents.

According to McDonough, who has remained in contact with Trump’s camp since the election, the Trump administration will be putting out a list of 10 sanctuary cities that need to be heavily targeted. Baltimore City is one of the 10 cities listed. McDonough stated that he’s writing to Trump and Jeff Sessions, who was recently appointed to the position of Attorney General, asking for Baltimore County and Kamenetz to be investigated and be put on that list.

McDonough also went on to say that there could be major repercussions for jurisdictions and elected officials who decide to stand againt Trump on this issue. The repercussions range from withholding of federal funds - for things like higher education, prisons, housing, roads and more - to civil and criminal charges being brought against elected officials.

“Kamenetz is turning Baltimore County into a law-breaking county,” said McDonough. “He is clearly violating federal immigration law. If Kamenetz starts getting charged $10,000 a day I think he’s going to see the light.”

Trump promised in his “Contract with the American Voter” that he wants to eliminate federal funding for sanctuary cities within his first 100 days. And with Sessions, an Alabama Senator who has fought against illegal immigration for almost two decades, now in a position to direct federal agents, a crackdown seems highly likely.

Despite this, Kamenetz is standing by his decision. In his letter to the college presidents, Kamenetz also called on Governor Larry Hogan to “do more than tell Marylanders to take a deep breath.” A request for comment from Hogan was not returned by press time.

Despite the backlash from Republicans, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who recently beat McDonough in the Second Congressional District race, stood by the decision made by Kamenetz.

“Our priority should be on finding and deporting illegal immigrants who are committing serious crimes, not students who are peacefully pursuing an education after being brought into the country as young children through no fault of their own,” said Jaime Lennon, a spokesperson for Ruppersberger.