Senator Johnny Ray Salling named to Comptroller Franchot's 'Reform on Tap' task force

Senator Johnny Ray Salling named to Comptroller Franchot's 'Reform on Tap' task force

Senator Johnny Ray Salling issued the following statement on Wednesday, April 26:

“I am honored to have been named to Comptroller Franchot’s 'Reform on Tap' task force. The goal of the task force is to find ways to innovate Maryland’s beer laws so that we can compete with other states. I am looking forward to working to get meaningful reforms that will benefit the beer industry in Maryland!”

Dutch presents new flag to Middle River senior center

Dutch presents new flag to Middle River senior center

U.S. Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger visited the Victory Villa Senior Center in Middle River on Thursday, April 20, to present them with a new flag for the center.

According to Ruppersberger's director of communications, Jaime Lennon, VVSC reached out to the congressman's office for help in obtaining a new flag for the center.

"The senior center called our office asking for help getting a new U.S. flag for the center and we went ahead and had it flown over the U.S. Capitol first," Lennon explained.

Victory Villa Senior Center now has a brand new flag which is certified to have flown over Washington, D.C. Pictured above is Ruppersberger with the flag and members of the center.

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Delegate Ric Metzgar's 2017 wrap-up

(Updated 4/19/17)

- By Del. Ric Metzgar (R-6) -

It is with pure delight that I communicate with you my report and experience of the  437th convention of the Maryland General Assembly. This year’s session has had its fair share of ups and downs for Maryland. I am proud to admit that this past 90 days has been an honor to serve and represent Legislative District 6 for our great state of Maryland. I am also sincere when I say that I have and will always continue to support and fight for legislation to make government smaller and to award more liberties to the individual.

This year I sponsored four bills personally, one of which passed and will directly make a positive impact to the community of Edgemere and Shiloh Baptist Church. I also co-sponsored over 120 bills with other colleagues. My efforts here have been to develop solutions to problems using fairness, diplomacy and bipartisanship. The content of bills I have supported this year address the issues posed by criminal enterprise of opioids and the residual effects this epidemic has had on our neighborhoods and homes. Legislation that I also supported was aimed at fixing our public education system, which is faced with overcrowding and quality standards declining. I especially take every opportunity I can to vote towards the betterment that we owe our senior and military retirees who paved the way. Having said that, my personally sponsored bill statuses are as follows.

House Bill 368: “Howard’s Law” was one of four bills I sponsored. The purpose of this bill was to repeal annual fees to current active-duty and reserve military service members, honorably or medically retired military retirees, and senior citizens age 65 or older. HB 368 received an unfavorable report from the Environment and Transportation Standing Committee when the Department of Natural Resources issued an informative letter in the hearing. The letter informed that the fiscal note attached to this bill had an unknown impact if passed claiming it would negatively impact DNR’s funding by eliminating federal funding that is matched per individual license sale. After the hearing, an opportunity to save this bill was offered by way of two amendments that were submitted. The first amendment motioned to significantly discount instead of completely repeal and the second amendment was to only include fishing licenses, but neither was accepted by DNR. Howard’s Law received an unfavorable report by the committee. Even though Howard’s Law was stopped after numerous attempts to save this bill, House Bills 4 and 68 passed through which award similar provisions for 100 percent disabled military service members, Purple Heart Award recipients and former American prisoners of war.

House Bill 643: This is a follow-up to House Bill 898, the property tax credit from last year’s session that I sponsored. HB 898 was approved by Governor Hogan on May 10, 2016. This legislation's purpose was to offer a maximum credit of 20 percent of the county or municipal corporation property tax to senior citizens and military retirees who have resided in the same dwelling for 40 years or more by June 30, 2016, for five consecutive years. HB 643 was put in place this year to open qualifications to those who have lived in the same county instead of dwelling. The bill was heard in the Ways and Means and was not communicated after the hearing due to a number of tax bills that were not heard this year.

House Bill 372: Public Schools - Voluntary Nonsectarian Prayer at School-Sponsored Student Events is a reintroduction from last year. HB 372 requires county boards of education to allow nonsectarian student-initiated voluntary prayer during mandatory and voluntary school-sponsored student events, providing that the act does not diminish rights of individuals relating to free speech and the free exercise of religion providing that the exercise of rights may not be construed as a specified support. During the hearing, the ACLU opposed HB372 in the Ways and Means Committee and it was given an unfavorable report. I promise to reintroduce this bill again next year. I believe prayer does wonderful things for Maryland legislators in the General Assembly every morning when we convene. I am certain that prayer can make a tremendous impact in the lives of students who live in our communities.

In conclusion, I have again met resistance to the bills I submit, but I will continue to reintroduce them. I may not always submit popular issues to politicians in Annapolis, but what legislation I bring to the capital is important to the constituents of District 6. I have not and will not support Maryland sanctuary actions as I feel it prohibits law enforcement agencies from effectively enforcing laws in place and handcuffs those who protect us instead. I also do not stand behind legalization of marijuana. Marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead users to other drugs. Prohibited drugs have always attracted criminal and gang activity, violence, addiction and poverty. A tax stamp on marijuana will not help to stop crime and I cannot get behind it.

Finally, I am proud to announce again that for the third year in a row I have never missed a committee meeting, subcommittee meeting, caucus, session and have never missed a single vote. I’m also honored to be invited to be the guest chaplain during the interim on May 2 in the 115th Congress. Again, I thank you for allowing me to serve and represent Baltimore County, and have a blessed rest of the year.

Review of the 2017 Maryland General Assembly

(Updated 4/19/17)

- By Delegate Rick Impallaria (R-7) -

My 15th session as your delegate has ended successfully with several accomplishments to share.

I serve on the House Economic Matters Committee which considers legislation relating to business in general, including alcoholic beverages, banks, business regulation, occupational and professional regulation, commercial law, economic development, e-commerce, employment, various insurances (except health), utilities regulation, and workers’ compensation.  As a business owner, I bring practical experience this committee, and have the opportunity to inform my colleagues of the probable impact of legislation on the economic and business development of the state.

Sick Leave 
The General Assembly pushed forward with HB 1 - Labor and Employment- Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. This legislation mandates up to 40 hours of “sick and safe” leave for employees who work for businesses with 15 or more employees, with heavy fines for non-compliance. This extreme bill also requires paid sick leave for part-timers and temporary seasonal employees who work as little as 8 hours per week. So a teenager working after school and summer workers in Ocean City will qualify for paid sick leave under this bill.  I could not support a bill which would cripple small business, cause job loss, and make Maryland’s business climate worse.

Opioid Epidemic
The General Assembly has made some head way in dealing with the opioid epidemic. Delegate Bromwell introduced HB 1082 – Start Talking Maryland Act, which requires a county superintendent of schools to approve or disapprove any protected change in the hiring or termination of personnel in connection with the school health services program and HB 1329 – HOPE and Treatment Act of 2017; which provides additional funding for specified drug court programs and to establish one crisis treatment center June 2018.  Delegate Seth Howard’s bill HB 869 - Recovery Residence Residential Rights Protection Act, requires that, when an individual is referred to a recovery residence, he/she be provided with a list of certified recovery residences operating in the State and information on where may be obtained.  These are the bills that have been the beginning of a movement to help in ending the opioid epidemic that is paralyzing Maryland.

My Legislation 
I am very happy to report that my bill HB 231 - Property Tax Credit - Disabled or Fallen Law Enforcement Officers and Rescue Workers – Alteration was passed by the legislature on the final day of session.  It provides that surviving spouse or cohabitant of a law enforcement officer or rescue worker disabled or killed in the line of duty can be granted a property tax credit by local government, starting in the tax years after June 30.

Once again I introduced bills to protect our Second Amendment rights – repeal of “shall issue”, authorization for qualified school employees to be armed on school property – both of which were killed in committee.

Two bills requested by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office which I put in were killed in committee, one to sentence heroin/fentanyl distributors to a maximum of 30 years for deaths from the drugs, the other to mandate reporting of heroin overdoses to county sheriffs, county police, or State Police by persons treating overdoses.

In summary, the momentum to Change Maryland is alive and well in the Maryland General Assembly. I am excited about the direction of the state, and though we did not get everything we wanted this year, many common sense solutions to the issues that face our state passed the legislature unanimously. We are on finally on getting on the right track in Maryland! Your input is always welcome do not hesitate to contact my office with any issues that concern you. It is citizens like you that help make my job at the General Assembly easier.

Post-session 'Thank You' from Delegate Robin Grammer

(Updated 4/17/17)

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

The communities of southeastern Baltimore County confronted real threats from legislation proposed in Annapolis in the 2017 session. I am happy to report that while we defeated many terrible bills, we were also successful in passing legislation that will enable us to take action in many problem areas in our communities.

The political establishment in Annapolis schemed to ram a statewide Section 8 mandate through the House of Delegates on the last day before the crossover deadline. This bill would have forced property owners to accept Section 8 housing vouchers and offer 15 percent of their properties to voucher holders. We rallied the people of Baltimore to put pressure on their legislators and we successfully killed this bill in the Senate.

Despite the tragic story of the 14-year-old girl who was violently raped by two of her fellow students in Montgomery County, who were in the country illegally, the Annapolis bosses conspired to push a bill through the legislature that prevented law enforcement from enforcing immigration laws and would make Maryland a "sanctuary state." We put out the call for action on this bill and the people of Maryland stood with us! We were successful in defeating this bill.

After two years of work, I am happy to report that we have finally passed foreclosure reform. Although the language that was passed was not as strong as the language in my bill, the reformed law will enable us to take action on the vacant and abandoned properties that are contributing to rats, crime, drugs and general community blight.

None of these efforts would have come to fruition without the assistance of the public. Thank you for your help and leadership in supporting good legislation and rallying against bad bills!

As always, please let me know if there is ever any way we can help you or your family!

Bromwell's 2017 General Assembly legislative wrap-up

(Updated 4/17/17)

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

The scourge of drug addiction and overdose deaths has left no state untouched. Heroin/opioid addiction in Maryland affects one-third of state residents, according to a recent Washington Post poll. The poll showed that 34 percent of Marylanders have a family member or close friend addicted to prescription pain pills or heroin, up from 29 percent in 2015. Governor Hogan and the Maryland legislature are committed to exploring every possible solution to attack this deadly epidemic. During the session, I chaired a bipartisan heroin/opioid work group which developed the HOPE Act. I was the lead sponsor of this legislation.

The HOPE Act requires the state to increase its reimbursement rate annually for substance abuse clinics and requests $2 million in the next budget to expand Drug Court programs. Under the HOPE Act, access to overdose-reversal drugs, like naloxone, will be expanded. The HOPE Act includes the implementation of a 24/7 crisis treatment center, as well as a new statewide hotline to help those in crisis get immediate attention and access to care. The bill also paves the way for future access by including study language that will be the basis for additional centers (hopefully at least a dozen) to be authorized and opened in 2018. The fact is, these centers are needed from western Maryland to the Eastern Shore. This epidemic is hitting all corners of our state, and hitting us hard. In fact, of those Marylanders who obtained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act expansion, 53 percent have sought substance abuse treatment. That is more than one in two people seeking treatment, especially in the rural areas of Maryland. Hopefully the HOPE Act will help reverse a decade of a lack of money, not enough treatment facilities and decreasing awareness and commitment to confront the deadly heroin/opioid epidemic.

Governor Hogan submitted a $43.5 billion budget that was balanced and did not raise taxes or fees, yet reduced the state's structural deficit by 90 percent. The Rainy Day Fund contains $860 million - equal to 5 percent of the general fund. The budget contained a record $6.4 billion for K-12 education and an additional $32 million for higher education, which will keep tuition increases to 2 percent.

Paid sick leave was approved; I did not support it. Employers with at least 15 employees will have to provide five days of sick leave every year. Maryland has 84,000 businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Now, with many of these businesses struggling to make a profit, the state is going to dump another expense on them. It's like the state is trying to see how much these small businesses can take and still maintain a profit. Having grown up in a family-owned small business, this is just not something that I can support.

Price gouging for essential prescription drugs: I am chairman of the committee to which this bill was assigned. We spent four weeks working on this bill, which led to broad, bipartisan support. The legislation - the first of its kind in the country - is designed to help protect Maryland residents against price gouging. According to the bill, Maryland's attorney general will have the power to investigate and penalize drug companies for price gouging. A price increase of 50 percent or more in one year for an “essential” drug that costs more than $80 for a 30-day supply could be considered price gouging. The bill authorizes the attorney general to investigate and allows the industry ample time to justify such increases. The penalty for price gouging is a civil penalty of $10,000 for each violation.

More Jobs for Marylanders Act of 2017 was approved. The bill provides a 10-year income tax credit to manufacturers who create new jobs in economically depressed areas (Allegany, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester counties or Baltimore City). If not located in one of those counties, the facility must be located on a site of at least 3,000 acres. The amount of the tax credit is equal to the total wages for qualified positions multiplied by 5.75 percent. The manufacturing industry's share of the Maryland economy - 8 percent - is about double its share of total employment and the industry remains the second largest source of corporate income tax revenue.

The statute of limitations for civil suits against child abusers was finally raised. The age went from 24 to 38. The general recognition and acceptance of the long-term psychological impact of child sexual abuse has led 45 states and Washington D.C. to enact laws to extend the statute of limitations for legal action. While it doesn’t go quite far enough in my opinion (many victims have difficulty coming forward until well into their 50’s and 60’s), it was the first time in decades that legislation of this kind advanced in Maryland. I attribute the bill’s passing to the personal story of my friend and colleague, Delegate C.T. Wilson from Charles County. As a child, C.T. had been sexually and physically abused by his stepfather. C.T. later wrote a book about his experiences. This year was the third time Delegate Wilson had made his plea to the House Judiciary Committee to increase the statute by telling his personal story. It is also no coincidence that 2017 marked the first time in the decades-long history of the legislation that the Maryland Catholic Conference supported the bill.

It is an honor representing you in Annapolis. I greatly value your opinion on these and any other issues that are important to you. Please do not hesitate to contact me, as I look forward to our continued correspondence.

Efforts to curb opioid deaths stepped up - but is it enough?

Efforts to curb opioid deaths stepped up - but is it enough?
Delegate Eric Bromwell (at podium) led the fight in Maryland to keep pharmaceutical costs from skyrocketing while providing transparency for citizens. File photo.

(Updated 4/11/17)

- By Patrick Taylor - 

Earlier this week, the General Assembly approved a slew of bills aimed at curbing the opioid and heroin pandemic wreaking havoc across the state and country. Overall, the bills passed show that our legislators are treating this issue with the utmost urgency.

And urgency is exactly what is required. As of March 31, there have been 82 unofficial overdose fatalities in Baltimore County in 2017, while emergency services responded to 766 overdose calls. An exact figure on deaths related to opioids and heroin is unknown - the Office of the State Medical Examiner provides the official stats for overdose fatalities - but as it stands, it looks like Baltimore County is in for a big leap in overdose deaths this year.

As we reported in the April 6 issue, the number of overdose deaths was merely 86 between Jan. 1 and September 2015, but that number jumped to 151 in the same time period in 2016. Based on current numbers, Baltimore County will be looking at around 240 overdose deaths by September of this year if things stay the same.

There is hope that with the legislation passed this session the number of overdoses and deaths will take a big hit. A measure sponsored by State Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D-8) will see the creation of 24/7 crisis treatment centers while also increasing reimbursement rates for treatment to keep up with inflation, making treatment affordable for families who foot the bill.

Another bill that made it through the both the House of Delegates and State Senate will create a drug awareness program for students beginning in third grade, while Gov. Hogan saw two of his bills passed - one that increases the penalty for those convicted of selling drugs involving fentanyl and another that aims to diminish the amount of opioids administered by doctors. Hogan also added $10 million to the budget over five years to help tackle the issue.

By June of 2016, there were 566 heroin overdoses, 446 fentanyl overdoses and 210 opioid pill overdoses across the state.

“I’m surprised by the magnitude of the increase,” Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The Baltimore Sun last year. “The fact that you see such a large number of fentanyl-related deaths demonstrates the need for greater resources dedicated to identifying and treating opioid dependence.”

Alexander went on to mention that another area that really needed to be addressed was pain pills being overprescribed by physicians.

And that, in my opinion, is where the fight against overdoses really needs to focus.

Over the course of the War on Drugs, the focus has often been on what leads to drug use - what are the proverbial gateways. What is that one thing - alcohol, tobacco, marijuana - that leads one down a path of addiction? While those (specifically marijuana) may have been the easy scapegoats in the past, it has become increasingly apparent that gateways aren’t the issue when opioids are being overprescribed.

I saw that firsthand as an athlete up until college. A player gets hurt - hernia, ACL, etc. - and gets oxycontin, oxycodone, percocet or some other drug to help them recover after surgery. But after days, weeks or months of daily medication of what is essentially heroin, cutting that out of your life can be nearly impossible. Because of doctors doling out pain pills like they’re breath mints at a restaurant, there are almost always pills available for purchase. So when Johnny Football Star’s prescription runs out, he has a friend who can keep him supplied.

And here is where things get bad. A lot of times a prescription is cheaper than the black market. So someone who has recently found themselves addicted to percocet might be a little cash strapped and only have $10 to spare instead of the $25 or $30 necessary for a pill, and that’s when heroin rears its ugly head.

Nowadays, it is common for heroin to be cut with fentanyl. Fentanyl is usually made abroad, typically in Asia. Cutting the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. would be a huge step in cutting down on overdose deaths.

For his efforts, Hogan deserves a lot of credit. Increasing the penalty for crimes involving fentanyl and pressing doctors to prescribe less will do a world of good. Klausmeier deserves applause, too, for helping make treatment affordable while working to ensure emergency services are available at all times. And Delegate Eric Bromwell (D-8) deserves recognition for his tireless efforts throughout the course of the session to achieve these goals.

But do these bills truly do enough, and what else could possibly be done? It all depends on how radical you want to get. There are those who advocate for the approach adopted by Portugal. In 2001, the Portuguese government decriminalized all drugs. If you get caught with drugs, you pay a fine and maybe seek treatment if deemed necessary. As of 2015, there were three overdose deaths per million citizens. The average for the entire European Union was 17.3 overdose deaths per million citizens.

Others would like to see only marijuana legalized to help curb opioid abuse. Recent studies have shown declining overdose deaths in states with legalized marijuana, though it’s too early to tell if there is real correlation.

Legislators hoped to pass a new set of laws to help guide the medical marijuana industry, but that legislation failed to make it through the General Assembly. Part of the bill would have allowed opioid addicts to be treated with medicinal marijuana.

Advocates argued that marijuana works as a pain killer that comes without the risk of overdose.

While there isn’t the risk of overdose with marijuana, it does have its own baggage. While physical dependence isn’t something largely observed, it is a habit-forming substance. Breaking a psychological dependence can be just as grueling as breaking from a physical one.

Looking at the slew of bills passed this session that target opioid abuse, there is reason to be hopeful in Maryland. Bromwell told reporters he wanted Maryland to be the blueprint for other states, and that very well may happen. I’m hopeful, but not exactly optimistic.

For decades, we as a country have been fighting a battle against drug abuse, throwing over $1 trillion into the War on Drugs. And where exactly has it gotten us? I don’t want to say we have nothing to show for it, because we do - it’s just negative.

When it comes to dealing with an issue like addiction, there is no perfect answer. There is no panacea that will make everything better. But everyone also knows that insanity is trying the same thing over and over expecting different results. For too long we’ve been going about addiction the wrong way. Addicts are reviled and looked down upon instead of being shown empathy and compassion. Those suffering with addiction need treatment, not time behind bars. While you would like to think that time in prison would allow someone to get clean, we can’t even keep drugs out of our correctional facilities.

Ideally, a shift away from opiates in the medical world would be the best remedy. The creation of non-habit forming pain medication should be the ultimate goal, and we should be exploring every other potential fix we can think of. But as I mentioned earlier, worrying about gateway drugs is essentially moot when doctors are prescribing what’s comparable to a small dose of heroin in opioids.

So whether the measures undertaken by the General Assembly are enough or not remains to be seen. What’s undeniable, however, is that these measures are a crucial first step in addressing what has become a major emergency across the country.

The views expressed above are solely those of the writer and not The East County Times. Patrick Taylor formerly worked with Project HEALTH, counseling and trying to secure public benefits for those struggling with addiction.

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Message from the Councilwoman

Message from the Councilwoman

(Updated 4/10/17)

- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -

At the March 20 legislative session, the County Council unanimously passed Resolution 28-17-Review of Regulations on Development Plans & Plats, which I introduced and sponsored. Resolution 28-17 directs the Planning Board to review relevant county laws and regulations relating to the applicability of current federal, state and local standards to development plans which were approved years ago under now-outdated standards and regulations. Findings and recommendations are to be submitted to the County Council on or before Sept. 20 of this year.

When a development plan is approved, the project is held to the regulations and standards at the date and time it was approved, regardless of when construction actually begins. Over the years, regulations have become more stringent and protective, particularly in the areas of the environment, critical areas and stormwater management. The issue then arises where a development project that was approved under older regulations with weaker standards does not begin construction until many years later, and it does so under those older and weaker standards.

This resolution is an effort to solve that problem. Directing the Planning Board to examine and review the applicability of regulations to development projects approved under older standards will allow the Council to have a fuller picture of the problem and be better informed when considering future legislation. My goal is not to deter future development or punish existing development projects, but simply to have the Planning Board look at the costs and benefits of applying current regulations to those development projects that were approved years ago under older standards and have yet to begin construction.

This issue is of particular importance to the Sixth District and eastern Baltimore County due to the nearly 200 miles of coastline and numerous waterways. Ensuring that developers are held to the most current and stringent regulations will go a long way in improving the many streams and rivers in the Sixth District.

I believe developers should be held responsible for the effects of their development projects. Allowing the Planning Board to examine and review the applicability of regulations to development plans is a first step to hold developers accountable and another tool to protect the environment. I look forward to the Planning Board’s recommendations.

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Sidewalks, curbs coming to Cross Road

Sidewalks, curbs coming to Cross Road

(Updated 4/7/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

Construction will occur this summer on a project to complete missing curbs and sidewalks on Cross Road between Chapel Road and Forge Road in Perry Hall.

The project will cost approximately $200,000. It should be done in the summer or fall.

With these improvements, we are completing some of the infrastructure requirements envisioned in the Honeygo Plan more than two decades ago. The sidewalks will allow residents to better access destinations such as Angel Park and Perry Hall Park.

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Councilman Marks updates community on Kingsville Park upgrades

Councilman Marks updates community on Kingsville Park upgrades

(Updated 3/30/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

I recently toured Kingsville Park, where my office has been working with Baltimore County to upgrade the deteriorating fields. Kingsville Park is a 23-acre recreational area located at 11700 Franklinville Road.

The $636,500 project will improve drainage at the ballfields, upgrade the parking area and make areas accessible to disabled visitors. At this point, the Department of Recreation and Parks anticipates that the upper fields will be finished this summer, then work will start on the lower fields.

We have been working with the Kingsville Recreation Council and the Department of Recreation and Parks for several years on this project. Many thanks to Director Barry F. Williams and county staff, as well as all the volunteers and parents with the recreation council for their patience as this work advances.

Kingsville Park is one of five recreation projects completed or underway in the northeast since 2010. I also worked on Angel Park, Soukup Arena, the Perry Paw Dog Park and Gough Park, All in Perry Hall. The Kingsville Park project has been especially complicated because work is also underway to air condition Kingsville Elementary School, forcing teams to use other nearby parks.

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Miele passes jobs bill for veterans

(Updated 3/29/17)

- By Delegate Christian Miele (R-8) -

On March 18, the Maryland House of Delegates passed House Bill 349, the Hire Our Veterans Act of 2017, by a vote of 132–0.

The bill, introduced by Delegate Christian Miele (Legislative District 8), incentivizes small businesses to hire honorably discharged veterans in exchange for a tax credit in an amount equal to 30 percent of up to the first $6,000 of the veteran’s wages.

This bipartisan legislation will not only help veterans re-enter the workforce and earn a living for their families, but allow Maryland’s small businesses to invest the savings from the earned tax credit in new equipment or in the expansion of their operations, creating even more jobs downstream.

“There are currently over 6,000 unemployed veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 living in Maryland,” said Miele. “These brave men and women not only risked their lives for you, me, and our families, but sacrificed precious time away from their own families in the defense of our nation. The very least we can do to honor their service is to provide them with opportunities for gainful employment here at home.”

Sanctuary and Home Act among bad bills passed in Annapolis

(Updated 3/29/17)

- By Delegate Bob Long (R-6) -

Last week was a tough week in Annapolis. Many good bills were passed, but some horrible bills were also passed through the House of Delegates. I have received many phones calls from frustrated constituents that HB 1362 “The Sanctuary State” bill passed through the House. Let me state that I voted against this bill.

Members of the House still decided to pass this bill a few days after the story broke about a 14-year-old Rockville girl that was allegedly raped by an undocumented immigrant.

This bill would prevent state and local law enforcement from working with federal immigration officials (ICE) seeking illegal felons and also people who the Department of Homeland Security claims is a threat. I am outraged this piece of legislation passed. I fought on the floor with other Republicans to stop this piece of bad legislation and I will continue to fight to protect the people of my District and this State.

Governor Hogan said he would veto the bill once it hit his desk. When the Governor vetoes the bill, I will stand with the Governor to stop and fight to stop this bad piece of legislation.

Another bad bill that was passed last week was HB 172 -The Home Act. This bill would alter the rules of the Federal Section 8 Housing Voucher Program where landlords would not be able to discriminate against a person’s source of income. I voted against this bill. I believe that this would adversely affect our district and our community.

There was a similar bill introduced in the Baltimore County Council last year, but the council defeated the bill 6 to 1.  I spoke on the floor regarding this same issue and how the Baltimore County Council defeated the County Council Bill. I also requested that it be left up to each local jurisdiction how to deal with this issue. We will also continue to fight against this bad piece of legislation.

Unfortunately, my bill HB 751 was voted unfavorable in Baltimore County Delegation. This bill would have increased eligibility for more people to receive the Homeowner’s Tax Credit; this would have raised the income restrictions to $72,000.00 and also the net worth.

I have some good news to share in the House of Delegates as three of my bills passed through the House and they are over in the Senate:

* HB 1323 would allow a property tax credit in revitalization districts in local jurisdictions throughout the State. This would create a property tax credit for homeowners that made any improvements on their primary residence that would result in their property tax assessment to be reassessed at a higher value which would create higher property tax;

* HB 750 would modify the current property tax credit for disabled law enforcement officers, rescue workers or the spouse of a fallen law enforcement officer or rescue worker in Baltimore County;

* HB 1253 would help the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with the removal of Abandoned Vessels in our water ways, local tributaries throughout the State.

We will keep a watch out for those bills and give an update once session is over. Also, we want to invite the community to our two Post Session Town Hall Meetings. The first is at the Victory Villa Community Center in Middle River on Wednesday, April 12, from 6 - 8 p.m. and the second will be held at the North Point Public Library on Thursday, April 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. We will discuss the 2017 session.

Construction contracts approved for new Honeygo Elementary School

(Updated 3/22/17)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -

On March 21, the Baltimore County Board of Education approved construction contracts that will advance the new Honeygo area elementary school. That school, the first one built in Perry Hall in a quarter-century, will be constructed on land located near the intersection of Joppa and Chapel Roads.

The $45.6 million project is expected to open in the fall of 2018. It will enroll an estimated 700 students.

I thank the School Board and my colleagues on the Baltimore County Council for their support. This elementary school will reduce overcrowding at Perry Hall’s schools that will, in some cases, surpass 40 percent by 2018. At the same time, we need to continue to press for a strategy to relieve overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle and High schools.

Julie Henn, an at-large member of the Board of Education appointed by Governor Hogan, commented, “I am very pleased that the board has moved forward on the construction of the new northeast elementary school, which is scheduled to open for the 2018-2019 school year. We will continue to push for a solution for area middle and high school needs.”

Periodic Update: Paid sick leave strains small business

(Updated 3/15/16)

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

Legislation (HB 1) to require businesses with more than 15 employees to provide paid sick leave was recently approved by the House of Delegates. I voted against that bill last year, and again voted no in 2017.

There is no way around it - paid sick leave hurts small business. Small business has always been the engine of job creation. The ADP National Employment Report shows that in 2015, small business created more than double the new jobs compared with large business. Small business, defined as those with under 50 employees, created 75,000 jobs to the 34,000 jobs created by big business. We cannot expect small business to keep producing new jobs at the current rate if government keeps burdening it with requirements like paid sick leave.

Many have characterized paid sick leave as another nail in the coffin of small business. I agree. Only seven states and the District of Columbia offer paid sick leave (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington).

It can neither be denied, nor glossed over, that passage of the paid sick leave bill will have a significant impact on small business.  Based on U.S. Census data, the Department of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 1.9 million employees work for Maryland employers with 15 or more employees.

Approximately 20,000 businesses have at least 15 employees and would be required to provide paid sick leave. Fewer than 20 percent of businesses in the state have 15 or more employees, however, these businesses employ 86 percent of the workers.

It should be obvious that when government starts chipping away at small business' bottom line, the business owner tightens his/her belt. And part of that belt tightening is pulling back from hiring additional employees.

We are a part-time legislature. We each bring our own expertise and experiences to this legislature. Having grown-up in a small business that would have been negatively impacted by this bill, I have to use my knowledge and my experiences to make a decision. While my parents would have loved to provide this benefit to their employees, they simply could not afford it. I think there are many business owners in Maryland who share that opinion.

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

As county executive, McDonough would enforce immigration law

(Updated 3/2/17)

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

As a candidate for Baltimore County Executive, if elected, I pledge that one of my top priorities will be to enforce the Federal Immigration Act. In fact, on my first day in office, I will abolish all sanctuary policies. As soon as possible, I will sign a contract with the Federal Immigration authorities to operate the 287G anti crime program which will bring federal funding to the county.

In all of my years in the General Assembly, I have been fighting against the illegal immigration advocates. Our state has become a Disneyland for illegals who are receiving free rides and benefits. State taxpayers are forced to pay over $1 billion to educate, medicate and incarcerate the so-called new Marylanders.

Baltimore County, which is suffering from declining neighborhoods and growing poverty, has become a victim. MS-13 and other violent gangs have settled into some of our neighborhoods to hustle heroin and other drugs. Mexico is the main source of heroin coming through our borders.

Now the times have changed. The age of amnesty, promoted by Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, has finally come to an end. There is a new sheriff in town who will enforce the law.

On Jan. 25, President Trump issued an executive order that will accomplish the following:

  • Hire 10,000 immigration agents
  • Hire 5,000 border agents
  • Contracts are already being negotiated to build the wall.
  • Illegal immigrants who abuse the public welfare programs will now be included with criminal illegals as a top priority.
  • An end to Obama’s “catch and release” policy
  • Eliminate President Obama’s order prohibiting private correction centers so that more illegal immigrants can be detained
  • Finally, a serious and aggressive war on sanctuary policies will be put into place and their jurisdictions including fines and loss of federal revenue will be initiated.
Although the rest of Maryland may be a sanctuary hotbed, I want Baltimore County to be a place where citizens and real immigrants can reside in peace and will be protected by the rule of law.

Delegate Grammer revives foreclosure reform

(Updated 3/1/17)

- By Delegate Robin Grammer (R-6) -

Hopes of addressing the vacant housing epidemic in Baltimore County were revived on Feb. 17 as Delegate Robin Grammer passed a foreclosure reform bill through a key legislative committee.

The issue of abandoned and vacant properties has cascaded into a multitude of community issues. These houses are abandoned, which leads to high grass, property neglect and dumping. These are key signs of a vulnerable property for squatters, drug dealers and copper thieves.

A few days prior to the vote, several community leaders released a video of a tour through one such vacant house. The video revealed the all too typical problems with these blighted properties: rat infestations, dumping on the property and drug needles scattered throughout the house. Theft of all the copper on the property left the sump pump disabled, endangering the neighboring houses.

The issue stems from foreclosure law changes that occurred between 2008 and 2012 that have left community leaders and elected officials with no legal recourse to take action on a vacant and abandoned property for sometimes three or more years.

Cliff O’Connell of Essex, who volunteers his personal time and efforts cleaning up vacant houses in local communities, joined Delegate Grammer in Annapolis to testify on this issue. They shared powerful stories about these properties and provided media that detailed examples of how these houses are impacting our communities.

The Baltimore County Delegation passed the reform measure via a split vote in 2016. The Delegation passed House Bill 220 unanimously this year. The issue was put forward in 2016 but failed in the Senate.

The measure now moves to the policy committee, Environment and Transportation, which handles policies related to housing and foreclosure law.

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."

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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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.

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.

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.