McDonough officially files as candidate for Baltimore County Executive
- By Del. Pat McDonough (R-7) -
Although I have been vigorously campaigning to become Baltimore County’s next executive, I made it official by filing for the office on Jan. 8. By becoming a formal candidate, I am eligible to raise funds while serving in the 2018 session for the Maryland General Assembly. The session convened on Jan. 10 and will conduct business for 90 days.
The Republican Primary is scheduled for June 26. My likely opponent, State Insurance Commissioner, Al Redmer, Jr., violated the state campaign finance law by engaging in fundraising during the 2017 General Assembly session. State law prohibits candidates for state office from conducting fundraising activities during the 90-day session. Mr. Redmer promoted fundraising activities for the re-election of Governor Larry Hogan, which is a state office, during the last session. As a result, Governor Hogan’s campaign committee was fined $250 because of Redmer’s violation.
I am a 20-year veteran of the House of Delegates. But I will be giving up a “safe seat” in the House in order to seek the Baltimore County Executive position. The county is moving in the wrong direction. Crime and poverty are on the rise. The Mexican heroin epidemic is out of control. I will impose zero tolerance against the crime and drug problems. I will prevent new Section 8 housing developments. My administration will address the faltering education system and crack down on violence and bullying in the school system. My campaign slogan is ‘Put People First.’ This means that we pledge to be open and accountable to all of the people of Baltimore County.”
The Democrat and Republican Primaries will be held on Tuesday, June 26. Early voting will occur two weeks prior to Election Day. The winners of these primaries will challenge each other in November in the 2018 general election. For additional information, contact me at 410-238-0025 or Patmcdee@comcast.net.
Delegate Grammer releases legislative agenda for 2018 session
- By Del. Robin Grammer (R-6) -
The 2018 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly convenes this week. The last three sessions have been marked by inordinate partisan attacks against Governor Hogan, and the looming elections will certainly magnify the political posturing. Despite that, I believe that we can advance legislation that will protect our communities and I wanted to take a few moments to talk about the issues I will be working on this session.
Baltimore County Public Schools Audit – I will be pushing for an audit of Baltimore County Public Schools in the Baltimore County Delegation as requested by several members of the Board of Education. For years, residents have questioned the relationships between county school officials and the companies who receive massive school contracts. Recent revelations exposed that local officials were not disclosing payments received for consulting work they were performing for the companies that received no-bid contracts from Baltimore County Public Schools. This is a clear conflict of interest that is shaking the people’s faith in our school system. The people deserve confidence in how their government spends their tax dollars and school officials should be held accountable.
Board of Education Transparency – Every authoritative body should be accountable. Currently, the Baltimore County Board of Education is not. The Board of Education is altering attendance policy, changing school boundaries and making budget decisions without any recorded vote. Nobody in Baltimore County knows how their representative is voting because there is no recorded vote. I will be sponsoring a bill to force the Board of Education to provide a recorded vote to the public every time the body takes action.
Developer Accountability – I will be sponsoring a bill to force negligent developers to obtain a surety bond before they can again participate in development in the State of Maryland. The owners of the Seagrams property perpetuated a nuisance to the detriment of the surrounding communities and at the cost of human life. A mandated surety bond will cover the cost of any remediation that may be necessary at a cost to developer, making them accountable for any problems, not the taxpayers, and ensuring they cannot again operate with disregard to the surrounding communities.
Crummy Contract Ejection – We have a trend in state procurement where the contract process is being exploited by businesses that are achieving a contract by bidding low and completely failing to deliver the services promised. This results in bad work, such as the shoddy grass mowing on Merritt and Eastern boulevards. I will be sponsoring a bill that allows a challenge to these contracts and allows the Board of Public works to throw out the contract so that our tax dollars are not going to waste.
Regional Water Authority – Although our district resides within Baltimore County, we are on the Baltimore City water system and our needs are subject to Baltimore City public services. With respect, this relationship has not served us well. Baltimore City has let its infrastructure falter and its residential repair service is very poor. I will be investigating the possibility of implementing a regional water authority so that Baltimore County residents have a stake and a say in authority over our water services.
Trashy Businesses Accountability – One recurring obstacle of our revitalization efforts is local businesses that are allowing their trash to accumulate, fester and blow across the community. This promotes rat infestations, damages our ability to attract new businesses and ultimately causes more trash to end up in our streams and waterways. I will be sponsoring legislation that will empower the Department of Health to suspend or even revoke the license of businesses that refuse to clean up their trash.
I will always fight to protect the communities of southeastern Baltimore County, and I will do my best to keep you informed of the issues that may arise over the next 90-day session. If there is a bill or topic of interest to you, please reach out to my office as I want to hear your comments and opinions.
Bevins wishes constituents a happy new year
- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -
Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. 2018 will be a busy year for the Baltimore County Council. At the first Council meeting of 2018, members elected Councilman Julian Jones as the new chairman of the Council. Councilman Jones is the first African-American chairman in Baltimore County history. It was an honor to vote for Councilman Jones and achieve this long-overdue milestone. I have worked closely with Councilman Jones for the past three years and I know him to be a hard worker and a man of the highest integrity. I look forward to working with Chairman Jones throughout 2018.
I will continue, as I always have, to focus on constituent services, resolving issues on behalf of the citizens and businesses in the Sixth District. Since being elected my office has assisted with 5,000 constituent issues and I will continue to advocate for constituents and communities in 2018. I will also continue to advocate for sound fiscal responsibility in the county, ensuring that taxpayers’ dollars are used in an efficient manner that serves the Sixth District.
I am proud of what we have accomplished together and I look forward to building on those accomplishments in 2018.
The 2018 General Assembly session: What to expect
- By Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) -
First on the 2018 Assembly agenda will be the governor's vetoes, which will be sustained or overridden. It takes 29 votes in the Senate and 85 votes in the House to override a veto. I will not vote to override the governor's vetoes. The bills the governor vetoed included:
*Paid Sick Leave: This bill harms small businesses by forcing employers with as little as 15 employees to provide five days of paid sick leave.
*Redistricting: This is a ridiculous bill which prohibits Maryland from redrawing congressional district lines unless five other states take similar action (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina).
*Ban the Box: This bill removes the space on college applications used for applicants to reveal their criminal history. Secondly, there will be several important items of legislation listed below to be considered.
Governor Hogan’s Paid Sick Leave Bill: This bill lessens the burden on small businesses because it requires businesses with 25 or more employees to provide paid sick leave and is phased in over a three-year period. It also excludes businesses that can prove the sick leave requirement would impose a significant financial burden.
The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act: This bill has the backing of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House. It provides that the mother of a child conceived by rape can take court action to terminate the rapist's parental rights. I have strongly supported and will continue to support this bill. The legislation also has the support of NARAL, the Maryland Catholic Conference, the governor, the attorney general and dozens of other organizations.
Truth in Sentencing: This bill lengthens the penalty for repeat violent offenders. It increases the minimum criminal penalty from five to 10 years without parole or probation. Repeat violent offenders will serve their full sentences without suspension, parole or probation. The legislation also includes stronger laws targeting gangs that would allow prosecutors to try cases across jurisdictional lines.
School Constructing Funding: This legislation will reduce overcrowding, repair old buildings and end the need for portable classrooms. It is welcomed legislation for the Sixth District. Accomplishing these goals will be done by designing, approving and building schools faster, reducing costs per student for new schools, incentivizing 21st century construction methods, and the conversion of old buildings into schools.
Expansion of the Hometown Heroes Act: Currently, the act exempts retired law enforcement, fire, rescue and emergency response workers from state income taxes on a portion of their retirement income. This bill will expand the law to cover correctional officers as well.
Military Retirement Income Exemption: I strongly support this legislation to exempt veterans' entire military retirement income from state and local income taxes. Current law exempts only the first $10,000 of military retirement income from state and local taxes. Pennsylvania is the only state that offers the full exemption from state and local taxes. I am hopeful Maryland will become the second state to do so.
Setting state standards for computer science training: The legislation is aimed at creating a more tech-savvy state workforce for the increasing number of technology jobs. Every year the need to prepare our high school graduates for the 21st century workplace becomes more apparent.
Curbing violent crime in Baltimore City: For the third consecutive year, murders in the city have risen above 300. Violent crime does not stop at the city/county boundary line. It spills over into the county. Steps must be taken now to address violent crime in the city, or it will inevitably become city and county violent crime.
Drug overdose epidemic: Cases of overdosing are growing faster than we can effectively combat them. In all, there were 1,029 opioid-related deaths in the first half of 2017; more than triple the number during the same period in 2012. We can expect legislation providing new ways to effectively combat this epidemic.
As you can see, this year’s legislation will be important in shaping the future of our state. As your representative, I need to hear from you. When the General Assembly opens on Jan. 10, I will be reporting on a weekly basis about the issues, legislation and results. I encourage you to get involved and let me know your opinion. Your voice matters. And as this year draws to an end and a new one begins, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Fullerton Plaza renovations to be done in spring
- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -
The Fullerton Plaza renovations are progressing and the Weis Market and fuel facility are on track to open in the spring of 2018. Façade improvements throughout the rest of the shopping center will be done by March.
Weis will occupy the area that was formerly a K-Mart store. The supermarket will have features not found in other Weis locations, including a 1,000-item produce department, a deli and café, an in-store sushi counter and a full-service pharmacy.
In addition to façade improvements, landscaping will be added throughout the parking area.
Built in the 1970s, the shopping center is located at the Baltimore Beltway and Belair Road.
When I met with community leaders from the South Perry Hall and Rossville areas, they were enthusiastic about the thought of renovating this aging shopping center. I would like to thank Kimco Realty, the owner of the center, for keeping me informed, and I want to again salute the improvements they did to protect the Stemmers Run stream behind the shopping center.
Periodic Update: The 2018 General Assembly Session Preview
- By Del. Eric Bromwell (D-8) -
When the 2018 General Assembly convenes on Jan. 10, the first order of business will be three bills approved during the 2017 session and vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan.
1) Redistricting Reform, which allows an independent panel to draw congressional district lines if five other states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina) join Maryland in a Mid Atlantic Regional Compact and take similar redistricting action.
2) "Ban the Box" in college admissions applications in Maryland removes the space on college applications used for the applicant to divulge his or her criminal history record.
3) Paid Sick Leave, which requires businesses with 15 or more employees to provide five days of paid sick leave.
The governor has proposed his own sick leave legislation. He views his proposal as a compromise that will not overburden small businesses. The bill requires businesses with 25 or more employees to offer paid sick leave. The benefit will be phased in over a three-year period. I do not support any legislation that forces businesses to provide paid sick leave as I feel that it places an undue financial burden on small businesses.
Leaders of both Houses of the Assembly have pledged to secure approval for The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act. The legislation provides that the mother of a child conceived by rape can take court action to terminate the rapist's parental rights. This is law in most states and is supported by The Maryland Catholic Conference, NARAL, the Maryland Attorney General, the governor and more than 30 other organizations. Last year, the legislation passed both houses, but died in conference committee.
Gun control legislation in the form of a ban on bump stocks, the device that turns a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic weapon, will be debated in 2018. Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock used bump stocks to make his rapid-fire assault possible, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds. Supporters of the legislation emphasize that the only purpose of bump stocks is to make killing more people possible.
Harsher sentences for repeat violent offenders: Governor Hogan plans to introduce emergency legislation calling for tougher sentencing for repeat offenders who commit a felony using a gun. The legislation will increase the minimum criminal penalty from five to 10 years without parole or probation. The legislation also makes repeat violent offenders serve their full sentences without suspension, parole or probation. Additionally, the legislative package includes stronger laws targeting gangs that would allow prosecutors to try cases across jurisdictional lines. Governor Hogan regards these bills as part of a crime fighting package to stem violence in Baltimore City and statewide.
A school construction funding bill will be introduced to reduce overcrowding, repair old buildings and end the need for portable classrooms. The legislation hopes to accomplish this by designing, approving and building schools faster, reducing costs per student for new schools and incentivizing 21st-century construction methods. According to the Department of Education, 65,297 students are in temporary classrooms, such as trailers. It is projected that there is $23.3 billion in statewide school construction needed by fiscal year 2023, which is unaffordable given current spending. However, those who support this bill emphasize the conversion of old buildings into schools and other similar strategies, allowing for the number of school construction projects to increase by 50 percent at no additional cost by just reducing the average cost per student.
Legislation to exempt veterans' military retirement income from state and local income taxes will make another try for passage. Under a 2015 law, a retiree can exempt the first $10,000 of military retirement income from state and local taxes. The five-year cost to the state of the full exemption would be about $100 million. Pennsylvania is the only state that offers the full exemption from state and local taxes.
The governor wants to expand the Hometown Heroes Act to cover correctional officers. The 2017 Hometown Heroes Act exempts retired law enforcement and fire, rescue and emergency response personnel from state income taxes on a portion of their retirement income, but does not currently include correctional officers.
There are certain to be proposals introduced to combat the crippling heroin overdose epidemic raging here in Maryland and nationwide. In 2016, drug overdoses killed 64,000 people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a 20-percent increase over 2015. State data shows that fentanyl-related deaths soared to 799 by June 2017, compared with 469 fentanyl deaths in the first half of 2017. In all, there were 1,029 opioid-related deaths in the first half of 2017. That's more than triple the number during the same period in 2012.
Setting state standards for computer science training in public schools will be the objective of legislation for the purpose of creating a more tech-savvy state workforce. The state needs a well-trained workforce for the increasing number of technology jobs. There's broad agreement on the need to teach computer science and coding in our public schools in order to prepare today's graduates for today's jobs.
Look for legislation to expand job creation tax credits. Currently, the tax break is funded by $9 million annually and applies to areas hard-hit by unemployment, specifically Western Maryland, Baltimore and the Eastern Shore. The legislation will put $15 million more per year into the program and allow companies in Caroline, Kent, Wicomico and Garrett counties to apply for the tax credit. Each county will pick three industries to be eligible for the credit, which currently applies only to manufacturers.
We can expect debate on legislation to curb rising violent crime in Baltimore City. Before the end of the year, city homicides rose to 300 for the third consecutive year. City crime spills over its borders into Baltimore County. Bringing these horrendous numbers down should be a high priority for the state.
When the 2018 General Assembly convenes, I will be reporting to you on a week-to-week basis about the introduction, debate and fate of the legislation introduced as well as the governor's budget and other topics of interest to you.
Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding any issue of concern. As always, I encourage and welcome your input. In the meantime, I want to wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!
Councilman David Marks honors Fifth District Citizens of the Year
- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -
Through their hard work and volunteerism on behalf of their communities, six Fifth District residents have earned the designation of Citizens of the Year from my office. The recognition honors individuals who have made a difference in improving their communities.
- Jack Amrhein and Karen Harms, president and vice president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association, for their years of advocacy on behalf of the oldest community organization in northeastern Baltimore County.
- Susan Goodman, a Campus Hills resident who has long volunteered with Turning Pages, which promotes family reading at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
- Carol Newill, a member of the Green Towson Alliance who has led efforts to develop a vision for Radebaugh Neighborhood Park.
- David Riley, president of the Knollwood Association, who this summer chaired a task force that recommended improvements to the Herring Run green space east of Towson High School.
- Gill Thompson, for his work establishing the Helping Hands Food Pantry at Salem United Methodist Church in Kingsville.
Since 2011, I have recognized men and women who have made an outstanding difference in their community. I would like to thank these individuals for their work in 2017 which is making our district a better place to live.
Each recipient of this honor will receive a County Council resolution.
Do the right thing for our veterans
- By Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) -
Veterans are special people. When a man or women enlists in the military, they put their lives on the line. They know that in serving their country their lives may be dramatically changed by the scars of battle, wounds both visible and invisible. They know that military service may cost them their lives. Military service is a line of work like no other. The dangers are ever present and real.
As citizens of this great country, we can not thank our veterans enough for their service. As a state senator, one way I have tried to thank our veterans is by introducing legislation to exempt Maryland veterans' military retirement income from the state income tax. The bill has not been approved by the General Assembly. I am going to re-introduce the legislation in the upcoming 2018 session.
Exempting Maryland's more than 50,000 veterans from taxation on their military retirement income has the support of Governor Larry Hogan. In fact, the governor has announced he also plans to re-introduce his legislation to exempt military retirement income from state and local taxes. I will wholeheartedly support the governor's bill. As it should, the governor's proposal will take precedence over my bill.
The Department of Legislative Services puts the five-year price tag on the veterans' tax exemption at about $100 million. That's a substantial amount of money. And I am a strong conservative when it comes to spending the taxpayers' money. But when you think about the hundreds of billions of dollars in state spending, the cost of the veterans' tax exemption is a relatively minor expense.
Under current Maryland law, the first $10,000 of military retirement can be exempted from state and local taxes. Like Maryland, most states that tax income have partial exemptions for military retirement pay. But we should do more.
The veterans' tax exemption is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats support the bill. As a matter of fact, former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown was a strong supporter of the veterans' tax exemption.
Exempting state taxation of veterans' military retirement income is the right thing to do. I am hopeful that the 2018 Maryland General Assembly will do the right thing.