Each year the Montgomery County Sentinel previews the annual meeting of the state legislature by asking members of the county delegation, both senators and delegates, what they think the big issues will be facing them once they get to Annapolis.
This year we asked them what’s the most important issue faces the legislature, what three bills they’d like to see introduced and passed.
Finally we asked them if they’d support or if they thought state taxes should be raised.
We will present the answers during the next several weeks:
Del. Kumar Barve (D-17)
Chairman of the state House Environment and Transportation Committee, his number one issue is actually based on law and order.
“The most important issue is gun violence prevention,” said Barve. “We need to take a hard look at our already strong Maryland laws. To start I am cosponsoring legislation to prevent individuals on the terrorism no-fly list from purchasing guns.”
Barve, now serving in his 25th year in the General Assembly, said the other two bills hewould like to see introduced and passed includerenewing Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction law to comply with the new federal Clean Power Plan and prohibiting confederate flag state license plates.
“We should not raise any taxes this year,” added Barve.
Del. Al Carr Jr. (D-18)
“I think there is going to be a big focus on justice issues,” Carr said.
Carr said he would like to see a bill that will aid the middle class by putting a 5 percent cap on the property tax assessments.
“Currently in Maryland, it’s been difficult to get new bike lanes built,” Carr said.
Carr is in favor of a bill that will increase pedestrian safety by building new bike lanes. He said he will be introducing a bill to change the days of early voting from Thursday to Sunday.
“The estate tax cut I would like to see reversed,” Carr said.
Delegate Marc Korman (D-16)
“For the first time in about eight years, the budget situation is actually stable, and the current fiscal year and next fiscal year are showing surpluses,” Korman said. “But I expect the governor to continue to act as though the budget situation is dire in order to create the conditions for a future proposed tax cut.”
Korman said he would like additional school construction funding for the County. “There are different proposals to do, which include increasing a special grant for schools with high rates of growth that we established last year or setting up a new bond approach similar to a deal Baltimore received a few years ago,” Korman said.
He said he would like to see his legislation HB1211 passed this year, which requires up to a 72-hour public notice before the Board of Public Works makes any cuts.
“I would also like to see my legislation related to energy storage pass,” Korman said.
He said he does not see the need for a tax increase this year.
Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-15)
He said drunken driving is an important issue this legislative session.
Fraser-Hidalgo said he would like to see the Ignition Interlock Program and the dram shop law legislation, which will be reintroduced by Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-15).
He said he would like to see legislation for funding construction to introduced and passed.
He said the dram shop law legislation is a third bill he’d like to see passed this year.
“I’m pretty apprehensive to tax increases,” Fraser-Hidalgo said.
Del. Shane Robinson (D-39)
Robinson felt that the most important issue for the Montgomery County delegation is the County’s economic development.
“I’m in favor of Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Leave,” Robinson said, because working families cannot take off sick days without pay. “Those two bills are similar in that they both give families more flexibility to attain to more important needs.”
Robinson also supports the bill for the Ignition Interlock Program, which makes it mandatory for a Breathlyzer device to be placed in a car. “I think it’s a safety issue,” Robinson said, feeling that such a device will protect the driver and the community.
“I don’t know we have to raise taxes this year,” Robinson said. “We brought in more revenue.”
Del. David Moon (D-20)
Moon said an issue to focus on during the legislative session is police brutality.
“A lot of forms we’re contemplating on police brutality have to do with after brutality happens. I would like to add to discussion (how to) prevent brutality.”
Moon is working with other delegates on a bill to replace jail time for nonviolent crimes, such as cutting hair without a cosmetology license or practicing street gambling, with tickets.
“My goal is to take nonviolent offenders out of the prison system to the maximum extent possible,” said Moon.
He opposes most taxes with two exceptions: a tobacco tax and a tax on gas.
“It’s best to increase it when gas prices are plummeting,” said Moon about the gas tax.
Del. Aruna Miller (D-15)
The most important issue in the upcoming legislative session will be the budget, said Miller.
“One of the most important things to our democracy is to make sure our citizens vote,” said Miller about automatic voter registration.
She is going to write a bill with Kathleen Dumais to close a loophole for convicts to be able to purchase antique and replica firearms.
Miller said she did not think Maryland needed to raise taxes because the state retains a AAA bond rating, there is $800 million in the rainy-day fund and because Maryland continues to decrease its structural deficit.
“For this reason, I don’t think it’s necessary to increase taxes because fiscally we seem to be on a good standing right now,” said Miller.
Del. Bonnie Cullision (D-19)
Cullision said the delegation’s most important issue this year is the budget because the delegation needs to figure out how to fund social programs such as education.
Cullision said she would like to see the End of Life Options legislation introduced and passed this year because the bill allows people to choose when to end their life when they do not have a long life expectancy.
She said she is the lead sponsor on a bill that will allow Medicare recipients to choose their supplemental health program without “any hurdles or barriers.”
Cullision said she would also like to see earned sick leave introduced and passed because people can earn sick leave if they or a family member were to become ill.
She said people who earn more than $200,000 a year would see an increase in taxes if taxes were to be increased.
“I’d prefer to see if we can raise revenues in other ways,” Cullision said. She said the state has a AAA Bonding and borrowing more money to fund capital projects increases jobs, therefore increasing tax revenue.
Sen. Roger Manno (D-19)
Manno said the economy and job creation together will be the most important issue in the upcoming legislative session. “With large numbers of people and families and retirees struggling to recover from the recession, government should be working to get people back to work and level the playing field to create greater economic security for everyone,” said Manno.
He prefiled the Universal Voter Registration Act, which would automatically register anyone who is eligible to vote, but first the state must find the people who are eligible to vote.
“Our bill looks at the Affordable Care Act, social service agencies and the Department of Motor Vehicles (and) other records in order to identify the largest number of voters who are eligible to vote” said Manno.