Annapolis Report - Final, End of Session
The 430th Session of the Maryland General Assembly has come to a close. As has been true in years past, it was an honor and a pleasure to represent my constituents in the House of Delegates. I am encouraged by our progress this year amidst the many difficult issues we were tasked with addressing. My teammates Bobby Zirkin, Dan Morhaim, and Dana Stein, Speaker Mike Busch, and Governor Martin O’Malley, among others, contributed to the success of this challenging session. Our hard work brought us to many sensible compromises on various difficult issues encompassed in the budget and beyond, but as the clock struck midnight on Sine Die, the General Assembly ran out of time to pass its comprehensive budget package. This is the first time since 1992 that the legislature failed to finish its work in the 90-day session, raising the question of whether Governor O’Malley will call a special session. Nevertheless, please enjoy this discussion of some of our successes and failures, and a list of legislative highlights.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
This session’s primary focus and concern was rebuilding Maryland’s economy. While the economy is recovering and our state unemployment rate remains among the nation’s lowest, we all continue to feel the effects of the downturn. Without doubt, this has been the most challenging budgeting process in which I have participated. While deliberating over the difficult choices presented by our budget, I tried my best to achieve balance: fiscal restraint without sacrificing the quality of life and all that makes Maryland unique. I fought to ensure that our public education system remains the best in the country, that we preserve the highest- paid workforce nationally, and that we maintain adequate transportation infrastructure and a clean environment. While it’s not perfect, I believe the budget represents a reasonable compromise from which to build upon as our economy continues to improve.
It was a privilege to vote in favor of the Civil Marriage Protection Act. This law grants every Marylander the full measure of respect, clarity, and security provided by civil marriage, while ensuring that religious groups still have exclusive control and protection of their theological practices and doctrines. Opponents are expected to petition this legislation to a popular referendum vote in November. I remain committed to achieving equal protection for all Marylanders and congratulate most of my colleagues for handling this issue civilly and respectfully.
As the Chairman of the House Election Law Subcommittee, I continued to oversee efforts to improve transparency and accountability in state and local elections. The U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision has undermined the integrity of our electoral system, allowing special interests to anonymously give unlimited, often untraceable
contributions to benefit candidates and perhaps even decide elections. This ruling has strengthened my resolve to fight for transparency in Maryland’s elections. To that end, I championed several bills which would increase voting accessibility, including electronic voter registration, improved facility for overseas military voting for citizens abroad, and combating voter suppression. I also presented the interim report of the Campaign Finance Commission and managed a vetting of numerous voter ID bills.
At the outset of the session I carefully monitored the redistricting process to ensure fairness in our deliberations. The new District 11 lines generally consolidate Pikesville, Owings Mills, much of Reisterstown, and Lutherville—a pragmatic compromise. I hate for the 11th District to say goodbye to northern and western parts of the district, but I will continue to represent the interests of all members of our community to the best of my abilities.
We passed various important environmental bills this session, including legislation to protect and improve Maryland’s precious water resources and oversee the safety of natural gas drilling. Because fiscal responsibility was a paramount concern in this session, we passed legislation to ensure that those who pollute (not taxpayers) pay for the environmental damage they cause.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “distrust and caution are the parents of security.” With hydraulic fracturing coming to Maryland, understanding the probable consequences of “fracking” before giving the natural gas industry the green light to exploit our resources is vital to our state’s public health and environmental integrity. To that end, the General Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to the completion of the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Study by raising supporting funds through industry licensing fees. I am proud of the foresight demonstrated by our enacting proactive public health and environmental protections.
I remain committed to promoting safety and accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians in Maryland. This year, I led efforts to build upon the 3-Foot Rule, increase accountability for drivers involved in bicycle accidents, and promote biking access and infrastructure at state universities. Such policies reduce our environmental impact, ease transportation congestion, and improve health and quality of life.
As a practicing lawyer, I do my best to work with the Judiciary Committee and Leadership to address constitutional concerns that arise each year. Furthermore, numerous issues presented this year required legal perspectives. Among those was a decision of the Court of Appeals that required legislation to assure that adequate representation is offered at bail reviews, while not draining the system’s resources. Another bill reassesses penalties for possession of marijuana, especially important as we move closer to allowing prescriptive uses to help people with terminal cancers and other severe ailments. I am humbled to be able to offer my legal expertise when appropriate, and I applaud my House colleagues for such frequent collaboration.
Thank you to those of you who shared your thoughts and concerns with my staff and
me throughout the year. From Maintenance of Effort to taxes, I endeavored to confront each issue comprehensively, and to keep you updated on legislative developments through my weekly Annapolis Reports. Although the 2012 legislative session has ended, I always welcome your feedback. Please visit joncardin.com and my Facebook page to share your thoughts and help me to best represent you in Annapolis. I look forward to continuing to serve our community.
Jon S. Cardin