Annapolis Report Week 10 - Moving Forward

It’s been a very busy week for my staff and me, including three bill hearings in two different committees on top of marathon hearings in my Ways and Means Committee.  Don’t forget that our crucial primary election is fast approaching, April 3.  Please see the last paragraph for more information!

On Tuesday, I advocated for two of my three bills pertaining to bicycle safety and infrastructure.  First, HB1178 is a legislative response to last year’s tragic death of 20 year-old Johns Hopkins student Nathan Krasnopoler.  While riding in the designated bicycle lane, wearing all appropriate safety gear and adhering to all applicable rules of the road, Nathan was struck by an 83 year-old driver and left trapped beneath the weight of the vehicle for nearly 20 minutes.  The driver neither called for help nor notified onlookers.  My bill, developed with the Krasnopoler family, would increase the points assessed to drivers convicted of failure to either provide or call for aid after an accident resulting in death or bodily injury.  Second, HB1278 would require each public institution of higher education to develop a “facility master plan” to address bicycle and pedestrian circulation on and near campus, including measures to incorporate existing infrastructure and to promote biking and walking on the campus.  My third bicycle safety-related bill will be heard in committee this Tuesday.  HB1397 would strengthen last year’s “3-Foot Rule” to allow drivers to pass cyclists and other non-cars on the roadways at a safe distance in an otherwise non-passing zone, under certain safe conditions.

On Thursday, I joined the Coalition for a Healthy Maryland advocating for HB1277, my bill to engage state employees in pre-approved health and fitness programs to combat chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, decrease state and individual health care expenses, and improve workforce productivity.  Unfortunately, policy analysts here in the General Assembly did not accurately calculate the millions of dollars of cost savings associated with this proactive policy, but I am working with the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee to make sure his committee understands the potential savings (millions!).  Along with the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business and the Maryland Athletic Club, I am proud to lead this important discussion.  Our Nation is spending billions of dollars on health-related expenses.  We can change this if we engage individuals with the opportunity to take ownership of their health and wellness.  Maryland can and should be a leader.

Led by my Election Law Subcommittee and guided by the recommendations of the Election Law Commission’s interim report, the House continues to lead the discussion on election reform in our state.  As chair of the subcommittee and a member of the commission, I am proud to shepherd these “good-government” bills through the chamber (even if they sometimes stall in the Senate).  A few bills which have passed the House but await voting in the Senate: Delegate Rosenberg’s Voter’s Rights Protection Act, Delegate Olszewski’s lump sum contribution limit bill, and my bill to allow U.S. citizens born overseas to vote in Maryland elections based on a parent’s residency status.  HB1103 would require the disclosure of employer and occupation information for campaign contributions above $500.  This important transparency measure will come to the House floor next week.  If passed, the bill would allow the public to know where a campaign’s contributions are coming from.  Maryland is one of only 14 states that do not collect this information for state elections.  Federal elections mandate disclosure of this information.

Regarding the Budget, on Wednesday night, the Senate approved a bill that would repeal a 15-year-old tax cut and raise the state income tax by .25%, and for those making above $500,000, increase the tax from 5.5% to 5.75% for every dollar earned.  This change would raise an additional $30 million in new revenue for aging schools.  The House will begin debating this and other proposals in the coming days.  I have grave concerns about the provisions in this revenue package.  I will likely raise my concern that this bill will encourage the last high-wage earners of Maryland to shield their income from Maryland taxes.  I love our state and believe it is a great place to live and invest.  Nonetheless, most people want to invest in their grandkids instead of their state, and if they have the resources, they will likely figure it out a way to do it.

We’ve still got a ways to go in our economic recovery, but we are on the right track.  Maryland’s unemployment rate fell to 6.5% – the lowest in three years and nearly two percentage points below the national rate, which is also declining.  Maryland employers added 39,800 jobs since January of last year, the most in 7 years.  32,600 of those jobs are in the private sector.  Maryland has now recovered 69% of the jobs lost during the recession.  We must work to keep this momentum going.

Finally, I would like to remind you all of the upcoming Democratic primary taking place on Tuesday, April 3, 2012.  I am proud to support the candidacy of my uncle, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin.  Senator Cardin has been a fierce advocate for the middle class, and a champion of our health and environment.  Every time I hear Ben speak I am reminded of how lucky we are to have him (and Senator Mikulski) representing our state in the U.S. Senate.  In an environment that can be so polarized, Ben is a voice of reason in Washington.  Somehow he finds a way to work across party lines to find a fair and balanced approach to getting things done.  This is a rare trait among elected officials these days.  Ben is facing 8 primary opponents this year.  He needs our support. Please mark April 3 on your calendar and cast your vote in the primary, or take advantage of early voting, which begins on March 24.  Click here for further information about voter registration. Click here to request an absentee ballot.

Jon S. Cardin