Annapolis Report - Week 3

Annapolis Report

January 23, 2013 – Week Three

This week Governor O’Malley released his fiscal year 2014 budget. This session’s budget comes in at $37.3 billion, a 3.3% increase from last year, while closing the structural budget deficit from nearly $2 billion to $166 million without raising taxes or fees for the first time during the Governor’s six years in office.

The Governor called this session’s budget a “jobs budget” because it creates 43,000 jobs in Maryland. The budget, which includes $336 million for school construction, maintains the existing 4-year college tuition freeze, increases tax credits for biotechnology, cyber security and Maryland film industry development. It also increases funding for green energy, cancer research, police training and road maintenance.

Close to my heart, the budget includes $1 million for the Hillel Center for Social Justice at the University of Maryland to build a new facility, $75,000 to fund treatment and prevention of elder abuse, $150,000 to continue funding Northwest Hospital’s award winning domestic violence prevention program and $275,000 for the Maryland Israel Development Center who has done a great job bringing jobs and technology into Maryland.  While I am not as optimistic as the governor about job creation, I applaud him for what will certainly be a very good start to significant recovery numbers.

Jon’s Featured Bill of the Week:  Mental Health Registration Fee

Last week, I proposed a new and aggressive piece of firearms-related legislation. It creates an annual mental health fee on all registered firearms (hunting rifles and law enforcement weapons exempted). The revenues are dedicated to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to fully fund mental health interventions; and the policy will also help fund targeted law enforcement efforts to reduce gun violence and illegal handgun ownership. Right now, it is easier to access guns than mental health treatment. That is unacceptable.

This bill goes to the heart of the NRA’s and other gun proponents’ arguments that gun violence is not caused by guns but rather by putting guns in the hands of the wrong people. In fact, the NRA specifically stated that their goal is not to limit access to guns, but rather to fully fund mental health programs.  This policy achieves both of the NRA’s goals. If gun proponents mean what they say, I challenge them to stand up and support this legislation!

In the days and weeks following the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I have received thousands of emails from anti-gun control activists. Unfortunately, I have received less than twenty emails from the silent majority that supports common sense gun control laws. If we allow the small but vocal group of anti-gun control activists to drown out our voices, I am not sure any meaningful legislation will be passed in Maryland or Washington. I urge you to stand up and make your voice heard on this vital issue of child and citizen safety.

An enthusiastic congratulations to our Baltimore Ravens is definitely in order to honor the hard work and sacrifice Ray Lewis and company have demonstrated on their way to New Orleans for the Superbowl! Thank you for making us proud to call ourselves Baltimoreans and Marylanders.

Finally, I want to wish heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Judith Karp for being honored for her twenty years of dedicated service and commitment to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the fight for blood cancer cures. I would also like to thank Sherrilyn Ifill for her exemplary service to the University Of Maryland Francis King Carey School Of Law and congratulate her for her appointment as President and Director-Council of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. I am confident she will continue the Legal Defense Fund’s tradition of excellence started by Thurgood Marshall in 1940.

Dates to Remember:  Voices for Meir Panim on February 10 at 7pm at the Hippodrome –Please come out and see me appear as a guest voice judge for this important cause. Meir Panim is raising $2.5 million to open the brand new Israel Nutrition Center in Kiryat Gat. It will be a fun night for a great cause!