Annapolis Report - Week 5

Cardin Annapolis Report

February 8, 2013 – Week Five

Last week, Governor O’Malley delivered his seventh annual State of the State address. While there is always have progress to be made, Governor O’Malley passionately and effectively argued to the legislature that the state of the State is strong. One notable statement was that “[n]o other state can say at once, that they are #1 in education five years in a row, #1 in holding down the cost of college tuition, #1 in innovation and entrepreneurship, #1 in human capital capacity, #1 in access to dental care for all children, #1 in PHD scientists and researchers, #1 in research and development, #1 in businesses owned by women and #1 in median family income.” While I am thrilled that Maryland is and likely always will be a leader in so many areas, including medical and technological innovation and education, I continue to worry that undisciplined spending and onerous regulations bog down economic growth. 

On an unrelated note, we have seen a suspiciously low number of bills introduced this year. By this time in session, an average of 1500-2500 bills have typically been thrown in the hopper, but this year we have just over 700. The filing deadline is this Friday, and I expect a rush to the clerk’s office later this week.

Jon’s Featured Bills of the Week: EZ Pass Toll Violation Collection

Late last year, the Washington Post reported that the Maryland Transportation Authority has left more than $6 million in EZ Pass toll violations uncollected. In an effort to shine light on MTA’s efforts to collect these fines and to document the results of their efforts, I introduced House Bill 198, which required the State to report how much money from EZ Pass toll violations went uncollected by the State and what efforts were made to collect that money.

Through diligent work and negotiations with the MTA, they have agreed to increase the transparency of their EZ Pass violation collection program without passing this legislation. MTA has agreed to post their efforts to collect fines and the amounts of uncollected fines on its website. They will also provide an update on toll collection activities during the 2014 Session. I always prefer to achieve public policy without the need for passing legislation. Government works best when State agencies understand the concerns of the citizenry and then work with interested parties and legislators to address the needs of the people without legislative action.

Election Law Reform Bills

Next Thursday, February 7, 2013, the Ways and Means committee in which I am a member will hear a number of election law related bills. My bill, House Bill 196, which allows voting by mail in special elections is one of those bills. Voting by mail will save the State millions of dollars by limiting the amount of election centers and poll workers in special elections.

Other proposed bills by Delegate Rosenberg will expand the amount of time allowed for early voting while increasing the amount of early voting centers. I watched too many citizens wait for three hours or more to exercise the franchise last early voting period, and this is unacceptable. While I have concerns that expanding early voting may be less than equitable for the smaller jurisdictions, I believe that my Committee will work out these concerns and pass a bill that allows anyone who desires to vote early to do so in a manner that encourages more people to vote.

In addition, at the Campaign Finance Reform Rally I am holding tomorrow, I will be discussing the comprehensive finance reform bill that I will be introducing based on the recommendations of the Campaign Finance Commission on which I served along with Delegates Michael Summers and Ron George.   

Gun Safety Update

As anti-gun control emails continue to pour into my inbox, I am still concerned about the lack of correspondence from gun safety advocates. While the voices of gun control advocates are conspicuously silent, I want to thank Attorney General Doug Gansler for convening a forum on gun violence held Monday at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School Of Law, which highlighted many of the upcoming firearms bills as well as the important issue of illegal gun use in Baltimore and around the State. It is important to continue having these frank and rational conversations about what realistically can and cannot be done to keep our children and citizens safe from gun violence.

Finally, a thank you to our Baltimore Ravens is in order for bringing the Lombardi trophy back to Baltimore! Their improbable run through the playoffs captivated the entire State and their perseverance in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to us all.

Dates to Remember:

Join me, Delegate Rosenberg, Delegate Bobo, Senator Benson, Senator Ferguson and many other elected officials as well as invited guests Common Cause, Public Citizen, the League of Women Voters and other good government groups for a Campaign Finance and Election Law Reform Rally on Tuesday February 7th at 11am on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis. The rally will highlight the numerous voter access and campaign finance reform laws coming before my committee this Session. Some of these important measures include closing the LLC loophole, expanding early voting dates and voting centers and creating a system of public funding for certain State elections. I am very excited about this opportunity to share my passions with you, so please come out and join us!

I am also excited to announce this year’s Bicycle Symposium on February 24th from 9am to 4pm in the Miller Senate Building. The symposium includes presentations by infrastructure and planning experts as well as the opportunity to meet with decision makers and other bicycle enthusiasts. I will be speaking at 11:45am just after Howard County Executive Ken Ulman addresses the symposium.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who contributed and participated in the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge this past weekend. Special Olympics Maryland raised over $2.8 million and my Maryland State Bar Association team contributed more than $10,000 to help those special athletes in our midst. Check out this great YouTube video of me, Governor O’Malley, Delegates Aruna Miller and Herb McMillan and Olympic gold medalist Kimmie Meissner all taking the plunge!