Annapolis Report - Week 8

Cardin Annapolis Report

February 27, 2013 – Week Eight

This week the House began to take votes on some of the more controversial, higher profile issues of the Session. I want to highlight just a few that have resulted in significant correspondence to my office.

As an advocate for humane treatment of animals and landlord rights, I am pleased to say that HB 78, which creates a breed-neutral, rebuttable presumption of liability in dog bite cases,passed the House chamber by a vote of 133-0. After the disastrous Solesky Court of Appeals decision created strict liability for pit bull owners and landlords, the General Assembly worked diligently through last year’s special session and the interim to craft this compromise legislation, which I co-sponsored for which I voted. I believe that this bill protects all parties involved – dog owners, bite victims and property owners. I urge the Senate, where this legislation stalled last year, to pass this bill!

Last Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on two bills that seek to increase access to voting in Maryland. While the Governor’s bill (HB 224) is more expansive than mine (HB 242), both expand the franchise by allowing for same day voter registration during early voting. The impetus for allowing same day voter registration arose while Senator Jamie Raskin and I enjoyed an O’Doul’s last session at a local Annapolis tavern. With the knowledge that same day registration on Election Day requires a Constitutional Amendment, the Senator and I sought a more expeditious way to expand the franchise.

Attorney General Doug Gansler has issued an opinion stating that same day registration at early voting does not require a Constitutional Amendment, so while our State moves towards Election Day registration, same day registration for early voting goes a long way towards allowing any eligible voter to participate in the democratic process. With 16% of Maryland voters casting early ballots for the 2012 Presidential election, it is important that we streamline this process and provide access to those individuals who fail to register before the current deadline, which is three weeks prior to Election Day.

The Governor’s bill, specifically the provision providing for online ballot marking, is a major step to allow our senior citizens and individuals with developmental disabilities, those who otherwise may not be able to vote, the opportunity to exercise the franchise. I will be focusing on proper security measures and demanding important privacy rights to make sure the ballot marking meets muster.  Eliminating long lines and cutting down on the multi-hour waits many of us experienced during last year’s general election is another positive step resulting from the Governor’s and my bills. There is little more important in our democracy than allowing our citizens their right to vote. That right should never depend upon when that person shows up to vote.

Jon’s Featured Bill of the Week:

Healthy MD – HB 185 and HB 391

This week, I got positive news that the Health and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Appropriations Committee will likely move Delegate Susan Krebs Healthy Maryland bill (HB 391) to the House floor for a vote; a bill that closely mirrors HB 185, which I introduced. I am especially proud to say that this bill represents the strong bi-partisan relationship I have with a Republican. In Maryland, both sides really can and do work together to pass good legislation.

I have sponsored a Healthy Maryland bill for more than five sessions, so it is great to finally see this law stand a strong chance of passage, which will make Maryland healthier while saving us millions. Both HB 185 and 391 create pilot programs to monetarily incentivize Maryland State employees and their dependents to adopt healthier lifestyles such as weight loss, smoking cessation and chronic pain management. These programs are already in place and saving money in Canada, Texas, California and even Gaithersburg. As healthcare costs skyrocket without an end in sight, bold action is needed, and although this program does not solve the entire problem, it is an important step in the right direction.  We should make the bill stronger by including alternative medicine and financial incentives, and I expect such policies to come in due time.

Dates to Remember:

Following up on the success of our Campaign Finance Rally, I will host a rally for Cyberbullying Awareness and Action TODAY, Wednesday, February 27th at 11am on Lawyers’ Mall in Annapolis. According to the Attorney General, oversight of electronic communications is the new frontier of protection and safety. This rally and the associated bill -- HB 396, which reins in publicly posted cyberbullying substantiate the Attorney General’s important assessment. Too often, my constituents share with me their stories of public internet bullying and the brutal, sometimes fatal, effects bullying has on their lives. Please join me and many other advocates to speak out on this issue of fairness and safety.  I have been working closely with Judge Katie O’Malley and will be joined at the podium by Chris McComas, mother of Grace McComas, who was a fatal victim of cyberbullying.

Later today, I am excited to speak at this year’s Bicycle Symposium 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.

Wrapping up the week, I will join hundreds or even thousands of concerned citizens as I speak at the Rally to Prevent Gun Violence occurring at 10:30am on Friday March 1 at Lawyers’ Mall in Annapolis. I am honored to share the podium with the Governor and Lt. Governor for this important cause. Please find the event's flyer here, and join us on Friday!

Finally, both chambers are discussing solutions to the deficiencies in transportation funding. I have begun to look into ways to guarantee funding both to local transportation needs and essential mass transit projects.