Legislative Session Coming To A Close

In lieu of this week’s Opening Thoughts by a JT editor or reporter, Baltimore Jewish Council’s Cailey Locklair provides a legisl

As the 2013 legislative session comes to a close, we are pleased to report the progress we made for our community this year. We believe all of our items will remain in the budget and that we advanced our priority policy issues and weighed in on many issues of concern to our community with our coalition partners.

This year’s Iran sanctions bill unanimously passed both the House and Senate. We expect the bills to pass the respective houses after bills cross over, as well. We look forward to Gov. Martin O’Malley signing into law the strongest possible sanctions allowed by federal law. We want to thank him and his team for their dedication on this issue, as well as our lead sponsors on the bills, Delegate Dan Morhaim and Sen. Jim Rosapepe.

Unfortunately, the kosher wine bill did not make it out of the House Economic Matters Committee. In subcommittee, we amended the bill to make it more palatable, as there were many concerns from committee members and opposition. The amended bill would allow a consumer to order kosher wine from a retailer, online or out of the state. The retailer would ship to a wholesaler who would deliver the product to the store. We plan on pursuing this bill again next year and are pleasantly surprised by the support we received from a
majority of the House of Delegates. Delegate Sam Arora was an excellent lead sponsor on the bill and is to be commended for his hard work and time spent on this issue.

The governor’s gun package was debated on the Senate floor recently, and the House debate will happen shortly. Individuals came out from all over the state to weigh in on this issue. The Senate hearings drew more than 1,500 individuals who wanted to testify, and the House hearings went until 3:45 in the morning.

We have had the opportunity to weigh in on many issues with our coalition partners — the Maryland Interfaith Legislative Committee, the Maryland Alliance for the Poor, Welfare Advocates, Maryland Senior Citizens Action Network and Energy Advocates. Legislative issues ranged from consumer protections to helping vulnerable populations such as children, seniors and the poor. Our voice as a collective part of these coalitions ensures our community’s concerns on many different issues are heard and furthers the pursuit of tikkun olam.

Operating budget decisions were made by respective committees midway through March, and budget bills passed both the House and Senate. Bill differences will be discussed in conference committee shortly. Our $1.1 million increase to textbooks and technology funding was cut from the House budget but remained in on the Senate side with the help of Sen. Ed DeGrange. Delegate Sandy Rosenberg’s leadership has been invaluable on this increase, and we owe him a special thank you for his commitment and efforts.

Capital budget decisions have been decided in the House, and Senate decisions will take place on March 28-29.

We are fortunate all of our items have remained intact thus far and look forward to updating you with the final budget decisions next month.

Cailey Locklair is director of government relations for the Baltimore Jewish Council.

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