Legislative Session Under Way

January 18, 2013
BY Paul Foer
Guns, transportation, death penalty on front burner

While there may not be a massive, looming budget crisis, and the state may even retire its structural deficit, there are a few key issues that are likely to be on the top of the General Assembly’s agenda.

Cailey Locklair, director of government relations for the Baltimore Jewish Council, reported, “We’ve begun meetings with cabinet secretaries, our local legislators and members on budget committees to share our legislative priorities.  Our meetings and issues have been well received.”

The issues listed below represent what are likely to be among the most heavily debated this session:

Assault Weapons: It may not become a shooting war, but the war of words has already begun.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is adamant about taking action. This may very well be the year to reinstate such a ban and/or to limit the capacity of ammunition clips for certain weapons. Some say Maryland already has very strict gun laws and that such laws are often ineffective. The question people are asking:  “Why should we pass more laws?”

Repeal of the Death Penalty: The governor says he has the votes this year to put an end to putting an end to criminals’ lives.

BJC wants to maintain the state’s right to execute certain criminals. Jewish legislators such as Del. Sandy Rosenberg, Sen. Ben Cardin and Sen. Josh Frosh want to repeal the death penalty. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is not so happy about the apparent requisite votes but suggests a full vote may come to the floor. The question: If it is repealed, will it then go to the ballot?

School Funding: When it comes to schools this year, the ABCs may mean architecture, building and construction. Maryland again has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for its schools, but the buildings need major work. The governor wants a big increase for school construction projects. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said his top priorities for the General Assembly are school funding, school funding and school funding. Baltimore City has huge needs as well.

Transportation Trust Fund: Will the funding for Maryland’s enormous unmet transportation projects ever get out of park and into drive? Will there be a new fuel tax or sales tax to pay for expanding and maintaining our transportation infrastructure?
If not, the state likely will deplete this fund in a few years, and major projects, including Baltimore’s Red Line, may not be funded. Some rural legislators are unhappy that money collected statewide disproportionately goes to urban projects. There will be more roadblocks and congestion ahead if a decision cannot be made.
For information about fracking and other legislative news important to Jewish Baltimore, visit jewishtimes.com.

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