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Ups, downs and ‘epic’ wins in Annapolis

April 19, 2017

The 2017 Maryland legislative session wrapped up at the start of last week, and for Calvert County’s legislators and commissioners, it came with a mix of triumphs and failures.
As we reported Friday, the county’s newest representative, Del. Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s), headed out of his first session in Annapolis already with a 50 percent success rate, as one of two bills he submitted this year passed in the General Assembly.
And the county’s longest-serving current representative, Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s), told The Calvert Recorder he was pleased with the state’s $43 billion budget package, which includes no new taxes for Maryland residents, and passage of the comprehensive legislation package geared toward combating the opioid epidemic across the state.
In fact, Miller served as a primary sponsor on several components of that package, which lawmakers hope will improve treatment, education and awareness of this growing drug problem.
Sen. Steve Waugh (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) referred to the session as “epic,” watching more than half the bills of which he was a primary sponsor pass before Sine Die on April 10. Included in those were grant bills securing $50,000 for End Hunger In Calvert County and $1.5 million for Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.
Del. Michael Jackson (D-Calvert, Prince George’s) was pleased with passage of a bill he sponsored requiring utility companies to notify property owners of multi-family dwellings before terminating electric or gas service due to nonpayment. And Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) expressed his relief that a proposed immigration sanctuary state bill was killed in the Senate, something he attributes to many of his own constituents speaking out against the legislation.
All of the legislators, though, shared disappointment that some of the bills they sponsored or hoped for did not make it all the way through the legislature this year. And the Calvert County commissioners similarly did not see all of their six legislative requests come to fruition. Two, however, did pass: a bill allowing the county to enter into a 20-year solid waste contract and a $17.6 million bonding authority bill to aid in county projects, including the much-needed building replacements of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad and Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department.
With the bonding authority, we anxiously await the next steps in beginning design and eventual construction on those critical buildings for such a critical public service the volunteers in those centrally located facilities provide.
Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl (R) said the board’s “biggest disappointment” was that its request for authority to impose term limits on elected officials was never even introduced this session. Interestingly, we’ve heard different narratives over the course of the request’s history as to how our various legislators felt about it.
Miller credited the county’s delegates with not introducing a term limits bill, as “we let the delegates put the bills in,” essentially washing his hands of the matter. However, months ago, when the commissioners first introduced the idea before the legislators, Miller shared at that time that he would not support a bill for term limits. Earlier this session, Fisher, who has remained vocal in his support for term limits, said the proposal did not receive a majority vote by the House delegation. Yet Jackson said last week that he would have supported term limits had he not been “outvoted” among the county’s delegates.
Hejl said he planned to find out exactly what happened to kill the term limits idea before it was even born, and we hope he does as well, as we are also curious to learn why there seem to be no solid answers as to its doomed fate.
Overall, so much of the 2017 session revolved around our blue state’s reactions to federal policies under the new Trump administration, but on the whole, we consider this a primarily successful session for Calvert’s lawmakers, and we congratulate them on a job well done working with (though still often against) those on the other side of the political aisle to represent the needs of residents and businesses here in our small, rural county.
May next year’s general assembly be as “epic,” if not more so.

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