The new year is officially here. Most begin the journey of fulfilling their New Year’s resolutions while the winter cold settles over us, and the darkness of evening comes much earlier.
In state and local government, it is the beginning of the General Assembly legislative session and the county budget process. As your councilwoman, I have the pleasure of being involved in both arenas, representing you.
This session, I will again serve as one of two county council representatives from Anne Arundel County on the legislative committee for the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo). MACo reviews, discusses and votes as a collective body of local jurisdictions. These votes allow MACo to take a position on state laws that directly impact the abilities of local jurisdictions to make important decisions for our individual counties. There are three legislative priorities this year for MACo.
School Funding – funding fairness and the county role. As part of a discussion that involves the Kirwan Commission and also the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, education is a hot topic on social media, news media and at water coolers.
MACo will advocate for “fair and reasonable funding” without “unduly burdening county budgets or … other essential local services.”
I firmly believe that local jurisdictions should be able to make local budget decisions in the best interest of the public. Our state legislatures must consider that Anne Arundel County, and all other counties, create budgets that fund not only education but also fire, police, detention officers and sheriffs to keep our communities safe. It is imperative that we are given the flexibility and fairness as this state bill moves through the legislative process.
Next steps in the drug and mental health crisis. In Anne Arundel County, opioid-related non-fatal overdoses are decreasing, but the drug addiction and mental health crisis that is filling our hospitals, school guidance offices, and crisis response teams is still very present and crippling families.
Repeal “implied preemption.” The judicial system has a history of inconsistent applications of state preemption, which is an idea that the state can preempt over local jurisdiction law in certain areas. A case-by-case application, without a defined state law, makes it challenging for local legislators to understand boundaries for local policy. The repeal would give our council, and councils across the state, a better ability to do the job we were elected to do.
In Anne Arundel County, the new year also means the beginning of budget season. While the county executive still has months before presenting his Fiscal Year 2021 budget on May 1, public town halls have been scheduled. In our district, I will join the county executive on January 29 at Severna Park Middle School beginning at 6:30pm. This is an opportunity to have your voice heard. Where would you like to see your tax dollars focused? Would you like to see the county increase its revenue with additional taxes? What is most important to you? Education? Crime? Infrastructure? Mental health? The environment?
Meanwhile, legislation continues at a steady pace in the Arundel Center. On January 21, Bill 96-19 will be heard before the public. I introduced this bill after hearing from multiple management organizations that they are struggling to hire certified lifeguards during summer seasons with the current age difference between state and county law. If passed, this bill would lower the age for lifeguards in our county from 16 years of age to the state minimum of 15 years of age.
Bills regarding fair housing exceptions (Bill 92-19), the human relations commission (Bill 94-19), wastewater extension (Bill 95-19), affordable housing for the elderly of moderate means (Bill 97-19), and Resolution 2-20 declaring suicide a public health crisis in Anne Arundel County, are also being heard on January 21. Our public meetings begin at 7:00pm and are open to the public.