There are just 10 days left in the 2015 Legislative Session. There have been many important issues discussed in Annapolis, but one of the biggest is the Budget, with a capital B....for Billion, which is about how much the House of Delegates increased their version of Governor Hogan's initially-proposed budget.
Noted below are updates regarding bills that I thought you might find useful. For one, last week I voted against the first version of Maryland's next budget. I wanted to let you know some of my reasons for voting against this version.
If you have comments or want additional information, please reply to this email or call me on my new local Keedysville number at 301-660-4263.
Talk to you soon, and I hope that you have a great Easter,
Governor Larry Hogan's budget started off great. It was balanced, removed Maryland's structural deficit, protected state employee and teacher pensions, and funded our local roadways.
I fully supported that budget.
Unfortunately, the budget that House voted on was not Governor Larry Hogan's Budget, but a financially-unsound, distorted version of the original budget that resulted after the House Appropriations Committee significantly modified it. The changed version reversed all of the positive attributes previously mentioned, and now, the modified budget actually spends more money than Maryland is taking in. To see my interview with NBC 25 regarding my first budget vote, pleaseclick here.
To highlight one of the worst changes, the Appropriations Committee cut 50 State Police jobs and 50 jobs from Marylandâ€™s Correctional Institutions.
I also voted against this first version of the budget to send a message to the State Senate that I, along with several other Delegates, was unhappy with the House changes.
Thankfully, that message had an effect. After the House voted on this first budget, it went to the State Senate where it was changed again by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, sending it back to the House in a more responsible form. Now these two budget versions will go to a conference committee where both houses will work to change it once again with input from the Governors Office. I am hopeful that this final budget will be closer to the original Hogan budget, finally bringing financial responsibility and help for local families back to Maryland.
What are the high points of the House version of the Budget?
$40.4 Billion Budget increases spending by 1.5% over last year. This is much better than O'Malley's average 4.37% increase in spending over the last 8 years.
It has the lowest rate of increase in spending since Bob Ehrlichâ€™s first term.
My concerns with the budget:
It spends more than it takes in.
It reduces the stateâ€™s contribution amount for the State Retirement and Teacherâ€™s Pension from $150 million to $75 million this year and from $200 million to $75 million next year. (See Pensions section below.)
It only funds all state government operations at 88% - which leaves a 12% structural deficit that we're not paying (after Governor Hogan's 2% required state agencies operating funds cut.)
There is NO money for local roads. The Highway User Revenue funds were not increased for local governments, as was in Governor Hogan's original budget.
It takes away 50 jobs from Maryland Correctional Institutions and 50 jobs away from the Maryland State Police. We're losing 100 jobs because the Democrat leadership said so.
It keeps the automatic funding increases for education funding, despite financial realities.
Pensions: In 2011, the General Assembly changed the pension contribution formula for state employees and teachers by increasing their required pension contribution. At the same time, they pledged to contribute at least $300 million annually until the pension fund was adequately funded. Unfortunately, through budgetary tricks over the last 3 years, the state has not funded their own pension obligations. A bill passed last year that finally reduced the required pension funding level from an unreasonable $300 million to an achievable $150 million. Governor Hogan's budget solidly funded this new, reasonable amount. The House's modified version of the budget does not meet this obligation. Once again, the liberal leadership has reneged on promises made to our state employees and teachers. To me, this is not acceptable.
Last Wednesday during debate on the budget, Republicans proposed an amendment to fully fund this $15o million obligation. A House Floor Vote was taken and the amendment failed; the vote fell mostly down party lines. All 50 Republicans and only 2 Democrats voted in favor this amendment to protect the pension; 87 Democrats voted in favor of not fully funding the pension obligation, effectively hurting our state employees and teachers.
Final Budget Thoughts:
As you can see, I had many concerns with the House version of the budget and wanted to send a clear message to the Senate that significant aspects of their version needed to change. Thankfully, several of these concerns were addressed, and now we are waiting for the conference committee's final version of the budget where no more changes can occur unless this final budget is rejected. Please note that many of my Republican Colleagues did vote for the House budget, and I believe for good reason. Even with its faults, this yearsâ€™ budget is much better than any budget we have seen in the last 8 years. O'Malley's budgets over the last 8 years were filled with irresponsible spending and were reliant on significant tax increases.
In-Vitro Fertization Insurance Mandate for Homosexual "Married" Woman:
HB 838/ SB 416 is going to cause your health insurance rates to go up, when Maryland already has some of the highest health insurance premiums in the nation. This bill forces Maryland insurance companies to cover the cost of expensive In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments ($12,500 each time) for same-sex married couples.
Our high insurance costs in Maryland are primarily due to the great number of insurance mandate laws already in effect, and this new bill will simply make the problem worse.
Governor Hogan and I both support leading Maryland towards more fiscally-responsible laws and policies, and the voters overwhelmingly agreed in the last election. However, the majority of Delegates and Senators still voted to create more complex and unnecessary insurance mandates in our flawed health system. (You can see the votes for the House Bill at this link and for the Senate Bill at this link.)
Under current Maryland law, a husband and wife must donate their own sperm and egg to be eligible to receive insurance benefits for IVF treatments. If the couple requires a donation of an egg or sperm, IVF treatments would not be covered under current Maryland law. Under this new law, a same-sex couple would obviously need to get a sperm donor to have a child. This is a very unequal situation.
Same-sex couples have been allowed to adopt or have children, but many studies have been done that confirm that children born into a family with a mother and a father do the best in all measures - economic, social, educational, and emotional. Not only does this law create an unequal and less-stringent requirement for same-sex couples, but our insurance premiums will also be paying to have a child brought into the world to a situation where they will most likely be statistically worse off than other children. By passing this law, we are intentionally putting a child into a "family" where a father will knowingly be absent.
This sort of social engineering and fiscally-irresponsible law-making, solely for the pleasure of adults without any regard for the children that will grow up in these situations, is reprehensible. What homosexuals cannot do naturally, the General Assembly has now mandated must be provided by all insurance plans, creating a false sense of equality, with little to no regard for the children who will be negatively affected.
This leads to the concern of what could come next if this bill is passed. Will the General Assembly pass a mandate requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of hiring a surrogate to carry the child for male, same-sex marriages?
It's hard to believe that this skewed bill passed the House and Senate so quickly, but the final version has not yet passed. (You can see the votes for the House Bill atthis link and for the Senate Bill at this link to see how your representatives voted on the bill.) Both chambers will vote on a reconciled, final version next week. You might consider contacting them and ask them to change their vote when they have the chance to vote on the cross-filed bill next week.
New Birth Certificates for Sex Changes - No Proof of Surgical Change Required: HB 862/SB 74 allows people to rewrite history. It would allow someone who gets a note from their doctor saying they are transitioning from male to female or from female to male to literally change the gender on their birth certificate.
The new birth certificate would not even indicate that it has been "Amended," as is the case when an individual decides to legally change their name. The change would not require that the individual has had a sex-change operation, but just relies on hormone therapy and how the person feels at the time. The change caused many of the legislators who work in law enforcement to question how they could even solve crimes given these false records. For example, suppose they are looking for the DNA of a male, but all they have is a female suspect. (You can see the votes for the House Bill atthis link and for the Senate Bill at this link to see how your representatives voted on the bill.)
Changing factual birth records without leaving a record of the change could have significant and harmful consequences for our society and is simply irresponsible policy.
6th Congressional District Annual U.S. Service Academy Information Forum
DATE: Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
PLACE: Bernard Brown Community Center - 629 N. Market St., 2nd Floor, Frederick, MD
TIME: 5:00-7:00 pm
PARK: Across the street at Habitat for Humanity ReStore Lot
CONTACT: For more information about the event, contact Diana Modelski in Cong. Delaney's office at 301-733-2900 or Diana.Modelski@mail.house.gov. ***All interested 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students and their parent(s) are invited to attend and learn about the service academies and their admission requirements for entry in July, 2016.
Legislative Update on Annapolis 2015 Session Washington County Republican Club Meeting
DATE: Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
PLACE: American Legion, Post 42 - 405 Northern Ave., Hagerstown, MD
TIME: 7:00-8:30 pm
CONTACT: Click HERE for more information or contact Ginger Bigelow at email@example.com.
** Come hear from Washington County Senators Andy Serafini and George Edwards and State Delegates Neil Parrott, Brett Wilson, Bill Wivell, and Mike McKay as they update the Club on the 2015 Legislative Session. I would love to see you there!