Friends & Neighbors:
We are off and away! Session is already moving at a rapid rate – I had a hard time deciding what to keep in this newsletter without making it too long… hope you enjoy the highlights below! Please remember that I love hearing from you – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-841-3319.
I took my son Teddy to his first march – the Baltimore Women’s March on Jan 20th! He had a great time and received many compliments on his sign.
On Wednesday, January 17, Governor Hogan introduced his state budget proposal. It includes 3 sections – the operating budget, the capital budget, and the budget reconciliation and financing act (or “BRFA”) which is a piece of legislation that changes previously-passed formulas necessary to making his budget balanced. I am concerned – like last year – about the number of cuts to Baltimore program. For instance, included in the budget is a proposal to trim 54% of a 5-year, $290 million plan to invest in Baltimore that was passed after the 2015 unrest. In addition, although the tuition for our public universities is capped at 2%, mental health and developmental disability providers who were scheduled to receive a 3.5% pay increase this year have been cut by 43% and 73%, respectively. The budget removes an additional previously-agreed upon $50m payment to the state pension system and removes funding for after school and summer school programs and college scholarships, as well as repayments to Program Open Space (that were passed in 2016 as a result of a bill introduced by the Governor!).
For more detailed information about the budget – including our revenues and expenses – feel free to review the fiscal briefing we received from the Department of Legislative Services.
For the next 7 weeks, my Committee – the Appropriations Committee – will review each Agency’s budget and search for ways to restore some of the cuts, while at the same time preserving the constitutionally-required balanced budget.
The Judiciary Committee held a briefing on the Juvenile Justice system in Maryland during the second week of session. Although I am not on that Committee, I have a keen interest in the subject and I helped arrange for the Council on State Governments to present its plan to undertake a comprehensive review of Maryland’s juvenile justice system. In addition, DJS Secretary Sam Abed presented data on juvenile crime levels, average length of stay, and the current DJS programs and resources available. I will be working with my colleagues on Team 46 and in the Judiciary Committee to press for a comprehensive review of and reforms to the Maryland juvenile justice system.
Brooke’s Budget Work: Appropriations Committee
The Appropriations Committee has held a number of briefings in the past two weeks, including our annual briefing on the state of poverty in Maryland and a hearing on the dearth of affordable housing around the state.
We also heard from two commissions concerning school funding: Brit Kirwan presented the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education’s (Kirwan Commission) initial findings on operating funding and Martin Knott presented the 21st Century School Facilities Commission (Knotts Commission) report on capital funding of schools. Both reports were illuminating, and highlighted the needs of city schools.
We also had a hearing on the State Center project. Trying to clarify some befuddling decisions by the Department of General Services, I questioned their ongoing lawsuit against the project’s developer, and what their plan was for state workers and the local communities affected by canceled plans.
In my subcommittee on Transportation and the Environment, we had a brief overview of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration work and a briefing on the current status of Baltimore Link (at 1:25:50 in the video).
For those of you interested in the work of the Appropriations Committee, the schedule for each state agency hearing is available online. Over the next few weeks, an analysis of each agency budget will be added.
To see a complete list of the bills that I am sponsoring this year, visit my official bio page. Each week I’ll highlight a couple bills I’m working on. Last week I introduced two pieces of legislation, the Maryland Violence Intervention & Prevention Program, and the Jill Wrigley Memorial Scholarship Expansion Act.
The Maryland Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (MD VIPP), HB 453, will invest and fund evidence-based public health approaches to gun violence prevention and intervention. This first-of-its-kind bill in Maryland will follow the successful examples in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, where similar funds have been created to invest in proven programs to reduce gun violence. MD VIPP will provide financial support to local governments & community-based organizations that use public health principles and demonstrate measurable positive outcomes in preventing gun violence, especially in regions that are disproportionately affected by violence – like Baltimore. It will also establish a Council, anchored by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Protection, to oversee distribution of the funding and to review the efficacy of gun violence prevention programs.
Programs that utilize a health approach to violence prevention have proven to be effective at significantly reducing violence where they have been implemented, and have the potential to improve the overall health and well-being of communities that have faced high levels of violence for far too long. Like infectious diseases, violence can be understood and treated successfully as an epidemic. Public health approaches to violence stop the spread of violence by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control – detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest-risk individuals, and changing social norms – resulting in some case of reductions in violence of up to 70%. I’m hopeful that we can pass this bill to ensure that we are using proven strategies to stop violent crime in Baltimore.
The Jill Wrigley Memorial Scholarship Expansion Act, HB 420, will expand eligibility for need-based MHEC financial aid to Marylanders without legal status who are eligible for in-state tuition through the Maryland Dream Act. The MD Dream Act allows a student without legal status to attend Maryland institutions at in-state tuition rates. Because these students are not eligible for Pell Grants and other financial assistance, they are often prevented from attending higher education institutions. This bill will allow students eligible under the DREAM Act to be eligible for two Maryland educational assistance programs.
Although these students are eligible for in-state tuition, they are not eligible for state or federal public financial assistance. Paying for a college degree can be a burden for students and their families. Because of this restriction, only 5-10% of students without legal status go to college. Comparatively, 75% of their classmates attend college after high school. I’m hopeful that we can pass this bill to provide access to opportunities for additional hard-working young people in our City and state
Baltimore Updates & Opportunities
Women’s March in Baltimore: On January 20, I was proud to join the Baltimore Women’s March – and to bring my son, Teddy! Maryland is a state that celebrates the abilities of people from every gender, race, ethnicity, and religion, and the speaker line up reflected the awesome diversity of our City and state. I will continue to fight for our core values of equality and justice.
Baltimore Day in Annapolis
February 7 – 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Join Mayor Pugh and the Baltimore State Delegation in Annapolis to discuss funding and local Baltimore legislative efforts for the 2018 session. Transportation will be provided, with pick up Mondawmin Mall, Westside Skill Center, City College, and Du Burns Arena/Canton Water Park. Buses will leave each location at 4:45 p.m. and return at 8:45 p.m. RSVP by February 2nd by calling 410-396-4735 or by emailing email@example.com.
Piecing Together the Homebuying Puzzle
6:00 p.m. —7:00 p.m. @ Live Baltimore HQs
This FREE event will bring together a real estate agent, a mortgage lender, and a title company to explain their roles in the homebuying process. You can hear from all of the experts in one place! Come and get your questions answered.
Mera Kitchen Collective – calling cooks and crafters!
The Mera Kitchen Collective invites cooks, craftspeople, storytellers and others to apply to join its Refugee & Immigrant Arts Fest! For more information, visit www.mera.kitchen/ourevents.
Youthworks Application Open – Baltimore City residents between the ages of 14 and 21 can begin the 2017 YouthWorks summer jobs registration process by applying online at http://youthworks.oedworks.com. YouthWorks matches thousands of city youth with paid summer jobs at for-profit businesses, nonprofits and government employers throughout the region. YouthWorks summer jobs will operate two, five-week sessions, the first beginning June 26 and the second beginning July 10. The online application is the first step of the YouthWorks summer jobs registration and will remain available for Baltimore City residents through Friday, March 10, 2017.
Please feel free to contact me throughout session on the issues that are most important to you, your family, and your community. Our office phone number is 410-841-3319 and email address is Brooke.Lierman@house.state.md.us. I encourage you to come to visit Annapolis between now and the end of session in April. Please email or call my office to let us know if you are interested in visiting.
PS: I have loved welcoming constituents to our office so far this session! Come down and see me! And make sure to follow me on Facebook.