Sen. Craig Zucker (D14)
Zucker said he is wary of potential federal cuts that could impact the state -- including cuts to programs for keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean. The General Assembly should be aware of such cuts during the budget process, Zucker said, adding that the Trump administration has created new expectations for the state.
“We have to be proactive in our budgeting,” Zucker said.
In addition to funding for the Chesapeake Bay, Zucker emphasized that state funding for Montgomery County Public Schools is as key an issue for the County's delegation to Annapolis as it is for local elected leaders.
“I think it's important to make sure to meet our commitment on our education spending and on the capital side to make sure we are investing in our school construction,” he said.
Zucker said he plans to introduce a bill that would reverse a state law about serving alcohol to people with developmental disabilities. Currently in Maryland bars and restaurants can deny serving alcohol to of age adults with developmental disabilities. Zucker said his bill would make that illegal.
“That is not fair; it’s an equity thing,” he said.
Del. Anne Kaiser (D14)
Kaiser said one of her top priorities in this legislative session is helping to find the vote to pass sick leave legislation. Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill that would have required employers to provide mandated paid sick leave to their employees, but Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill. Kaiser said making sure the bill gets passed in the General Assembly with veto-proof majorities is one of her main priorities this legislative session
“I think it's something we should all care about given its impact on low wage workers,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser also said she plans on co-sponsoring several election related bills, including one that would allow for same-day voter registration and one that would enhance the security of the state’s voting machines. Kaiser said Maryland was one of 25 states that had its election security network breached in 2016, though no votes were affected, and said she plans to sponsor a bill that will provide more protection for the state’s voting machines.
“The worst part is people could start to lose their trust,” Kaiser said about reported cyber security breaches in Maryland’s voting system.
Del. Eric Luedtke (D14)
As a member of the House Education Committee, Luedtke said he is eagerly awaiting the results of a state commission that will make a slew of recommendations on the state’s education future.
“They are looking at literally everything in education, and they are going to make policy recommendations,” Luedtke said.
Most notably among the policy recommendations could be a change to the state’s school funding formula, which has bothered local politicians as they claim they do not get enough state dollars to help fund school construction in the County.
Also on Luedtke's mind are plans to change laws that restrict various kinds of alcohol sales in Montgomery County. Luedtke plans to introduce two bill on the subject, the first of which he said would bring about the end of the policy banning County-owned-and-operated liquor stores from selling beer that has been refrigerated. Although private retailers holding beer-and-wine licenses may sell cold beer, Montgomery County's monopoly liquor stores must sell their beer at room temperature.
“They want more options for beer and wine,” Luedtke said. “There is no reason we shouldn't be giving consumers the ability to shop where they want.”
Del. Pamela Queen (D14)
-- with a bill to optimize the program by collecting data on inmates' previous work experience. This data will allow the state to potentially augment whatever job training or experience an inmate may already have.Queen said one of her top priorities coming into the next legislative session would be to follow up on a bill she sponsored last year that funded job training and education for inmates. Queen said she plans to follow up on last year's legislation -- which Governor Hogan signed after it passed both houses of the General Assembly
“I will be doing a sort of a follow up on the bill that had to do with justice reinvestment and to take more of role in evaluating education for inmates prior to release,” Queen said.
Queen plans to use her seat on the House Judiciary Committee to promote a parole reform bill she will introduce.
Under current law, both the Maryland parole commission and the governor must give consent for an inmate to be granted parole. Queen's bill would limit the governor's authority to block an inmate from being paroled if the parole commission has approved their release because, in an effort to appear tough on crime, Maryland governors have often withheld their assent regardless of what the parole commission decides.
“That doesn't speak well if you don’t ever see anyone that gets released,” Queen said.
Sen. Brian Feldman (D15)
Uncertainty about changes at the federal level would become a top motivator for state legislators in 2018, Feldman said. Changes to federal laws on health care and federal spending have gotten the attention of state legislators, he added.
Feldman, who co-chairs both the Senate Health Subcommittee and a newly formed commission on health insurance, said health care will be a top issue in Annapolis.
“We're going to have to address and reason with what just happened with the repeal of the individual mandate and what that has to do with the impact of our health insurance markets,” Feldman said.
In December, Congress included repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, a key provision of the law that ensures enough healthy people purchase insurance to allow insurers to cover persons with pre-existing conditions. The law levied fines on people and businesses who failed to purchase health insurance for themselves or their employees.
In addition to his work on health care, Feldman is a one of a number of key Senators who are working on a bill to provide a dedicated funding source for Metro. Feldman said a state proposal has not been finalized yet for Metro funding, but he is looking to use money from the state’s transportation trust fund to fund Metro in exchange for a few reforms from Metro and on the condition that Virginia and the District of Columbia also kick in their fair share.
“That's key here, Metro is the only system of kind in the United States that does not have a dedicated funding system,” Feldman said. “That really hampers our ability to make long-term capital plans for the system.
Del. Kathleen Dumais (D15)
Dumais said she has been trying for ten years to get a bill that would allow rape victims that right to attempt to terminate the parental rights of the father of a child conceived by rape. Dumais’ bill, the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, failed to pass last legislative session but will be the first bill on the docket in the House of Delegates this time around.
“I've been working on the bill with many, many others for about ten years,” Dumais said.
Dumais, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, will also sponsor a bill that will provide more funding for pretrial services. Dumais said some jurisdictions in the state do not have the funding to expand pretrial services to keep people out of jail before trial.
“We want to expand the use of pre-trial services, so bail doesn't need to be the only option,” Dumais said.
Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D15)
Fraser-Hidalgo said he plans on introducing a bill to legalize hemp in the 2018 legislative session. Hemp, a form of cannabis with lower amounts of the psychoactive Tetrahydrocannabinol found in marijuana, often used to make paper and clothes.
“It’s a great product for paper and you know clothing material and supplements for digestive health. It's an amazing product,” Fraser-Hidalgo said.
Fraser-Hidalgo also said he plans to sponsor a bill that would charge fossil fuel companies an extra fee to help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Fraser-Hidalgo said companies would likely pass the extra costs to the consumer, which is why he is proposing a tax rebate to offset the costs in his bill.
“We are pushing back on the oil companies and fossil fuel companies to have them pay for the true cost of carbon,” he said.
Del. Aruna Miller (D15)
An engineer by trade, Miller said she wants to make funding for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education a priority. To that end, Miller said she would sponsor a bill that would mandate every student that attending a public high school in the state have access to computer science classes.
“In the 21st century I believe our economy and the jobs that will be available are going to depend very much on technology,” Miller said.
While Miller was critical of Gov. Larry Hogan, saying he does not reach across the aisle enough, she said Hogan was also a supporter of increasing funding for STEM education and a potential ally on her bill.
“We do agree on that,” she said.
In addition to the bill will provide funding for pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade computer coding courses.
Miller said she also plans to introduce a bill that would give police more power to arrest people who violate a protective order issued by a judge. Miller said the bill is specifically directed at domestic violence cases and would permit police to arrest a person for violating a protective order without the need to obtain an arrest warrant from a judge.
Sen. Susan Lee (D16)
For Senator Lee, funding for statewide universal pre-kindergarten programs will be a top priority during this year’s legislative session.
“It has been shown that the earlier the kids get a greater education, the better they do at success in life and their academic studies,” she said.
Lee added that she would continue her work from last year’s session on cybersecurity and ransomware, and explained that she plans to introduce a bill which will allow consumers to preemptively freeze their credit reports for free.
“Because of legislation I passed last session, you can get one free freeze if there’s been a breach and this [bill] will allow free of charge freezes on your credit report,” she said. “The information that these credit report companies have it’s not consensual…and we feel if something horrible happens we should be able to one free freeze.”
Lee also plans to introduce legislation that would enhance the penalties for the use of ransomware.
“We may do it via creating a special section in our statute on ransomware or we might our current state extortion statute,” she said.
As far as working with Gov. Hogan is concerned, Lee struck an optimistic tone, hoping that he will defend Maryland against adverse actions by the Trump Administration.
“We’re all in this together; we’re all fighting for Maryland," she said. “I hope [Hogan] will work with us and I hope he will stand up when we need him and not be quiet when Trump attacks some of our priorities,” she added.
Del. William Frick (D16)
As the House of Delegates Majority Leader, Frick said he would be “supporting Speaker Busch and the Democratic majority and all of our priorities in trying to have a responsible budget.”
Frick said one of the leadership's first actions of the session would be to override Governor Hogan's veto of the paid sick leave bill, and that his personal legislative priorities include several environmental and clean energy bills.
“I will be working with Senator [Brian] Feldman on a student borrowers bill of rights,” he added.
Frick explained his district is home to numerous institutions in need of financial assistance. He cited the Josiah Henson Park, the YMCA, and the Roundhouse Theatre as two organizations that reached out to his office.
“I definitely want to make sure our arts organizations are taken care of because that’s really important in our district,” he added.
In working with the governor, Frick said he anticipates a collaborative relationship.
“We’re interest in outcomes, not partisan squabbles and hopefully he feels the same way,” he added.
Del. Marc Korman (D16)
As a member of the WMATA-Metro Working Group, Korman said adequately funding the Metro will be one of his main priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
“Along with a colleague from Prince George’s County … we spend a lot of time making sure it’s funded and providing oversight,” he said.
Korman also explained he would also work to ensure the county continues to get increases in its school construction and operations budget.
“Over the last three years, we’ve had quite a bit of success in increasing school construction dollars from the state,” he said. “It’s not enough, we need more, but we’ve had a fifty percent increase over three years, so we want to keep that momentum going.”
Korman said he is not sure if the pressures of election-year politics would change the relationship between the legislature and Governor Hogan's office or the agencies it controls.
“I’ve never been there for an election year…but I assume it will be like previous sessions where on most things there is bipartisan support. We’ll see if an election year changes that,” he said. “Often times, his departments and agencies are reluctant to engage with us and that problematic because it is a symbolic relationship…we write the laws but we also rely on the executive branch to implement and execute them.”
Korman said Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the mortgage deduction create uncertainty for Maryland.
“There’s a lot of problematic policy coming out of the Trump administration, and that’s to say nothing of just their general tone and chaos that they create,” he added.
Del. Ariana Kelly (D16)
Kelly said she aims to continue working on healthcare accessibility and family economic security.
“First and foremost I have a childcare tax credit that would increase our childcare tax credit for Maryland’s working families,” she said.
Kelly added she plans to reintroduce legislation to improve the state’s sexual education curriculum by including lessons on consent.
“The goal of that bill is to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in out middle and high schools and later in life,” she said. “The data is stunning when you talk to middle school girls... how many of them are touched against their will just in out middle school hallways.”
When it comes to working with the Governor, Kelly said she would “partner with the administration whenever possible.”
She also explained numerous unfilled positions hampered her ability to do oversight.
“There are are a lot of vacancies at the agencies I work with,” she said. “I’m not getting a tremendously good response, and that’s a challenge.”
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D17)
Sen. Kagan said the Trump presidency is causing many issues for Maryland residents and requires care in crafting a response.
“The question is how to prioritize because there are so many alarming policies that have been enacted by this White House and this Congress,” Kagan said. “Marylanders will be deeply and directly affected.”
Kagan said she is concerned about political division she believes the Trump administration is causing. This division is affecting state government as well, she said.
“Our country is divided now in a way that is more extreme and more obvious than I have ever seen before,” Kagan said. “It starts at the White House, and certainly trickles down through Congress.” “The fact that this administration and this Congress doesn’t even pay the Democratic Party’s viewpoint into account when drafting policy is not only unfortunate but also offensive,” she added.
The budget is the biggest issue the state legislature faces in the upcoming legislative session, she said. “The budget is always the hurdle,” said Kagan. “We have a constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget, and there are a lot of Marylanders that are struggling, and yet we still want to have top-notch public schools, a clean environment, and provide support for those who needed it.”
Another of her top priorities is reforming the state's 911 system.
“I have had two constituents die as result of 911 failure,” Kagan said. “We are vulnerable. Whether it is a train derailment, a freak weather accident, a (crash) on the Beltway, or, God forbid, a terrorist attack, Maryland is vulnerable and needs to move forward immediately.”
Del. Kumar Barve (D17)
Delegate Barve said he hopes the General Assembly will override Governor Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave bill from 2017. “We believe the people of Maryland ought to be entitled to one week of paid sick leave,” said Barve. Barve said he believes the state budget contains problems, but legislators must wait for Hogan’s proposed budget to be complete to start planning solutions. “We have I believe a $200 million budget deficit, and we’re just going to have to see what the governor cuts,” said Barve.
Citing a dearth of detailed information on proposed capital projects, including the widening of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the addition of lanes to Interstate Highway 270, Barve -- who chairs the House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee -- criticized Hogan’s execution of proposed transportation projects.
“The governor’s made these grandiose announcements, and there haven’t been a lot of details,” Barve said.
“How do you widen 270 when there are bridges that go over 270 that would have to be dismantled?” he asked.
“We’re going to ask that a proper environmental impact study be conducted for all of these transportation projects,” Barve said, including the proposed Mag-Lev (magnetic levitation) train system and the Hyperloop project being championed by entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Del. James Gilchrist (D17)
Gilchrist said one of his priorities would be to reform the income retirement accounts in the state.
“In Maryland, we don’t treat retirement income equally across the board,” he said. “I’ve had a bill in other bills to make rollover IRA’s the same as IRA’s … I see that as a tax fairness issue in the state.”
Gilchrist added the introduction of the bill would also depend on his conversations with the Maryland Comptroller, currently Peter Franchot.
The three-term delegate also explained he would also explore bills regarding outpatient mental health services and rumble strips on state highways but said he was unsure if the bills would be introduced.
“There will also be local [bond] bills for the City of Rockville and the City of Gaithersburg,” he added.
Gilchrist, who sits on the Environment and Transportation Committee, said marine life issues remain unaddressed.
“We need to watch very carefully what he proposes,” he said. “Especially on the environmental area … the Governor hasn’t stepped up on the oyster issue and the major bill we passed, he let become law without his signature.”
One threat to Maryland from Trump presidency, Gilchrist said, is the Trump Administration's efforts to reduce EPA funding for Chesapeake Bay clean-up programs.
“It depends if they get their act together and actually pass a budget as opposed to continuing resolutions,” he added.
Del. Andrew Platt (D17)
After multiple requests for a phone interview from two reporters over several weeks, Del. Platt expressed initial willingness to respond but eventually declined to speak to the The Sentinel by phone claiming to have been misquoted in the past and instead offering to answer questions via email.
Sen. Richard Madaleno (D18)
As Vice Chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, Sen. Richard Madaleno's top legislative priorities in 2018 include overturning the governor's veto on earned sick leave, passing a $15 minimum wage, the Community Healthy Air Act, and expanding the earned income tax credit.
Madaleno is also focused on increasing educational opportunities in the state public school system and equalizing funding for state public education as a member of the "Kirwan Commission," the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.
In the upcoming session, Madaleno is sponsoring a bill to eliminate the reduced-price category for school lunches which would allow those children to eat for free. "Feeding students is associated with better attendance, better behavior, and better academic outcomes," Madaleno said.
Some of Madaleno's past legislative initiatives centered around "food insecurity." He says a bill he sponsored, the Hunger Free Schools Act," has allowed thousands of Maryland students in high-poverty areas to have free breakfast and lunch at school, which is paid for by the federal government. Another bill increased the minimum food stamp benefit for seniors, he said.
Madaleno, a candidate for governor, is looking forward to working with the governor in the 2018 legislative session. "I am always happy to work with the Governor and the Administration. I have been happy to work with any governor, no matter what party he is affiliated with, during my 15-year career in the legislature."
Regarding unaddressed budget issues, Madaleno says a study that just came out from the Department of Legislative Services, concludes thousands of public safety-related positions are unfilled. "Not only does this put the public's safety at risk, it puts other employees at risk. It restrains the current workforce from doing their job effectively, and the state is paying increased overtime costs to compensate."
Madaleno has criticized Gov. Larry Hogan, R, for refusing in the past to participate in the legislative process. "The agencies very rarely take positions on legislation. This makes it difficult to work together and pass legislation."
Under a Trump Presidency, Madaleno said he is concerned about cuts in federal spending, which could reduce the federal workforce and have "devastating effects on the Maryland economy." He is also increased about immigration enforcement. "I hope Congress can pass a clean DREAM Act, and fix the DACA program."
Del. Alfred Carr, Jr. (D18)
and including Maryland in a group of states taking actions to uphold the spirit of the Paris Climate Accord.Del. Al Carr will be entering his 11th year as a state delegate in 2018. His legislative priorities in the upcoming session include overriding Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the earned sick leave bill, allowing rape survivors who become pregnant to petition courts to terminate their rapists' parental rights, banning the "bump stock" rifle add-on the Las Vegas mass shooter used to let his semi-automatic rifles fire like fully-automatic ones,
Carr will also focus on passing several bills seeking to improve transparency in government by ending political gerrymandering, discontinuing the use of listing candidates in alphabetical order on ballots, requiring online spending disclosures by WSSC, improving the Homeowner Tax Credit program, help businesses by reducing paperwork and fees, eliminating incentives that allow the state to maximize on late toll fees, allowing vehicle owners the choice to renew their registration for up to three years, lowering the threshold of the number of condominium owners required to revise condominium declarations, and requiring warrants in order to share detailed usage information by utility companies.
On the local level, Carr would also like to update alcohol laws to give Kensington businesses more flexibility in alcohol sales, catering sales and licensing, as found in bill MC12-18.
Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D18)
Gutierrez has an array of legislative priorities as she enters her 15th year as a state legislator. When it comes to education, she would like to meet the current needs of a growing student enrollment by increasing state funding for school construction and ensure stable and adequate education funding to help close student achievement gaps. In transportation, she would like to support a stable Metro funding stream, reduce traffic congestion and increase investment in transit. And in public safety and corrections, she would like to find alternatives to incarceration, move to bail reform that is based on a person's ability to pay and invest in juvenile programs.
Gutierrez also seeks to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the paid sick-leave bill and increase the state minimum wage.
Other issues of interest to Gutierrez include a statewide dual language program, increased funding for early childhood programs and increased child care subsidies for low-income families.
Gutierrez also hopes to continue having a good relationship with the Governor's office, and to enjoy the same access to him and his agencies, as she says she has in the past. But three years under the Hogan Administration has taught Gutierrez to be vigilant of budgetary cuts and shifts of funding for key programs, "especially regarding public education, transportation projects, public safety, and corrections."
Nevertheless, she has pledged to ensure that Montgomery County receives their fair share of state resources.
Gutierrez believes funding shortages remain in health care programs including the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act, early childhood programs, community college tuition affordability, school construction needs, senior-serving programs, public safety and corrections programs, as well as in transportation projects.
She is running in 2018 for a seat on the County Council in District 1.
Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D18)
Del. Jeff Waldstreicher said his role in fighting for "economic justice" will dominate his policy agenda in the 2018 legislative session. He would first like to override Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the mandatory, earned sick-leave bill before focusing on moving a bill he will again co-sponsor that would raise the state minimum wage to $15. Also, he plans to work on legislation to combat climate change.
"One way to do this is to require that 50% of our energy come from clean energy, an effort I'm proud to support."
Waldstreicher also said his constituents want him to fight back against the Trump administration "at every turn." He pledges to do so every day. "These are consequential times, as Trump threatens everything our community holds dear. Maryland can and must be part of the Resistance."
Waldstreicher believes the Trump administration is also attempting to undermine the Labor movement.
"As a proud progressive, I believe we must stand up without apology for our working brothers and sisters in Labor. Maryland should be a strong force for good: protecting the right to organize, supporting the prevailing wage, and honoring the inherent dignity that comes from a hard day's work."
Waldstreicher said he respects the office of the Governor and admires the courage that Hogan has shown in his battle with cancer, but he now has an eye towards the 2018 elections.
He says Hogan has abandoned policy "for pure politics" and has swung right, "playing footsie" with Trump, and has betrayed hardworking Marylanders who want legislators to work together to fight for economic justice.
"The Governor's PR machine is in full effect, attempting to portray a man of moderation in advance of the 2018 elections."
Waldstreicher said he would continue to fight to ensure that the general assembly supports progressive priorities, including investing in education, funding dramatic infrastructure improvements, preserving the social safety net for the most vulnerable, and expanding healthcare, with special emphasis on protecting investments in women's health.
Sen. Roger Manno (D19)
Manno said his main priorities for the session would be to focus mainly on budget and financial issues for the state.
“The Trump tax bill is going to have an enormous impact on filers in the state of Maryland,” he said. “That’s not just going to through our revenues into disarray … but it’s also thrown filers into disarray with regard to their property taxes.”
The two-term state senator, who is also running for a seat in the House of Representatives, said the problem with the repeal of the estate tax at the federal level was an issue of fairness.
“I believe that tax policy should be implemented to level the playing field for vast majority of folks and people who are trying to get into the middle class,” he said.
Manno explained the repeal of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act was “troublesome” for certain parts of the state.
Dismantling the Affordable Care Act, he said, “could decimate entire regions of the state because those economies are based on the economics of healthcare.”
Manno said his district had numerous capital projects which are important to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
“When the county exploded in its development, very little thought has gone into providing sidewalks and safe pedestrian and bicyclist options.”
Regarding Gov. Hogan, Manno was unsure of the role the executive branch would play in the legislative process.
“I’m hoping this is not a session that’s just plagued with politics and jockeying for re-election or some other issue,” he said. “The folks that pay the bills expect us to work together and to get stuff done.”
Del. Bonnie Cullison (D19)
"There is a great deal of uncertainty given the federal government's chipping away at benefits and services, so it will be incumbent on the Maryland legislature to try to bring some stability into the market and process locally."As chair of the Insurance Subcommittee of the Health and Government Operations Committee, Cullison says she will be engaged in looking at bills that will make health care more accessible and affordable.
Cullison says she expects discussions this year to centeraround benefits, rates, access and the overall insurance market. She wants to ensure that all Marylanders have health insurance.
She is also working on a bill that will address discrimination and harassment in places of public accommodation, which includes restaurants, retail stores, and entertainment-oriented businesses.
"This is the third year I have put this bill in and we have made changes which I believe address the concerns raised by retailers," Cullison said. "Hopefully this will be the year for passage."
The kinds of changes that are being made at the federal level have a big impact on states," Cullison said. "Concerning health care, the states will now have to assume more of the financial responsibility for providing health care to those affected by poverty, which could actually lead to some interesting options to make it more affordable."
Cullison expects that President Trump's signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will significantly affect state and local government funding, as well as raising taxes for many Marylanders.
"As a result, in the 2018 session, the General Assembly will need to be looking at the state's tax policies so our residents are not overly burdened and we can maintain our relatively stable economy," she said.
Some of Cullison's pet projects include her work with non-profits to increase access to dental care. "Dental care has always been the hardly recognized step child of health care, in spite of the fact that diseases of the mouth and teeth can seriously affect overall health and can be fatal," she said. For those who can afford dental insurance, she says the reimbursement rates are low.
Cullison said more than 30% of our residents do not get regular dental checkups and clinics that provide reduced cost dental services or free dental care are always filled. "I am proposing the development of a curriculum and license for dental therapists who could provide more of the routine services to patients at a lower cost."
Cullison believes keeping the lines of communication open with the governor and his staff will be very important this year.
"In an election year, there are likely to be more 'lines in the sand' on all sides. While I understand that this is the time when those of us who are running for re-election must use this session to make clear our commitment, work ethic, values, and beliefs, it is my hope that we can do this in a way that keeps the residents of Maryland -- the people we serve -- in focus."
Cullison is very concerned about funding for two areas that she believes affects all Marylanders, health care, and education.
"In health care we are trying to figure out ways to get everyone covered, and in education, we are dealing with more and more students who are affected by poverty and with greater learning needs."
She believes that federal tax reform will result in fewer resources to meet increasing needs. "We will be trying to save programs that are already working for individuals and families. Given this context, it is going to be a tough year for the budget."
Del. Ben Kramer (D19)
A top priority for Del. Kramer in the 2018 legislation session will be closely watching the actions of a Republican-majority Congress to determine what impact their efforts have on stripping health insurance options for Maryland residents.
"The state will need to try to minimize the harmful impacts on our residents," Kramer said. "It is my hope that we will be able to keep Marylanders enrolled in health insurance plans."
Addressing the achievement gap in schools is another priority. Kramer believes it is critical to ensure successful outcomes for all students. "As such, students from minority and low income communities cannot be left behind."
Kramer's pet projects include working on environmental initiatives to reduce Maryland's carbon footprint and dependence on "ozone depleting" fossil fuels.
He will also work on legislation to decrease hate crimes against minority residents that he says have hit unprecedented proportions since the Donald J. Trump election.
Transparency in government and protections for senior residents will also be a part of his legislative work.
Kramer said he would try to work with Gov. Hogan and his Republican colleagues "wherever and whenever possible." On areas where differences on issues cannot be bridged, he pledges to disagree without being disagreeable, seeking the best outcome.
"Where consensus or compromise are not achievable, I will work with those who agree with my position in an effort to accomplish the result that I am seeking," Kramer said.
Kramer hopes Hogan will present a budget that provides needed funding for education, transportation, protection of green spaces and that provides "much needed" services for vulnerable residents.
Kramer's largest concerns seem to come from policy changes under the Trump Administration.
"I am very concerned for our nation and state under the current White House administration," Kramer said. "Those of us in state government will be doing our best to minimize and counter the Administration's ruination of programs that protect our environment, schools, the safety net for the vulnerable in our communities and the general health and well-being of the state's population."
Kramer said the recently passed tax reform, which he calls a "corporate tax sell-out," will result in dramatic increases in the national budget deficit, which as a result, will negatively affect elderly residents who have spent a lifetime paying taxes, "but will see no benefit in doing so, as they will no longer receive needed government resources to help with medications, housing, and medical needs.
Kramer is running for the open Senate seat in LD-19.
Del. Marice Morales (D19)
The role of states providing access to affordable healthcare and finding alternative options for revenue in response to recent changes at the federal level will be incredibly significant this legislative session, Del. Marice Morales said.
Morales, a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, said she would work on legislation that will expand access to healthcare, particularly in the area of reproductive health.
"I am personally working on a bill that looks to expand access to family planning healthcare under the current coverage programs offered by the Maryland Health Exchange," Morales said. "I look forward to a dynamic session where I suspect the insurance market will be at the forefront of those conversations."
Budget challenges will also be a key issue in the upcoming 2018 session, Morales said. "Congress's recent changes to the federal tax code will have a significant impact on our state’s ability to continue funding programs and services for Marylanders," Morales said. "I suspect there will be a lot of discussion in the budget committees looking to compensate for the decrease in funds we would otherwise receive from the federal government."
Morales said she is especially concerned about funding for schools and adequate compensation and resources for educators, particularly due to the influx of new students to Montgomery County.
"At one point, it was said that we take in about 3,000 new students a year, the size of a new high school," Morales said. "Montgomery County also has a greater percentage of students in Free & Reduced Meals enrollment than the District of Columbia."
Morales said education and health care policy decisions would affect the livelihood and future of Maryland.
"Given the current political environment, with significant efforts to reduce these programs, we will be faced with incredible budget challenges this upcoming 2018 session."
Morales is also working on legislation that would stiffen sexual assault reporting on college campuses, as well as a bill that would allow for tax-free savings account for first-time homebuyers.
"It would allow family members or individuals to begin their savings towards homeownership with an added incentive from the state," Morales said. "Making Maryland a place where people live, work, and play are the ingredients for a vibrant local economy."
As Vice-Chair of the Legislative Latino Caucus, Morales said she has been fortunate to engage "one-on-one" with Hogan every year since the caucus was founded in 2015. "While we may not see eye to eye on every issue, we are appreciative of the opportunity to speak to him about our top priorities and look for areas and opportunities to work together to improve the lives of all Marylanders."
Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D20)
Smith said his top priority would be introducing debt-free education at public colleges and universities in the state “through creating an endowment for Pell grant eligible, our least finically fortunate students, to transfer from community colleges to a four-year institution.”
“That endowment would fill the gap of their tuition needs,” he added.
The first term Senator said he also plans to pursue automatic voter registration, abolishing body attachments for low-income renters and wage garnishments.
Smith explained one of his pet projects will be to fund financial assistance for businesses affected by the construction of the anticipated Purple Line.
On the subject of Governor Hogan, Smith was cordial but resolute. “Personally, I like the governor, but I have serious policy disagreements with him, but so far he’s been someone we can work with,” Smith said. “And I’m going to be vocal about those disagreements, especially on paid sick leave.”
Del. Shiela Hixson (D20)
Hixson only plans to introduce four bills herself this session but will support others when asked by the House leadership.
She said her district is a “pretty stable district” and plans to support legislative initiatives that represent Montgomery County and the state.
Hixson, who is not seeking reelection in 2018, said the inaction and funding rollbacks of the Trump administration force the General Assembly take on additional budgetary responsibilities.
“When [Trump] doesn’t do it at the federal level, then we have to pick up the slack at the state level, so that’s always a threat that we legislate under,” she said.
Hixson added she has a working relationship with Gov. Hogan.
“We’ve had a working relationship,” she said. “Philosophically, we don’t agree on very much, but he has not been an obstacle when the bills have passed … he does fight the individual bills before they’re passed.”
Del. David Moon (D20)
Moon said there had been a lot of discussions about his bill to repeal tax breaks for country clubs.
“A lot these clubs have revenues of over $15-20 million and have members paying $50,000 just to apply to join, and it seems like a huge unnecessary use taxpayer dollars to subsidize private golf courses that are not even open to the public,” he said. “It costs Montgomery County millions of dollars a year and right now we’re in deficit in the county.”
Moon explained he plans to bring the same focus to election reform legislation that he did in 2017. One of his bills he plans on supporting would allow Montgomery County to expand public financing to Board of Education elections.
“I think its unrealistic that under the current system you’re going to have school board candidates being able to tell voters who they are on budgets of $20,000 and so that means that insider groups have a lot more say in school board races and there’s very little opportunity for meaningful grassroots discussion of the candidates,” Moon said.
The first-term delegate from Takoma Park provided a grim assessment of the effect Donald Trump's presidency on Maryland as it enters its second year.
“We’re still dealing with the potentially catastrophic impact on the state budget and healthcare system,” he said. “From the continued efforts by federal Republicans to gut the Affordable Care Act and the GOP tax plan has numerous catastrophic impacts on the state.”
With 2018 being an election year, Moon said it could make the Governor more prone to working with the legislature.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how he [Hogan] responds,” he said. “I’m sure he was alarmed by the Republicans being pummeled in the nearby Virginia elections this year.”
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D20)
Wilkins said one of her first goals would be to override the governor's veto on the earned sick leave bill and to pass legislation to terminate parental rights of rapists.
The first term delegate also explained she plans to address health care affordability and pricing after hearing about the issue from her constituents.
“I will be working quickly that we pass some kind of overhaul that we alleviate the cost of healthcare,” she said.
Specific to District 20, Wilkins said she hopes to engage college students who are learning English as a second language.
“One of my bills makes sure that we have grant money to be able to provide translation services,” she added.
Under Hogan, Wilkins said she is “open to coming to the table with the governor around any issue.”
“When it comes to our environment when it comes to our healthcare, communities, and immigration … those are issues, I think, are where politics and partisanship absolutely need to be put to the side for the better of all communities in Maryland,” she said.
Sen. Nancy King (D39)
King said she wants to continue her focus on education issues. While most will be issues that were not resolved in last year's legislative session, she said that this year she wants to prioritize allocating money toward pre-kindergarten despite the challenge posed by the $250 million budget deficit.
“I’m going to put a bill in to try to get the governor to put more money into childcare subsidies,” she said, later adding, “It’s helping working families, but it’s also helping kids.”
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress last month raises issues and creates confusion, King said.
“There’s some major concern as far as what, like, the middle class is allowed to deduct on their taxes for mortgage, [for] income tax,” she said. “I think that’s really going to hit pocketbooks in Maryland. We’re just holding our breath to see how this is going to affect Maryland.”
But as Maryland adjusts its' tax laws in response to the Federal changes, King wants to ensure Maryland retains its' research and development tax credit.
“I’m just going to fight the battle of not doing away with it,” King said, adding that large companies such as Lockheed Martin take advantage of it by “doling out” funds to small research firms. “People come up (with) these great ideas for companies,” King said. “The tax credit helps them get off the ground and get (business) started.”
Del. Shane Robinson (D39)
In some cases, to operate solely on clean energy would require paying for clean energy outside the state to earn clean energy credits. “It would take out dirty forms of renewable (energy),” such as black liquor and incinerating garbage, Robinson said. Robinson said he wants the legislature to pass laws that help the environment, in hopes that Maryland could serve as an example to other governments. “The big one I’m putting in would seek to get Maryland to 100 percent clean, renewable electricity by 2035,” Robinson said.
Robinson said President Trump's tax bill would harm Marylanders, as will his rollback of numerous environmental regulations -- particularly the de-regulation of coal production and use.
One of Robinson’s pet legislative projects would have Maryland join the DIstrict of Columbia in allowing residents to have their gender listed as non-binary on a driver’s license or ID card.
Robinson also said that he believes a lack of communication with Governor Larry Hogan is an ongoing problem and accused Hogan of poorly planning traffic improvement projects.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s going to put expanded lanes right through Holy Cross hospital, and many businesses and homes would have to be knocked down,” Robinson said of the governor.
Del. Charles Barkley (D39)
Barkley believes that it is likely that a bill to increase Maryland's minimum wage will be proposed, and that it will probably be structured along the lines of what the Montgomery County Council passed last year.
“We may look at minimum wage,” Barkley said. "That’s a big issue as far as I’m concerned.”
Barkley also called a legislative override of Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the 2017 paid sick leave bill a top issue, and predicted that President Trump's tax reform bill will harm Marylanders because it will no longer taxpayers to deduct their property taxes from their Federal taxable income, and said Republican Congress' failure to renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program would be a problem if it is not resolved.
"[CHIP] is a big concern because if the federal government doesn’t do it, then the state is looking at ways that we could pick it up,”
Barkley also said he is concerned about the level of funding for school construction.
“We’ve been putting $250 (million) sometimes $300 million,” Barkley said. “It’d be nice to up that a little bit to $400 (million) or $500 (million).”
He also wants more money in the budget for assistance for people with disabilities.
“It’s hard to keep workers – like in the nursing homes, in the schools and things – to help special needs population,” Barkley said.
Del. Kirill Reznik (D39)
Reznik said he plans to sponsor a bill to re-draw state district lines, an issue he said that is on many people's minds and can be done fairly if staff in the department of legislative services choose the new districts.
“I think there is a perception that redistricting is done in a way that is not fair and just, and we can argue about the merits of it back and forth… but the reality is there is always a better way to do it,” said Reznik. “Not just a better way, (but) a fair way that people can feel comfortable.”
He also will sponsor a bill to add a voter referendum that could lead to allowing election day voter registration because such an allowance requires amending the state constitution.
He said he’s been pushing for the cause of election-day registration for about ten years.
Reznik said he is concerned that the Republican Congress' elimination of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate will cause the cost of health insurance to spike.
“If only people buying health care coverage people who are in need of it, the cost of health insurance coverage is going to skyrocket,” Reznik said. “I think we need to … make it a requirement or else people who have preexisting (health) conditions will inevitably suffer,” he added.
He is unsure whether the legislature and Governor Larry Hogan will be able to consistently work together this legislative session.
“He [Hogan] has constantly pushed his plan [and] refused to work with Democrats in the legislature,” Reznik said.