A Message from Victor
Dear Friend,

The tenth week of the 2015 Legislative Session has concluded and only three (3) full weeks remain. March 23rd marks the date that favorable legislation from each chamber crosses over to the opposite body for consideration and so the Senate is preparing to hear bills approved by the House. This week’s wrap-up includes a state budget overview, an update on legislation affecting the storm water remediation fee, two pieces of my own legislation scheduled for hearings this week, as well as directions on how to obtain a free smoke alarm, and a few results from the 2015 Legislative Session Survey.

BUDGET OVERVIEW
  • On March 25th, the Senate will be debating the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Budget and Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) on Second Reader.
  • Budget restorations include: $138 million for funding cuts to education that were previously proposed by Governor Hogan; reinstatement of the 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for state employees; and payments to Medicaid providers, among other areas.
  • The Senate budget erases 73% of the state’s structural deficit without raising any taxes or fees, and retaining a Rainy Day fund of 5% of general fund revenues (over $814 million). The budget does this while keeping spending growth limited to 1.4% in total State spending.
  • The Senate budget makes pension funding adjustments that protect retirement benefits and makes the plan more sustainable within our current budget reality, while still meeting the promise of reaching a 80% funding status of the pension system by 2023.
  • The Senate budget adds $15 million for the Hospital Center in Prince George’s County, $5 million in additional Medicaid rate reimbursements, $4.8 million for Medicaid Coverage for Pregnant Woman and Family Planning; $3 million for Developmental Disabilities Administration crisis resolution and $2 million in substance abuse treatment for heroin addiction.
  • The Senate budget expands Medicaid funding and restores funding for pregnant women and family planning that was cut in the Governor’s budget.
SB 863 – WATERSHED PROTECTION AND RESTORATION PROGRAMS – REVISIONS

On Friday, the Maryland Senate voted unanimously to end mandatory storm water remediation fees for the nine most populous counties and the City of Baltimore. The bill allows these ten jurisdictions to opt out of the fee as long they show that they meet the requirements to reduce runoff pollution. The fee was originally established in response to federal storm water management requirements which were designed to protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay from pollution. Under this new legislation, even if a county chooses not to charge a fee for storm water runoff, it must still document how much it’s federally mandated anti-pollution programs will cost and where the money will come from. For counties that want to continue charging the fee, this bill would exempt some veterans’ organizations. The legislation has now moved to the House of Delegates for consideration.

LEGISLATION THAT I AM SUPPORTING

SB 856 – Courts – Juvenile Causes – Informal Adjustments This bill will be heard this week before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and would give juvenile courts one more option in resolving cases in the best interests of the child and the community. Under the current system, once a case has been formalized against a juvenile and the case goes to juvenile court, the judge has limited options which don’t include diverting the case away from adjudication and towards another program such as anger management, or a substance abuse course. This bill would amend the code to allow a judge to order a case diverted should all parties agree.

SB 316 – Vehicle Laws – Obstruction Hanging from Rearview Mirror. This legislation passed the Senate unanimously and will be heard this week before the House Environment and Transportation Committee. This legislation prevents law enforcement from pulling over vehicles for having an object hanging from the rearview mirror, such as an air-freshener. This law would change ‘obstruction hanging from a rearview mirror’ to a secondary offense meaning that a law enforcement officer would have to first pull over the vehicle for some other lawful reason before citing the driver for this particular infraction. Thousands of Maryland drivers are pulled over every year just because they have an air-freshener hanging from their rearview mirror. This legislation will help end pretextual stops on our residents.

HOW TO REQUEST A SMOKE ALARM

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department offers a free service to County Residents where they will come visit your home and conduct a FREE Fire Safety Advisory Inspection and install a free smoke alarm. Please call (301) 864-SAFE (7233) to schedule your appointment or you can visit the department’s website to register online.

RESULTS: 2015 LEGISLATIVE SESSION SURVEY

Thank to everyone who has completed the 2015 Legislative Session Survey. The results of the entire survey are still being compiled but here are the results of some of the questions thus far:

Do you support holding special elections for members of the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate, as opposed to the current appointment process by central committee members, in the event that the General Assembly member cannot finish his or her term?

Strongly Support 52.6%
Somewhat Support 23.2%
Neutral 14.2%
Somewhat Against 5.8%
Strongly Against 2.6%

Do you support a special election for a United States Senator, as opposed to an appointment by the Governor, in the event the Senator cannot finish his or her term?

Strongly Support 67.8%
Somewhat Support 18.7%
Neutral 4.0%
Somewhat Against 4.0%
Strongly Against 3.1%

Do you support banning plastic bags and allowing a store to charge a 10-cent fee for paper bags?

Strongly Support 29.9%
Somewhat Support 16.9%
Neutral 9.3%
Somewhat Against 11.6%
Strongly Against 31.2%

Do you support a person's right to physician-assisted suicide if a doctor has diagnosed them with a terminal illness, defined as a medical condition that, within reasonable judgment, involves a prognosis for a patient that likely will result in the patient's death within 6 months?

Strongly Support 43.7%
Somewhat Support 14.7%
Neutral 16.9%
Somewhat Against 6.2%
Strongly Against 16.9%

Surrounding jurisdictions such as Montgomery County and Washington D.C. allow alcohol to be sold on Sundays. Would you support�Prince George's County allowing alcohol to be sold on Sundays?

Strongly Support 40.1%
Somewhat Support 16.9%
Neutral 12.9%
Somewhat Against 7.1%
Strongly Against 22.3%


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office.

Sincerely,


Victor R. Ramirez, Esq.
State Senator
Legislative District 47

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Senator Scholarship Application
Eligible students must be District 47 residents and attend a college or university in Maryland. These scholarships can be used for either undergraduate or graduate study. The application and all supporting documents are due by Tuesday, April 28th, 2015. We will let all students know their awards by mid-June. Good luck!
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Know Your District
Maryland adopted new State Legislative districts on February 24, 2012 based on the changes in population reported in the 2010 U.S. Census and in accordance with Maryland’s “No Representation Without Population Act” of 2010. As a result, State Legislative District 47 was split into 47A and 47B. Here is 47A and 47B.

To learn more visit the Maryland Redistricting website.