2007 End of Session Letter
A Message From Bobby
Dear Friends, It is my honor to serve you in the Maryland State Senate. I would encourage you to contact my legislative office with issues or ideas for the Legislative Session. We welcome anyone to come visit us in Annapolis. In the meantime, please use this website as a... Click here to read more.
I want to thank you for your input and support during the 2007 Session. After eight great years in the Maryland House of Delegates, I am proud to have completed my first Session as State Senator of Baltimore County’s 11th District. I am very proud of the teamwork of our District, working alongside Delegates Dan Morhaim, Jon Cardin and Dana Stein. In Annapolis, success is never accomplished without teamwork, and our 11th District Team strives to work together as a unit for you.
The 2007 Session of the Maryland General Assembly was marked by accomplishment and success in a number of important areas. As consensus rarely gets headlines in newspapers, legislative achievement seemed to fly under the political radar. The following represent a few of the important issues of the Session.
Education continues to be my top priority in the General Assembly. This Session, I was proud that Governor O’Malley followed through on his pledge to include over $400 million in needed school construction funding and fully fund the Thornton education formula. In addition, my colleagues and I introduced a number of important bills this year dealing with class size reduction, summer education funding, and group home education reform. I am pleased that Randallstown High, Pikesville Middle and Deer Park Middle received greatly needed funds.
The Baltimore County School Board came under fire highlighted by a scathing independent audit. A number of bills dealt with changing the process of school board member selection. I introduced legislation for a “hybrid school board” consisting of seven appointed members and seven elected members to replace our current board of all appointees. School board legislation was postponed for a summer workgroup that I will chair with Delegate Jimmy Malone of Catonsville. It is clear that our school board needs greater accountability and our citizens need easier access to its members.
I am proud to announce that the long-sought 54-acre parcel of land at Rosewood has officially been set aside for use as a new school. I have long argued that our area needs a new middle school in Owings Mills. Having suitable land available for such construction was the necessary first step and the one that could be influenced by State officials. It is now incumbent on our County officials to make our dream of a new middle school a reality. We will continue to press our case with the County Executive, County Council, and Baltimore County School Board.
As the number of uninsured Marylanders grows and the cost of healthcare continues to rise, a number of legislative initiatives have been floated to deal with the growing crisis. The House passed sweeping legislation to provide a floor of universal healthcare paid for by a $1.00 cigarette tax. The Senate decided to stall that initiative pending more complete action on the State’s massive budget deficit.
Major health initiatives successfully passed the Legislature. A ban on smoking in bars and restaurants will take effect February 1, 2008 to protect the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke. In addition, Governor O’Malley has increased funding for stem cell research in his budget. Other major health bills include a start on the important issue of physician reimbursements, an extension of healthcare for children as dependents of their parents, an annual sunset review of the Maryland Board of Physicians, “clean cars” legislation designed to alleviate environmental effects on individuals with asthma, and increased sanctions for fraudulent pharmaceutical sales.
Public Safety and Juvenile Services
Issues of public safety included intense work in the area of juvenile justice, sex offenders, gangs, and identity theft. With the support of Governor O’Malley, we were able to pass sweeping legislation that had previously stalled. Legislation was passed creating a regional approach to juvenile services utilizing wilderness-based secure treatment facilities, mandating outcomes evaluations for the use of data-driven policy, upgrading standards for direct care staff, expanding the role of the Office of the Independent Monitor, and mandating the use of volunteer mentors. The 2007 Session finally saw the beginning of real reform in this broken area.
Other major legislation in the area of public safety included “Jessica’s Law” which provides for a 25 year mandatory minimum sentence without the possibility of parole for certain sex offenses, enhanced penalties for gang-related activity, mandatory pre-sentence investigations in certain child sex offense crimes, felony child abuse, and consumer protections in the area of identity theft.
Protecting Our Environment
Preserving and protecting Maryland’s natural resources was a top priority in the 2007 Session. Clean cars legislation, investments in solar and wind energy, a ban on clam and oyster dredging in the coastal bays, commitments to green building technology, and greater energy efficiency standards for several products were just a few of the legislative successes. Left unresolved were bills dealing with the “Green Fund” designed to upgrade the Chesapeake Bay and issues related to global warming. In addition to legislative success, the new Attorney General, Doug Gansler, has brought a welcome focus to enforcement of existing environmental laws.
The 11th District made tremendous gains during the 2007 Session, with a variety of local bills and legislation. Although the Baltimore County School Board bills were withdrawn for summer study, momentum has been generated for real change in this area next Session. As previously stated, we had great success with the acquisition of 54 acres of Rosewood for future use a school in the Northwest area. Legislation was passed providing protection for our forensic scientists, based in the Pikesville headquarters. Finally, bond bills for United Cerebral Palsy, The Hopewell Center, Irvine Nature Center, Randallstown High School and Milford Mill High School found their way into the state budget, along with millions of additional dollars for school construction.
Thank you once again for your support and guidance during the 2007 Session. After eight years in the House of Delegates, starting my first year in the State Senate was an exciting change. 2007 was a year of great success in passing important legislation left unresolved in the past four years. I want to extend my thanks to my great Annapolis staff, my 11th District colleagues, and all of you for making this Session a great success.
Please feel free to contact my Annapolis office during the interim with your concerns and comments.
Bobby A. Zirkin
Senator, District 11