2008 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.
We have come to the end of the Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly, and I am writing to provide you with a brief synopsis of major legislation of importance to our community. This year’s Session followed a long and challenging Special Session to address Maryland’s structural budget deficit. 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 always work together for our constituents. After an extended time away, I am looking forward to returning home and spending some much needed time with my wife and nine month old daughter, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
My Annapolis Legislative office will remain open and be staffed throughout the year. My staff may be reached in the Annapolis office at 410-841-3131. I will be returning to my law practice in Owings Mills and may be reached there during the interim.
Budget Issues and the Repeal of the Technology Tax
This year saw a Special Session of the General Assembly in which Maryland’s long-standing structural budget deficit was finally tackled. For years, the deficit had been masked by budget maneuvers and transfers, and by increased fees on tolls and septic systems and by steep raises in tuition at Maryland’s colleges and universities. A final compromise of revenue enhancements and budget cuts closed Maryland’s deficit. Following the Special Session which saw close to a billion dollars in budget cuts, a downturn in economic forecasts necessitated even further cuts to services.
During the Special Session, a sales tax on ‘computer services’ was levied for the first time in Maryland’s history. At that time, I spoke against the computer services tax and argued that for legal and economic reasons, it was the wrong public policy for Maryland. Unfortunately, that tax remained in the final bill, and I subsequently voted against the tax package containing the ‘tech tax.’ The tax was due to go into effect this July, but this Session, the Legislature recognized its mistake. I am happy to announce that the tax on computer services has been repealed. The tax was replaced with a combination of further cuts in transportation spending and a slight increase in the income tax for individuals earning over one million dollars per year. That income tax increase for millionaires will repeal after three years.
It is my strong belief that a tax on computer services would have wreaked havoc on our current and future economy, and I am relieved that it was repealed.
Stopping Sexual Predators on the Internet
Over the past years, the Legislature has worked hard on issues relating to sex offenders and predators enacting some of the toughest laws in the nation. Among the bills enacted over the past years have been Jessica’s Law and Megan’s Law, creating the sex offender registry in which offenders must register information about themselves and their whereabouts following conviction.
This Session, I am proud to have worked with my colleague Delegate Mike Smigiel on a bill adding to the sex offender registry. Under our legislation, offenders will have to register any internet or web-based identifying information including ‘My Space’ accounts, chat room names and others. This legislation will provide another tool for police and prosecutors to monitor offenders if they are released from prison.
Protecting Maryland’s Children from Lead-Contaminated Toys and Accessories
With a raised awareness of potentially harmful amounts of lead and other toxins in toy imports from China and other nations, a coalition of advocates sprung into action this Session. Thanks to a number of Legislators like Senator Catherine Pugh and Delegate Jim Hubbard, we now have groundbreaking legislation regulating the toy industry and the types of chemicals used in toys for infants. Despite intense lobbying from a number of powerful special interests, I am proud that Maryland has joined a handful of states in providing greater protection for our children in this important area. This issue screams for action at the federal level, but until such time, Maryland has made a strong statement in protecting its citizens. I am proud to have played a role in resisting “killer” amendments offered by the toy industry and hope Maryland can serve as a model for national legislation.
Foreclosure Bills and Environmental Bills
Emergency legislation was put forth to help Maryland homeowners who are currently at risk of losing their homes and to prevent homeowners from foreclosure. Legislation lengthens the foreclosure process from 15 days to approximately 150 days making it fairer for homeowners and providing more time and notice before a foreclosure sale. In addition, the bill bans foreclosure rescue transactions that scam homeowners out of their homes and the equity that they have built up. Legislation also passed creating a crime out of mortgage fraud and allowing victims of mortgage fraud to bring private action against violators.
The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are one of Maryland’s greatest resources. This session, the legislature created the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund to help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay, secured $25 million for the Trust Fund, updated Maryland’s Critical Area Legislation to help better control development in environmentally sensitive areas, and made Transit Oriented Development a priority for the State to reduce sprawl and over-development. In addition, we fully funded Program Open Space, passed the Stormwater Management Act and increased funding for nutrient removal programs, passed an Oyster Restoration Act to restore oyster population to the Bay, and invested record amounts in cover crop programs for Maryland farmers. Finally, we launched the EmPOWER Maryland Initiative setting the most ambitious goal in the nation to decrease per capita electricity consumption, promoted diversification of Maryland’s electricity sources and “green buildings”, and led efforts to implement Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to control carbon dioxide emissions.
Group Homes and Juvenile Issues
This Session, with the strong help of the Secretaries of Juvenile Services and Human Resources, several bills relating to group homes have passed. The bills call for a complete overhaul of the licensing process for group homes and a new system based on the needs of the children and communities rather than those of the providers. The legislation further calls for a legally enforceable ‘Bill of Rights’ for children living in group homes and for communities that support them.
And finally, the bills call for enhancements in the training and qualifications of staff that deal directly with juveniles in out of home placements. Taken together, this legislative package represents a major shift in policy relating to group homes and the children in our juvenile systems.
Local Issues: Rosewood, Bond Bills, and Randallstown High School
Every Session there are important issues that specifically relate to the 11th District. This Session, the Governor announced the closure of Rosewood, a facility in the heart of District 11. With the imminent closure of the state hospital, the placement of the medically and mentally fragile is of great importance. In addition, the issue of what would become of the remaining land at Rosewood has taken on immediate importance. It is my belief that the land should be preserved for community use to the greatest extent possible, and for educational use for institutions like Villa Julie College.
In addition, I am proud to have ushered through a bond bill for the Weinberg Village V and worked hard for one for the Irvine Nature Center. And I am proud to
have worked with so many community activists in Randallstown to stop the construction of a cell tower on that campus. Following the introduction of
legislation banning cell towers on school sites in Baltimore County, I have secured the commitment of Superintendent Joe Hairston that this will never be
These are just a few of the issues that were discussed during the 2008 Session. As always, I look forward to your response on these or any other issues of interest. Thank you for the honor of representing you in the Senate of Maryland. If I may ever be of assistance please do not hesitate to contact me at anytime.
District 11, Baltimore County