2010 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 427th Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly. I feel honored and privileged to have served the residents of District 11, Baltimore County for the past twelve years. I proudly served eight years in the House of Delegates and four in the State Senate, officially completing my first full term as your State Senator. I am proud to work with my colleagues Delegates Morhaim, Stein, and Cardin. This session was the most challenging in my twelve years as we confronted a historic budget crisis amidst a national economic downturn. In addition to balancing the budget as is mandated by Maryland’s Constitution, I am proud of the accomplishments this session, particularly in the areas of public safety, education, and judicial matters. The Budget and Taxation Committee, of which I am a member, helped address the need for short term budget cuts due to decreased tax revenues in a shrinking economy and made progress in tackling the long term structural deficit. I hope you enjoy this brief synopsis of major legislation of importance to our community. This letter represents only a handful of legislation from the 2010 Session. I invite you to visit my website www.bobbyzirkin.com for more information or the General Assembly website http://mlis.state.md.us.
After three months in Annapolis, I look forward to spending some much needed time with my wife Tina and daughters Sophie and Emma. Thanks to my talented staff, my office will continue to provide strong constituent service throughout the year. The Annapolis Legislative Office will be staffed by Chief of Staff Josh Wolf, who replaced my long-serving Chief of Staff Vicki Almond. I will return to my law practice in Pikesville, where you can reach me during the interim. I look forward to seeing you in the community and encourage you to call or write if there is any way that I can be of assistance. Once again, thank you for the honor of being your Senator.
Bobby A. Zirkin
Maryland State Senator
District 11, Baltimore Count
Public Safety: Sex Offenders, Drunk Driving, Gangs, Juveniles, Domestic Violence
In 12 years serving Baltimore County’s District 11, Senator Zirkin has consistently made public safety his top legislative priority. In the 2010 Session, Senator Zirkin once again sponsored a number of important bills to strengthen public safety. Senator Zirkin introduced two pieces of legislation to strengthen Maryland’s sexual offender registry, legislation that promotes greater use of the ignition interlock in drunk driving cases, and worked with advocates for important changes related to domestic violence. Senator Zirkin played a crucial role in crafting major sex offender legislation and led the floor fight to strengthen current Maryland law related to gangs.
Senator Zirkin co-sponsored a three-bill package of sex offender legislation proposed by Governor O’Malley. In combination, these bills address many aspects of Maryland’s sex offender law, providing for lifetime supervision of predators, establishing a more comprehensive sex offender registry, and significantly enhancing criminal sentences for offenders. The Governor’s legislation conforms Maryland’s sex offender law to the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Offenders will be classified along a three tier system, requiring registration for 15 years, 25 years, or for life, depending on the nature of the crime.
In 2008, Senator Zirkin proudly sponsored legislation to modernize the sex offender registry to include “Internet identifying information,” such as emails, chat names, and MySpace and Facebook accounts. With information obtained last year, the online social network MySpace was able to purge 90,000 members based on online identifying information obtained from registries around the country, including Maryland. This legislative session, Senator Zirkin amended stronger provisions related to this area of the registry to the Governor’s legislation. Under the new requirement, a registrant must notify the police of any change to that person’s online identifiers and failure to do so is a crime. By strengthening Maryland’s registry laws, social networks will be better equipped to continue efforts to purge offenders, and parents will have enhanced abilities to monitor who their children may be contacting. Over twelve years, Senator Zirkin has been proud to support a wide array of bills in this area including Megan’s Law, Jessica’s Law, and the major sex offender legislation of 2010.
Senator Zirkin was the lead sponsor of some of Maryland’s first major ignition interlock legislation. This Session, Senator Zirkin co-sponsored legislation requiring greater use of the ignition interlock for drunk drivers. Under the law as proposed, in addition to any court imposed penalties, offenders would have been forced to use the interlock after their first conviction. The legislation was strongly supported by advocates such as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The bill passed the Senate unanimously, but unfortunately stalled in the House of Delegates. Senator Zirkin will continue to work toward greater use of the ignition interlock technology to make Maryland roads safer.
While a civil protective order is an important tool in the fight against domestic violence, the current law has unfortunately been abused. A simple online case search can reveal anyone who has had a peace order or protective order filed against him or her, even if that case was dismissed or denied. The stigma of that accusation can be harmful to personal and professional lives. This Session, Senator Zirkin sponsored Senate Bill 935, which allows the shielding of denied or dismissed protective orders from public view. While this information will no longer be available to the public, the new law protects access to this information for those who truly need it, including police officers, the judiciary, and victim support service providers.
This Session, Senator Zirkin was proud to lead the floor fight for stronger gang legislation. The new law includes enhanced sentences for crimes done in furtherance of gang activities, requires consecutive sentences for second time offenders, and creates a new “gang kingpin” statute. That law makes a new felony out of the supervision, organization, or financing of gang operations.
Senator Zirkin has continued to champion the reform of Maryland’s broken juvenile justice system. After many years, Senator Zirkin was successful this session in mandating smaller committed facilities for both the public and private juvenile institutions. The new 48 bed limit insures that Maryland has finally abandoned its history of large institutions that warehouse juveniles. This achievement is a cornerstone of reform for our State.
As a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Senator Zirkin’s primary responsibility is to work alongside fellow Committee members to produce a balanced budget. With mandated spending in areas like education, health care, public safety, transportation maintenance, and pension liability on the rise, the General Assembly faced very difficult choices on closing the significant budget gap while maintaining essential services. The previous four year term marks the first time in 40 years where the State reduced state spending over a four year period.
Despite the economic difficulties, we were able to maintain adequate funding levels for resources that are vital to so many Marylanders. The General Assembly was able to include an estimated $633 million in the State’s Rainy Day Fund, which plays a crucial role in determining the State’s bond rating. With a $209.1 million funding increase from last year’s education budget, the General Assembly continued its commitment to K-12 education by investing a total of $5.7 billion. To date our investments in K-12 education have seen tremendous returns, with our students leading the nation in Advanced Placement exam scores and receiving the “Best in the Nation” ranking from Education Week magazine. The General Assembly continued investing in higher education, maintaining funding for public colleges and universities at last year’s level of $1.2 billion. While the recession forced an end to the four year tuition freeze, increases were succesfully limited to a modest 3%.
The General Assembly’s commitment to sound fiscal responsibility will help to make certain Maryland avoids the same pitfalls as other states and minimizes the severity of the current fiscal crisis. Maryland’s status as one of only seven states that maintain a Triple A bond rating – an independent assessment of fiscal responsibility certified by all three major bond rating agencies – underscores the State’s commitment to tightening its fiscal belt. Through smart government spending and effective job creation programs, the Maryland General Assembly has taken the necessary efforts to ensure its citizens are in the best position when the economy recovers.
In addition to the hefty investments the State made in K-12 and higher education, the legislature passed the Fairness in Negotiation Act. This law will establish a collective bargaining process between local boards of education and school employee unions to resolve issues concerning salaries, wages, hours, and other working conditions. It also established a Public School Labor Relations Board to carry out the collective bargaining process independently from the State Board of Education.
Despite challenging economic times, Senator Zirkin believes that maintaining funding levels for our children is of critical importance. Although new initiatives were clearly impossible this session, Senator Zirkin fought on the budget committee to ensure continued funding at levels necessary to maintain Maryland’s progress.
The Future of Rosewood: Ensuring Cleanup and Transfer to Stevenson University
The current state and future of the Rosewood Center is one of the most pressing issues in Baltimore County. Despite its complex and troubled past, the Rosewood Center presents a great opportunity to transform an environmentally hazardous parcel of land into a community gem. Currently, Rosewood is a sprawling field of abandoned buildings filled with lead and asbestos, a network of underground tunnels, and environmental hazards. The environmental cleanup of this property is the top priority of this delegation. Governor O’Malley has made the cleanup of Rosewood a major priority as well.
Since its closure, Senator Zirkin worked hard alongside community organizations, the District 11 Legislative Team, and the Administration to develop an overall plan for the Rosewood property. With Senator Zirkin’s support, consensus formed around a plan for Stevenson University to acquire the entirety of Rosewood. Despite enormous challenges, Stevenson has stepped forward with a plan that transforms Rosewood into athletic fields, tennis courts, and a community park. Stevenson worked with all of the surrounding communities and organizations, including the Irvine Nature Center, Greater Greenspring Association, ROG, area Recreation Councils, the Valleys Planning Council, and State and local officials to develop a plan for this area. According to the plan, the old therapeutics building would be used for a new School of Education. In combination with Stevenson University’s rapid growth at the Owings Mills Boulevard Campus, this plan could help anchor our community as a ‘college town’ well into the future.
As one of the few practicing attorneys in the Maryland State Senate, legislative matters concerning the Judiciary are always of great importance to Senator Zirkin. During the 2010 session, he successfully passed legislation that changed the circumstances in which one can request a jury trial in a civil suit. Senator Zirkin’s Amount in Controversy bills bring the benefits of efficient and cost-effective district court hearing to cases where the potential recovery is $10,000 or greater, but below $15,000. The new law, which will be on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, will help bring greater efficiency and less cost in smaller claim civil cases.
Senator Zirkin has been a leading voice to reform Maryland’s domestic relations law. This session, Senator Zirkin introduced 3 bills designed to ease divorce laws, which are often costly and intrusive in this state. Although the bills were not successful this Session, Senator Zirkin will continue to work in this area.
Local Bond Bills
Senator Zirkin was proud to successfully sponsor three bond bills this Session for the 11th District. Working with Delegates Morhaim, Stein, and Cardin, he successfully sponsored bills to acquire needed funding for the HopeWell Cancer Support, the Humane Society, and Owings Mills High School’s stadium project. In addition, three million dollars were acquired for Stevenson University in the Capital Budget for the new School of Design at the Greenspring campus.