2017 End of Session Report
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 reached the end of the 437th 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 nineteen years. Your calls, e-mails and letters have been instrumental in making decisions that represent the residents of our District. I always strive to focus on substance and policy and work hard to make my constituents proud.
This session presented a number of challenges. The primary responsibility of the General Assembly is to pass a balanced budget while maintaining our priorities in education, public safety, healthcare, and protecting our natural resources. My colleagues and I tackled tough issues such as funding our public schools, creating jobs, building infrastructure, addressing Maryland’s over-incarceration, protecting victims of crime, and banning fracking in Maryland.
This Session marked my third as Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Judicial Proceedings works to solve issues in subjects including criminal law and procedure, civil law, family and juvenile law, estates and trusts, real estate, corporate law, transportation and vehicle law, and the like. I am truly honored to chair this Committee that tackles some of the toughest and highly complex issues in the State. As one of the Senate’s few practicing attorneys, I try to bring a practical perspective to the work of Judicial Proceedings. I am proud that my Committee tackles issues together, and in a truly non-partisan manner – the way politics is supposed to be.
As we move into the interim, I look forward to spending time with my family and returning to my Pikesville law practice. Please do not hesitate to call my office if I may ever be of assistance. Thank you again for the honor and privilege of continuing to serve in the State Senate of Maryland.
State Senator, District 11
Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal Justice Reform – The Justice Reinvestment Act
Senator Zirkin is proud that over the past two years, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, of which he is the Chairman, together with House counterparts, took the first comprehensive look at Maryland’s outdated criminal justice system. Senator Zirkin wanted to finally address Maryland’s wasting of vast resources with minimal results in the criminal system. The Justice Reinvestment Act – an effort to overhaul and reform Maryland’s criminal justice system – was the single largest criminal law and policy reform in our State’s history. This bill was the product of bipartisan efforts of the legislature, public, and other stakeholders including state’s attorneys, public defenders, attorneys, corrections officials, judges, and advocacy groups. The objective was to reform state policies to safely reduce the Maryland prison population in favor of resources for treatment and rehabilitation and other strategies to reduce recidivism. This groundbreaking legislation eliminates mandatory minimums for drug crimes and marks the most expansive changes to expungement law in Maryland’s history. The legislation also ordered the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to utilize treatment as an alternative to incarceration when appropriate and expanded the use of drug and mental health treatment. The legislation further modernized issues such as parole and probation and sentencing including increasing sentences for violent offenders. In total, the bill overhauled the system in a manner consistent with public safety and received unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate.
Marijuana and Medical Marijuana
In 2014, with bipartisan support, Senator Zirkin sponsored the landmark bill to decriminalize marijuana, remove the jail sentence for individuals with de minimus amounts, and replace it with a civil fine. Under the bill, all fines would be dedicated to Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to be used for drug education and treatment programs. The bill passed with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Senator Zirkin has continued to lead the fight to reform the State’s marijuana laws, to allow law enforcement to focus on violent crimes, and to free resources to concentrate on drug addiction treatment. Senator Zirkin was instrumental in bringing medical marijuana to our State. He served on the Medical Marijuana Conference Committee that hammered out the compromise on this issue several years ago. Maryland’s nascent medical marijuana program is finally on the verge of providing needed relief to patients across the State. We still have work to do to ensure that all citizens of Maryland have access to medical marijuana if prescribed by a physician, and Senator Zirkin is working hard to eliminate barriers to access that still exist in our law, including access for those on Medicaid and in the Veterans Administration (VA) system.
Protecting Our Environment
Senator Zirkin is proud that, after years of hard work by so many, the State of Maryland finally passed his legislation to ban hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Fracking is a method of creating or expanding fractures in underground rocks by injecting a toxic combination of chemicals to drill for natural gas.
Fracking poses a serious danger to public health. Major institutions all over the country including Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland have reported significant public health concerns associated with fracking including cancer, premature births, and asthma. While some sought to delay the decision with a moratorium Senator Zirkin believed that a ban was the only way to ensure that drinking water all over the state was protected from the dangers of fracking. With our state’s economy and environment so closely tied to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the dangers of fracking became even more significant in our state. Democrats and Republicans came together in a bipartisan manner to pass Senator Zirkin’s long-sought legislation which was signed by the Governor.
“Thank you to Senator Zirkin from the citizens of Western Maryland. Without his leadership, we would never have been successful in banning fracking. He is a true leader for all of Maryland.” – DAWN BEITZEL Garrett County Resident
“Maryland’s environment has a champion in Senator Bobby Zirkin. He tirelessly led the fight in the Senate to ban fracking, because he knows that Marylanders have a right to clean air and clean water.” – JOSH TULKIN Sierra Club
Senator Zirkin is committed to protecting victims of crimes and ensuring the safety of our community. This session, Senator Zirkin and his committee passed legislation to expand opportunities for victim notification and expanding the use of victim stay-away alert technology. Judicial Proceedings also passed legislation classifying felony home invasion as a crime of violence. Senator Zirkin was also proud that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has defeated legislation in consecutive years that would have given early parole to violent offenders, including human traffickers, domestic abusers, rapists, and murderers.
This year the legislature, led by Senator Zirkin’s committee, passed a number of bills to change the rape laws in the state of Maryland. The legislature passed a law that eliminated the requirement of physical resistance from the rape statute, an important stride in expanding the tools available to prosecutors to convict rapists. Senator Zirkin was proud to sponsor important legislation to require that rape kits are preserved once they are collected so evidence of these horrendous crimes are not destroyed. The legislature also allocated more funding to rape crisis centers and increased the penalties for subsequent offenders of rape and sexual assaults. Senator Zirkin and his committee also aided in the passing of a bill to reclassify certain serious sex offenses as rape.
Senator Zirkin and his committee also passed important legislation to combat human trafficking, clarifying the law on animal abuse and many other important public safety issues. Senator Zirkin was also proud to support Hometown Heroes legislation to protect the pensions of our law enforcement, fire fighters and first responders who do such critical work for our state.
“Bobby Zirkin is a true champion in the legislature on the issue of public safety. His leadership and bipartisan style are a breath of fresh air and he is critical in protecting our communities.”
– SCOTT SHELLENBERGER, Baltimore County State’s Attorney
Tackling Addiction and Drunk Driving
Senator Zirkin and his committee passed significant legislation to address the opioid epidemic in our state. The legislature passed a bill increasing the penalty for distributing fentanyl – often mixed with heroin and resulting in a high instance of overdose deaths. The legislature also increased the penalty for homicides caused by individuals driving under the influence of controlled dangerous substances. Senator Zirkin has led the fight for increased addiction treatment resources.
“Heroin use is a public health crisis in Maryland. It is destroying lives and tearing at the fabric of our communities. Senator Bobby Zirkin is working hard to give us much-needed tools to fight this epidemic. We are fortunate to have a real leader like Senator Zirkin representing us.”
– DR. IRA GARONZIK
Over the past few years Senator Zirkin has worked hard to protect Marylanders from drunk drivers. Last year, after police officer Noah Leotta was killed by a drunk driver, the General Assembly passed Noah’s Law which mandates the use of ignition interlock devices for people convicted of drunk driving. Senator Zirkin’s committee has continued to pass bills targeting drunk drivers with criminal, civil, and punitive sanctions.
“Thanks to Senator Zirkin, we have more tools to protect our communities from dangerous drunk drivers. His work will save lives. Senator Bobby Zirkin is a true friend of law enforcement and we are proud to support him.” – VINCE CANALES President, Maryland Fraternal Order of Police
Air Conditioning in Schools
This Session we made great progress in the fight to give our students the tools they need to succeed. District 11 Team members worked to obtain $10 million of school construction money to install air conditioning in all Baltimore City and Baltimore County schools within four years. This funding is critical to allow our students to succeed in an appropriate learning environment.
Baltimore County School Board Elections
Senator Zirkin is looking forward to next year when Baltimore County will finally have a partially elected (or “hybrid”) school board. The changes in 2018 come from legislation Senator Zirkin introduced to ensure a more democratic process for selecting school board members in Baltimore County. We look forward to the election of new members ensuring diversity and accountability in this important body.
Relieving Overcrowding at Padonia International and Pikesville High School
Senator Zirkin was honored to be part of the team advocating for a $5 million renovation and 12-room addition for Padonia International Elementary. These badly needed upgrades will help address overcrowding issues and give our educators and students the space to teach and learn.
Pikesville High School also recently received an overhaul to address capacity issues and bring facilities into the 21st Century. The $40 million project not only adds much-needed space, but also puts technology and STEM within reach for more students.
District 11 Local Initiatives
Senator Zirkin has worked hard on issues outside of his committee to benefit the interests of District 11. He was proud to sponsor the bill to allow the Guinness Factory to bring business and tourism to Baltimore County. Senator Zirkin also was the lead sponsor of the Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) legislation to allow Maryland to refuse to do business with funds or businesses that boycott Israel. Senator Zirkin continues to be strongly committed to enhancing the State of Maryland’s relationship with Israel.
Over the years, our District 11 team has secured funding for projects including the construction of a gymnasium for the Jemicy School’s Lower and Middle School campus, creation of an educational Native American Village at the Irvine Nature Center, and repairs at the Jewish Community Center’s Gordon Center. The District 11 team also delivered important funds for upgrades at the HopeWell Cancer Support Facility.
Senator Zirkin is excited that after years of effort, sufficient funding has been allocated for the cleanup and development of Rosewood for Stevenson University. The University, working with the community, will turn Rosewood into a thriving academic and athletic center. Senator Zirkin was excited to work with the administration in securing $16 million over three years for the cleanup and remediation of the Rosewood property.