2019 End of Session Letter

 

Dear Friend:

 

                Thank you for following along with me during the 2019 Legislative Session.  I am honored to represent so many people who take a vested interest in our community.  Your input helps me better understand and represent the values and ideas of Southern Maryland.

Major Issues

               It was a quite busy legislative session with 2,481 bills presented and 864 bills passed.  As legislators, we work to pass bills that will positively impact our community and more often to stop or limit those which will not.  Unfortunately, many bills with negative impacts become law, in spite of our best efforts.  Some of the major issues that passed this session that I voted against were: increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next 5 years; allowing local school boards to set the public school start and end dates; increasing the renewable energy standard for utility companies to 50% by 2030; making it illegal for state government officials to ask about a person’s immigration status; banning the use of Styrofoam food containers and cups; and abolishing the handgun review board.  Some of the major issues that I voted in favor of were increasing the funding for schools (Blueprint for Maryland); making human trafficking a felony and easier to prosecute; and creating a separate crime for violence against a pregnant woman (Laura and Reid’s Law).

 

County Bills

                Each year the Board of County Commissioners of Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties ask the county delegation to put in bills for their jurisdiction.  These are known as local bills and usually have no opposition as they advance through the legislature.

  • Mary’s County Delegation submitted six bills. Four of those bills passed:
    • HB358 gives St. Mary’s County $30M bonding authority.
    • HB359 repeals the Building Authority Commission.
    • HB360 allows alcoholic beverage license holders to sell alcoholic beverages at a bar or counter on Sunday.
    • HB982 allows a Class C per diem alcohol license holder to hold another license of a different class.

 

  • Calvert Country Delegation submitted six bills. Five of the bills passed:
    • HB623 gives Calvert County $10.3M bonding authority.
    • HB1258 provides for a death benefit of $6K for volunteer fire and rescue persons who die in the line of duty (Patricia Ann "Pat" Osburn Law).
    • SB908 alters the State's Attorney for Calvert County’s salary to be equal to the salary of a circuit court judge.
    • SB947 applies a Correctional Officers' Bill of Rights to Calvert County.
    • SB957 allows the sheriff to appoint correctional deputies.

 

State Funding

                The General Assembly annually passes an Operational Budget which provides funding for state supported agencies and facilities.  Budgeted funding for Education (Primary, Secondary, Libraries and Community Colleges) in St. Mary’s County is $129.4M.  Calvert County Education funding is allocated at $106.3M.  Funding per pupil is $7.3K in St. Mary’s and $6.6K in Calvert County.  Transportation funding for St. Mary’s County and Calvert County remains the same as last year: Calvert ($1.8M) and St. Mary’s ($1.9M).  In Calvert County State Highway projects include $14.3M funding to finish the MD 2/4 widening project (Phase 2) in Prince Frederick and $2.1M to replace the bridge on Bayside Road over Fishing Creek.  State Highway projects in St. Mary’s County include $2.9M to complete the Leonardtown’s Abel/Moakley Streets improvement project and $10.3M for widening MD5 in St. Inigoes. 

                Direct funding for many well needed projects in Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties are included in the Capital and Supplemental Budgets.  Some of the special projects for St. Mary’s County include the Navy Alliance’s Innovation Center for Autonomous Systems ($500K), St. Mary’s Detention Center ($5.5M), Three Notch Theater ($150K), UMS Southern Maryland Higher Education Center ($72.3M), Historic St. Mary’s City ($31.5M) and school construction ($255K).  Calvert County special projects include the Twin Beach Library ($300K), Jefferson Patterson Park ($4.4M), Calvert Marine Museum ($250K), Calvert County Detention Center ($249K), St. John’s Vianny Food Pantry ($125K) and school construction ($194K).

 

Sponsored Legislation

                This year I was the primary sponsor of four bills which all passed to become law.  My first bill to pass this year was HB477.  Two years ago, emergency medical volunteers were inadvertently left out of a local property tax credit.  To correct this, I sponsored a bill to include them in the list of “Hometown Heroes”.  The bill easily passed through both houses.  Contact the county treasurer’s office to see if you qualify for this local optional tax credit which applies for taxable years beginning June 2019.

                Local farmers made me aware of another property tax issue.  Farms placed in agriculture preservation which were not actively farmed were being re-assessed at a higher tax rate.  Property placed in preservation is given a lower rate because the development rights have been sold.  HB1350 was presented to expand the definition of conservation property to include these perpetual easement properties. This bill started out in the Rules Committee, but passed through both chambers with one day to spare.

                Oyster aquaculture is a big business in Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties.  As the industry grows, issues begin to surface that were not anticipated.  Last summer, I began working on the over-regulation of licensing aquaculture nurseries.  With the passage of HB28, operators will only need to obtain a license from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their projects on existing piers instead of from multiple agencies.  My last bill involved the emerging underwater grasses (SAV) in oyster aquaculture leases.  This is both a good and bad problem.  The presence of SAV requires the lease holder to shut down operation.  We wanted to encourage SAV growth and the continued operations of these leases, which have led to the SAV growth.  HB841 allows for this at the discretion of DNR and obtains necessary data about the practice so we can determine its direct impact on SAV.

                Lastly, after the action at Great Mills HS last year, which left one student injured and one student dead, Delegate Matt Morgan and I submitted a bill which would have allowed the St. Mary’s County Sherriff’s office to hire Special Police Officers (SPOs) to be trained and placed at schools to insure the safety of students.  This bill was to be a pilot for a statewide program supported by the House Republican Caucus.  The bill failed to make it out of committee; however, please know that we have not forgotten the importance of our students’ safety and will continue to work for it.

                Thank you for the opportunity to represent such a wonderful community.  I am grateful for the trust you have placed in me.  I look forward to seeing you around this summer.

 

                                                                                                Sincerely,

 

                                                                                                Gerald “Jerry” Clark

                                                                                                Calvert/St. Mary’s Counties (29C)

MDGOP Candidate