Week 5&6 of 2019 Legislative Session
Welcome to Week five of 2019 Legislative Session! My car battery died on me this week! But I did not let that stop me. My car was jump-started and I was able to make it into work. Like my car battery, I jumped into work these past two weeks and proposed a few bills. Last week hosted the last day to propose bills for a guaranteed hearing in 2019. I proposed two bills. This current week was just as integral, and I would like to highlight two bills.
The SAV Bill
We are seeing a lot of new growth of Submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) in our waterways. This is a great thing and is partly to the credit of our oyster growers. They have spent much time caring for their oyster leases and establishing an environment which results in the current SAV blooming. However, under current law when SAV is present on a lease, an oyster grower will be restricted from working in that area out of fear of damaging the SAV. However, cage leases (column or bottom) can be safely harvested by carefully removing the oysters by hand.
This bill will allow Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use their discretion to regulate oyster-growing when SAV is present. This means in the situation above and others where SAV is not negatively impacted, the oyster-grower’s lease is not affected. For five years DNR will do this, while also creating a report of the SAV and how leaving the oyster-growers in some situations affect it. After these five years, the issue will be looked at again.
HB- Special Police Officers Act Pilot Program
Previously we discussed the Republican Caucus’ press release. In it was the Special Police Officers Act of 2019. This act gives the Sheriff Department a choice to add a special police officer to protect schools in their jurisdiction. Since the school shooting at Great Mills High served as a catalyst for this legislation, Delegate Morgan and I proposed a bill that would allow a pilot program of this act in St. Mary’s County. Schooling is critical in our children’s development and we cannot waste any time before we protect it, and them.
I have another bill that was not ready from the drafters in time to be dropped last. It will need to go through the Rules Committee before heading into the Environment and Transportation Committee. I will discuss that more next week.
This week, Senate passed a bill that would allow local school boards to decide their own school year calendars. In 2016, Governor Hogan made an executive order that required schools to start after Labor Day, and end before June 15. HB437 will allow a local board of education to set start and end dates each year for public schools in the county. I posted a poll on Facebook this week. Many of you responded and I am so thankful for your opinions and reasoning! Just over 60% of the comments reflected a desire to keep the school year start after Labor Day.
Minimum Wage Bill-HB0166
This bill increases the current minimum wage rate to $15/hour by 2024. It also prohibits an employer from counting tips in this $15/hour wage. I am against this. Local government expenditures increase significantly beginning in fiscal year 2020. Other negative effects will be a decrease in job opportunities, increase in inflation, and reduction in local competitiveness. Businesses will have higher operating costs and they pass that cost along to you - the consumer. Some people may be making more money, but everyone will be paying more for it. The state’s expenditure is expected to increase by at least $84.3 million in fiscal year 2024.
Thanks for taking time to read this week’s blog. Talk to you next week.