Friday, February 19, 2016

Big Issues in Annapolis - Part 2

Justice Reinvestment (HB 1312 and HB 1313)These two bills address issues dealing with Maryland’s growing prison population.  I am spending a little extra space here to discuss this important issue.
Over the last decade, Maryland has achieved large declines in both its violent and property crime rates, but only modest reductions in the state prison population. Maryland still incarcerates more than 20,000 offenders – costing state taxpayers $1.3 billion in corrections spending annually.  A Justice Reinvestment Commission looked into this and made a number of recommendations that have been incorporated into these bills.
•          Maryland continues to send many nonviolent, lower-level offenders to prison. More than half (58 percent) of prison admissions had underlying nonviolent offenses.  Almost 60 percent of all prison admissions represent failures of probation or post-prison supervision. Many of these failures are due to technical violations of the conditions of supervision, like failing a drug test or being arrested, rather than for a new criminal conviction.
•          Despite research demonstrating that longer prison terms do not reduce recidivism, time served has increased 23 percent in the last decade. This is driven by a 25 percent increase in average sentence length over the same time period.
•          The Commission identified gaps in the availability of reentry services and in access to treatment. For example, specialty courts for adult offenders, such as drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ courts, do not exist in seven of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.
Some of the Policy Recommendations
 •         Focus prison beds for serious and violent offenders by aligning penalties for drug possession with the research on effective practice and requiring access to residential drug treatment beds.
•          Improve release and reentry practices by instituting comprehensive case planning for parole-eligible inmates and restricting parole hearings to offenders who break prison rules or whose victims request a hearing; and, expanding geriatric parole eligibility.
•          Support local corrections systems by reclassifying driving without a license, or with a suspended, license as non-jailable offenses for first-time offenders.
•          Eliminating mandatory minimums for all drug offenses.
If adopted, the Commission’s recommendations are projected to reduce Maryland’s prison population by 3,930 inmates over the next 10 years, averting $247 million in corrections spending. The Commission strongly recommends that all these dollars be reinvested into programs and practices shown by research to protect public safety and reduce recidivism; including, increasing drug and mental health treatment capacity, strengthening community supervision, and expanding reentry programs.
Voter Registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles (HB 1007):  This bill would require the Motor Vehicle Administration and other social service agencies to implement an automatic voter registration system where persons eligible to register would be automatically registered unless they elect not to register.
Law Enforcement Reform (HB 1016):  This legislation is to reform public safety practices.  The bill is a result of the recommendations from a joint legislative committee that met last year.    They made 23 policy recommendations.  Some of the recommendations include: requiring a complaint against a law enforcement officer alleging brutality to be signed instead of having to have it notarized; authorizing an individual who has a video recording to file a brutality complaint against a law enforcement officer; altering the time period within which a specified complaint against a law enforcement officer may be filed; and, expanding whistleblower protections to officers who participate in investigations. 

The REDUCE Act [Reducing Environmental Degradation for the Underserved Through Community Engagement] (HB 820):  This bill is directed at the environmental problems at some of our industrial parks (one of which is off of Columbia Park Rd. in District 47).  In areas with high level of poverty or minority population permit applicants would have to estimate and publish information on diesel truck trips and consult with the community about routes, times and impacts on infrastructure and safety.  Before a permit for a new plant in an industrial park is issued, there shall be a report on the number of additional trucks trips required with the new facility and its impact on the roads.  Moreover, the Department of Environment will investigate the respiratory illnesses in the area and disseminate this information.
Tax Credit for Public and Non-public Schools (HB 453):  This is Governor Hogan’s bill which establishes an education tax credit program with a priority to support public and private schools in low-income neighborhoods. The tax credit is available for donations to support basic education needs such as books, supplies, technology, academic tutoring, tuition assistance and special needs services. The credits will also be targeted to promote Pre-K programs and enrollment. The bill is for $5 million for FY2017, $10 million FY 2018, and $15 million FY 2019.
Pollinator Protection Act (HB 605):  This bill would prohibit the retail sale of seeds, material and plants that have been treated with pesticides unless the products are clearly labeled.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (HB 610):   This bill calls for a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030.
Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act (HB 1106):  This bill would ensure Maryland gets 25% of its electricity by 2020 from ‘clean’ sources such as wind and solar power
Expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit (HB1047) - To help working individuals and families achieve increased economic security, both parties are proposing to increase the percentage of earned income allowable from 25% to 28% .  This proposal would benefit approximately 170,000 taxpayers.

Veto Override of Voting Rights for Former Prisoners – On February 9th the Senate joined the House of Delegates in overriding a bill that allows people to vote who are out of prison but still on parole.  These returning citizens can get work and pay taxes when they get out of prison they should also be allowed to vote.
Save the Date – District 47 Night at Annapolis
Monday, March 21st
6:00 P.M. TILL 8:00 P.M.

Miller Senate Building, Conference Room West, 11 Bladen Street
For More Information and to RSVP:  Call 301-858-3745
Pot Holes on State Roads: This just in from MDOT/SHA:  As warmer temperatures are in the forecast week following this week’s snowstorm, we’d like to take this opportunity to share resources for constituents to report potholes on state roads and/or submit any claims for damages regarding potholes on state roads.  Customers may submit pothole service requests 24 hours a day online at:  Claims for damages directly related to potholes on state roads are handled by the Maryland State Treasurer’s Office.  Customers should visit: .  Additionally, customers with claims for pothole damages can contact the State Treasurer’s Office via phone at 410-260-7684.  If you have any additional questions regarding potholes on state roads, please feel free to contact me or Ms. Sabrina Mason, SHA District 3 Community and Government Affairs Specialist at or 301-513-7342.