By Delegate Mike McDermott
Week of Jan. 31st through Feb. 4th, 2011
- Monday following session I participated in an annual Chess Tournament between the House and the Senate. I beat my opponent and advanced to the next round. I cherished it for a few moments…it may be my only “victory” in the legislature this year.
- Tuesday the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB-35 which seeks to define “income” as it relates to Child Support payments. Those testifying wanted to see the state use the base amount of a person’s income used for determining Child Support payments as opposed to the counting of overtime into the mix as well. The same was said of second jobs. It seems many will take on second jobs to make up for payments in arrears and they do not want the secondary employment income seen as their “base income”. There were good points made, but I do not know if this bill will see a vote in committee.
- On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee also received a briefing by MVA on the state’s Ignition Interlock System Program. This is a mandatory program which requires certain driver’s convicted of DWI offenses to have a device installed on their personal vehicle which requires the driver submit a breath sample before the vehicle will operate. Initial kinks seem to have been worked out of the system based on the questions asked by Committee members regarding past concerns. There was some discussion on the use of pictures taken by some of the machines which show clearly who is providing the breath sample at the time of delivery. It was thought this may be helpful insuring the breath sample is provided by the proper person. This was an interesting discussion as the committee will see at least two other bills regarding these devices and the potential for their expanded use in Maryland.
- I attended a reception hosted by the Cable Telecommunications Association early Tuesday evening and met with local Comcast representatives. On display was their latest technology offering of 3-D television viewing. The folks there were all sharing their concerns over further government regulations, mandates, and fees on their industry.
- Wednesday morning started off meeting with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Maryland Egg Council. This industry is pretty significant in Maryland and shared similar concerns that all poultry growers and farmers have of the current regulations being prescribed by the MDE and the EPA over their industry. We keep banging that gong, but so far we are meeting a deaf ear.
- Wednesday afternoon I met with Del. Conway, Sen. Mathias, and all 7 of the Worcester County Commissioners to discuss the LCB. We had a very open and candid discussion which lasted a little over an hour. It was agreed that the Commissioners would take a few days to address some of our concerns and then contact us for further action. It was very productive and moved the ball down the field of finding a satisfactory solution to the shared concerns around the table.
- Late Wednesday afternoon, a special meeting of the Republican Caucus was held. Following a great discussion, it was unanimously agreed that the caucus would issue a statement in support of Maryland’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. I felt this was an important decision as several bills in the House and Senate are moving forward which seek to redefine marriage in Maryland. No doubt, this will be a fight in committee and on the floor of both chambers.
- Thursday morning I attended a briefing on the various pension systems, their insolvency, and their potential impact on future budgets. This was the third briefing I have attended in the early morning hours being conducted by Republican law makers. I have found them very informative. Bottom line: our systems are in a great deal of trouble and are not sustainable. They are broke and need fixing. We have heard the reports from a bi-partisan committee, and they are ugly. The ruling party has neglected to fund these liabilities for the past 10-years. This, coupled with the Stock Market crash, has led to a crisis that must be solved.
- Thursday both houses convened in the House of Delegates at 11:30 AM to receive the Governor’s State of the State Address. Much as been said regarding the governor’s intended direction, and I have issued my own response to his speech. I will say that these events are full of ceremony and recognitions which take a long time. The House floor is full to overflowing with folks waiting to hear the speech. While I deeply enjoyed the history of the event and being a part of it, I was very disturbed by some of the things contained in the Governor’s speech…as were many on both sides of the isle. I continued to hear those sentiments echoed throughout Annapolis until I left for home on Friday afternoon.
- Friday morning was the weekly meeting of the Eastern Shore Delegation. It is always nice to see folks from home in Annapolis. We heard from the folks with the DPI on the state of the poultry industry. Director Bill Satterfield spoke about how the industry has gone through 5 years of relatively flat growth and how we need to average roughly 100-new poultry houses constructed on the Delmarva annually if we are to remain viable and growing. They voiced concerns over attempts to ban the antibiotic roxarsone (a feed supplement for birds which contains small amounts of arsenic). Some questions were raised over any potential impact of these trace levels of arsenic on the environment, and, in particular, the bay. DPI assured us the use was well within guidelines established by the USDA and the effects were negligible on the environment. The Delegation was also thanked for their support on legislative efforts to protect the poultry industry.
We also heard from Secretary John Griffin of the Department of Natural Resources. There was clearly some tension in the room as the Secretary was questioned about the status of Oyster Sanctuaries and recent enforcement efforts impacting local fishermen. It seems Natural Resources Police are utilizing GPS tracking devices to monitor the whereabouts of some fishing boats on the bay for possible violations. This led to some very testy remarks between Sen. Rich Colburn and Sec. Griffin. Clearly, there is general angst between the professional watermen and the DNR. The elected officials were just delivering the message.
We also heard from folks with Bramble Construction Contractors. They came in to voice support for a hike in the fuel tax to restore funding to the Transportation Trust Fund. It was clear that the Delegation believes that the Trust Fund is adequately supplied through current taxes if the governor and the ruling party would stop raiding hundreds of millions of dollars to support the General Fund. I did not see anyone at the table who though another 10 cents per gallon at the pump was a good idea.