By Delegate Mike McDermott
Feb. 14th-18th, 2011
• Monday afternoon I attended Governor O’Malley’s Press Conference on an interestingly titled bill called the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2011. Sounds great, doesn’t it? In Annapolis, there is no doubt an entire army of people burning the midnight oil to see who can create the most disingenuous title for threatening legislation. The title for this bill should be “No Crapper Left Behind” Act of 2011. Although I issued an immediate press release to keep you informed this week, here is the bottom line of this bill: The measure would prohibit the use of individual septic systems for major subdivisions outside of planned water and sewer service areas. It also restricts the subdivision of agricultural lands. Specifically it:
1. Defines a “major subdivision” as 5 or more lots;
2. Requires any “major subdivision” located outside of a planned area to utilize a “shared” waste disposal system;
3. Requires the use of advanced technology systems for individual development;
4. Would prohibit local government from authorizing any major development outside of areas served by water and sewer infrastructure after July 1st this year; and
5. It would restrict any further subdivisions or modifications of existing subdivisions once a property has been subdivided into a residential minor subdivision.
PLEASE STAY ENGAGED ON THIS BILL.
• On Monday evening, prior to session, the TEA (taxed enough already) Party Caucus met and discussed upcoming visits scheduled by AFP groups and other concerned citizens. A Legislative Action Committee was formed to focus on specific legislation the caucus would support during the session. It was also agreed that members would need to sign a pledge of fiscal restraint to be considered part of the caucus.
• My Chess playing ended Monday night when I was defeated by Del. Gilchrest. It was a great game that came down to only a couple of pieces on the board. He will play for the championship soon.
• Tuesday was Maryland Farm Bureau Day in Annapolis. I had the pleasure of meeting with several of our local farmers from Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset Counties. We talked a lot about the governor’s septic proposals and what that would mean to the value of farm land and potential development issues.
• Tuesday HB 266 received a hearing in Judiciary. This is a bill I sponsored which would strengthen the laws dealing with Human Trafficking. This continues to be a problem around the country and Maryland is no exception. There is also come companion legislation that would provide support for juveniles who are being trafficked (primarily underage girls) in the sex trade industry. These bills have a lot of support in the committee.
We also heard HB- which would remove the Governor’s final say in parole cases dealing with “Life Sentence” inmates and turn it over to the Parole Board. I do not like this idea, and I’m sure the governor will not like it either. Governor O’Malley believes that “life means life” and has refused to consider paroling any inmate serving a life sentence while he has been governor. Of course, we heard from many about their “rehabilitated” loved ones who are behind bars and how they deserve another chance after 20 plus years. The bottom line: the 20 plus years behind bars is 20 years more than their victims ever had a chance to see. I think that’s how the governor sees it as well. This hearing went long into the night.
• On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee heard the following bills:
1. HB-247 is a technical modification of a bill enacted last year dealing specifically with the Maryland General and Limited Power of Attorney Act. This bill seeks to address an area of the act which failed to include certain financial documents and transactions.
2. HB-336 seeks to create a task force addressing Military Service Members, Veterans, and the Courts. This type of program has been used successfully in other states to help our veterans by recognizing that they may be addressing a unique set of circumstances in life as a result of their service to our country. The task force would provide feedback and recommendations for future consideration in support of our military service members.
3. HB-340 deals with certifications and reports submitted by qualified experts in health care malpractice claims. It would create a timeline for challenging the credentials of an expert who is submitting documents or testifying in a case before the courts.
4. HB-475 would provide for the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority (a non-profit board) to fall under the Local Government Tort Claims Act. This would provide tort protection as is extended to many Para government operations. There is always much discussion on these types of requests as several committee members do not like limiting the liability of organizations without significant reasons to do so.
5. HB-483 is another technical law bill which would allow an attorney the ability to limit the paperwork needed to file for recovery of a previous judgment. It would further aid plaintiffs who are attempting to discover if a person has the means to pay on a previous judgment granted by the court.
• Thursday morning I was honored to give the Opening Prayer for the Session. I referenced the Continental Congress and quoted Benjamin Franklin as a preface to my prayer. It was well received. If you would like to hear the prayer and other action taken on the floor, a direct link is available on my website at delegatemcdermott.com
• On Thursday at noon, the House Republican Caucus held a Press Conference to address the O’Malley administrations rush to implement Obamacare in Maryland. My notes on this are contained in a previous information release. Essentially, we need to slow down the process of implementation and several legal cases have already declared Obamacare to be Unconstitutional. Therefore, why should we invest tax dollars in a program that will most likely be declared null and void? We also revealed several bills we are supporting to help insure Marylanders have access to high quality, affordable health care services when needed.
• On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee heard the following bills:
1. HB-255 and HB-256 address issues relating to adopted individuals being able to search records for sibling information. This bill is intended to allow the Department of Social Services to allow access to their own departmental records of adoption records so family members may be contacted if it is their expressed desire.
2. HB-294 seeks to add additional penalties when a firearm or source of ignition is used to inflict pain and suffering on a domestic animal. This hearing drew a large crowd based upon the recent act committed in Anne Arundel involving the shooting of a dog at a park. There was questioning regarding a felony charge which would seem to answer the question of creating a “harsher penalty” and whether or not this law really needs to be adopted. I did find it interesting in this case that there was significant media coverage and lots of people. However, the way we treat female juveniles in correctional facilities was the next bill and the press and cameras were nowhere to be found. Dogs verses kids…dogs seem to win every time. I found this very troubling.
3. HB-304 seeks to allow for the termination of alimony payments in cases where the ex-spouse is cohabitating with another in a romantic situation. It was brought out that these types of issues can be brought to the courts attention and modifications of terms can be made by a judge. This bill was a little to general and many of the attorneys poked enough holes to make it look like Swiss cheese before we were through.
4. HB-349 represents a corrective bill to modify a broad change made last year in Peace Orders and Protective Orders relative to the shielding of certain records. It is a technical adjustment to the current law.
5. HB-426 for me was the most interesting bill discussed today. Essentially it would place juveniles who are classified as gang members under the jurisdiction of the adult courts. I liked the idea of treating the gang bangers as adults for court purposes. This would allow more significant sentencing for crimes committed by extremely street wise 16 and 17 year olds. Many of whom are creating mayhem on our city streets and even reaching into our rural communities. Of course, the ACLU was on hand to defend the indefensible.
6. HB-511 seeks to address perceived inequalities between opportunities and programs available to male juveniles verses those currently available to female juveniles. This would mandate equality of program opportunities much like Title 9 does for sports programs. The only problem is the cost. Juvenile females only make up about 10% of our inmate population. Due to the need to keep male and female inmates separated, the cost of providing duplicate programs would be severe. We were assured by the Department of Juvenile Justice that they are concerned and want to correct many issues that seem to be out of joint with the department at the present time. There was grave concern voiced by the committee as to the recidivism rate for juvenile offenders being higher that for adult inmates. This must be tackled and programs that don’t work need to be abandoned in search of better models.
• On Friday, we took our first votes in Judiciary. If a bill received at least 12 votes, it was listed as “favorable” and sent to the full House for a Second Reading. If a bill did not receive 12 votes of support, it was listed as “unfavorable” and is considered dead in the committee this year. There are also bills that are held by the Chairman which cannot be voted on unless he brings the bill up for a vote. Many bills, even with strong committee support, will wind up staying “in the drawer” by the decision of the Chairman and never see the light of day. I believe all bills deserve an up or down vote in the committee, but this prerogative lies with the Chairman of each committee.
Here is a list of the bills that received a “Favorable” vote from the Judiciary Committee today:
Here is a list of the bills that received an “Unfavorable” vote from the Judiciary Committee today: