Saturday, January 19, 2013

Field Notes By Delegate Mike McDermott

Observations and Reflections
 on Legislative Activities

Week 2 Jan. 14-18, 2013

Monday Evening Meeting of the Commercial Waterman’s Caucus: I joined Delegate Jay Jacobs (R-Kent) and several other members (primarily from the Eastern Shore) for the first meeting of the Commercial Waterman’s Caucus. Approximately 45 Watermen attended representing all area...s of the state. We heard a presentation from representatives for the watermen, including Gibby Dean addressing the “Fair Share” plan published by the Dept. of Natural Resources. While the watermen number around 5800, they are dwarfed in number by recreational fishing interests. The Fair Share is designed to distribute the costs associated with enforcement and administration by the DNR evenly between those two groups based on the catch ratios, etc. I was encouraged to see the turnout and I hope the bi-weekly meetings will be productive insuring that the commercial watermen have a voice in Annapolis.

Tuesday Judiciary Committee Hearing: We heard a presentation from the Maryland Access to Justice Commission regarding compensation for plaintiffs in civil litigation who are indigent. They particularly addressed issues surrounding the Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights and their desire to see fee shifting for plaintiffs who are successful in bringing action. Link to Hearing

Wednesday Morning Session: My bill, HB-106 which would repeal last year’s SB-236 Septic Bill, was on First Reader today. A hearing is pending before the House Environmental Matters Committee. Another one of my bills, HB-104, which would provide a grace period to Maryland businesses for minor violations of regulatory codes, was also on First Reader and assigned to Economic Matters for a hearing. HB-104 insures that on a first offense, there is no fine assessed if the corrections are made in a timely manner. The bill has good bi-partisan support .

Wednesday Judiciary Committee Hearing:
Briefing on Maryland’s False Health Care Claims Act-We heard from the office of the Attorney General concerning the use and application of the False Claims Act passed in 2010. Under the act, the Attorney General has expanded his staff to address these false claims to a total of 31 with 7of those positions being attorneys (current budget requests another 9 personnel). To date, the unit has settled the following in claims/recovery: 2011-$3.7 million; 2012-$1.2 million; 2013-$12 million to date. The unit is not cheap to operate and costs millions in tax dollars. The presenters pointed out that up to 75% of the funding is paid by federal grant funds. No one could say how long the grant may last. The damage to our system is substantial, but the cost to operate and facilitate fraud collection is not cheap. It seems clear the act passed by the General Assembly is not really increasing our collection of fraud cases (most are settled with the federal government which we would receive regardless of the act), however the potential is real to make a dent in fraudulent cases filed in Maryland. We need to do a lot more to make it worth our expenses even though we should always pursue fraud when it comes to our attention.) Link to Hearing

Wednesday Afternoon-My office launched “A Minute with Mike” video clips. They are a one-minute presentation on a contemporary issue facing the Maryland. My first topic was the 2nd Ammendment. See “A Minute with Mike”.

Thursday Judiciary Committee Bill Hearings:
HB-10 Would prohibit a convicted Sex Offender from being awarded custody of a child by a court without good cause and clear and convincing evidence as determined by the court. This is one of those bills that tends to codify what the courts in Maryland are already practicing, but it may be necessary to insure that the approach is uniform.

HB-22 Deals with access and confidentiality to Birth and Adoptive Records as they relate to search, contact, and reunion services. The bill would open up the records of adoptees and it would eliminate the right of a biological parent or an adoptee to file a Veto Disclosure. We heard some emotional testimony, primarily from adoptees. There were several reasons provided for maintaining the current law and keeping the Veto Disclosures option in place. Link to Hearings

Thursday Afternoon: I met with the Coastal Association of Realtors representatives along with Delegate Charles Otto. They reviewed several legislative initiatives which give them great pause. We all agreed that much of the legislation passed in recent years has been a real detriment to development across Maryland and particularly on the shore.

Friday Eastern Shore Delegation Meeting: The delegation met Secretary Summers of the Maryland Department of the Environment and also heard from Thomas W. Beauduy, Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Marine Trades Association of Maryland. You can click here for Minutes for the Eastern Shore Delegation Meeting.

Friday Morning Governor’s Press Conference: Gov. O’Malley spelled out his Gun Control agenda this morning in the Signing Room around 10 AM. Clearly, we will be having strong discussions about the 2nd Ammendment in Maryland. I hope we can cut through the rhetoric, identify any shortcomings, and move forward with intellectual honesty. I must tell you that I am not hopeful in this regard. The Progressives want a gun grab from law abiding folks that will not solve any problems or prevent future tragedy. and they are willing to play on emotions so they can declare, “problem solved”.

Friday Morning Session: I had two distinct pleasures this morning. First, my son, 1st LT Nate McDermott (Army, 82nd Airborne Division) came up through a snow storm to be on the floor of the House. It was his first trip to Annapolis since my election. Speaker Busch was very kind and after introducing my son, he invited him up to the Speaker’s Dias for a photo opportunity. I went up as well and the members were very generous with their appreciation for Nate’s service to our country. My second pleasure this morning was offering this morning’s prayer. I utilized General George Washington’s “Earnest Prayer” which he offered to the First Continental Congress as he disbanded the successful Continental Army following the Revolution. This was a very proud moment for me as a father and a member of the House.

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