Leadership from the Maryland House of Delegates, Senate, and Governor’s Administration speak about the 2019 General Assembly Session with perspective on perennial challenges facing Maryland.
Harford County Executive and MACo President Barry Glassman moderated a discussion of the upcoming General Assembly Session and issues facing county governments.
Speaker of the House Michael Busch, Senate Majority Leader Douglas J.J. Peters, Minority Leader Senator J.B. Jennings, and Chief Legislative Officer of the Governor’s Office Chris Shank shared insights and perspective on policy and budget issues facing Maryland in 2019.
All of the panelists referenced the forthcoming recommendations of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education and ongoing school construction funding discussions. Pending the final report of the Commission, the panelists pledged to work together at the State level, and encouraged input from the county community on the funding debates.
Jennings noted how the State’s budget has been handicapped by Thornton, the last big Commission on education funding, which mandated formula funding without providing a new revenue source. In response to a question from the audience, he spoke about the need for improved school safety school resources officers, and creating “man traps” within school entryways.
Shank stated that Governor Larry Hogan was focused on innovation and accountability in education funding reform. He also shared information about the Governor’s announced Building Opportunity Fund Act, which will provide new additional school construction funding, make progress on the backlog of county priorities, and create new construction jobs.
Peters shared how county leaders can work with their delegation to prioritize legislative initiatives, the relatively strong budget position of the State (at least for the short-term), and school safety. On school safety, he spoke about the need to look at both physical structures in schools to protect students, and also look at the need for more mediators in schools and metal health care funding.
Busch spoke about honoring the lockbox for education funding and the necessary county commitments to school construction. Like Jennings, Busch shared an openness to county input on education policy reforms, noting that the Kirwan Commission recommendations are “not in stone.”
Other issues raised by the group included:
- legalization of recreational marijuana
- the State’s renewable energy portfolio
- gun control
- juvenile justice reform
- highway user revenues
- violence in Baltimore City
- oyster revitalization
- economic development and opportunity zones
- Next Generation 9-1-1
Busch said that he expects to continue to have a good working relationship with Governor, reporting that in a meeting this week they joked that the State would not be shutting down.
He hoped that last year’s bill that provided additionally highway user revenues helped the counties. He also noted that while a lot of the State’s challenges involve local government, it was not his job to make things difficult for counties, but rather to ensure all of Maryland’s citizens have the best services possible.
Shank complimented Busch for his mentorship, saying it was a testament to his leadership that so many of the day’s panelists had started their political career in the House of Delegates. Shank also stressed MACo will always have a seat at the table in Hogan/Rutherford administration. He discussed former Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh joining the Administration’s opioid efforts, and said that there would be more announcements regarding the Governor’s legislative package and opioids in the coming weeks.