Winter and the holidays are upon us so it's a great time to stay warm, connect with family and check-in with your neighbors.
The 2012 legislative session starts in about three weeks and I'll keep you informed as we debate key issues. It should be a lively (and most likely, contentious) session with efforts to spur our local economy, decide a tax policy that makes sense for Maryland, and settle on a plan for redistricting state legislative boundaries.
As I write, Republicans in Congress are threatening to block extension of the payroll tax cut. If taken, this action would result in a 2% increase in taxes for all working Americans. Some weeks ago, Democrats suggested paying for it with a small increase on the nation's billionaires and millionaires. The Republicans, of course, said, "No, we can't do that." Some things change and some things never change.
Closer to home, I'd like to welcome a new small business, Shortcake Bakery, to our district. Located at 4700 Route 1 in Hyattsville (formerly Rhode Island Reds), it's owned and operated by Cheryl Harrington and serves up terrific baked goods. Come in and support another of our community's local businesses.
Have a happy Hanukkah, Christmas, and/or Kwanzaa. And if you like what you read here, be sure to send it on to friends and 'like' my Facebook page.
P.S. Information regarding Senatorial Scholarships will be available next month
I'd like to invite you, your family, and friends to join the three delegates and myself -- as our guests -- for our annual reception and Martin Lurther King Jr. Celebration at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16. There will be plenty of food, interesting people, (hopefully) interesting comments from us, and maybe even some surprise guests.
What: 7th Annual Annapolis Reception for residents of District 22
Where: Miller Senate Office Building, Annapolis
When: Monday, January 16, 2012 6PM-8PM
Click here to view the invitation.
Please RSVP to Jonathan Greenwald, 301-858-3652 or email@example.com. More questions? Call 301-858-3155.
Bus transportation is available (on a space available basis) from the Greenbelt Library. Call for details. Space is limited; call to reserve a seat.
I want to thank everyone who came to my town hall meeting earlier this month. I would like to thank Dr. Charlene Dukes and School Board Member Peggy Higgins for speaking on county and state education issues. Dr. Dukes, president of Prince George's Community College and a member of the State Board of Education, discussed the many services our community college provides for county residents as well as state education issues. Thanks also to CASA de Maryland and the State Highway Administration/Purple Line for staffing tables at the town hall. We appreciate the use of Lamont Elementary School and the community participation!
If you weren't able to attend or didn't get to ask a question or state your concern, click here to send me an email.
In a disturbing trend, corporations have increasingly targeted higher and secondary education as a ripe untapped profit center. For-profit colleges and universities have proliferated in recent years (now a $30 billion per year industry), using federal financial student aid to bankroll their expansion with dubious results for many students. I sponsored legislation last year to protect Maryland students from some of their abusive practices while the federal government has begun to take action.
When the Department of Education finally proposed regulations to ensure that taxpayer-funded student loans are well spent, the for-profit colleges launched a ferocious "lobbying blitz," that succeeded in watering down the regulations. See the front page New York Times article from earlier this month here. Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings has also launched an investigation into whether federal financial aid has "lined the pockets of corporate executives." The state senate education subcommittee which I chair has been meeting over the last few months to examine what additional steps should be taken by Maryland.
Now even our elementary schools have been targeted as a profit center. The New York Times examined the proliferation of online charter schools, finding that student performance often lags in these schools, far behind state standards, while profits soar for these companies. The Nation magazine goes further, exposing the euphemism of "education entrepreneurs," which basically means putting business ahead of kids.
Over the next thirty years our county will grow by around 100,000 people and the state by over one million. This means that new houses, schools, roads, and power and sewer lines will be needed. Building and maintaining all that infrastructure is expensive. Over forty years ago the state legislature recognized that a state development plan can minimize these costs and also protect rural Maryland from overdevelopment by enacting a statewide development plan. A decade ago, the legislature enacted smart growth legislation to limit sprawl and protect rural Maryland. Now the state has finally developed a comprehensive plan to ensure that the state growth and development is sustainable.
While 'PlanMaryland' doesn't give any new authority to state or local government, Tea Party activists on the right have attempted to hijack the process. They portray the effort as a secret conspiracy and state takeover to control all development from Annapolis. The plan is actually a modest attempt to direct scarce taxpayer resources to sustainable development, directing new growth to already developed areas of the state. You would think that the Tea Party would favor state departments and local officials working together to make the best use of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately not. Many in this camp have chosen to demagogue the issue and make outlandish assertions instead.
You can read the plan and get more information here.
Every year, Americans throw away hundreds of billions of plastic and paper bags. These bags end up in our parks, rivers, and streams. The cost of these bags is built into the price of goods we buy at the supermarket so we're already paying for them. In fact, many supermarkets give a nickel back for each reusable bag you use. To encourage the use of reusable bags and reduce bag litter, Washington, DC and Montgomery County have enacted a small fee on disposable bags. Using reusable bags reduces pollution and can save money at the grocery store. Reusable bags typically cost a dollar at local grocery stores, but are readily available for free. I distributed several hundred free bags at the Hyattsville Giant before Thanksgiving and at my recent town hall meeting.
The County House Delegation held a hearing on legislation to permit the county to enact a policy similar to DC and Montgomery County. The bill will be introduced into the General Assembly in January. A copy of the bill is available here.
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