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Senator Paul G. Pinsky ... your Annapolis
                    Advocate


In this issue:

...Your Annapolis Advocate

Dear Friends:

It's been a little over three weeks since the legislative session concluded; while the 2011 session was nothing to celebrate, today finds us able to celebrate a fine spring day and a 'new jobs report' issued today showing better-than-expected growth.

This month's newsletter includes both local news and a recap of the legislative session. It was a session marked by budget cuts and, despite opposition by me and others, shifting a larger budget burden to state workers and school employees. This increased 'burden' could have been avoided, or at least, minimized, if the state had turned to these large corporations and top 1% wage-earners for revenue. Both groups have done well during the recession while most middle and modest income families suffered terribly. More on this later.

As always, please let me know what you think. I appreciate your input and feedback.

Be well,

Paul

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District 22 Cities/Towns Hold Elections

This week five cities and towns in the district held municipal elections. I want to congratulate all the officials who were newly elected. In Hyattsville, the new mayor is Marc Tartaro. Congratulations to new councilmembers Candace B. Hollingsworth and Shani Warner as well as Paula J. Perry, Timothy P. Hunt and Nicole Hinds-Mofor, who were were reelected. In University Park, two newcomers, James Gekas and Michael Cron were elected, joining councilmembers Len Carey and Tracey Toscano, who were reelected. In Edmonston, the new mayor is Bobby Kerns and newly elected councilmembers are Sophia Bee, Selita Bennett-White, and Margaret Pooley plus Tracy Farrish Gant was reelected.

In New Carrollton, Liza Fenton was elected to join the council, plus James Wildoner and June Garrett were reelected. Lastly, but certainly not least, I offer congratulations to Alejandro Silva and Jonathan Ebbeler who were elected in Riverdale Park. They will join Mayor Vernon Archer, and Councilmembers Alan Thompson, David Lingua, Chris Henry, and Raymond Rivas. I look forward to working with all of these leaders.

I want to thank Mayor Bill Gardiner and Mayor Adam Ortiz for their years of outstanding leadership and service.

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Greening Our Communities

EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Trust just announced that 9 cities and towns in Prince George's County were awarded Green Streets-Green Jobs grants and I am pleased to say that three from District 22 were among the recipients: University Park, Hyattsville, and Edmonston. These grants will jump-start green projects intended to protect the environment, create jobs, and build more sustainable communities. The grant money will be used for planning and design of green infrastructure initiatives such as green streets, rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable parking lots that reduce runoff in our streams and rivers which eventually flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

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Local Events

Here are a few upcoming fun community events in our district!
Berwyn Heights Day - Saturday, May 7th
A 5K and shorter Fun Run - 7:30 am, Pancake Breakfast - 9 am, Parade - 12 noon, and an afternoon of games, food and performances at Sports Park:
http://www.berwyn-heights.com

Greenbelt Green Man Festival - May 7th and 8th
Honoring earth through music, art and science. For more information:
http://www.greenbeltgreenmanfestival.org

Edmonston Day and Classic Car Show - Saturday, May 14th
http://www.edmonstonmd.gov/EdmonstonDay_2011_Page.html

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2011 Legislative Wrap Up

Maryland is still feeling the Great Recession, and this downturn has dominated the 2011 legislative session in Annapolis. Almost the entire legislative session has revolved around trimming and balancing the budget, with virtually no willingness to seriously consider new, needed reforms.

During this difficult time, I've directed much of my effort to improving our community, offering solutions to our state's economic troubles, and addressing education. Now that the session has adjourned, I want to offer a brief update on some of these issues. As you'll see, the final results were mixed.

Close to Home: Local Concerns
We continue to experience electrical outages from PEPCO--after everything from heavy snow to summer thunderstorms--and that has to stop. That's why I cosponsored legislation that requires the Public Service Commission to adopt reliability standards that ensure continuous electricity service. The bill passed and will impose penalties if these standards are not met by next year.

We were also able to fund two excellent county projects: expansion of the Riverdale Town Hall, creating a new 7,000 square-foot Youth and Community wing, with enough space to accommodate Town Council needs and better community access; renovation of the Greenbelt Arts Center to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Center, one of only two community theaters in Prince George's County, provides low-cost arts and entertainment to Greenbelt and surrounding areas. 

Education Reforms

I introduced--and steered to passage--legislation that provides protection to students enrolled in for-profit colleges. The legislation prohibits aggressive recruitment practices, gives the state greater oversight authority, and creates a fund to reimburse students in case a for-profit college defaults. The bill is considered one of the most far-reaching in the nation in addressing these deceptive practices.

Lawmakers in Annapolis passed another key college-related measure, a bill that allows undocumented immigrants in Maryland to receive in-state tuition rates if they pursue higher education. These students are currently attending our K-12 schools and are all but excluded from attending college because they are charged out-of-state (or out-of-county for community college) tuition rates. Students or their parents, under the bill's terms, must pay income tax for at least three years to be eligible. Students must also graduate from a Maryland high school and first attend two years of community college before qualifying for in-state rates at a state four-year college. Maryland now joins ten other states that have already passed similar legislation.

The Budget and Taxes

An increase in the alcohol tax has restored most of the governor's proposed cuts in education, including lost funding for Prince George's County. The sales tax on alcohol will now increase from 6 to 9 percent, a boost expected to raise $88 million per year. The extra revenue will fund developmental disability services as well as education.

Throughout the session I fought to protect vital state programs and to prevent cuts to education. Once again, this year, I introduced a bill to adopt combined reporting of corporate income. This bill would, if enacted, have forced large multistate corporations to pay their fair share of the corporate income tax.

Unfortunately, the legislation didn't pass this year; neither did a "millionaire's tax." Our state's wealthiest can afford--and should be made--to pay more.

Despite strong behind the scenes efforts from me and other legislators, pension benefits have been cut for new state employees and teachers. Existing state employees and teachers will have to contribute more, and retiree health care costs will increase. I had pushed to minimize the adverse impact on pensions, and I'm extremely disappointed by the outcome. The budget should not be balanced on the backs of state employees and teachers at a time we have other revenue options--like combined reporting and the millionaire's tax. Click here to listen to my remarks, when the Senate debated these changes.

Energy and Environment

My legislation to fix Maryland's Net Metering law had better luck this session than the tax reforms I supported. Under our current Net Metering law, a utility must purchase the excess electricity if a home or business with solar panels generates more electricity than it uses. My newly passed legislation makes technical fixes to the law that make net metering more beneficial for homeowners and business--and helps reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while providing a greater incentive to utilize solar power.

I also cosponsored a bill with Governor O'Malley which would allow construction of wind turbines 11 miles off the coast of Ocean City. These wind turbines could produce clean energy that would power over 100,000 homes--and likely bring a large number of "green jobs" to Maryland. The legislation failed this year. We'll try again next session.

As in past years, I supported a bill to impose a five-cent fee on disposable bags at grocery stores throughout the state. I also sponsored back-up local legislation to enable the county council to implement such a program solely for our county. Both bills failed this year, but the Montgomery County Council recently passed a bill to impose a five cent fee on most disposable bags. The law in Montgomery County, which now joins D.C. (which already passed similar legislation), takes effect January 1. Next year we may have enough support to pass the law for the entire state.

Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination

Hopes were high for passage of the Civil Marriage Protection Act after it passed the Senate earlier this year. But, sadly, the bill failed in the House of Delegates. If two people of the same sex wish to commit to each other, they and their children deserve to have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. I have been a long time cosponsor of this legislation and will continue my support next year.

Another initiative I worked on this session came about after a friend of mine was brutally attacked in her own home by a neighbor. This friend, while dealing with the emotional and physical aftermath of the attack, also had to file an insurance claim to clean up and repair property damage costing thousands of dollars. After filing her claim, she met with another shock: Her insurance carrier raised her homeowner's insurance premiums over $1,000! In response, I introduced a victim's rights bill that prohibits homeowner's insurance companies from raising rates or declining coverage on future victims. My friend's willingness to come forward paid off -- the legislation passed.

Wine Shipping

One final note worth a cheer at dinner tables: A bill I've cosponsored for a number of years, authorizing the direct shipment of wine to one's home, finally passed in this year's session. Cheers!

If you would like more information about any of these bills, click here or contact my office at 301-858-3155.

Thank You Gary

As we go to distribution, I just learned about the retirement of Gary Williams, the long-time Maryland Men's Basketball coach. Gary has done a great jobs for the Terps, not only in winning the National Championship, but in forging a program relying on team play and unselfishness. While there have been a couple of down years over his long run, he maintained a program with national prominence. Thank you Gary.

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