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Senator Paul G. Pinsky ... your Annapolis
                    Advocate


In this issue:

...Your Annapolis Advocate

Dear Friends:

We now have a little less than a month to go in the 2012 legislative session.  Legislation is moving and, surprisingly, the results, so far, are not as bad as predicted. I've worked to minimize any effect budget cuts might have to our county; statewide, some important legislation protecting our citizens seems to be moving successfully through the legislative process.  What follows is a brief update. 

Yours,

Paul

You can find more frequent updates on Facebook and Google + and, please, feel free to forward this e-newsletter to friends.

 Application Now Available for Senatorial Scholarship

Are you or one of your children expecting to attend a Maryland college or university next year? Are you interested in financial assistance to help with tuition?

If you live in the 22nd district -- the communities of Berwyn Heights, Edmonton, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Lanham, Lewisdale, New Carrollton, Riverdale, Riverdale Park, or University Park -- you can apply to my scholarship committee for a state Senatorial Scholarship.

These scholarships usually range from $500 to 2,000 for each of four years. If you'd like an application, please either call my Annapolis office at 301-858-3155 or visit my website at www.senatorpinsky.org and download instructions and an application or check with your school's guidance office. Applications are be due by April 5, 2012.

My scholarship committee, made up entirely of citizen volunteers from the 22nd legislative district, will be selecting the scholarship winners.

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Marriage Equality is Signed into Law

On March 1st, 2012, Governor O'Malley signed the Marriage Equality bill and Maryland became the 8th state to legalize gay marriage. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of the bill and cast my vote in support of it. I thought of the late Senator Gwen Britt, who was a Freedom Rider and initially introduced gay marriage legislation in the Senate. I strongly believe, as Sen. Britt did, this is a civil rights issue -- now gays and lesbians have the same rights accorded to heterosexuals. While some may disagree with this law, I believe that history will view this as a 21st century civil rights triumph.

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State Senate Passes Budget, Progressive Income Tax Reform

Last week the state Senate passed the $15 billion state operating budget. Because the state constitution requires a balanced budget, some difficult choices have been made. I have fought to ensure that the budget is not balanced on the backs of working people, teachers and other public employees, and our most vulnerable citizens. The details below are still subject to change in the House of Delegates.

This budget gradually shifts the costs of teacher pensions from the state to counties over a four year period. I have consistently opposed this shift because I believed that it would leads to cuts in education. I have worked to limit the impact the shift will have on Prince George's County and to protect education funding. This proposal is less damaging to our county than the original proposal. A separate provision known as 'Maintenance of Effort' ensures that the county continues to make school funding a priority and prohibits a reduction in per pupil spending.

The budget also raises revenue through modest income tax increases. Most income tax brackets would increase by between .15 and .25%. For example a married couple with two children that makes $50,000/year would pay about $44 more each year. I worked with other progressive senators to ensure that individuals with the highest incomes will pay a higher rate, since they have greater disposable income. This provision also directs much needed additional funding for Prince George's County and municipalities. The budget softens the impact for low income earners by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit. Taxes are also increased for internet purchases (which have been untaxed) and cigars. In the senate version, along with colleagues, I was able to direct funding to local jurisdictions. If retained by a conference committee, Prince George's will receive close to $6 million and county municipalities will receive approximately $750,000 in additional revenue.

Competing House and Senate versions of the budget and tax proposals will now go to a conference committee.

Pursuing Progressive Taxation: Here are my Remarks
My remarks on the Senate floor in support of these tax changes are available here.

Update on Legislation

Below is an update on legislation that has made progress this session. For a list of all my legislation, click here.

Protecting Students who Take College Classes Online
This week, the state Senate passed a bill I introduced to protect students taking college classes online. This legislation requires colleges who offer online education (and are not already subject to regulation) to register with the state and provide basic protections for Maryland students. The bill requires that the institution maintain a refund policy for class withdrawal, sets up a fund to compensate students in case of college default, and grants the state authority to investigate and sanction colleges that violate the law. The bill will now be considered by the House of Delegates.

Recycling for Apartment Buildings and Condominiums
The Senate passed legislation I introduced to encourage recycling in condos and apartment buildings. This bill will benefit the environment while cutting spending on landfills and trash disposal. While Prince George's County already offers multi-unit recycling to its residents, this bill will require all counties in the State to follow suit. The bill has a hearing next week in the House of Delegates, which already passed similar legislation earlier this session.

Bill to Decrease Outsourcing Jobs 
In an effort to keep jobs in Maryland, I introduced a bill that requires state contractors to disclose if they have plans to move jobs overseas. This bill would not prevent companies from getting state contracts if they choose to move jobs overseas, but would seek to discourage this behavior by requiring disclosure and limiting the incentives and special benefits that these companies could receive from the state. This legislation has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House of Delegates.

Bag bill
In an effort to "Go Green," reduce litter and improve the environment, we need legislation to reduce the use of disposable bags. A local bill was introduced to allow Prince George's County to impose a fee on disposable bags. The bill was voted out of the Prince George's House delegation and had a hearing in the House Environmental Matters Committee earlier this week. We hope this bill passes and Prince George's County can experience success similar to DC and Montgomery County, both jurisdictions that have implemented a fee on disposable bags. This bill would help reduce waste and pollution of our streets and waterways while saving Prince Georgian's money. Most grocery establishments already have a built-in fee for plastic bags included in their food prices. The bill would encourage shoppers to use re-usable bags and avoid paying this built-in cost.

Tax Preparation Assistance

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program will prepare tax returns for free for individuals who make under $57,000. Volunteers are available at the New Carrollton Municipal Center Mondays through April 9 from 6-8:30 PM and at Prince George's Community College by appointment. Click here for more information on the PGCC location.

Through IRS Free File, all taxpayers who made $57,000 or less in 2011 are eligible to visit www.irs.gov to prepare and e-file their federal tax returns. The program provides free access to brand-name tax preparation software--offering taxpayers step-by-step help to prepare and e-file their federal taxes online. This service is also available in Spanish.

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