From the Desk of Delegate Christian Miele
Christian Miele represents the Carney, Fullerton, Loch Raven, Nottingham, Overlea, Parkville, Perry Hall, Rosedale, and White Marsh communities in the Maryland House of Delegates.
After an eventful 90 days, the 2016 legislative session has officially come to a close! Over the course of the last few months, our state legislature considered over 2,000 bills on issues ranging from transportation to the environment, and education to the economy—just to name a few.
I'd like to share with you several highlights from this year's session, as well as a summary of the legislation I championed. Of course, please don't hesitate to reach out to our office if you'd like to discuss these issues further (or any other issues that may be important to you and your family).
Del. Miele hosts students from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland at the State House
FY 2017 Operating Budget
Governor Larry Hogan sent the General Assembly a balanced budget that makes historic investments in K-12 education, with no new taxes for the second consecutive year. The allocation of $6.3 billion for public education represents the largest such investment in Maryland’s history, and will increase school funding in every jurisdiction in the state. Maryland’s colleges and universities will also receive increased funding in FY 2017.
Additionally, the Governor’s budget includes nearly $50 million for workforce development programs, which will provide job seekers with occupational skills, entrepreneurial training, and job search assistance. When implemented, these initiatives will help to grow our workforce, increase state revenues, and ultimately alleviate the tax burden on hardworking Marylanders.
With respect to environmental protection, next year’s budget will provide record funding toward the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund, and will retain $60 million for Program Open Space and other land preservation programs over the next two years.
The budget bill passed with broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and I am proud to have voted for it on your behalf. To me, it represents a shining example of what the General Assembly can accomplish when it works together for the citizens of Maryland.
One of Governor Hogan’s top priorities—eliminating some of the state’s mandated spending—did not gain traction in the General Assembly this year. The Governor’s proposal (Senate Bill 375/House Bill 449) would have reduced mandated spending increases in years when revenues don’t keep pace with expenditures, and ensured that future budgets continue to prioritize key expenditures like education and health care.
With 83% of Maryland’s spending being mandated—in other words, required by law—there is very little fiscal flexibility in years when revenues fall short. It is a shame that the General Assembly did not act on Governor Hogan’s mandate relief proposal, but you can rest assured that I will continue fighting for this common-sense reform next year.
House Bill 1013 – Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016
A bill that received a lot of attention this year was House Bill 1013 – the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016. This bill completely upends the way Maryland funds its transportation projects by creating a scoring system that favors mass transit projects in urban areas (at the expense of projects in suburban communities like ours).
I believe that this arbitrary scoring system will take critical transportation dollars away from Baltimore County and that is why I voted against this detrimental legislation. The Maryland Association of Counties opposed this bill, as did nearly every jurisdiction in the state (something they obviously would not have done if the bill truly represented a better way to fund transportation projects at the local level).
The bill was pushed through the House and Senate in a timeframe that forced Governor Hogan to either allow the bill to become law or veto it while the General Assembly was still in session. The Governor wisely chose the latter, but the General Assembly overrode his veto as expected.
One of the hot topics during this year’s session was the amount of time schoolchildren spend preparing for and taking standardized tests. While it is important to have standards and measure achievement, current practices put too little emphasis on actual classroom instruction. The following two bills reflect the legislature’s desire to prioritize traditional in-class learning.
House Bill 657, which puts limits on the administration of the Statewide Kindergarten Assessment, passed in both the House and the Senate. The bill provides that only a random sample of Kindergarten students in each jurisdiction take the assessment. It also exempts Pre-Kindergarten students from taking the test, unless it is being administered to determine a learning disability.
House Bill 141, which would have required the State Board of Education to adopt regulations that set a 2% cap on the amount of instructional time that can be devoted to mandated testing (excluding teacher-selected classroom quizzes and exams), passed unanimously in the House but stalled in the Senate.
Maryland's election districts have the dubious distinction of being some of the most gerrymandered in the country. For far too long, incumbent politicians in Annapolis have manipulated the drawing of our congressional and legislative district maps to influence the outcome of both federal and state elections for partisan gain. Candidly, the current system gives politicians the power to choose their voters when it should be the other way around. Last year, I introduced a constitutional amendment that would have put an end to these insider games, but my bill never received a vote.
As you can imagine, I was very pleased when Governor Hogan subsequently established a bipartisan Redistricting Reform Commission to study the issue further. This past fall, the Commission held five regional summits throughout the state to give the public an opportunity to help find ways to create fair and transparent rules for the once-every-decade redistricting process. Ultimately, the Governor’s Commission recommended replacing the current system with a nonpartisan, citizen-led panel that would be responsible for drawing congressional and legislative districts according to a set of objective standards, rather than partisanship. I am deeply disappointed (but not surprised) that the General Assembly did not act on the proposal put forth by the Governor.
The brazen and shameful practice of gerrymandering is antithetical to the very purpose of democracy, and it must be stopped if we are to have a government that is "for the people," instead of a government that is "for the politicians." I will continue to fight for fair elections in Maryland.
Delegate Miele Passes Animal Shelter Standards Act
I am extremely pleased that House Bill 494 – the Animal Shelter Standards Act, a bill I began working on almost immediately after being elected in 2014, passed overwhelmingly in the House and unanimously in the Senate. This bill, when signed into law by Governor Hogan, will bring about significant improvements in animal welfare and veterinary care in taxpayer-funded shelters throughout the State of Maryland.
Co-sponsored by 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats in the House, this truly bipartisan piece of legislation drew broad support from several leading animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Professional Animal Shelter Workers Society of Maryland (PAWS), the Maryland Dog Federation, and the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), as well as local advocates for the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA).
The bill requires publicly-funded animal shelters to establish a written veterinary care protocol for dogs and cats beginning in January 2017. The written plan must be consistent with the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters with respect to basic care, sanitation, population management, behavioral health and mental well-being, and euthanasia. HB 494 would also require animal shelters to make their veterinary care protocol available to the public.
Delegate Miele Passes House Bill 472
HB 472 allows a register of wills to dispose of any files associated with an estate, other than the probated will, after 180 days following the closing of an estate, if a copy of the file is retained in paper, photographic, microprocessed, magnetic, mechanical, electronic, or digital form. This measure will save taxpayer dollars by reducing costs associated with the physical storage of non-essential documents related to a will. According to the Department of Legislative Services, a nonpartisan government agency, it is expected that the passage of this bill will “increase operational efficiencies for the registers of wills” throughout the state.
In the Community
Our office remained very active in the community during the 90-day legislative session. We ran back from Annapolis on several occasions to attend town halls in Overlea, Perry Hall, Loch Raven, and Parkville.
Del. Miele attended a town hall in Overlea to hear community feedback on a potential new Royal Farms on Belair Road
Del. Miele attended a community meeting at the Perry Hall Library to discuss a local stream restoration project
Del. Miele joined state Comptroller Peter Franchot at a town hall meeting in Loch Raven to advocate for air conditioning in all Baltimore County Public Schools.
I hope you'll consider joining us at Liberatore's Ristorante in Perry Hall on May 19th for our post-session wrap-up. Enjoy great food and good company as we unpack the 2016 legislative session. Click the link below for details!