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Local state representatives preview General Assembly

By Mike Santa Rita

4:25 PM EST, January 7, 2014

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Topics ranging from the minimum wage to legal marijuana, and from the state's budget to an artificial turf field on the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County are expected to come before the General Assembly when the 434th session convenes in Annapolis later this week.

School construction funds, cell phones and tax breaks for small businesses are also expected to discussed during the session, according to state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, who represents District 12 that includes portions of Baltimore and Howard County, and Dels. James Malone and Steven DeBoy, who represent District 12A that includes the southwestern portion of Baltimore County and some areas of Howard County.

In education, construction will be an issue. Last year, the legislature gave Baltimore City a 30-year commitment on construction for its education buildings. This year, districts such as Prince George's County and Montgomery County might look for similar commitments.

DeBoy, a member of the House Appropriations Committee since 2003, said that the state is still grappling with a deficit of $480 million. That will be a driving force for this year's session, he said.

He said budget cuts are a way to reduce that deficit, especially since taxes are unlikely to be raised since it will be an election year.

Kasemeyer agreed that how to address the deficit is the biggest task facing the state's 47 senators and 141 delegates this year.

"We thought we had got a handle on the deficit last year, but we've got a million people on Medicaid," Kasemeyer said. "We've got to address the deficit and taxes are out of the question."

DeBoy also anticipates a debate over minimum wage, especially since some advocate raising it to $11 or $12, generating controversy in the 90-day session.

Some kind of raise is likely to go into effect over the course of the next several years, DeBoy said.

With Colorado legalizing marijuana, DeBoy sees that debate coming to Maryland as a way to raise revenues for the state and trim its budget deficit.

But, said the retired Baltimore County police detective, "the state is not ready to go there yet."

DeBoy, who is not planning to run for re-election, said his 20 years with the police department have made him receptive to suggestion from the Fraternal Order of Police and other police organizations who want to impact public safety legislation.

Malone, who retired from the Baltimore County Fire Department, said he plans to work on tweaking cell phone legislation to make it hard to make calls and text while in the car.

He is also working on a speed camera bill to give drivers a 30-day grace period once the camera is placed in school and work zones.

"If you love speed cameras, you'll love the bill," he said. "If you hate speed cameras, you'll love the bill."

A speed camera bill that he worked on in a subcommittee last year died in Senate.

"It's not about a money grab," he said. "It's about work zones and school zones."

He also plans to work to install a turf field at CCBC Catonsville. The current grass field is not in great shape, he said.

This will be the last session in office for Malone, who was first elected to the House in November, 1994.

"I'm not going to vote any way that the constituents would not want me to," he said. "I'm going to work my tail off until the last day in office, when I'm going to go out with class."

His bywords are, "constituent service," he said.

The local lawmakers say they want want to help the small business owner too.

"We're looking to help the guy in the small business, the small business person," Kasemeyer said. "We can help give tax breaks for their small business to reduce burden on small business."