Charlestown residents get report on General Assembly

A legislative forum at the Charlestwn retirement community featured, from left, State Sen. Edward Kasemeyer and Dels. Eric Ebersole, Clarence Lam and Terri Hill, all of whom represent District 12,
A legislative forum at the Charlestwn retirement community featured, from left, State Sen. Edward Kasemeyer and Dels. Eric Ebersole, Clarence Lam and Terri Hill, all of whom represent District 12, (Staff photo by Heather Norris)

Edward Arthur came to the Charlestown auditorium Tuesday night in hopes of hearing from his legislators how they thought the 2015 General Assembly session went.

He didn't leave disappointed. The state budget, especially as it related to education, dominated the 90-minute session. But a host of other topics of interest to the residents were also addressed by longtime state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer and newcomer Dels. Clarence Lam, Terri Hill and Eric Ebersole, who represent District 12, which includes the Charlestown campus on Maiden Choice Lane.


"It just makes you feel good," Arthur said. He added that he was pleased to hear most of what the legislators said.

"I think the whole thing is very, very good," he said of the opportunities Charlestown residents have to meet their local legislators through their resident legislative political committee.

The committee organized the April 28 talk by District 12's representatives. The evening event began with five-minute talks from each legislator about the work they were involved in over the 90-day course of the session. Then the floor was opened to questions from the committee members and Charlestown residents.

Kasemeyer, a member of the Senate since 1995, told the auditorium full of residents about the work of his Budget and Taxation Committee, of which the Democrat is the chair.

Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland's first Republican governor since Arbutus native Robert Ehrlich left office in 2007, came into the session wanting to accomplish a lot on the budget front, Kasemeyer said. His committee was able to come to a consensus with the governor that it could live with, he said, adding that it remains to be seen whether the governor will restore some of the school-related funding the General Assembly recommended.

In the Ways and Means Committee of which he is a member, Ebersole said restoring money not included in the governor's initial budget proposal was extremely important.

"We are having more students come to school next year than we are this year," said the Democrat, explaining that the budget must grow alongside the student body.

Lam said the biggest issues the Environment and Transportation Committee of which he is a member faced were hydraulic fracturing and the storm water management fee.

He said he was pleased that the General Assembly managed to approve a moratorium on the practice of fracking in the state of Maryland.

He also was happy with the amendments to the storm water management fee. When Hogan-backed legislation came before his committee proposing an end to the tax required of the 10 largest jurisdictions in Maryland to control the runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, he said, "we resisted those, because we thought that it didn't do enough to protect the environment."

The legislation passed by his committee, he said, will allow the nine counties, of which Baltimore County is one, and Baltimore City more flexibility in how they chose to fund projects to control runoff while still ensuring that jurisdictions are held accountable for their role in the pollution of Chesapeake Bay.

Hill, a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, said she was proud of several pieces of legislation passed by her committee.

The legislation made it easier for doctors to prescribe medications designed to be more difficult to abuse, opened the door to green cemeteries in the state, provided resources for law enforcement officials to be better trained in how to handle situations involving those with mental illness or a mental handicap and mandated that all phones in the state of Maryland allow callers to dial 911 directly rather than having to dial another number first to get out of a company's internal phone system.

While the assisted suicide bill that came through her committee did not see a vote, she said she hopes to see a more thought-out version of the bill next session that could be passed.


"I'm sure it will be coming up again next year," she said.

According to Charlestown's politics committee chair, Dee Schmitt, the crowd that gathered for the debriefing was even larger than had been expected.

Residents and committee members asked the legislators about what kinds of work are being done to help seniors living in small fixed incomes and what kinds of efforts are being pursued to care for the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Both matters, they were told , are problems the legislators envision working on for years to come.

While the event was scheduled to focus only on the session, which wrapped up earlier this month, talk inevitably turned to the riots in Baltimore City on April 27 that captured the attention of people around the country. Residents asked the elected officials what kinds of things they could do and inquired about how a solution could be found for the unrest in the city in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody.

"Baltimore doesn't stop at the Beltway," said Hill. "All of those folks in there are ours."