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Del. Reilly: 2020 General Assembly session will be one of change [Commentary]

Del. Teresa E Reilly aknowledges guests on the opening day of the Maryland Legislative Session at the State House in Annapolis Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.
Del. Teresa E Reilly aknowledges guests on the opening day of the Maryland Legislative Session at the State House in Annapolis Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County TImes)

Change. The 441st session of the Maryland General Assembly will be a session of change for me as a legislator from Cecil and Harford counties. We have changes in leadership in the House of Delegates and the Senate and I have transitioned to a new committee.

The Speaker of the House, Del. Adrienne Jones, is the first woman Speaker to be elected in Maryland. She has put new faces in the leadership of the House. Sen. Bill Ferguson has taken over the reins of leadership from long-time President of the Senate, Mike Miller, the longest serving Senate President in the country.

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Perhaps the biggest change for me is my move from the House Ways and Means Committee to the House Health and Government Operations Committee. While I miss Ways and Means, I am looking forward to the challenges of my new assignment!

HGO, as it is commonly known, deals with myriad subjects: health facilities, long-term care, public health (including Medicaid), health insurance, health occupations and professions, state government operations, procurement and human relations. Bills that deal with these topics will be heard in HGO throughout the Session. You may check hearing dates for bills at mgaleg.maryland.gov.

Although serving on HGO, I am keeping watch on a number of bills in other committees. If you have concerns or opinions about any issue, please do not hesitate to contact me at teresa.reilly@house.state.md.us or at 410-841-3278.

One of the topics I am watching with great interest is the Kirwan Commission Report. Recently, the Kirwan Commission established a funding formula to support educational programs. This formula would require an increase of $4 billion in education funding with additional monies coming from the state and from local governments. As of yet, there is no funding source dedicated to this new spending.

Some of the solutions for funding that have been put forth include legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana and expanding gambling to include sports betting and taxing online advertising. There is also talk of raising capital gains taxes on small businesses and altering the estate taxes.

But what if these new sources of funding fall short as they have in many states? I will not support raising the money by imposing millions or billions of dollars in taxes on the residents of Maryland. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past. Education and Medicaid spending are a major part of the budget in Maryland and education is a top priority. But we need to also fund public safety, infrastructure and housing as well.

The General Assembly will tackle these decisions in the coming legislative session. I am hopeful we can find a solution that provides the children of our state with the accountable education system they deserve in a fiscally responsible way.

The other issue that seems to be uppermost in the minds of the citizens of Cecil and Harford counties is crime and its prevention. According to the House Minority leader, Nic Kipke, “Maryland is in the midst of a violent crime crisis.” To try to combat this crisis, we in the House Republican Caucus have proposed a legislative package of bills that is nothing but all-inclusive. I support this legislation which focuses on increasing the amount of time violent and repeat violent criminals spend in jail and making the theft of a firearm a felony.

I also support The Protecting Marylanders From Violent Crime Act of 2020 which would require state and local correctional facilities to comply with ICE detainers for those convicted of violent crimes,, terrorism and participating in violent street gangs.

The legislative package would also have a bill that would require a person convicted of a violent crime to serve at least 90% of their sentence before being eligible for parole. Additionally, the legislation will improve transparency throughout the judicial system and will increase victim input in plea deals.

With nearly one homicide a day in Baltimore and crime rising in Maryland, we need to make our state safer yesterday. I believe this legislative proposal will do that.

As always, please contact me with your opinions and/or concerns. I am always ready to listen.

Teresa Reilly is a Republican member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 35B, and the chair of the Harford County delegation.

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