As we prepared our legislative package, we looked hard at what already has been accomplished and what we still have to do.
There are bills in this package that will strengthen areas where we have already made progress.
There are bills that will improve the way we care for the citizens who need our help the most: the children, the sick, the elderly and those who fear for their safety.
There are a couple of bills that you've seen before, because I hear that people want progress on AIDS and gun control.
If the causes are good, it's worth the fight.
The other night, there was a young lady, and she said this: "We hope that politicians will make the right decision, not only the popular ones," and she is so right.
People said to me this year, "Don't put in a lot of bills. Take it easy election year."
I would have done a disservice to you. But they did say that I shouldn't do a lot of things because this is my last year.
Now, this is the last year of your term, and I want you to think about this.
We are all in somewhat the same situation. In fact, all of us are really lame ducks. I won't be back. Many -- some of you may not be back. And what we do may be the difference between what -- whether you come back or you don't.
So, when you call me a lame duck, look at your own wing.
I don't believe we should take it easy. That's not what we were sent here for. That's not what we're paid for. That's not my style. And that hasn't been your style.
You can be sure that the voters will remember what we accomplished this year. The voters will remember the good bills that we passed, but they'll also remember the good bills that were killed.
Next week we submit the budget. It's a reasonable one that allows for modest growth.
Most of the increases go to mandated programs in health, public safety, education, as well as local aid.
And I had a mandate of my own. Because state employees have so long gone without a pay increase, I'm proposing a 3 percent increase, plus increments. And you have also said that's the thing to do.
My philosophy, incidentally, is not to terminate employees who perform years of dedicated service just so we can say we've downsized government. . . .
In working on legislation and the budget, it's easy to identify the top priority, and that's public safety.
The majority of new positions in the budget are for public safety.
Remember, you can't open a new prison without prison guards and personnel. And you can't take care of the multitude of juvenile delinquents that are coming into the system, unless you have trained personnel.
The capital budget has money for prison facilities in Baltimore, Allegany County and more than 500 local jail beds.
We have high murder rates in our cities. And I hear from people all over Maryland who want us to do more this year to make them feel safer and be safer.
Last week, as you know, I met with the mayor of Baltimore and the mayor of Washington, D.C., to talk about our mutual problems of crime. . . .
Bishop Robinson [the secretary of public safety and correctional services], Colonel [Larry W. ] Tolliver [the state police superintendent], all the chiefs of police were there, and the mayors, and we signed one pact on gun-running.
But we know that you just can't stand in isolation. And I expect cooperation between state and local police -- and push efforts like our East Coast gun-trafficking program -- because cities, and states, and counties can work together. And, as you well know, crime knows no boundaries.
We got the local police chiefs working together to share information on car thefts, and we've seen a 20 percent decline in auto thefts, so cooperation does work.
We also need to work on prevention, helping young people before they commit crimes. We want to reduce the small percentage of the population committing most of the crimes.
Just throwing money at crime will not work. A well thought out federal crime bill is essential.
We need a combination of prevention, properly trained police officers, tough penalties and gun laws.
We need to give law enforcement officers the tools to fight crime.
So, this year I'm proposing to set up a DNA data bank that initially will help solve sex offenses and could be expanded to help solve other violent crimes.
We need to limit, in a reasonable way, the sale of certain types of guns. You have to think hard about that. We must do that. . . .
An overwhelming number of Marylanders want tougher gun laws. All you've got to do is read your paper: Talk to people.
Gun legislation cannot be bottled up in a committee. It must be brought to the floor, so that everyone has an opportunity to be heard on gun legislation.
States around us are tightening up gun laws, which results in sending more people to Maryland to buy guns.
Connecticut and New Jersey have banned assault weapons, and Virginia is restricting gun purchases.
Now, you know I'm a big believer in exports, but Maryland should not end up being the top exporter of guns on the East Coast.
So, I'm again proposing, as I've done just about every year, a ban on assault pistols, because there is no legitimate use for these weapons on the street.
This is the right thing to do. And it is clear that citizens want us to do that.
Now, you might say, "Well, that's not going to end crime," and I know that. But it's going to help.
I'm also proposing a ban on magazines with more than 20 rounds and updating of the list of semiautomatic rifles subject to a seven-day waiting period.
I wish to clarify the statutes to make mandatory sentences apply to the possession of firearms during drug trafficking.
I'm going to ask you to adopt legislation -- similar to the Virginia new law -- to limit the purchase of all regulated firearms to one a month.
This does not include shotguns or rifles and won't hurt the hunters.
So, if you want something to take home to the voters, vote for these gun control bills and then tell your voters you voted for safety.
I have some other safety proposals to make, on auto theft, youth alcohol abuse, and insurance fraud. But, because we should do more to protect victims, I'm going to push for a constitutional amendment to give crime victims rights in criminal proceedings. . . .
I will ask for the suspension of driver licenses for any youth convicted of drunk driving, and the suspension to remain in effect until at least the age of 21.
Finally, we need to reform the death penalty appeals process.
Now, this is a tough subject. A lot of people have strong feelings on both sides.
Maryland has a death penalty that, as punishment for serious crimes, but no one has been executed since 1961 because of the very long and complicated appeals process.
I had a commission to study the death penalty appeals and am proposing bills they recommend to streamline the process.
Because we do expect an execution this summer, I'm also proposing a bill to change the method of execution from the gas chamber to lethal injection. . . .
Outside, there is a flagpole on Lawyer's Mall. For the remaining 88 days of the session, we'll lower the flag half-staff every day there's a murder in Maryland involving a gun.
Every day, when you come to work, take a look at that flag and see what it represents: 450 people killed by guns on the streets of Washington; 323, city of Baltimore.
Prevention. Smoking. I spend a lot of my time talking about prevention because I know it's right. Instead of correcting problems after they happen -- crime, health, and social problems -- we should do everything we can to prevent them.
Every day, more people are taking up smoking. That's -- while I know that adults are trying very hard to quit, are sorry they ever starting smoking.
You know, the statistics are on my side. Five thousand people develop new cancer every year because of smoking, and smoking kills 7,600 Marylanders prematurely.
Do you know the average age when a person starts to smoke? Thirteen.
And we can see the millions of dollars that the cigarette industry spends, with characters like Joe Camel saying, "It's cool to smoke," and using all sorts of little tricks to get them to smoke. It's not cool; it's cruel.
Smoking is a public health problem. It starts with the young people and continues with adults, and we have to face that.
We are moving ahead with regulations to ban smoking in all workplaces, and we need to work with young people.
So, I'm proposing larger fines for selling cigarettes to minors; restricting access to vending machines; and clarifying the law to give cities and counties power to enact stronger local laws, if they want to.
Money to help children
To discourage smoking and generate money that will be used, in part, to help children, I am proposing a 25-cent increase in the cigarette tax.
It will raise $70 million in next year's budget. I'm going to use the money raised from a bad product to do good.
And here's how we are going to spend the money. With the money raised in the cigarette tax, $25 million will go to what I call Mandated Relief Program, for local government to spend, as they want, to pay for mandated programs in health, education and public safety.
I have pledged, and will continue to pledge, no new mandates, without funding, do away with unnecessary mandates, but there will still be local mandates that they must fund. And we've heard from local governments and they need help.
The next $24 million will be spent on schools, implementing, in part, the Task Force on School Funding recommendations, for poverty grants, incentive grants, grants for students with limited English, and expanding the pre-kindergarten program to help children prepare for school.
Another $13 million will fund the expansion of the developmentally disabled program that you approved last year, providing community services for the disabled.
The fourth and the final $7 million will finance a new school for disruptive students, expands scholarship opportunities and help the elderly, homeless and poor.
That's new money for all these good things. They are tied to one thing that's in the budget with an increase in the cigarette tax.
We have other health issues facing us here, so I'm proposing legislation to treat AIDS as a communicable disease, so we can fight this virus. It's a communicable disease. Don't fool yourselves. It's the same as [tuberculosis], and I just can't understand how we can't get that passed, and we'll push hard on that. We need to know more information and education if we're going to spend the money, and this problem, as many would have us believe, will just disappear.
Now, we worked with the city of Baltimore on a pilot needle-exchange project under strict regulations. Now, you know opposed this in the past, but I learned something in my time in public office. If you're always against something, and if you're opposed to change, you never get any place. So I decided I'm going to work on this under strict regulations.
You know, some people get elected on a platform of opposing everything, and you know, it's so easy to oppose. All you've got to do is say, "I oppose." But when you ask them for some direction and for some solutions, they're just not there. And so if you were put on the spot of saying, "As you oppose, give us a solution," you'd have more, well, feelings, for those who just automatically oppose everything that's done.
Some people in Baltimore are concerned about the needle-exchange program, while citizens on the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland need help with emergency service. I've instructed Colonel Tolliver and Don DeVries, chairman of the EMS [Emergency Medical Services] Board, who will report back to me in two weeks about how we can provide two helicopters for the Shore and Southern Maryland. . . .
So much of what we do in state government is devoted to helping our youngest children. So, to help children better retain what they learn, I'm asking you to let the school system try year-round schedules.
Nancy Grasmick [the state superintendent of schools] is moving ahead with plans to take over low-performing schools to give every child a chance for a good education. It is not right to penalize the children by allowing schools to operate at a low performance level, and I commend Nancy for the courage enough to say we're going to do that.
We're also proposing legislation to streamline the adoption process to help people who want to give a child a better life, welfare.
I'm also asking for expanded authority to collect child support from parents who won't take responsibility for their children. We made some gains on child support last year, but there's still too much money not being collected.
Family Court -- Chief Judge [Robert C.] Murphy [Maryland Court of Appeals chief judge] studied the idea of Family Court after I pushed it last year, along with Ken Montague [delegate from Baltimore]. One of his recommendations is to create a separate division within the Circuit Court devoted to family matters. What I wanted to do was accomplished. And he suggested we try it in five of the largest counties, and I will support him on the Family Court within in the existing Circuit Court. . . .
Maryland has been a leader in so many things. The health bill you passed last year put us so far ahead of the federal government, and helped control costs. Guys, you can pat yourselves on the back. What a remarkable thing was done. It was just marvelous that it was done.
We want to do the same thing in our Medicaid program, better managing the patients who cost the state the most. And we'll have money in the budget to do that. We need to constantly re-evaluate entitlement programs and how we administer them.
This year Congress will look at welfare reform. We can make positive changes in Maryland's program this year. We have a plan that emphasizes responsibility and requires recipients to look for work while receiving benefits. After 12 or 18 months, recipients who can't find a job will have to perform community service, or work for an employer that would participate in a state incentive program. So I'm proposing a pilot program for Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Prince George's County, where two-thirds of the total welfare population exists.
As we look ahead, we have reason to be optimistic. If you'll remember, I was a strong critic of Dr. [Mahlon] Straszheim [the governor's chief economic adviser], and now I listen to him, and he's optimistic, not overly so, but he's optimistic. The economy is improving, employment is increasing, and though we must keep stimulating new jobs through international trade and manufacturing and tourism.
Last year you set up the Maryland Tourism Development Board to find ways to increase promotion so that we can compete with other states that outspend us two, three, four times over. . . .
We're also encouraging plans for a Montgomery County Convention Center. We have money in the capital budget for renovation of the Ocean City Convention Center. . . .
The many regions that make up Maryland will be diverse, but people are the common thread. Talk to Marylanders and they'll tell you what they want. It's so simple. They want to be safe. They want to be safe on the streets. They want to be safe in their homes. They want good health, free from disease and the threat of AIDS. They want a job, to provide for their families. They want a home to end homelessness. And they want better opportunities for their children. Very simple, but so important.
That's it. I just want to end with this: Believe it or not, and I know it's -- like someone said, when you say that, they don't know whether they're going to believe you or not -- I look forward to working with you in this last year. We can be so good. We can do so much. We can go out of here with the people just shouting your praises. I won't be here next year. Many of you will. Some won't. But just remember what I started with. If we care about people, and if we think how each one of us are important, and not just say, you know, "I'm going to be against that because I don't like him, or I don't like her." Don't worry about that.
What's best for the people that put you here? What's best for the kids? What's best for kids that you may be able to stop from growing into the crime situation? . . .
We can do it. We've got great leadership. We've got great people.
Thank you very much.