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Republican priorities deserve attention in Md.

Republican priorities deserve attention in Md.
House Minority Leader Nic Kipke and Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga listen to debate on the chamber floor. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Far too often, the conversation during the legislative session in Annapolis is solely focused on what the majority Democratic caucus wants to accomplish. Very little attention is paid to the minority Republican caucus, and the latest election results have more than a few pundits assuming that our political and legislative power is waning. However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.

Our members represent nearly 2 million Marylanders — people who have a voice and sent us to Annapolis to represent their views. Our members span districts from Western Maryland to the Lower Eastern Shore and nearly everywhere in between. White, black, old, young — the citizens who voted us into office did so because they want to see problems solved. They could not care less about who is “winning the week” or the latest legislative food fight. They want positive action, and that is exactly what the minority caucus is determined to deliver this session.

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Last week, our caucus was proud to announce our legislative priorities. They are commonsense ideas that smartly address public safety, voting rights and pocketbook issues. Some of the proposals are more typically conservative while others have been supported by Democrats for decades. These ideas should be openly debated and voted on in both committees and on the House floor, and this caucus will fight for that until the final day of session.

Maryland is an incredible place to live, but, like many states, violent crime is a major problem. We must take action to protect our communities and shed light on the problems and people who are making our neighborhoods less safe. In 1995, Maryland created a sexual offender registry, and this year Maryland should create a violent offender registry. That is why we are introducing the Murder and Repeat Violent Offender Registry Act of 2019, which will require Maryland residents convicted of murder or repeatedly convicted of violent crimes such as armed robbery and kidnapping to register with the state and be subject to a searchable public registry, modeled after Maryland’s Sex Offender Registry. Many states including Illinois and Ohio have expanded their public criminal registries, and Maryland should as well.

Our state is one of the most gerrymandered in the country. We do not have free or fair elections here; we have a fraudulent and rigged system designed to benefit the party in power. That needs to end, and the governor and our caucus, are working to do just that. But what also needs to end, and what serves the same unethical purpose, are multi-member legislative districts. That is why we are introducing the One Person One Vote Act of 2019, a constitutional amendment requiring single-member districts. Creating multi-member districts purposely stifles competition to ensure the electoral outcome desired by the party in power. Politicians should never pick their voters, and this is one more way they do just that in Maryland.

It is hardly a secret that Maryland has high taxes and that they are a major contributor to the fact that it is a very expensive place to live. Governor Hogan has made great strides over the past four years to control spending, lower taxes and make Maryland more affordable, but we want to go even further. Too many Maryland families are struggling, and too many businesses will not consider locating here because of the cost of living. That is why we are introducing the Common Sense Tax Cut Act of 2019, which will lower the Maryland income tax rate by a quarter percentage point — saving middle class Marylanders hundreds of millions of dollars every year in taxes while also making our state more competitive economically. Maryland is stronger than it has ever been and its future potential is unlimited, but only if all people can afford to live here.

School shootings are a painful reality in today’s world, and Maryland is no stranger to them. We can all remember that awful day less than one year ago when a shooting occurred at Great Mills High School. We remember the young woman whose life was taken and the young man who was killed as a result of a school resource officer taking direct action. This is a parent’s worst nightmare and why we are introducing the Special Police Officers Act of 2019, which will expand an already-existing law to give local jurisdictions much more flexibility in requesting special police officers for school safety. Solving the tragedy of school shootings is complex, but having more good, trained men and women on school grounds is definitely part of the answer.

Our state needs the best ideas and the most principled leadership; no person or political party has a monopoly on these things. This caucus will partner with anyone willing to do the hard work required to improve our state. Our objective this legislative session is simple: Get good things done for the people of Maryland. These proposals are a first step in the right direction.

Del. Nic Kipke (nicholaus.kipke@house.state.md.us) is minority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates. Also contributing to this op-ed are: Del. Kathy Szeliga, minority whip; Del. Matt Morgan, assistant minority leader; and Del. Jason Buckel, chief deputy whip.

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