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Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Week Ten: Budgets, Bills, and Bans
Sound Choices for our Environment
We just finished our tenth week of the 437th Legislative Session in Annapolis and we are down to less than twenty-five days until Sine Die.
As we detailed last week, the rush of crossover was upon us last week. Crossover is a term used to describe a bill that has successfully passed in one chamber and is then introduced in the other. Each chamber sends the bills it has passed favorably to the other chamber by ‘Crossover Date,’ which was yesterday.
Last week saw the passing of the Governor’s budget in the House Chamber. We are pleased to report that all our priorities are still in the budget. While we are still working on the county’s request for Perdue Stadium, we believe that Governor Hogan will continue his commitment to the Eastern Shore.
Thursday, we had the pleasure of welcoming our friends from Salisbury University for the annual SU Day!
The event took place in the Miller Senate Office Building and students had the opportunity to tour the State House, meet with legislators, and attend the annual ceremony honoring the sixteenth recipient of the Hargreaves Fellowship. Congratulations to my colleague Delegate Tawanna Gaines who received the John R. Hargreaves Award on behalf of the University. The award honors the late Delegate Hargreaves who represented Caroline County and it encourages students to establish a closer connection to their legislators.
Governor Larry Hogan held a press conference on Friday announcing his support for a ban on fracking. Protecting our environment is a top priority for his administration and he stated that the possible environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing outweigh any potential benefits. The bill in support of a ban, HB1325, passed in the House 97-40 and is on its way to being introduced in the Senate.
A few people have asked about the issue, so I want to take a moment to supply the context for my support of the bill.
Previously, Governor Hogan’s administration put forth regulations that Jay Apperson from Maryland Department of the Environment called, “the most protective and comprehensive in the country” in a January 3 Washington Post article. However, his attempt to put these safeguards in place was stopped by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review. This week, a rumor was circulated that President Mike Miller was considering a ballot initiative to allow hydraulic fracturing without the common-sense safeguards that Governor Hogan supports. Delegate Kevin Hornberger offered an amendment, which would have turned the bill into a moratorium and I supported it. Unfortunately, the measure failed on the floor of the House 44-86. In light of this, the options were to either allow the ballot measure to go forward without appropriate safety considerations or to vote to ban the practice. If the measure is passed and becomes law, stakeholders will have the opportunity to improve technology and safety.
I do not believe this ban is a firm "no", but a "not now". I am hopeful that the General Assembly, working with the Hogan Administration, developers of environmentally safe fracking technology, and other stakeholders will continue to have a conversation about ways that we can extract natural gas in a safe manner. We are simply not there yet.
Our 2017 Scholarship Application is now available! If you live in District 38B and are interested in applying, please send an email to Carl.Anderton@house.state.md.us. Applicants must have plans to attend college in Maryland.