“Be on my side, I’ll be on your side.” --- Neil Young
The 2015 Session ended with a splash of confetti and some breakthrough legislation for Maryland.
I spent most of my legislative time on these four bills that I have been telling you about since introducing them:
** The Maryland Second Chance Act has passed!: This legislation will allow more than 200,000 Marylanders with non-violent misdemeanor convictions a second chance to get back on their feet, get into the job market and learn from their mistakes. With the help of advocates from around the state, including the Job Opportunities Taskforce, ACLU, NAACP, Caryn Aslan, Melissa Broome, Tony Hausner, and Delegates Will Smith, David Moon, and Sheila Hixson—we've set a national model for how to redesign our criminal justice policy.
** We Strengthened the Maryland Public Information Act: Democracy depends on transparency, and thanks to the strong support of Common Cause Maryland, the National Press Association, environmental groups and the ACLU, we have updated and expanded Maryland's Public Information Act. We've gotten rid of barriers to transparency and lowered the costs for citizens to request public information
** We passed Civil Asset Seizure and Forfeiture Reform: Working with the ACLU and criminal justice reform groups, I introduced this legislation to stop the scandalous abuse of government seizure and forfeiture powers in cases where police have been seizing the property of people on the roads without ever charging a crime. We've refocused the law so that the burden is now on the police to prove that the cash, cars and personal property they have seized is connected to a crime before they can keep it.
** We passed the Maryland False Claims Act: With our great Attorney General Brian Frosh, we passed pro-taxpayer, pro-public integrity legislation that will crack down on false claims for government contract work and protect whistleblowers who report the ripoffs. We expect this legislation to bring back tens of millions of taxdollars to Marylanders.
We defended funding of our public schools and investments in community colleges, library and hospital construction. Working in tandem with Delegate Sheila Hixson, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and our two new superstar Delegates, David Moon and Will Smith, we have brought back impressive bond bill funding for a number of important local projects, including: Easter Seals, the Silver Spring Library Early Literacy Center, new Blair Regional Park Scoreboards, and the awesome new Four Corners Church renovation project for local nonprofits.
There have been disappointments too: the House failed to pass the compulsory ignition interlock device bill for anyone convicted of drunk driving that I introduced with Delegate Ben Kramer, a measure that would have continued the dramatic progress we have seen since our original legislation passed in 2011 imposing interlocks on repeat and extreme drunk drivers. After it passed the Senate on a unanimous vote three different times, the General Assembly again failed to enact my legislation permitting women impregnated as a result of rape to petition the court for termination of their assailants’ paternity rights, a rather shocking issue that has now become a national cause and was recently profiled on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Senate Finance Committee narrowly defeated my legislation to ban the use of indoor tanning devices by minors in the wake of the FDA’s warning that they are dangerous and in defiance of other studies that found indoor tanning responsible for thousands of skin cancer and melanoma deaths. And finally, we are clearly in need of a new strategy to move massive opposition to Citizens United in a more effective and practical way, a task that I will turn to in the off-season, as various moves for a constitutional amendment have been stymied. We will redouble our efforts next Session.
My friends, it is an honor beyond measure to serve the people of Silver Spring and Takoma Park as your Senator, and I am so proud of the extraordinary things we have accomplished together and will continue to make happen.
But starting today, my political energy for the rest of the year flows into my campaign for Congress. I am delighted by the outpouring of support we have received since Friday when I invited everyone to my kickoff announcement this . People have offered me endorsements, volunteer time, strategic advice and generous financial support-- the first five days have been overwhelming and the grassroots energy building in this campaign is spectacular to behold.
Please come to my exciting kickoff campaign launch on in Takoma Park at the beautiful and delicious Republic Restaurant! Be on my side, I’ll be on your side. . .
p.s. My campaign launch would not be the same without my beloved friend Dar Williams, the famed folk rock star who came to kick off my first Senate campaign in 2006, my 2009 Inaugurate the Change event at the Corcoran Art Gallery, and my 50th birthday party at the Silver Spring Civic Center! Dar is coming back for a special performance at our first fundraiser, night, April 19th at after the rally. The event is hosted by Diana and William Conway at their home in Potomac. If you'd like to come to that event and see the great Dar Williams in a totally and intimate and beautiful setting in the 8th District, please RSVP here. I am proud to have introduced so many friends and supporters to Dar’s work—she is a musician sensation and luminous in every respect. If you don’t know her music yet, now is the time to contribute to my campaign and enrich your life at the same time!