As I reflect on the Maryland General Assembly’s 2002 Legislative Session, I am enormously proud of the accomplishments of the Montgomery and Prince George’s County delegations in Annapolis.
Together, we put Maryland’s children and families first by passing the most far-reaching changes to state education funding in over 20 years. Over the initial objections of the House leadership, I championed the legislation through the House Ways and Means Committee and on the House floor. With the support of my colleagues, we passed a bill that will increase education funding for Montgomery County’s school children by $152 million over current levels of funding — more than double the amount of money Montgomery County schools will receive when compared to the original Thornton Commission proposal.
UNDER THE NEW LAW, education funds will increase for school children in Prince George’s County by $350 million. Neither of these increases penalizes any other school district in Maryland. I am especially proud that one of my legislative priorities for the last several years — all-day kindergarten — is one of the programs that will benefit from the new education funding formula.
ON OTHER legislative fronts: I was honored to work with adoptive families to introduce and pass a bill that mandates paid leave equity for birth and adoptive parents. Maryland is still the only state in the nation to offer this benefit to working families. I also was delighted that the General Assembly adopted tougher drunk driving penalties, several of which I co-sponsored.
While I don’t think we went far enough on gun safety measures — like requiring licensing — I was very pleased to lead the floor fight to defeat a bill that would have restored gun ownership rights to certain convicted criminals.
I was proud to be a strong voice for the disability community during the recent session, fighting the governor’s proposal to cut funding for the community-based services needed by children with severe disabilities. I also introduced and passed legislation to provide additional home ownership opportunities for Marylanders with disabilities.
DURING THE LAST few days in Annapolis, I’ve often thought about the eight years that I have served in the legislature.
During my two terms as a Member of the Maryland General Assembly, I’ve learned how important it is do more than just vote correctly. It is urgently important to speak out on behalf of those I serve and bring their voices to the legislative process.