House Speaker Mike Busch Weighs in on 2008 Session ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

House Speaker Mike Busch Weighs in on 2008 Session

Herewith for your reading enjoyment, House Speaker Mike Busch, our own District 30 Delegate, presents his recap of the recently ended session. CP would like to personally thank the Speaker for his leadership, his willingness to listen, and for taking a strong stand against slots for the four years of the last administration.

April 2008

Dear Constituent:

With the 2008 legislative session behind us, I appreciate the opportunity to report to you on the legislature’s work to solve the challenges confronting our state. In difficult economic times, we produced a balanced budget that protects K – 12 education, Chesapeake Bay restoration programs, healthcare for children and seniors, public safety, and freezes undergraduate tuition at the University System of Maryland for a third consecutive year.

I am pleased to be able to report success on several local initiatives. This spring, I worked to forge a new partnership between federal, state and local officials to implement a new crime-fighting initiative and keep Annapolis-area neighborhoods safe. Known as “Capital City Safe Streets” program, the initiative promotes cooperation between federal, state and local prosecutors and police agencies – and we are already seeing results which will have a chilling effect on law breakers.

At the end of February, federal authorities took their first Capital City Safe Streets case. It involved a twice-convicted felon arrested with a handgun near Clay Street. Under state law, he faced five years in prison. Under federal law, he faces a longer sentence in a facility farther from home. In March, county and local police officers conducted a city-wide warrant fugitive sweep, arresting nine fugitives and serving thirteen warrants in Annapolis. This type of aggressive, pro-active enforcement, coupled with longer prison sentences for violent offenders, not only sends a strong message – it makes our streets safer by taking dangerous repeat offenders out of our community altogether.

Working with my District 30 colleagues, Senator Astle and Delegates Clagett and George, I helped secure over $22 million for local projects, including support for the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, Galesville Rosenwald School, Goshen House, Hammond-Harwood House, Light House Shelter, Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Memorial, and Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. We secured $600,000 to assist the City of Annapolis with underground wiring projects, as well as funds for renovations at Tyler Heights Elementary School.


Facing a downturn in the national economy which has slowed state revenue forecasts, we passed a budget which makes necessary cuts while preserving core services in education, the environment, healthcare, and public safety. We cut $532 million from the budget this session, and we have cut nearly $1.5 billion from the budget since the beginning of the current term. We left a $235 million

fund balance above the Rainy Day Fund – leaving nearly $1 billion in cash reserves to weather any further slowing in the economy.


In crafting the budget, we successfully repealed the tech tax. Maryland’s tech sector is made up of 7,549 businesses that provide 56,210 jobs. Our district is home to 222 companies that employ 4,539 people. I met with dozens of tech entrepreneurs who emphasized that the tech tax had the potential to undermine our robust tech sector and jeopardize jobs in our community. By repealing the tax, the legislature ensured one of the industries that forms the core of our knowledge-based economy will continue to flourish in the state.


Education Week ranked Maryland’s public schools as the nation’s third best, and the state boasts the second highest percentage of high school students in the nation who scored at or above the mastery level on Advanced Placement exams. Our public schools are making measurable progress, and the budget gives teachers, students, administrators and parents the tools they need to continue their progress. Public schools are slated to receive over $5.3 billion in state aid, an increase of $182 million over last year.


With our investment in public education, we must continue to invest in the infrastructure of aging schools and prepare for growth in our region. This year, we will spend $333 million on school construction and renovation. Since 2006, we have committed over $1.3 billion to public school construction. I helped secure over $27 million for Anne Arundel County schools this year, including funds for projects at Tyler Heights Elementary School in our district.


Coupled with our public schools, Maryland’s community colleges and universities form a strong foundation for our state’s knowledge-based economy. We are home to one of the nation’s best educated workforces, which is one reason salaries are higher and our economy remains stronger than the nation’s as a whole. To ensure higher education remains affordable for all Maryland families, we froze in-state undergraduate tuition for a third consecutive year. We dedicated resources to a Higher Education Investment Fund to provide additional seats for students within the University System, and we invested a record sum in community colleges around the state. I helped secure over $1.4 million for renovations to the Careers Building at Anne Arundel Community College, so that students in our community are learning in modern facilities.


Billed as a way to help seniors cope with rising prices of prescription medicine, the federal government’s Medicare Part D program has become an unexpected burden for many beneficiaries because of a problem commonly referred to as “the donut hole.” Medicare allows enrollees to choose from private prescription plans which are required to cover the first $2,510 of prescriptions. Enrollees must cover the next $3,215 in expenses out of their own pocket before Medicare coverage resumes. For many seniors, this gap in coverage means delaying treatment or choosing which ailments to treat. We helped seniors facing this choice by entering into an innovative public-private partnership with Carefirst that will expand prescription drug coverage to 30,000 Maryland seniors caught in the donut hole.


There are 137,000 uninsured children in Maryland, and 90,000 of them qualify for existing public health insurance programs. We enacted legislation to begin targeted outreach to families with children that are eligible for help. The state will gather data to catalogue our uninsured population accurately, in order to identify uninsured kids. State agencies will use that information to notify the parents of those children that they are eligible to enroll their kids in Medicaid or the Maryland Children’s Health Insurance Program. This common sense step will help thousands of children who already qualify for assistance get the healthcare they need.


The state’s Critical Areas law has not been updated in nearly 25 years. As a result, the law no longer effectively serves its intended purpose – namely, protecting against development in sensitive areas along the Chesapeake Bay. This session, we gave the Critical Area Commission better authority to enforce the law. We tightened the procedures for zoning variances, enacted a 200-foot setback for new subdivisions in sensitive areas, and enhanced penalties for developers who violate the law. These steps will stem development along the Bay. Through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, we will spend $149 million on nutrient removal to reduce the amount of nitrogen pollution entering the Bay, including more than $13 million to upgrade the wastewater treatment plants on the Broadneck and Annapolis peninsulas. The budget includes $25 million for the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund to expedite pollution reduction in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays and Patuxent River, promoting a cleaner and healthier environment for all Marylanders.


This week, The Baltimore Sun reported that the same DNA evidence that cleared one man of a violent crime was used to charge another suspect in the attack. We know from stories like this that the collection of DNA samples from people charged with violent crimes can help solve open cases and exonerate the wrongly accused. That’s why we passed legislation to require the collection of DNA samples from people who are charged with crimes of violence, such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, or felony burglary. The bill gives police officers and prosecutors the tools they need to solve crimes while protecting the privacy of citizens not charged with a crime.


As a slowing real estate market creates a drag on the national economy, foreclosures have become a threat to economic stability in every county in the state. The rate of foreclosures grew 38.9% from the third to the fourth quarter of 2007, as 9,722 Maryland households entered the foreclosure process. We passed reforms to stabilize the mortgage market, including an emergency bill to lengthen Maryland’s foreclosure process – which had been one of the shortest in the nation. Described by The Washington Post as “among the most sweeping in the country,” the reforms we enacted protect consumers by banning pre-payment penalties for sub prime loans and the transfer of real estate in foreclosure rescue scams. We created a mortgage fraud law that criminalizes fraud by lenders and borrowers. Taken together, these reforms will help stabilize the housing market in Maryland, without bailing out investors.


Maryland is at a critical juncture in energy policy, as the state faces the prospect of an electricity shortage and rolling blackouts as early as 2011. Electricity consumption increased 15.7% from 1999 to 2005 in Maryland, while generation increased by 1.9%. Maryland consumers used 63 million megawatts in 2006, while the state generated only 49 million. This imbalance resulted in the state importing 30% of its electricity. Our dependency on out-of-state energy is straining our transmission system and driving up costs for everyone. Recognizing these challenges, we enacted a comprehensive energy plan to stabilize rates while ensuring reliability for consumers. We created a Strategic Energy Investment Fund to stimulate investment in energy efficient technology and provide short term consumer rate relief, doubled the standard for the use of renewable energy over the next fourteen years, established green building standards to improve energy efficiency in public construction projects, and eliminated tax barriers facing residents who want to invest in clean energy systems. These steps will begin the process of reducing consumption, stabilizing rates, and ensuring a safe and reliable energy supply.


Earlier this year, Constellation Energy filed a lawsuit asking the court for the right to rescind $380 million in rate relief, which would further destabilize the residential electricity market in Maryland. The state filed its own lawsuit, and the company reached a settlement with the state in March. That settlement, which we ratified this session, provides BGE customers with nearly $2 billion in rate relief. As a result, each household will receive a one-time $170 refund by December 2008, which equates to more than a 10% rate reduction for more than half of BGE customers. The settlement also eliminates the $1.5 billion consumer obligation for the cost of decommissioning Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, and protects $346 million in credits to ratepayers the legislature secured during the 2006 special session.

It is both a privilege and a pleasure to represent our community in the House of Delegates for the past 22 years. I hope you will e-mail me at or call me at 410-841-3800 if I can be of assistance. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to serve our community and our State.


Michael E. Busch


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