During session, I try to make updates to this page to keep my constituents informed. I will also post other news stories and materials here.
I have been asked numerous times how much St. Mary's County residents pay in taxes compared to other Southern Maryland Counties. Click here for that breakdown.Read more
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House Republican Caucus Unveils Education Priorities
Legislative Package Focuses on Safer Classrooms, Teacher Empowerment, Accountability
ANNAPOLIS, MD – The House Republican Caucus unveiled a series of educations bills focused on making classrooms safer, empowering teachers, expanding accountability, and freeing students trapped in chronically failing schools. This comprehensive legislative package will provide immediate relief to students and teachers in classrooms today, not a decade or more in the future.
“Today we are addressing the real and immediate problems, and in some cases outright dangers, faced by our students and teachers in classrooms every single day,” said House Republican Leader Nic Kipke. “Issues of safety and discipline are the top concerns we hear from students, parents, and teachers in our communities and Kirwan does absolutely nothing to address them. This legislative session has been dominated by billion-dollar education proposals that might fix problems many years from now – but what about the students and teachers in Maryland schools today? Who is looking out for them?”
“The Kirwan Commission has taken years to develop a $30 billion plan that will supposedly improve schools many years down the road,” said House Republican Whip Kathy Szeliga. “Our proposals will have an immediate and meaningful impact on students and teachers in classrooms as early as the next school year, if not before.”
Right to Teach Act of 2020
“When I ask parents what they are most concerned about when it comes to their children’s education, their consistent concern is disruptive students,” said Delegate Matt Morgan. “There are students in their children’s classrooms who are regularly disruptive, often to the point where no real teaching can occur and no one can possibly learn. This isn’t run-of-the-mill disruption. This isn’t talking when they’re supposed to be listening or passing notes in class. This is yelling, arguing, fighting, and even assaulting teachers and other students.”
Modeled after long-standing program in Texas, the Right to Teach Act of 2020 would allow teachers to remove from their classroom who have established patterns of disruptive behavior. School administrators would not be allowed to return a student to that classroom without the approval of the teacher.
“Right now teachers are finding themselves trapped in scenarios where they get little support from their administrations and have no recourse but to allow disruptive students back into their classrooms, knowing they will continue their behavior,” said Delegate Morgan. “The Right to Teach Act immediately empowers teachers and puts them back in control of their classrooms.”
Good Teacher Protection Act
The Good Teacher Protection Act provides civil immunity for teachers and school officials who take reasonable actions to stop violence in schools and their classrooms.
“When it comes to keeping our children safe, our educators should not have to worry that taking action to prevent or stop violent acts by students could lead to them losing their livelihood through a lawsuit,”
said Delegate Dan Cox. “Teachers and school staff taking reasonable actions to keep our children safe deserve protection under the law.”
Predator-Free Schools Act of 2020
Recent headlines have featured the horrific case of a 21 year old registered sex offender, who had already been convicted of sexually assaulting a 13 year old girl, was attending Parkville High School when he was arrested in December for second-degree rape. This time, his alleged victim is a 15-year-old Baltimore County student.
Under current law, registered sex offenders are prohibited from entering the property of a school unless they are a student at the school. In that case, they must have written permission from the school administration or superintendent.
The Predator-Free Schools Act of 2020 is an emergency bill prohibiting registered sex offenders from attending traditional public schools. This bill will require local boards of education to establish alternate education plans that keep students who are registered sex offenders completely separate from our children.
“It is unconscionable that a registered sex offender was attending school with young girls, all potential victims,” said Delegate Nino Mangione. “The administrators responsible for this decision exhibited horrendously bad judgement. There is no question that registered sex offenders should never be permitted to attend schools with our children, and this bill will make that happen.”
Accountability in Education Act of 2020
Across the state, citizens have been outraged by reports of waste, fraud, and abuse within school systems. Recently, in Baltimore County, a whistleblower has come forward alleging that cabinets full of financial records were shredded by officials at a time when the county school system was undergoing a financial audit. The school system has acknowledged that documents were destroyed, but there are no records as to what was shredded or who authorized their destruction.
“Last year, our state took a tremendous step forward by establishing the office of the Inspector General for Education,” said Delegate Szeliga. “But with the level of deceit and defiance exhibited by some of the school systems in this state, it is clear this new Inspector General will need all possible tools at their disposal.”
The Accountability in Education Act of 2020 strengthens the authority of the inspector general. The legislation expands the scope of what the Inspector General can investigate and also expands the types of documents and records that must be made available to the IG over the course of an investigation.
The bill also establishes a hotline that teachers can use to report discipline issues ignored or not adequately addressed by school administrators.
“I have had conversations with educators who feel powerless in their classrooms,” said Delegate Szeliga. “They do not get the support from their school administrators to deal with students who are chronically disruptive, but they are fearful of losing their jobs should they come forward. This hotline will provide them with direct access to the Inspector General’s office.”
Right to Learn Act of 2020
“Beyond the scandals, headlines, and indictments, there is an often-overlooked tragedy in our school systems; that of students trapped in failing schools,” said Delegate Fisher. “There are schools in Maryland that, for a variety of circumstances, are failing our children. These students should not have to struggle a day longer in a school that is not meeting their needs. There has to be a way out for these students.”
The Right to Learn Act of 2020 frees Maryland students who are trapped in chronically failing schools by giving them alternative options. The bill defines a Failing School as one that has received a 1-Star rating from the Maryland Department of Education for three consecutive years. The parent/guardian of a student attending a failing school must be offered the opportunity to move to another school within the jurisdiction that has a minimum of 2 stars or the opportunity of taking a Right to Learn Scholarship to attend a private school. Families may choose to stay in the 1-star school if they wish. For each student using the Right to Learn Scholarship, their local board of education must pay into the fund an amount equivalent to the state and local per pupil spending for that jurisdiction. Any excess dollars not expended are returned to the jurisdiction of origin. These are education dollars following the students who need them.
“The students and teachers in Maryland’s schools today need solutions to the challenges they face today,” said Delegate Nic Kipke. “We are glad that some of the proposals we have outlined today have already received bipartisan support and we are hopeful that we can move forward to provide our children a quality education in an environment that is safe and supportive for them and their teachers.”
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We have had a few significant legislative items that I wanted to make you aware of:
Veto Override of SB 537/HB 262 Dream Act Expansion 2019 session
It removes many requirements to grant in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens:
Removing the requirement that an individual receives an associate's degree or 60 credits at a community college before receiving in-state tuition at a public four-year institution. Extends from 4 to 6 years the time by which an individual must register as an entering student after graduating from high school. Reduces the amount of time an individual must have attended a high school in Maryland from 3 years to any amount of time. It alters the period from which the dreamer or dreamer's parents filed a Maryland income tax return from 3 years to the prior calendar year.
I stood with Governor Hogan and the citizens of Maryland and voted to sustain the Governor's veto. Democrats in the House unilaterally overrode the Governor's veto, and now the bill will become law.
Veto Override of Handgun Permit Review Board SB1000/ HB1343 2019 session
Once again, we have legislation that targets gun owners who are not committing gun crimes. The majority of cases overturned or modified by the Handgun Permit Review Board was modifications of restrictions on permits. These are cases in which the Maryland State Police had already determined the applicants—all law-abiding Citizens—do not have any criminal nor mental health factors in their background. The handgun review board has been responsible for 27,396 permits, and not a single one of those people have committed a crime. These are not the people we need to focus our attention on. Our efforts would be better focused on criminals who use guns to commit crimes.
I stood with the Governor and lawful gun owners of Maryland and voted to sustain the veto. Democrats in the House unilaterally overrode the Governor's veto, and now the bill will become law.Read more
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I am extremely pleased to see that Governor Hogan did not forget his commitment to advancing technology in Southern Maryland. The budget includes $62 million toward the construction of the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland - Third Academic Building located at the airport in Hollywood that our entire Delegation fought hard to keep as a priority.
The Governor also included funding for the following transportation projects in St. Mary’s County:
- $6.6 million to widen MD 5 to Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary’s County;
- $3.4 million for intersection improvements at Abell/Moakley streets in St. Mary’s County
- $3.2 million for MD 5 upgrades from MD 471 to MD 246 in St. Mary’s County
State support for St. Mary’s College of Maryland in FY 2021 totals more than $28 million, thanks in part to the permanent inclusion of the $800,000 DeSousa-Brent Scholars Completion Grant, for which the College recently qualified.
Other capital highlighted items included in the budget are:
- $35 million for a new Auditorium and Academic Building at St. Mary’s College of Maryland;
- $4.4 million for campus infrastructure upgrades at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
- $11.6 million for three local jail projects in Frederick, Queen Anne’s, and St. Mary’s counties
I will continue to update you as the governor’s budget goes through the legislative process, this year beginning in the Senate.Read more
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Wednesday, January 8th marks the opening of the 441st Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly. It will be the first in decades without familiar faces at the helm. This session is the first for the new Senate President and new Speaker of the House. One thing that has not changed is my commitment to stand on the pledges that I made to the community when I first ran for this seat.
I continue to be a strong voice for conservative ideals, having earned one of the top, “gold standard” scores from the American Conservative Union for the 5th time in a row.
I will serve on the House Health and Government Operations Committee, as well as continuing to serve as the Chair of the St. Mary’s County Delegation.
I have great confidence that the new House Speaker, Delegate Adrienne Jones will conduct the business of the House with professionalism and respect for all of the Delegates, regardless of party. I’m hopeful that this year we can put partisanship aside and work on real issues that concern all Marylanders. The immense tax increase looming to pay for the “Kirwan Education Package” is particularly concerning and will be one of our main issues.
If you have a concern or legislative idea, or if you have a constituent issue that you need assistance with, please call my office at: 410-841-3170/ 301-858-3170 or toll-free 800-492-7122 ext. 3170 or email me at email@example.com Thank you for your interest in the important issues facing Maryland today. Please be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the most up to date information.Read more
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