CALL TO ACTION - OPPOSE GERRYMANDERING OF ST. MARY'S COUNTY
September 19, 2021
A few people have contacted me with concerns about the political ramifications of the proposed new district. Let me be very clear: this is not a Republican vs Democrat thing. This is not Matt Morgan or Jack Bailey being worried about the next election. Currently, I only represent a small area that is proposed to be shifted to Calvert/Anne Arundel. In fact, I grew up in Charles County, I know the County well, and I still have a lot of friends and family in the area. I am not worried about the politics of the proposed district. I am concerned about what is fair and good for our County. If St. Mary's County is gerrymandered now, district lines stay in place for a minimum of 10 years, and I believe this may never be corrected. These changes will impact our businesses and citizens significantly.
Our constituents would have to work with various legislators across this proposed "Southern Maryland Region" to obtain assistance for local government and county issues. It could potentially negatively impact our community for decades to come and long after Senator Bailey and I are out of elected office.
Many of you have asked about testifying and submitting written testimony to the redistricting Commission. Below is a sample letter with a few essential points of why I think this is a significant problem for us in St. Mary's.
As you can see, the new proposed St. Mary's District would run North-South from the Prince George's County border to Point Lookout and East-West from Indian Head to the Patuxent River. It would also separate Mechanicsville, Oakville, Hollywood, and California and relocate those areas to a predominantly Anne Arundel & Calvert County district.
St. Mary's County residents having their voice and representation diluted is a top concern.
If you feel this is not how you want to be represented, we need your help to get the message to the Redistricting Commission now! Would you please submit testimony opposing this map with one simple, straightforward message?
Let St. Mary's County remain whole. Keep St. Mary's intact. Do not divide and gerrymander us!
To submit written testimony to the Commission, please use the links below:
You can also submit your comments electronically or send a redistricting email to [email protected]
Below is a sample testimony for you to use, in part or whole. I have also added a list of additional points which I feel are important that you may wish to include in your testimony.
Please do not feel that you must use what I provide, and certainly, feel free to use your own voice. I am providing this as a template.
September 20, 2021
Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission
Testimony opposing the Commission's map 9-14-21
Dear Members of the Maryland Citizen's Redistricting Commission:
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony to the Commission on this very important issue. I reside/work/have a business in St. Mary's County. My testimony is simple:
Keep St. Mary's whole and our community intact.
For the last 40 years, St. Mary's County has always been made whole regarding State Legislative Redistricting. However, the Commission's proposed map on the 14th of September separated areas in St. Mary's County of Mechanicsville, Oakville, Hollywood, and California and relocates those areas to a predominantly Anne Arundel & Calvert County district. The proposed map then creates one of the largest districts and least compact in the entire state by including a vast geographical area of Charles County to the St. Mary's County District.
I believe this to be wrong, and I would like St. Mary's to remain whole. St. Mary's County is unique in several ways, and as such, our interests and needs are not going to line up with those in Southern Anne Arundel County as well as the massive area in Charles County in your proposed map. Our economic development needs are different. Over 60% of our economy revolves around the large base at NAVAIR and subsequent military contractors. We have heavily invested in these industries, such as the new UMD UAS research and test center which is in the portion of the county proposed to be moved into a Calvert district. These projects are vitally important to our economic growth and our community, and separating them from the rest of our County makes little sense.
Historically, St. Mary's County has been represented as a whole. Geographically, we are located on a peninsula, and our communities are tight nit. Our needs coincide with one another, and this makes us stronger. Dividing the County, carving out sections of Mechanicsville, Oakville, Hollywood, and California, and adding a large section of Charles County will rob us of representation. It is unfair, and I believe that any redistricting map needs to keep St. Mary's County completely intact.
Other key points to include:
- This map grabs a section of Mechanicsville, Oakville, Hollywood, and California and relocates those areas to a predominantly Anne Arundel & Calvert County district.
- It further attaches a massive section of Charles County to St. Mary's County. The proposed district runs up the Charles County eastern border to the Rt. 381 Gallant Green area, then goes south down Rt. 488 towards La Plata, follows Rt. 6 west, captures the Nanjemoy area, and runs nearly to Indian Head.
- The new proposed St. Mary's District would run North-South from the Prince George's County border to Point Lookout and East-West from Indian Head to the Patuxent River. State law calls for districts to be "compact and contiguous." While the district would be contiguous, it is far from compact.
- Health care needs and access to care have always been and continue to be an issue to those of us in a rural community, and we worry that lumping us in with counties of heavier concentration of population will obscure these areas of need for our citizens.
- I do not believe citizens living in Sandgates or Hollywood have the same transportation, economic development, and infrastructure needs as the people of Shady Side or the people of Edgewater in Anne Arundel County. The same can be said of the like-minded interest of the neighborhoods of Charles County in Welcome or Nanjemoy differ in comparison to St. Mary communities of Ridge and California.
- St. Mary's County transportation and infrastructure needs will have to be centered on the development of our tech corridor located in California at the Airport.
- These changes will impact our businesses and citizens since we will no longer have a "cohesive" form of representation. Our constituents and County Commissioners will now have to work with a variety of legislators across this proposed "Southern Maryland Region" to obtain assistance for local government and county issues. Everyone complains that government is slow to act, and this will only add to the length of time it takes to resolve issues for our citizens.
GERRYMANDERING OF ST. MARY'S COUNTY
September 17, 2021
Senator Bailey and I want to alert you to the following political redistricting proposal that I believe substantially gerrymanders and weakens St. Mary's County. The proposal comes from the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, which will present its draft plan this Monday evening.
Redistricting is performed every 10 years based on census data of the population. For the last 40 years, St. Mary's county has always been made whole regarding State Legislative Redistricting. While State district sizes have always been slightly larger than St. Mary's County itself, the district always included St. Mary's County as a whole; only a small section of Calvert County or, in the distant past, a tiny area of Charles County was added to ensure each district throughout the state remained somewhat equal in size. For the first time in decades, the proposed maps significantly gerrymander St. Mary's County.
CURRENT DISTRICT 29
PROPOSED DISTRICT 29
This map grabs a section of Mechanicsville, Oakville, Hollywood, and California and relocates those areas to a predominantly Anne Arundel & Calvert County district. It further attaches a massive section of Charles County to St. Mary's County. The proposed district runs up the Charles County eastern border to the Rt. 381 Gallant Green area, then goes south down Rt. 488 towards La Plata, follows Rt. 6 west, captures the Nanjemoy area, and runs nearly to Indian Head.
This is almost unbelievable as I write, the new proposed St. Mary's District would run North-South from the Prince George's County border to Point Lookout and East-West from Indian Head to the Patuxent River!
As a long-standing critic of gerrymandering, I know it when I see it, and I believe this is wrong.
The Maryland State Constitution requires that districts are to be "compact and contiguous".
Clearly, the proposed district that includes Mechanicsville, Oakville, Hollywood, and California is not contiguous, and the new Charles County/ St. Mary's County district is certainly not compact. The hope of any new district lines is that it would continue to keep communities together, as they share common challenges and needs that are so often tied to the geographical region.
For example, I do not believe citizens living in Sandgates or Hollywood have the same transportation, economic development, and infrastructure needs as the people of Shady Side or Edgewater in Anne Arundel County. The same can be said of the like-minded interest of the neighborhoods of Charles County in Welcome or Nanjemoy differ in comparison to St. Mary communities of Ridge and California.
This redistricting map doesn't seem right, and Senator Bailey and I are asking for your help to keep our St. Mary's community whole. Any new map should allow for St. Mary's County to remain intact for the simple reason that I believe our unique peninsula-based community is stronger together, and I do not think it should be carved up in pieces for political purposes.
CALL TO ACTION - We need your help...
If you believe as I do, you can help! The Redistricting meeting to go over these draft maps is set to occur on Monday evening via ZOOM.
I am asking you to help both Senator Bailey and me and testify at the meeting with a straightforward message for the commission.
Let St. Mary's County remain whole. Do not divide and gerrymander us!
You can also submit your comments electronically or email a redistricting comment to [email protected]
Thank you for your time and consideration
RESTORATION OF FUNDS FOR CHARLOTTE HALL VETERANS HOME
April 07, 2021
Two weeks ago, I reported that the BRFA contained one concerning committee amendment, removing a million dollars from the Charlotte Hall Veteran's Home. Charlotte Hall Veterans home is the only Veterans home for elderly and disabled veterans in Maryland. I highlighted this concern by speaking out against it on the House floor, which resulted in many constituent emails, Facebook posts, and news media outlets to cover the story. Today, I am proud to say the money has been returned, and I reconfirmed this on the House Floor. It pays to speak up, and in this case, it produced a million dollars to the Veterans Home.
I want to thank everyone who emailed and shared the post on Facebook on behalf of our veterans. Bringing attention to this issue was integral to a successful resolution. Here is the video from the House Floor session reconfirming the funding.
I want to thank Senator Michael Jackson for his commitment to our elderly veterans. I also want to thank the House Appropriations Committee for concurring with the Senate and keeping Charlotte Hall Veterans' Home funded.
POLICE REFORM LEGISLATION
March 16, 2021
I wanted to take the time to account for the past week's activities by your elected General Assembly.
One of the amendments offered on this bill was an amendment designed to ban School Resource officers' (SROs) presencefrom schools. The author of the amendment argues that SROs somehow contribute to the "school to prison pipeline", by unfairly targeting and arresting children of color, disability, and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, he did not have the data to support this claim. He did not even know any pertinent data regarding the number of children arrested by SROs and for what offenses.
Luckily, I do have that information for the 2018/2019 school year, which is the last years students were in school:
- Total student population- 894 K
- Total number of students arrested by SRO-2,628
- Total number of minority students arrested by SRO- 1,766
Of the arrests:
- 732 arrested for a physical altercation
- 25 arrested for sexual assault
- 20 arrested for sexual harassment
- 11 arrested for possessing a gun on school property
- 222 arrests for other weapons on school property
When did I ask the author of the amendment if the SRO is not there, who stops those assaults? Who gets those guns and other weapons out of the schools? He answered that we needed to "reimagine" school security. As a parent of a child in school, I don't need to reimagine school security. We have a program and a partnership that works. We have dedicated officers who are committed to the safety of our children.
This amendment failed, but the author of the amendment has a bill that does the same, and there are a couple of other similar bills as well. I opposed the amendment and will oppose those bills as well.
Video to the portion of the debate can be viewed here: https://fb.watch/4gk8GFMdAU/
March 03, 2021
If you have been watching my social media, you have heard about two significant bills that hit the House Floor last week. I'll summarize:
HB655- a bill introduced by Delegate Crosby would eliminate countywide voting for counties that have election districts. I rose in opposition to this bill for several reasons.
Currently, St. Mary's has 4 geographic districts, with 1 commissioner representing each of those districts and 1 commissioner elected at large. This process was put in place 170 years ago, with the district lines changing every 10 years to ensure equal representation across the entire county. The cumulative impact of HB 655 is that citizens would only be able to vote for 2 county commissioners instead of all 5 of the commissioners.
Proponents of this bill say that it will give people more representation, when in fact, citizens will be voting in fewer races, not more. The charge was made that the system St. Mary's (and 4 other counties) use is designed to dilute and disenfranchise minority voters. After some research, I discovered that deep blue Montgomery County uses the exact same process in electing their representative school board. I offered an amendment to fix the way Montgomery County would elect their school board to align it with the method that is outlined in HB655. After some heated debate, the Democrats in Annapolis asked me to withdraw the amendment so that they could offer it as a committee amendment.
Another reason to oppose this bill is that this is a local rule issue, and I can't help but believe that this sets a dangerous precedence for Annapolis lawmakers to start dictating more and more to local jurisdictions. I personally called the sponsor of the bill to advocate for making the bill into a referendum of voters in St. Mary's County. It seems to me that when legislation like this is so contested- in this case, 5 County Commissioners, the House Delegation, and a State Senator oppose this; that a good governance solution would be to allow the voters to decide. Delegate Crosby was not interested in a compromise, so I did offer an amendment on the floor that would have allowed the people of St. Mary's County to vote on the issue. I was stunned and very disappointed to hear my colleagues on the other side of the aisle refuse this amendment by saying, "the voters cannot be trusted to vote correctly."
The amendment failed on party lines, and the bill was passed and will be taken to a final vote soon.
If you would like to see the video clip of these speeches, you can find them here:
- Delegate Crosby bill hearing on HB655 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=182hllMsABA&feature=youtu.be
- Delegate Matt Morgan on the floor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16dV5Sh7DQo&feature=youtu.be
VETO OVERRIDES 2021
February 07, 2021
This week the House will come together to vote on Governor Hogan's vetoes from last year's legislative session.
Democrats are looking to create several new taxes, all of which would be bad for Marylanders.
HB 932- Digital downloads and streaming services sales tax.
HB 932 will require a sales tax on digital content and streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. I remain against this bill, because now more than ever, Maryland citizens can't afford additional tax burdens. The Covid emergency has hit us hard and continue to do so- this additional fleecing must not be allowed. This new tax takes an estimated $120 million out of private citizens' hands and moves it into government coffers. I will vote NO to this bill again by voting to sustain the Governor's veto.
HB 732-Tobacco/ e cigarette and Digital advertising tax
HB 732 adds taxes on e-cigarettes and vaping products, as well as a tax on digital advertising – to the tune of $250 million.
With businesses still struggling to remain open while being severely restricted by the pandemic shutdowns, it's hard to imagine why adding an additional financial burden at this time is a good idea. Now is not the time to make Maryland more expensive for citizens and businesses. I will vote NO to this bill again by voting to sustain the Governor's veto.
HB 1300-Kirwan spending bill (the Blueprint for Education)
HB 1300- otherwise known as the Kirwan Education Spending Bill is the single most costly legislation ever considered by the Maryland General Assembly.
Maryland counties have said that they cannot afford the billions of dollars in spending mandated by the Kirwan Commission's recommendations. It was passed the last session under secrecy, while most of the State was focused on the pandemic threat.
I voted no to this bill last year because while I want the best public education system possible, this entire bill does little to address the real problems with public education. There is very little oversight or mechanism to prevent failing schools, despite the money spent. There is nothing substantial to address disruptive students in the classroom. The bill does not empower the parents to make choices for their children's education. Basically, the bill is a giant payoff to the Teacher's Union who has spent millions of dollars lobbying legislators to advance the bill.
I will vote NO to this bill again by voting to sustain the Governor's veto.
FIRST WEEK OF THE 2021 SESSION
January 25, 2021
Last week marked the 442nd convening of the Maryland General Assembly for the 2021 legislative session.
This year's session looks very different, amid the ongoing pandemic and the General Assembly's efforts to minimize spread, while we meet for the constitutionally required convening of the General Assembly.
One of the most significant differences is that the public buildings and State House are closed to the general public. While you may not come to Annapolis in person, know that my office is available by e-mail and phone to hear your concerns and comments. A new system has been set up to accommodate remote testimony as well. Comprehensive information can be found on the Maryland General Assembly website and helpful video tutorials to help you participate in the legislative process.