Schools, Trump, tolls on the minds of Baltimore County lawmakers | WYPR

Schools, Trump, tolls on the minds of Baltimore County lawmakers

Jan 11, 2017

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
Credit Baltimore County

Maryland’s General Assembly returns to Annapolis Wednesday, and Baltimore County lawmakers are arriving with a wish list.

Any legislator you talk to will tell you numero uno for Baltimore County in this session is money for schools. Same goes for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. He plans to have all county schools air conditioned in a couple of years and wants more state money to help with that.

Kamenetz also supports an overhaul of the state’s money-based bail system. 

Kamenetz said, “Right now when people can’t make a bail, if they can't make a $500 bail, they’re shipped off to the Baltimore County Detention Center. Baltimore County government has to pay for them while they await trial.”

A fight over moves to change Maryland’s cash bail system has been brewing for months.

Attorney General Brian Frosh raised questions about the system’s constitutionality in October. He said it unfairly hurts poor defendants who are forced to sit in jail awaiting trial because they can’t afford bail.

In November a judicial rules committee recommended changes to the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court.

Last week, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged the court to make changes, but the court put off a decision until February. Meanwhile, lawmakers are seeking to make changes in the face of stiff opposition from lobbyists and some Senate leaders.

At least one Baltimore County lawmaker says she wants to protect Maryland from President-Elect Donald Trump after he takes the oath of office next week.

Democratic Delegate Shelly Hettleman says the legislature needs to keep an eye on the Trump administration, when it comes to rolling back environmental, civil rights and criminal justice laws.

The President-Elect and Republicans in Congress have made it clear they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hettleman says the state needs to act if that happens, in order to protect its most vulnerable citizens.

Hettleman said, “People who really rely on a health care system now that is addressing their needs. If that goes away, we’ll have to look at what it is we in the state need to do to pick up that slack.”

Hettleman’s district is in northwest Baltimore County. Over on the east side, Republican State Senator Johnny Ray Salling will try to get tolls reduced on the Key Bridge and offer an annual pass.

Salling said, “I think I’ve got a lot of support through M-Dot, and Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and other counties.”

Both Senator Salling and Democratic State Senator Jim Brochin want to make the targeted murder of a police officer a hate crime. Brochin says he also will introduce legislation that would make it illegal for developers to give campaign contributions to Baltimore County Council members or the County Executive.

Brochin said, “I think the development process in Baltimore County and what’s built and what isn’t built and the evaporation of open space has hit a really critical level. And I think a lot of what happens if you follow the money it’s incredibly troubling.”

Delegate Steve Lafferty, whose district is in the Towson area, wants a study to look at ways to make bicycling safer statewide.

Lafferty said, “When you cross jurisdictions you may get some different accommodations too so how is the state going to look at it on their roadways of course and then what we might be able to encourage local governments or incentivize local governments to do to improve their bicycling accommodations.”

Lafferty, who chairs Baltimore County’s house delegation says there is no talk of a tax increase this year. So the governor and legislature will need to figure out how to make up a projected 544 million dollar budget shortfall.