Our schools in Montgomery County are leading the way in nationwide rankings and I will continue to work to make sure to continue that tradition of success. This means preserving and expanding the funding for primary, secondary, and higher education, preserving retirement benefits for teachers and other employees, and continuing to build state-of-the-art learning facilities.
Our region is in desperate need for new and innovative transportation and transit solutions. Traffic is our number one detractor for improving our quality of life, as well as being a drain on the economy and a hazard to the environment. We need to get more people out of their cars even as our population continues to grow and industry continues to expand.
With the depletion of the State's Transportation Trust Fund, we need to find new sources of transportation revunue that is fair and equitable to all, while meeting our goals for funding our massive transportation and transit needs.
Building the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) and the Purple Line will be a huge step in helping to achieve this aim. The CCT is a critical link between UpCounty Montgomery and the Shady Grove Metro Station, and is the lynch pin in spuring hundreds of millions of dollars in new science and technology development in the Great Seneca Science Corridor. The Purple Line is a vital link between east and west county that will help to take thousands of cars off of the road and provide a mass transit alternative between Bethesda, Silver Spring, and College Park.
Finally, the planned development of the Watkins Mills Town Center and the redevelopment in the area in and around Lakeforest Mall cannot move forward without the construction of the Watkins Mill Interchange.
While in Annapolis, I am fighting for these and many other transportation needs for Montgomery County.
With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Maryland has moved quickly to implement Federal health care reform. We have dilligently worked to establish the Health Insurance Exchange, which will now begin accepting applicants in October of 2013 and begin operations and coverage on January 1, 2014. In addition, we have begun implementing a series of laws and regulations that will help to establish health information networks between all of your medical providers to improve efficiency and reduce medical costs.
I have worked to improve patient safety and expand opportunities for medical access and practice. This includes developing safety standards for plastic surgery procedures, improving medical licensure requirements, and expanded access to medical facilities.
I continue to work to provide medical care and coverage to Marylanders with autism and other developmental disabilities, and those struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
I will continue to work hard to expand health care coverage to the uninsured, work to provide quality health care to our most vulnerable, and make sure that Maryland is ready to take full advantage of Federal health care reform.
In these tough economic times, job growth should be one of our number one priorities. By getting people back to work and helping small business get back on their feet is the only we will be able to turn the economy around and put money back into people’s pockets and State coffers.
I am proud of the many pieces of legislation I helped pass in the last few years that helped to get Marylanders back to work, such as the Job Creation and Recovery Tax Credit, providing a tax credit up to $5,000 to employers who hire unemployed Maryland resident receiving or have exhausted their unemployment benefits and legislation to reform Maryland’s unemployment trust fund improving the system and allowing us access to $126.8 million in federal stimulus funds.
We have made serious commitments to helping to grow the Tech and Bio-Tech sectors, and have made unprecedented commitments to higher education to provide for a trained workforce, including the construction of the Bio-Tech Sciences Center at Montgomery College in Germantown and the Science Center at Montgomery College in Rockville, and helping to fund STEM programs at our public schools and universities.
In leading the charge on the Job Applicant Fairness Act, I worked to help Marylanders with bad credit be able to obtain and retain employment, and worked to create opportunities for small businesses under an expansion of the Small Business Reserve Program. I continue to work to provide more opportunities for minority-owned, women-owned, or veteran and service-disabled veteran-owned, or otherwise disadvantaged small businesses.
Much more needs to be done, and I look forward to working with business and labor to make sure that we continue this growth.
It is our responsibility to be good stewards of our environment. My priorities include preserving our environment are the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay is not only an ecological treasure, but is depended on by the majority of our State for food, jobs, and much, much more. I will continue to vote to increase funding and support policies to restore the Chesapeake Bay and do what is necessary to limit run-off and waste that goes into it.
I will also help our State to invest in alternative energy infrastructure. Maryland has an opportunity to lead the nation in revolutionizing our energy structure to one that is cleaner and less dependant on foreign oil. This includes developing our own source of offshore wind, promoting research into wind, solar, and other renewables, and encouraging a shift to efficient energy uses in our every day lives.
I have helped pass legislation to regulate greenhouse gases, increase energy efficiency of buildings, require the use of environmentally friendly construction material standards for new buildings to help prevent pollutants from entering our environment and the Bay, and devote more resources to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. I stood up on behalf of the University of Maryland’s Law School to make sure that they were not punished for their pursuit of a lawsuit against the polluting chicken farmer industry.
I am proud of my record in protecting the safety of our children and our community, while protecting the civil rights and liberities of all Marylanders.
To deal with the growing problem of gangs in Maryland, I helped to pass Safe Schools Act of 2010 making our schools safer from gangs and their activities, and passed the Maryland Gang Prosecution Act of 2010, strengthening our gang laws by, among other things, making organizing, supervising, financing or managing a gang a felony.
To protect our children from sex offenders, I helped pass legislation that increased the mandatory minimum sentence for committing a sexual offense against a victim of 13 years or younger and eliminated diminution credits for sex offenders.
I have also protected children specifically and the public at large from looping public health and safety concerns. I worked to eliminate harmful chemicals such as BPA from children’s products, helped to eliminate lead from products and buildings, and restricted the use of corded window blinds that have strangled children. I continue to work on public health issues such as obesity, tobacco use, prescription drugs, and artificial tanning to ensure that the health of the public is one of my top priorities.
I addition, I have been one of the most vocal proponents of improving and expanding the civil rights and civil liberties for all Marylanders. I have actively worked to expand voting rights in Maryland through early voting, online registration, and continue to fight for the implementation of election-day voter registration. I was an early and strident supporter of both the Maryland DREAM Act and Marriage Equality.
However, there are still many civil rights issues facing us that I will continue to fight for, including transgender rights, employment issues for ex-offenders, and elimination of the death penalty.