Lynne Gillis (in front of microphone), flanked by Huntingtown High School students asked Calvert’s state lawmakers to support Humane Society-sponsored legislation.

Prince Frederick, MD – The League of Women Voters (LWV) Calvert County Chapter hosted its annual “Legislative Evening” Tuesday, Nov. 18 at Calvert Pines Senior Center. The well-attended event provided representatives from over 20 entities an opportunity to address four of the five legislators representing Calvert County in Annapolis. Those who spoke outlined their legislative priorities for the 2015 Maryland General Assembly Session.

While the lawmakers in attendance—Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. [D-District 27] and Delegate Anthony J. “Tony” O’Donnell [R-District 29C] along with District 29 Senator-Elect Steve Waugh, a Republican; and District 27-B Delegate-Elect Michael Jackson, a Democrat—conceded the upcoming session’s biggest challenge would be tackling Maryland’s $400 million budget deficit, not all the news was gloomy.

“We are closer to a new Thomas Johnson Bridge than we were two years ago,” O’Donnell announced. The veteran legislator explained that with the election of Republican Larry Hogan Jr., there will be a significant shift in transportation priorities, from urban mass transit to improvement statewide of roads and bridges. “If we delay one of the mass transit projects—either the Blue Line or the Purple Line—we’ll have plenty of money. We are going to make that [new Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge] a priority.”

O’Donnell announced his intention to refile his bill to establish a task force to study the use and trade of illicit opioids in rural counties. “The bill may have died but the problem hasn’t died,” said O’Donnell.

“We’re starting to make government work,” said Miller, who explained he has met several times with Hogan since the Nov. 4 election. The senate president pledged the leadership would be focused on “bringing spending under control.”

“I’m looking forward to working on veterans’ issues,” said Waugh, one of 10 new members of the state legislature’s upper chamber. Waugh also affirmed he would be focused on Maryland’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget.

Jackson promised to “build consensus to move your agenda forward.”
O’Donnell announced at the start of the meeting that the fifth member of the county’s delegation—Delegate Mark Fisher [R-District 27C] was unable to attend due to a business-related meeting in another county.

The controversial Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Export Project was at the core of some of the comments rendered during the meeting.

Tracey Eno of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community declared the county’s elected officials “have seriously underestimated the risks” of building the $3.8 billion liquefaction facility that will give the Lusby plant the capability of exporting LNG to foreign countries. Eno called on officials to appoint a panel to draft a comprehensive safety plan, state highway officials to widen Cove Point Road and lawmakers to procure funds for monitoring emissions from the liquefaction facility. She stated the measures should all be done now.

Representing LWV, Anne Mychalus said the organization’s priorities include a transition to being 40 percent reliant on clean, renewable energy by 2025.

Speaking on behalf of Southern Maryland Citizens Alliance for Renewable Energy Sources (CARES), William Peil asked the legislators to “ban fracking” and stop the Pepco/Exelon Merger. Southern Maryland CARES opposes energy reliant on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Representatives from two organizations—the Calvert County Republican Central Committee and LWV—called for the end of legislative gerrymandering.

Two speakers, Laurel Matthews and Lynn Gillis, asked the lawmakers to support measures for better treatment of domestic animals. Matthews asked that the state provide funds to train law enforcement officers in how to engage dogs when confronted at crime scenes. Gillis, with the support of three members of the Huntingtown High School Humane Society Club, urged support of an extreme weather tethering ban bill.

Economic development was also cited as a priority. Dawn L. Tucker of the Calvert County Minority Business Alliance stated a comprehensive economic development plan was needed for the Southern Maryland Region. Doris Cammack-Spencer of the Southern Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce asked the legislators to work to solve problems the region’s businesses are having connecting to the state’s broadband network. Greg Brown of the Calvert County Democratic Central Committee exhorted the delegation to work toward crafting “an economy that lifts up all Americans.”

Speaking on behalf of the Closing the Gap Coalition, Rashieda Gantt told the legislators, “please don’t cut any budget for education.”

The two seasoned lawmakers, Miller and O’Donnell, addressed the gathering and admitted the requests that came with substantial fiscal notes weren’t likely to find favor with the legislature in 2015. Budget cuts, rather than additions, will need to be made to balance the state’s operating budget.

“It’s going to be painful,” O’Donnell admitted.

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