Legislative Update from our Lobbyist

joe-miedusiewskiSeptember 2016

Joe Miedusiewski
Lobbyist, AIA Maryland

End of Summer

As summer winds down and Labor Day fades into the past the political scene usually gets interesting.  This year the major campaigns for president are filled with derision and vitriol.  Various congressional races are gaining the attention of the federal courts as a result of lawsuits filed by each party accusing the other of gerrymandering.  Right here in Maryland, republicans accuse democrats of drawing districts favorable to democrats while in republican dominated states the reverse is true.  Some states which are viewed as following a more enlightened path have appointed independent commissions to draw their congressional districts rather than elected officials drawing them.  Imagine that, removing politics from the political system.

Viewing politics from a more local perspective, as “all politics is local,” we cannot deny the many challenges that confront our elected officials.  A slow, local economy and lagging job market, rising crime and violence, the growing heroin epidemic, aging public infrastructure and ballooning government budgets. These are serious problems, but a mere sampling of the challenges affecting all of us. We may only see them on the morning or evening news or on our electronic devices as we go our way.  Or, we may even feel insulated and unaffected by them due to our geographic location.  Rest assured, some elected official or bureaucrat is pondering how to address issues such as these right now.

Why am I stating the obvious?  Because there are times when issues arise that may not have the gravity of armed robberies, murders and rapes, but have relevance to those affected by them.  You may have read that Governor Hogan by Executive Order has decreed that public schools starting next year will begin classes after Labor Day and conclude on June 15. The Governor was joined by Comptroller Peter Franchot who has championed the day after Labor Day start date.  A Task Force created by the General Assembly in 2014 recommended a start after Labor Day, but it was voted down in favor of control by local school systems.

Some have said that this policy squabble is a waste of time while others have rallied around it.  The argument against the change says the school calendar will be disrupted, spring break may be shortened, disadvantage students will be deprived of nutritious meals during the extended vacation and that local boards of education should make the decision. The pro Labor Day side says family vacations tend to be disrupted and summer job opportunities are lost. Lifeguards leave for class causing early pool closings.  August is peak season for ice cream and farm stands which employ many students and rural students lose the opportunity to compete in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America competition at the Maryland State Fair.

Interestingly, as I write this article, Baltimore County schools without air conditioning are closing when the temperature hits 93 degrees and Baltimore City schools will close three hours early.  It could be the second straight day for closures.  Half-day pre-kindergarten and all after-school activities will also be canceled in the city schools.

The county school board voted last week to modify its heat policy. Now, schools without air conditioning may remain open unless the heat index is forecast to reach 90 degrees by 11 a.m.  If the index is expected to reach 90 degrees by 3 p.m., parents may keep their children home and get an excused absence.  If you can figure this out, please go to the head of the class.

All in all it’s just another day of politics as we watch for Hillary Clinton’s diagnosis, Donald Trump’s medical records and the local temperature to see if school is out.

 

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Legislative Update – August 2016
Legislative Update – June 2016
Legislative Update – May 2016
Legislative Update – April 2016
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Legislative Update – August 2015