A short history of what I've doneDelegate Ross was the lead sponsor or primary co-sponsor on all the following bills that have been signed into law.
2011 Legislative Session
Reform in Prince George's CountyOverall, 2011 was a successful year for Prince George's County in the General Assembly. With the support of our County Executive, Rushern Baker, we were able to secure $1.1 billion in State funding for the County and set a new tone for the way business is conducted, most notably with two important pieces of ethics legislation. These new laws will restrict the County Council's ability to delay development projects and prevent a council member from voting on a development project if he or she was part of a campaign slate that received a campaign donation from the developer. I believe these reforms are important steps towards providing residents of Prince George's County with the transparent and accountable government they deserve - and that the County needs to move forward.
Increasing Education Funding to Prince George'sI was proud to help restore $10.3 million in funding for our County public schools for a total of $869 million in education aid, including $34.3 million for school construction.
Increasing the Alcohol TaxIn the final hours of the 2011 session, my colleagues and I were able to pass a 3% increase in the State's alcohol tax. Revenue from this increase will be used to assist up to 1,000 people with the greatest need on the developmental disabilities waiting list, provide a one-time, $47 million grant for school construction, and provide increased operating funds for K-12 education programs in four jurisdictions, including Prince George's County. This increase will also substantially reduce underage drinking and alcohol abuse, saving numerous lives. I am proud to be a longtime supporter of this legislation and happy to see it finally become law.
Improving Public HealthIn 2011, I cosponsored a bipartisan initiative to expand family planning services to more than 33,000 low and moderate income women in Maryland. The law will provide access to family planning services, pelvic exams, breast and reproductive cancer screenings, and high blood pressure and diabetes exams to women before and after they give birth. Access to this medical care will result in fewer cases of pregnancy and labor complications, low birth weight, infant mortality and unintended pregnancies, which will save the State millions in Medicaid costs.
2010 Legislative Session
PERMANENT EXTINGUISHMENT OF COUNTY LIQUOR LICENSES
CORRECTING STATE FUNDING FORMULASI am proud to say that I diligently fought for and helped secure an additional $18 million in funding for Prince George's County through the correction of an outdated funding formula. This change will allow Prince George's to receive more State aid for important initiatives, such as education, for years to come.
INCREASING ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOODS, REGARDLESS OF INCOMEtax credit for grocery stores that sell fresh produce, dairy, and meat in low-income areas. Currently, there are many neighborhoods throughout the State, often where there is a high prevalence of obesity and diet-related disease, that lack or have limited access to retailers that offer healthy, fresh food options. This law will help to combat poor eating and unhealthy options in our communities by increasing the number of high-quality fresh food retailers, which are shown to anchor neighborhood revitalization projects and attract similar quality businesses to an area.
SUPPORTING COMMUNITY GROUPSMy colleagues and I worked diligently in 2010 to help support some wonderful community organizations in District 22. I am happy to report that $325,000 in funding was allocated in the budget to three groups in our community that are working toward the betterment of Prince George's County. SEED Inc. of Riverdale, in their efforts to create a new community recreation center, was awarded funding, as was Engaged Community Offshoots to establish a demonstration farm to grow, sell, and donate healthy food locally, and Community Forklift which supplies our area with low-cost, eco-friendly building supplies.
2009 Legislative Session
DISABILITY HISTORY AND AWARENESS MONTH
HB 281During the 2009 Session, I introduced legislation to create a Disability History and Awareness Month in the State of Maryland to address the lack of knowledge and understanding about people living with disabilities and their important contributions throughout history. While the bill was unsuccessful in the General Assembly, I continued to work on this important initiative.
On July 26th, Governor Martin O'Malley took up the cause and signed an executive order designating October as Maryland Disability History and Awareness Month.
This is a tremendous step towards full social acceptance for the 845,345 citizens of Maryland who have a disability. It is my belief that Disability History and Awareness month will help to change these misperceptions through lessons, activities and events hosted in our schools and organized by the Maryland State Department of Education.
HOMESTEAD TAX CREDIT
HB 1517In 2009, I worked to defeat HB 979, legislation created to raise the cap on the Homestead Tax Credit. This measure would have essentially raised taxes on Prince George ’s homeowners in the middle of this terrible recession. To fill Prince George’s County’s budget gap my colleagues and I, instead approved the transfer of excess funds from the Park and Planning Commission. These are funds that have already been paid by taxpayers but that are currently not being used. This transfer saved taxpayers an additional burden in these tough economic times.
2008 Legislative Session
CELLULOSIC ETHANOL TAX CREDIT
HB 140 - Income Tax - Credit for Cellulosic Ethanol Technology Research and DevelopmentCellulosic Ethanol is an alternative fuel that is produced when cellulose, the main component of plant cell walls and the most common organic compound on earth, is used to produce ethanol-based fuel. Through this method of fuel production it is possible to use materials currently regarded as waste in need of disposal, such as switch grass, rice straw or wood chips, to produce environmentally friendly fuel. In the end, cellulosic ethanol has a net energy content that is three times higher than corn based ethanol and it emits a lower net level of greenhouse gases, in addition it does not divert a significant source of food into the production of fuel. This law establishes a tax credit for the research and development of this alternative fuel technology. With the support of my colleagues from across the state we were able to bring this bill to fruition in 2008.
EXPANDING BENEFITS IN ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICTS
HB 680 - Arts and Entertainment Districts - Tax Benefits - Jewelry and Clothing DesignersThis bill makes arts and entertainment districts more inclusive by allowing jewelry and clothing designers access to certain tax benefits within existing arts and entertainment districts. By expanding access to the tax credit we are encouraging our local businesses to thrive and we are showcasing the unique designs and talents of those in our community who create artistic clothing and jewelry.
FUNDING FOR THE LANHAM BOYS & GIRLS CLUB
HB 681 – Lanham Boys & Girls Club Sports Park RenovationDelegate Ross was able to secure state funds for the planning, design, construction, repair, and renovation of the Lanham Boys & Girls Club sports park. The state will match funds up to $250,000 for the improvements. The club is an essential part of our community and will be greatly benefited from these upgrades. We must encourage our young people to use these facilities as they are a healthy and productive way to learn and grow. By providing facilities such as the Lanham Boys & Girls Club we ensure a safe environment free from crime and drugs.
2007 Legislative Session
RESTORING THE RIGHT TO VOTE
HB 554 (SB 488) – Voter Registration Protection ActHouse Bill 554, the Voter Registration Protection Act, restored the right to vote to all persons who have previously been convicted of a felony and served out their entire court ordered sentence to include probation. Previously, some convicted felons, even after paying their debt to society, were forced to wait three years before being able to exercise their vote in any election. Working side by side with Senator Gwendolyn Britt (D-47), we were able to push this legislation through both chambers of the General Assembly.
Governor signed into law on April 24, 2007
INCREASING FUNDING FOR OUR MUNICIPAL POLICE
HB 611 – Increased State Aid to Municipal PoliceThe Municipal Sworn Officer Allocation Act calls for a $150 increase in what is referred to as the State Police Aid Formula. Under the former State Police Aid Formula, qualifying municipal police departments received $1,800 in state aid for each sworn police officer. As a result of HB 611, each municipal police department now stands to receive $1,950 in state funds for each full-time sworn officer within its department. This legislation was passed by the House of Delegates by a vote of 135-1 and passed by the Maryland Senate by a 47-0 vote. By strengthening our municipal police departments we will free up the resources of our county police to increase their presence in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Governor signed into law on May 17, 2007
PATH TO COMPREHENSIVE STATEWIDE DRUG AND ALCOHOL TREATMENT
HB 850 – Drug and Alcohol Administration Needs Assessment ActThe Alcohol and Drug Abuse Needs Assessment Act requires the state of Maryland to conduct a statewide assessment every three years that details the financial and treatment needs of each jurisdiction in the state. Delegate Ross was able to work closely with Delegate Peter Hammen, Chairman of the Health and Government Operations Committee, in spearheading this effort to reduce the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in our community. This legislation will help us better understand the problems that drug and alcohol cause in our State and the best ways that we can help our citizens overcome their addictions.
Governor signed into law on April 10, 2007
INCREASING FUNDING FOR MUNICIPAL POLICE AGENCIES
HB 908 – Public Safety Surcharge Municipal IncreaseThe Public Safety Surcharge increases the municipal share of the safety surcharge to 25%, from 12% prior. In the end, by strengthening our municipal police departments we will free up the resources of our county police to increase their presence in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Governor signed into law on May 17, 2007
2006 Legislative Session
RESTRICTING VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
HB 707 – Obscene Video Game ProhibitionsThis bill added video games to the list of items that a person or business cannot display or exhibit to a minor if the cover or content of the video game is principally made up of an obscene description or depiction of illicit sex, or if the cover or content of the video game consists of an obscene picture of a nude or partially nude figure.
Governor signed into law on May 2, 2006
RESTRICTING STRIP CLUBS THAT ALLOW PATRONS TO BRING THEIR OWN ALCOHOL
HB 922 – BYOB Strip Club BanHB 922 prohibits alcoholic beverages in unlicensed establishments. I originally introduced this legislation to combat the proliferation of unlicensed establishments that provide adult entertainment while allowing their patrons to bring in their own alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises (BYOB clubs). This bill would force establishments that allow patrons to consume alcoholic beverages on the premises to go through the same licensing procedures as those that are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. This bill will serve the community by both reducing the number of these establishments and by requiring that they go through the proper public licensing procedure.
May 26, 2006 – Became law without Governor's signature per the Maryland Constitution
PROVIDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR OUR POLICE
HB 1026 – Police Transfer Tax ExemptionHB 1026 eliminated the transfer tax for Prince George's County and municipal police officers who purchase their principal residence in the county and are first-time homebuyers. In addition, for county and municipal officers who are not first time home buyers, the transfer tax would be reduced from 1.4% to 1%. This bill would provide an incentive for Prince George's County police officers to live in the county.
Governor signed into law on May 2, 2006
2005 Legislative Session
EARLIER CLOSING OF COUNTY LIQUOR STORES
HB 1125- Liquor Store Closing Time ActThe Liquor Store Closing Time Act altered the closing time for all Class-A Prince George's County liquor stores to midnight, effectively moving the closing time up two hours from its previous 2 am closing time. In the past there was a dangerously high number of service calls from liquor stores that our police force responded to between the hours of midnight and 2 am. The severity of these calls could not be overlooked as crimes reported ranged from homicide to robbery. By moving the liquor store closing times up 2 hours we have successfully targeted a large, late night criminal hot spot and enabled our police officers to respond to other calls throughout our community
Governor signed into law on May 26, 2005
MAKING DEVELOPMERS PAY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR FOR PUBLIC SAFETY IN PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY
HB 1129 – Public Safety SurchargeHB 1129 created a public safety surcharge that consists of a $6,000 fee per new residential unit that will go completely toward funding the Prince George's County police and fire departments. The surcharge is $2,000 for development within the beltway, to provide Smart Growth and redevelopment. This bill generates approximately $15-20 million a year to enhance Prince George's County public safety efforts. As we continue to foster new construction and expansion, we continue to overburden and stretch our public safety resources. The bill helps to alleviate this problem by creating public safety funds from new construction.
Governor signed into law on May 26, 2005
PROHIBITING THE MIX OF STRIP CLUBS AND ALCOHOL SALES
HB 1133 – Strip Club Liquor License BanHouse Bill 1133, the Strip Club Liquor License Ban, added Prince George's County to the list of existing jurisdictions that prohibit establishments licensed to sell alcohol from having nudity and sexual displays on the premises. In recent years Prince George's County witnessed an increase in the amount of strip clubs in the area as well as an increase in the number of establishments that offer erotic dancing and the sale of alcohol. This bill is a great victory for the people of Prince George's County, as something was clearly needed in order to stop the growth of these types of establishments.