This photo and lobby meeting with my State Senator Jim Rosapepe took place in the middle of February, but I didn’t have access to the picture until very recent. I never talked about what happened at the meeting. I made a post back in January about how Rosapepe was finally questioning the Intercounty Connecter. Students had a meeting with Rosapepe last November about the ICC which was fairly contentious because we couldn’t get Rosapepe to take a stance on the InterCounty Connector. I wanted to make this new meeting about more than just the ICC since we already exhausted ourselves with that discussion in November. Therefore, we decided to talk with State Senator Rosapepe about smart growth bills, the bill to defund the ICC, and green jobs bills.
The bills were as follows(this was written on 2/21/09):
Performance Standards and Accountability- SB 878. This bill is first going to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee Rosapepe is on. This is the highest priority bill of these growth bills since it’s not part of the Governor’s “Smart Growth Package”(which the next 5 bills are). This bill would set five numeric standards that local governments(excluding small towns) would have to achieve through their comprehensive plans. These standards include housing, economic development, transportation, water quality, and preservation. Local jurisdictions that are certified to meet these standards would be in the front of the line for state funds. By 2018, local jurisdictions that do not meet those standards would no longer receive state permits for growth outside of designated growth areas.
Translated Bottom line: When local county and city governments are developing, they have to meet a set of smart growth standards. When it comes to transportation, this could be developing within a half-mile of mass transit. For preservation, sensitive habitats and ecosystems are restricted, such as wetlands or forest lands. If local governments play ball, they stand a better chance of getting state funds. If they aren’t playing ball by 2018, they’re more restricted in development options.
We also talked about: Terrapin Run Fix- SB 280, 12 Visions- SB 273, Indicators and Reporting- SB 276. However, these bills basically make it easy for the state to measure growth indicators in the local governments, they don’t have any teeth and aren’t too relevant. Overall, Rosapepe supported all the smart growth bills, but thought they didn’t go far enough ot address the problems of sprawl. He thought we needed a stronger growth bill, but it was difficult because of the influence the developers have on politicians.
The InterCounty Connector: This bill would have stripped the ICC of funding killing the project. There are a lot of problems with the ICC which I’ve talked about in past posts. A good resource to go to on the ICC is here. The discussion on this was fairly short since we’d argued so much last time. Rosapepe said he wasn’t a cosponsor of the current bill to defund the ICC because it wasn’t too well written and didn’t understand how it would work, but he would be willing to sit down with the bill’s writers to understand it. Unfortunately, the bill’s writers didn’t have much patience for Rosapepe since they felt he was stonewalling them more and more on the ICC rather than taking a definitive position, so this meeting never ended up taking place. In case you don’t know, the defund the ICC bill died in the General Assembly at the end of March. Here is what the bill looked like though.
Green Jobs Bills: Welfare-to-Work Green Jobs- HB 268: Right now this bill is only in the House of Delegates, and has not been introduced in the State Senate. It is expected to though. This bill requires the Secretary of Budget and Management to develop and implement a plan for a job skills enhancement program that includes job trainings for employment in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. The bill also requires the Secretary of Human Resources to access specified federal stimulus dollars for job training.
In plain language, Maryland has a welfare-to-work program to develop the skills of people on welfare so they can find employment. Right now this program doesn’t include developing skills for jobs that are in emerging green industries. By passing this, we can get a program and pathway in place for people on welfare to find work in the emerging clean energy economy. It also makes sure that some of the money from the Economic Stimulus that goes to Maryland goes to this program.
Overall, Rosapepe wasn’t aware of this bill, but he was very supportive of making sure that these kinds of programs were taking place.
This was in general a very good meeting without the same tension as last time. Rosapepe even wanted to get all of our contact info so that he could us know about environmental bills he was working on that he would use our support on. Although Rosapepe gets good marks, I am disappointed that he wasn’t able to sit down with the ICC bill writers and work out an understanding.
Once the General Assembly session ends, I’ll review how these bills amongst other environmental bills fared.