This is the time of the year when the General Assembly Session starts winding down after meeting for 90 days. You may have read that there have been some finger pointing between the two parties over the proposed 72 percent increase in energy bills by Constellation Energy and whose fault this was. Finger-pointing is a waste of time.
Many are blaming these rate increases on a bill passed in 1999 to deregulate the electric industry which was intended to foster competition and lower costs. Unfortunately, it did the opposite. However, I did not think the was a good idea then and joined 12 of my fellow Democratic colleagues and voted against the bill. But all of the Republicans and some other Democrats voted for the bill which allowed it to pass and become law. Now, that law eventually led to the crisis BGE and Pepco ratepayers are facing now.
The legislature is currently working on a bi-partisan basis to work out an agreement to help out those ratepayers from paying these astronomical bills. I have been disappointed in the Public Service Commissions lack of leadership on this issue. They seem to have sided with multi-million dollar corporations Constellation Energy and Pepco rather than the ratepayers. They have tried to use scare tactics such as saying these very profitable energy companies will go bankrupt if a series of reform-intended bills passed by the General Assembly to help the ratepayers—especially the poor and the elderly. This is simply not true. Constellation Energy and Pepco are doing their best to raid the pocketbooks of their ratepayers while reaping enormous profits and it is wrong.
On a more positive note, I was pleased to have voted for a successful piece of legislation that is absolutely essential to our school children.
Senate Bill 249, which passed both the Senate and the House by a vast majority, requires the placement of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in every high school throughout the state in order to prevent the deaths and disabilities of high school students, teachers, principals and all other school personnel and visitor who unexpectedly suffer sudden cardiac arrest.
This bill will no doubt save lives and give comfort to parents who send their children off to school as well as those who work in these schools. It will no doubt save lives. During testimony on this bill, my Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee heard that Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) affects from 10,000 to 15,000 children annually in the United States. The testimony went on to correctly state that schools serve as community gathering places for sporting and community events such as serving as voting locations in election years. It was also pointed out that the school is the workplace figuratively for children and actually for teachers staff and volunteers for eight to 10 hours a day in the building.
Earlier today, I heard a terrible story that was in the news yesterday. Maggie Dixon, the head womens basketball coach at the U.S. Military Academy apparently died of this condition. When I mentioned it to my nephew, he recalled that he lost a friend who played basketball for the Leonardtown High School who died on the basketball court of this condition. A member of my staff then recalled that he lost a friend who died on a basketball court during the middle of a basketball game at his alma mater. I had already been convinced this was a good bill when I voted for it. Now I believe it is a great and important bill.
On another matter, I represent you as the Senate representative of the Maryland Environmental Trust which is tasked with preserving land. This year, several bills that I introduced on behalf of the Trust have passed the Senate. They include Senate Bill 361 and Senate Bill 844. MET has done very well this year.
This session I sponsored several bills on behalf of MET. They include: Senate Bill 361 which establishes conservation property as a separate subclass of real property and provides that it be valued at a rate equivalent to the highest rate used for agricultural use land. Conservation property includs land that is subject to perpetual consversation easement approved by the Board of Public Works before June 30, 1986 and land that currently recieves a property tax credit for conservation land. Senate Bill 844 authorizes a county to deny an application for local land use when land is protected under a conservation program.
Although another MET bill I sponored, Senate Bill 337 did not pass, Senate Bill 5, the Agricultural Stewardship Act of 2006, was amended to include representatives of the land preservation community and the charge of the task force was amended to include looking at tax incentives for conservation easements. I am proud my work with the land conservation community and look forward to continuing to work with property owners who want to preserve their land.
Preserving land has become a big issue in Southern Maryland. Recently, there was a major outcry over plans for the state to secretly sell at a rock bottom price land it owned to a Baltimore developer. The developer planned to build homes on the St. Marys Lake. Luckilly, a group of community activists stopped this terrible secret deal concocted by the state.