Mary Pat & District 14 IN THE NEWS


Summary of Ballot Questions for November 6

Mary Pat Clarke | October 9, 2012, 1:27PM
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STATEWIDE QUESTIONS (1–7)*

Vote FOR or AGAINST

Thanks to the State Board of Elections for its website summaries from which quotes are taken and upon which these summaries have relied.

www.elections.state.md.us\elections\2012\ballot_questions.html

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

1. Qualifications for Prince George’s County Orphans’Court Judges

2. Qualifications for Baltimore County Orphans’ Court Judges


According to a 2010 amendment to the State constitution, persons who serve as Baltimore City judges of the Orphans’ Court must be practicing attorneys who are members in good standing of the Maryland Bar.

These two amendments impose the same eligibility requirements in Prince George’s and Baltimore counties. To be approved, these amendments must be approved by a majority of Maryland voters and by voters in each respective county.

3. Suspension and Removal of Elected Officials

This amendment changes the point at which a local or State of Maryland elected official convicted of certain crimes* must be suspended from office.

Current law allows an elected official who is found guilty or pleads guilty to remain in office until sentencing. This amendment provides that a local or State elected official will be suspended immediately upon the finding of guilt, and an elected official who pleads guilty or nolo contendere will be removed from office immediately upon making that plea.

(* “Certain crimes” are a felony or a misdemeanor related to the elected official’s public duties and involving moral turpitude and possible imprisonment.)

STATE REFERENDUM PETITIONS

4. THE DREAM ACT

Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates

The State’s official summary of this Act’s provisions are available online at www.elections.state.md.us\elections\2012\ballot_questions.html

State Referendum Question 4

Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates

DREAM ACT SUMMARY:

This law was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2011. It has been petitioned onto referendum by its opponents. A FOR vote keeps the law in effect.

Students from Maryland are entitled to IN-STATE TUITION RATES at our State’s public colleges and universities. These rates are half or three times lower than the tuition rates charged to students attending from out-of-state. Such in-state rates make college affordable for thousands of Maryland’s high school graduates who otherwise could not afford a college education.

Many of Maryland’s “undocumented” high school graduates were brought to the United States as children by their parents. They have attended elementary and high school side-by-side with their American-born classmates. The Supreme Court in fact ruled in Pyler v. Doe that residents of the United States should have access to a K-12 education regardless of their immigration status. Like their peers, many of these young people have “dreams” of continuing their education at the college level. The DREAM ACT makes these dreams affordable.

This Act does not reduce the number of in-state tuition slots available to Maryland’s USA-born undergraduates. Undocumented students will not be counted as in-state students in determining the number of Maryland undergraduate students enrolled at a public college or university. Undocumented students will be “counted” among out-of-state/ international undergraduates and will not reduce the number of in-state tuition slots currently available.

To be eligible for in-state tuition rates, Maryland students must have attended a Maryland high school for at least three years; and, graduated or received the equivalent of a high school diploma. In addition, the student’s parents or legal guardian must have filed Maryland income tax returns during the student’s three mandated years of high school and must file taxes throughout the student’s attendance at a community college and four-year public college.

Unlike their USA-born classmates, undocumented students cannot receive in-state tuition if they go directly from high school to a four-year public college. Undocumented students must first enroll in a community college in Maryland and earn 60 credits before being eligible for in-state tuition at a four-year public college.

In addition, this Act helps Maryland’s HONORABLY DISCHARGED VETERANS take advantage of in-state tuition by extending from one year to four years the time after discharge within which the veteran may qualify for in-state tuition at a public institution of higher education.

5. Congressional Districting Plan

A vote FOR upholds the State of Maryland’s redistricting plan for election of Maryland’s 8 representatives in the House of Representatives. Challenged in court, this plan has been upheld as legal and constitutional by the U. S. Court for the District of Maryland, a ruling affirmed by the U. S. Supreme Court. If defeated, a new plan will be enacted. Either way, any Maryland congressman elected in this 2012 general election will remain in office for his full term of two years.

6. Civil Marriage Protection Act

“This Act allows gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license. Other prohibitions and age restrictions relating to who may legally marry remain in place.

“The Act also provides religious protections. Religious entities retain exclusive control … over who may marry within that faith. No official of a religious order or body authorized to perform a marriage ceremony may be required to celebrate or

officiate any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of the right to free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the U. S. and Maryland constitutions, and may not be subject to any fines or other penalties for the failure or refusal to do so.” For a more complete summary:

www.elections.state.md.us\elections\2012\ballot_questions.html

7. Gaming Expansion

This referendum

“1) authorizes video lottery operation licensees to operate “table games”,

2) increases from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals

[slot machines]that may be operated in the State; and

3) increases from five to six the maximum number of video lottery operation

licenses that may be awarded in the State and allows a video lottery facility

to operate in Prince George’s County.”

“If the voters statewide approve this referendum, other changes to current law will take effect, including:

- allowing a video lottery facility to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….

- altering the distribution of and required uses of video lottery terminal proceeds.

- providing for the distribution of proceeds from the operation of table games.”

CITY BOND ISSUES (A – I)

Bonds are loans. They have to be repaid. Revenue bonds are loans which pay for themselves. For example, a loan to build a parking garage is repaid by the revenue from parking fees. General Obligation (G. O.) bonds are different. They are loans the City takes out to build, expand, and improve the schools, parks, libraries, zoos and museums which enrich our lives but are not structured to generate the revenue to pay off the debt. To repay G. O. bonds, the City relies on local tax revenues.

The $100 million in G. O. bonds on November’s ballot will last for two years, July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2015. The City will repay these bonds at $7.4 million a year for 20 years in its annual budget. Because the City relies on our annual taxes to repay these bonds, the City needs our “yes” vote to take out each one of these loans, which are for:

A. SCHOOLS $34M

To help complete funding for the new Waverly School #51, build a new elementary school in Uplands, and upgrade boilers, roofs, HVAC, in other Baltimore schools.

B. RECREATION & PARKS $8M

To improve pools, recreation centers, parks and playgrounds throughout the City.

C. COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT $24M

For the Housing Department to stabilize vacant properties, demolish blighted structures, make home improvement loans and grants, shelter the homeless.

D. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT $15.8M

For capital improvements helping businesses and smaller cultural icons such as Visionary Arts Museum, Center Stage, Constellation, Everyman Theatre, MICA.

E. PUBLIC BUILDINGS & ENOCH PRATT FREE LIBRARY $17M

For public building upgrades. Past bonds are funding Waverly Pratt renovations.

F. WALTERS ART MUSEUM $300,000

To help fund an”all points” renovation of Baltimore’s beloved treasure chest of art.

G. MARYLAND ZOO IN BALTIMORE $200,000

To help fund a new penguin exhibit where we can keep dry while watching penguins enjoy their underwater swims.

H. MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER $200,000

Gives patrons a “lift” by helping fund new elevators.

I. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART (14th District!) $500,000

To help fund exhibit space for BMA’s American and African exhibitions.

BALTIMORE CITY CHARTER AMENDMENTS (J – M)

Baltimore City was established by Charter by the Maryland General Assembly. The Baltimore City Charter is our local “constitution.” The Mayor and City Council cannot amend it. That right is reserved to the Maryland General Assembly and to general election voters of Baltimore City. This year, the Mayor and City Council present the following four proposed Charter amendments for your consideration.

J. STORMWATER UTILITY

This Charter amendment permits the Mayor and City Council to establish a stormwater utility fund whose purpose is to minimize pollution to our watersheds, streams, harbor and bay from the litter, nutrients and sediment flushed into our storm drains during heavy rains. This fund will be self-sustaining through fees to be established through ordinance.

Background

The Maryland General Assembly has mandated that the City and certain other counties implement a stormwater fee and fund by July 1, 2013, with bonding authority to finance capital projects. (House Bill 987, Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, signed into law on May 2, 2012.)

K. MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

This Charter amendment asks voters to change City Charter language to reflect Maryland General Assembly legislation which eliminates the current City election cycle and puts Baltimore City elections in sync with the four-year presidential election cycle. This amendment also allows the Mayor, City Council, and Comptroller to extend their four-year terms of office to five years for this term only, since the next presidential election, in 2016, is five years after the City election of 2011.

Background

Voter turnout was dismally low in the Baltimore City general election of November 2011, the election for Mayor, City Council and City Comptroller. In such difficult economic times, the high cost of holding such a low-turnout election reopened discussions of eliminating Baltimore City’s stand-alone election cycle and incorporating our local elections into either the gubernatorial or the presidential election cycles. Currently, the City elections are held one year after the gubernatorial and one year before the presidential. (The most recent gubernatorial election was in 2010, City was in 2011, and presidential is in 2012.)

In its regular 2012 session, the Maryland General Assembly chose the presidential cycle by enacting House Bill 250 which incorporates our City primary and general election dates into the presidential cycle. The Governor signed HB 250 into law on May 22, 2012, with an effective date of January 1, 2013.

L. MINORITY PARTY REPRESENTATION ON BOARDS & COMMISSIONS

Democrats are the majority political party in Baltimore (i.e., the party with the most voters in local elections); and, Republicans have long been recognized as the minority party. To ensure balanced representation, the City Charter currently requires that certain City Boards and Commissions must include at least one or two Mayoral appointments from that minority Republican Party.

This Charter amendment keeps the same minority appointment requirements but expands the definition of “minority party” to also include all registered voters who are NOT REGISTERED AS DEMOCRATS, including Republicans, Independents, Green Party and other third party members. In appointing Board and Commission members, the Mayor would now be able to fill the one or two “minority party” positions with registered voters from a broader and updated spectrum of candidates.

M. QUADRENNIAL AGENCY AUDITS

This Charter amendment requires that 13 major City agencies be audited at least once in every four-year term of the Mayor and City Council, beginning in January 2014.

Those agencies are Finance, Law, Public Works, Fire, Police, Housing, Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), Recreation and Parks, Transportation, General Services, Planning, Human Resources, and the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology.

These are financial audits of accounts, revenues and receipts and/or performance audits which assess whether an agency is operating economically and efficiently --- and recommending corrective actions for improving performance if appropriate.

The City Comptroller oversees the City’s Department of Audits which will conduct the required audits and/or contract some of the work to independent CPA’s and firms.
 

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