This week, we joined our colleagues in the House Republican Caucus detailing our priorities for the 2023 legislative session.
The deadline has passed for all bills to be introduced, and now we as delegates can move forward with evaluating the issues being brought to the table. The three priorities outlined by our caucus are Reducing Crime, Improving Education, and Restoring our Economy. We have already outlined in our op-eds the increase in juvenile crime and the disaster of our failing schools.
As small business owners in Baltimore County, we see how the health of the economy impacts every one of our customers and employees. From our point of view, these three priorities are important to ALL our constituents in Baltimore County. Crime, education, and the economy touch each and every one of us — whether we like it or not.
Due to the rising violent crime and the failure of the juvenile justice “reforms” of the past few years, we have sponsored legislation to address this head-on. The Juvenile Gun Offenses Accountability Act (HB 753) will allow the appropriate prosecution of juveniles under 13 who commit gun crimes.
To take it a step further, we have sponsored another bill altering the age, from 13 years old to 11 years old, where a child can be subject to the exclusive original jurisdiction of the juvenile court. In reaction to the uptick in crime with heart-wrenching stories like Nakayla Strawder and other victims who have lost their lives at the hand of another child, something must be done to address violent crime in Maryland.
For far too long the policies coming out of Annapolis have tended to be pro-criminal, rather than protecting our citizens. The government has a fundamental responsibility to protect the safety of our citizens.
Maryland has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States, yet the number of murders and violent crimes committed with guns continues to grow every year, with the overwhelming majority of those committed with stolen guns. In fact, Maryland is one of only four states in the country that only charges a misdemeanor for the possession of an illegal firearm rather than a felony!
As we have pointed out previously, the failing education in our schools is abysmal. Not only have Baltimore County test scores been disappointing, but even more shocking are the statistics that have come out of Baltimore City public schools. A recent report revealed that 23 schools had a 0% proficiency in math–meaning that no students were proficient in math in these schools.
At the same time that these numbers were released, Baltimore City is in the process of closing another charter school. Governor Moore has announced in his budget a cut in the BOOST funding to allow for school choice in Maryland for low-income students. When is enough, enough? There are children trapped in failing schools that simply cannot meet their needs. When the Governor claims to “leave no one behind”, he chooses to restrict families’ choice to provide a better education for their child.
Delegate Szeliga has proposed legislation to exempt students seeking music education from paying sales tax on the rental or purchase of their instruments.
Most people understand the benefits of music programs in public schools intuitively, and many are aware of the research that has shown an investment in music education funding drives positive student and school outcomes – including better attendance, academic performance, teacher satisfaction and student social-emotional skills like confidence and focus.
According to recent federal data, a majority of students in the U.S. have access to music education as part of their school day; however, the approximately 7,000 schools without music programs are predominantly in school districts that serve African-American, immigrant and low-income student populations.
By eliminating barriers for families to enroll their children in musical instruction, we are in turn enhancing our school systems and creating a more equitable environment for learning.
Finally, we are deeply concerned about our economy and are often asked if Maryland is the next California. Unfortunately, both states occupy the bottom half of several economic rankings. Consider the following rankings:
- MD 27th and CA 29th – Top States for Business – CNBC
- MD 35th and CA 31st – Best States for Business, Forbes
- MD 35th and CA 10th – Best States for Economy, U.S. News
Perhaps more concerning is the migration patterns from both states. According to IRS Interstate Migration Data for 2019-2020, Maryland’s population shrank 0.34% and California’s contracted by 0.67%. Both are continuations of long trends of population loss.
Between 2011 and 2020, California lost 1,143,291 residents in an accelerating trend while Maryland has been losing a steady 20,000 to 25,000 people per year to other states, dropping 186,845 people from 2011 to 2020.
It is clear that people are voting with their feet about the economic outlook of Maryland. When people, businesses and wealth are fleeing the state we have deep economic concerns to worry about. We are committed to fighting policies that continue to make us the next California.
And we will continue to advance a plan that will make Maryland a better place to live, work, raise a family and retire.
”Now You Know” is a weekly column written by state delegates Ryan Nawrocki and Kathy Szeliga.
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