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From the Inbox: Senator Madaleno's Update from Annapolis

by: Andrew Kujan

Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 02:26 PM EST

Senator Madaleno sent an email out yesteday in which he highlighted several bills he has sponsored for this session.  As one of the Senate's more progressive legislators, I believe his bills deserve a close look.

From my perspective, the most important bill is the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (Senate Bill 290/House Bill 351), of which the Senator is the lead sponsor (a mantle taken over after the tragic loss of Senator Britt).  Senator Madaleno explains:

This brief but monumental bill will provide full equality under the law for thousands of same-gender couples in our state.  The bill also reiterates that no religious denomination will be required to recognize, perform, or bless any marriage that is against their beliefs.

This important legislation will help ensure that families like mine will be provided the rights and protections that most married couples take for granted. Without marriage, I am at the mercy of doctors, nurses, and security guards for my partner to gain access to me in a hospital. Without marriage, all of our financial planning and savings could be wiped out to pay inheritance taxes upon the untimely death of one of us. Without marriage, we live in a state of legal limbo that exacts a significant emotional and financial toll on our families, our children, and ourselves. With marriage, we can all live our lives secure in the knowledge that we have the same legal rights, responsibilities, obligations, and protections that our fellow citizens enjoy.

With 9 Senate sposors/cosponsors, and 40 in the house, this bill will have enough support to get noticed.  Contact your legislators and ask them to support this bill if they have not already pledged to do so.

More on Senator Madaleno's bills below the fold.

Andrew Kujan :: From the Inbox: Senator Madaleno's Update from Annapolis
Of great importance to my friends in Montgomery County, is Senate Bill 693, which would alter the way legislative vancancies are filled.

    As I am sure you are aware, the past few months have produced many unexpected and quite unfortunate vacancies in both chambers.  While the appointees by our central committee have performed in exemplary fashion, many people have expressed concern that these appointed legislators will serve for three and half years of a four year term.  My bill, cosponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin, would require a special election to coincide with the presidential election for vacancies that occur before the midpoint of a regular term.  Party central committees would still select a replacement to fill the vacancy until the special election.  For vacancies that occur after the midpoint of the term, the appointee would simply fill out the final two years.  Because this would be a change in our Constitution, it would need to be ratified by the voters should it pass the General Assembly.

This bill is important in order to assure legislators are selected in Democratic fashion, and that voters, not committees, choose their representation.  

Some other bills of note:

    SB423 would require additional campaign finance reports by businesses funding referendum campaigns.  This will be crucial in pinpointing the interests funding campaigns around the slots initiative this year in Maryland.

    To counter the efforts of those who would vilify immigrants, I have also sponsored SB475, cosponsored by the entire Montgomery delegation and Sen. Mike Miller, to establish a special task force to accurately assess the costs and benefits of immigration in our state.  This comprehensive study will also review ways to address the special needs of immigrants and the programs needed to quickly assimilate this population.  

    Working with NARAL and Planned Parenthood, I sponsored SB690, with Sens. Forehand and Raskin, to require so-called crisis pregnancy centers to disclose that they are not medical facilities.  These centers are run by anti-choice groups.  They market themselves as full-service pregnancy centers but do not offer counseling on abortion or birth control.  The Maryland Catholic Conference is actually advocating for mandated state funding for these centers as currently exists in Pennsylvania.

    To help expand substance abuse treatment options in Maryland, SB562 would raise the tax on alcoholic beverages and dedicate those funds to adult and adolescent addiction treatment and prevention services.   These taxes have not been raised in more than 30 years and are among the lowest in the nation.

An impressive list, in my opinion.  Each bill serves an important, pragmatic, progressive purpose. Thanks to Senator Madaleno for keeping us informed about his actions in the capital. For more information, and to follow these and other bills in Annapolis, visit the General Assembly Homepage.
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