2016 General Assembly

Hello Friends,

Happy New Year!   I hope 2016 brings you the best in all areas of your life. 
 
     I am excited to be back in Annapolis for the 2016 Maryland General Assembly Session which began on January 13 th.   There are many important issues which we will face this year as a legislative body.   I urge you to make your opinions known to me.   I value the input that I receive from my constituents and I weigh your comments and thoughts heavily before taking a vote which impacts all of us here in Maryland. 
 
     While we meet in Annapolis for the constitutionally mandated 90 day period, our work as Delegates and Senators continue throughout the year behind the scenes.   I served on several Commissions and Standing Committees which met over the summer and I would like to share a little of the nature of that work with you. 
 
Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council  
     I was proud to have been appointed by the Speaker to this Council which used a data-driven approach to develop a statewide framework of sentencing and corrections policies to safely reduce Maryland's incarcerated population, control corrections spending and reinvest in more effective, less expensive strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism. "For too many individuals, incarceration becomes a way of life, in which they flounder in a cycle of recidivism. It is clear we need a new direction in how we supervise offenders," said Christopher Shank, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention, and Chair of the JRCC. "The current revolving door of the criminal justice system is a drain on our economy. We need these individuals to be contributing members of their communities. The justice reinvestment process will ensure prison beds are reserved for the most serious criminals and low-level offenders are supervised through community-based programs that are proven to be effective. Everyone wins when that happens."  This Council was a challenging time-intensive task but one which I found totally worthwhile and which I hope will lead to a large legislative package to provide valuable reforms to both reduce government spending and ease the stress and financial strain facing so many families dealing with judicial matters.
 
Death With Dignity
     Four states have now legalized some form of physician assisted suicide.   The "Death with Dignity" legislation introduced in 2015 tried to address the many issues in this complex issue. We held several long hearings on this legislation which did not pass last year.   As a result, the Speaker of the House, Mike Busch, created the Death with Dignity Commission which met over the interim to look into these issues in greater depth.   I remain concerned over many areas of the bill.  Many citizens feel Death with Dignity is about solving pain control at the end of life.   We heard much testimony that,  for the most part, palliative and hospice care can address much of the pain facing patients.  Control is what people desire.  As a legislator,  I want to address these needs but in a way which will also address the great potential for abuse which exists towards the elderly and the disabled.   I do not believe the current legislation adequately addresses these populations.  I also struggle greatly with my own personal belief that every life has value until it's natural end.   I will continue to weigh these issues thoughtfully as Maryland joins this national debate. I encourage you to read about the issue and share your thoughts with me as well.  
 
Chair of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families
     I am the House Chair of the Committee on Children, Youth and Families and we met to hear testimony in greater depth from department heads and stakeholders for the many issues which impact this population.   These varied subjects are near and dear to my heart and it is my honor to try to solve some of the difficulties facing this segment of our population.  
 
Other areas of important legislation
      While I did not serve on the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup, I did follow the hearings and public meetings with great interest as a citizen and as a Member of the Judiciary Committee.   We will have many bills to consider this year which address both public and police safety, body cameras, procedures for police review among other subjects.   They are also complex sensitive subjects which often have many sides.   If you are interested, I encourage you to watch some of these hearings as you can now stream them live or watch at a later time through the website when it is convenient for you.   It is very informative and allows you to see the many sides of the issues which impact the public. 
 
      I will also be introducing several bills to continue my fight to strengthen our impaired driving laws, some bills to add important changes for domestic violence protections and child abuse statutes and several bills which will require a lens to be applied to the effect certain policy changes may have on minority populations before they are enacted.   I take my bills seriously and will fight hard to see these changes implemented by the end of the Session.

     Again, I encourage you to follow these issues and the many others before the Maryland General Assembly this year.  You can follow bills at the Maryland Homepage link here:
http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frm1st.aspx?tab=home. 

     Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions with me at Geraldine.Valentino@house.state.md.us.
I thank you for the honor of representing you in Annapolis.
 
Sincerely,
 Geraldine
Geraldine Valentino-Smith
Delegate, Maryland General Assembly
District 23A
   
 By Authority of Friends for Geraldine Valentino-Smith, Elizabeth Ryan, Treasurer