Weekly Letter: Lawmaking with Lawmakers

Sign up to receive County Executive Pittman's Weekly Letter to be the first to learn about big announcements, and get an inside look at issues crossing the County Executive's desk.


My job sits atop the executive branch of county government, but laws matter, so this time of year I spend a chunk of my time engaging with the state legislators who are in session from January 10 to April 8.

I started session with a presentation of county priorities to the 6 senators and 16 delegates who make up the Anne Arundel delegation. Over the last two weeks I’ve met separately with the representatives from each of our county’s 6 legislative districts. I get a weekly briefing on bills of county interest from our Director of Government Affairs Ethan Hunt and his team, participate in the Maryland Association of Counties legislative advocacy process, meet with presiding officers and committee leadership, attend receptions around town where decision-makers gather, approve written testimony on some bills, and testify in person on others.

It’s widely recognized that this session feels different from recent ones. We have a Governor who believes in the power of government to address challenges and has had a year to look under the hood, rather than one who regularly expressed disdain for both the General Assembly and certain government functions. So it’s cleanup time. Audits of agencies are identifying past neglect of duty and fiscal mismanagement, while analysts warn that allocating the money needed to fill in the gaps without a plan for increased revenue won’t work.

Governor Moore’s budget reflects the fiscal cliff that his predecessor left. It’s lean. Counties don’t like that. When funds for education and transportation don’t grow to match costs, we are forced to make hard decisions. So there are some important conversations taking place about how best to grow the economy without leaving people behind, and how best to pay for the services that create opportunity. 

My own view is that we have to look at the whole economy to solve the state’s fiscal problem. Wealth has moved to the top of the income scale for the last forty years, and COVID accelerated that flow. An organization called Fair Share Maryland has organized the Fair Funding Coalition and drafted legislation that shifts the state’s tax policies so that it collects revenue where it has moved to, rather than continuing to overburden working families. Their proposals are at FairShareMaryland.org, and over the next couple of years I’ll be doing what I can to get them passed. 

But the other thing different about this session is that the Governor and his team are the source of some of the most impactful bills being considered, and some of those bills are of direct benefit to the residents of our county.

A package of bills to address the state's affordable housing crisis will be heard in committee next week. Did you know that Maryland has the highest rate of eviction filings by landlords in the country, and that we also have one of the lowest filing fees? The Governor has a bill to raise those fees to disincentivize eviction as the go-to solution for late payment, and to put those funds into tenant legal representation and rental assistance. Did you know that many counties deliberately pass local land use laws to block construction of housing that is affordable for their own local workforce? The Governor has a bill to prevent those laws from being enforced. I’m supporting both bills.

Remember when we put gun violence prevention work into our Department of Health and modeled our Gun Violence Intervention Team after our Opioid Intervention Team? Well, the Governor has a bill to create the first state-level Center for Firearm Violence to support local efforts like ours. We are supporting the bill.

The Governor isn’t the only one introducing the legislation that we are advocating for. There’s the Health Care For All coalition’s Prescription Drug Affordability bill that empowers Maryland to do what most countries do, and regulate prices. There’s also the library staff collective bargaining bill that both our library system leadership and their unionizing employees support, to guide the process of collective bargaining and representation.

And that’s just the start. Ethan and his team work with our local representatives on a long list of bills designed to modernize government processes, protect residents, and deliver services. I have to tip my hat to all of them. They are responsible for absorbing huge amounts of information in a short amount of time, building relationships with their peers, listening to their constituents, and articulating their case for each bill they support. It’s a hard job that comes with very little pay and a lot of pressure. Lobby them, but lobby them with empathy.

Next week I’ll update you on our work with the legislative body that’s even closer to home, our County Council.

Steuart Pittman
Anne Arundel County Executive