Del. Bob Long “Wrapping Up 2023; Looking Ahead to 2024”

The following article was submitted by Sixth District Delegate Bob Long about the upcoming 2024 Legislative Session and happenings in District 6-

I am a month away from returning to Annapolis for another session starting January 10th. I wanted to give an update on what is going on as we prepare to start the session.

I am very concerned about tax increases. It has been one year since Larry Hogan left office. Governor Moore and the Democrats were left a budget surplus from the Hogan Administration and that is almost gone.

Democrats will have to cut spending as they have too many expensive projects. I attended the Spending Affordability Committee meeting recently and learned that expenses are increasing with the cost of Kirwin. Governor Hogan vetoed Kirwin because of the future cost which I supported Governor Hogan’s veto. We must address the problems in the education system.

Governor Hogan was smart not to fund the Red Line Project which was overpriced and an unnecessary transportation project. Legislators need to learn from past history and not go back to the O’Malley days.   There is a projected tax increase to pay for these and other projects.  Given the current high cost of inflation we simply cannot afford to keep taxing people. We must learn to respect
taxpayers’ money and stop being frivolous.

More importantly, we should focus on issues such as crime. I was happy to take part in the Joint Republican Caucus announcing our 2024 Public Safety Agenda. One of those pieces of legislation include the Juvenile Justice Restoration Act. This bill will repeal the new juvenile justice laws that protect young offenders from being charged on heinous crimes. I will be submitting legislation to address crime.

We have heard the stories of how juveniles have been out of control and even some of the Democrats are ready to take action. In addition, the Violent Firearms Offenders Act will be reintroduced. This bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support in 2020 and 2021 but it never got out of the House. Instead of going after responsible gun owners, this bill goes after criminals that use a gun for a weapon. It is
common sense legislation.

We also have a bill that stealing a gun results in a felony. The Drug-Free Roadways Act of 2024 will allow police officers to search vehicles based on the smell of cannabis. Police officers were permitted to do that before a bill was passed last year.

I am continuing to monitor the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Baltimore City and the State of Maryland announced they came to a settlement on Back River and Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), and I am very disappointed with this outcome. Part of the settlement has Baltimore City paying $4.75 million. I thought Baltimore City got off easy. This is just a slap on the wrist for them.

The State paid a lot of money to get those plants under compliance. In January 2020, there were upgrades of the treatment plants for the Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) Project. This was to remove Nitrogen and Phosphorus from the water. Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works said upgrades cost $260 million at Patapsco WWTP and $575 million at Back River WWTP.

In December 2020, Baltimore City had the Headworks Project at The Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant which was supposed to address sewage overflows at the cost of $430 million. There were a billion dollars in upgrades to our waste management system recently and the city let it fall into serious neglect due to mismanagement.

After the discharge got into our waterways, there should have been a tougher penalty and perhaps jail time for this inexcusable act. Baltimore City needs to be more transparent and reach out immediately when there is an issue to ask for help.

I look forward to returning in January to represent the concerns of District 6, I will keep these issues among my priorities.

B.J. Joseph

Benjamin Joesph has covered news in Eastern Baltimore County since 2006. He started as a reporter with the original East County Times in 2006. He started East Baltco News and later in 2022.