Freshman Delegates Study, Craft Agendas for 2019 Legislature

Freshman Delegates Study, Craft Agendas for 2019 Legislature

10 new members join Montgomery County delegation

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From left, state delegates Emily Shetty, Vaughn Stewart and Lesley Lopez

File photos

With 10 new delegates elected in November, Montgomery County’s 32-member delegation to the state legislature will look slightly different when the session begins Wednesday in Annapolis.

The freshman class from Montgomery is a collection of progressive young activists, attorneys, Capitol Hill alumni and other political professionals. Seven of the 10 new members are women, as are 13 of the 24 delegates from the county. Five of the delegates are black and three are Asian American. This is an increase from the 10 female delegates who served in the last session, although the number of minority candidates did not change.

The delegates-elect, all Democrats, have spent the past two months training on how to become lawmakers, taking a bus tour of the state and meeting with constituents and senior lawmakers.

The delegation also has held public hearings on proposed legislation, which includes measures that would require just cause for landlords to evict tenants, require that Montgomery County approve any toll road project before it is implemented by the state and alter the way the county votes in local elections.

“Annapolis really runs on relationships, and for better or for worse, getting to know your colleagues on a personal level is more important than any particular bill,” said Vaughn Stewart, who will represent District 19, which includes the Wheaton, Derwood and Redland areas.

The November election boosted the number of women in the General Assembly to 72, a record number.

Ida Ruben, who served in the legislature for 32 years, said when she first arrived to Annapolis in 1975, there were only a dozen female legislators in a legislative body with more than 180 seats.

“We’re moving in the right direction. I think Montgomery County in particular has done a good job of electing individuals who are representative of the county,” she said.

“Women have a different view on issues. They have a different perspective from experience.”

Ruben said she admires the idealism of some of the new candidates, but progressive policies such as mandating that the state gets 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources and phasing in a $15-an-hour state minimum wage must be weighed against the state’s fiscal realities, and the impact of the new federal tax law.

“When you come in, you have all sorts of dreams about what to do. Then you have a reality check,” said Ruben. “You have to be really careful… They are all gung ho about different things. But you’ve got to be cautious that you don’t overstep the bounds. It’s the old story of unintended consequences.”

The fiscal realities, and working with a Republican governor, Ruben said, will be the major challenges for the freshmen class.

“They’re gonna have to understand that freshmen to have to learn. It’s something that is inevitable. But I think our delegation will be strong,” she said.

Stewart said he will be sponsoring bills on pedestrian safety and increasing affordable housing units and condominiums. He said he will also be co-sponsoring legislation this year that aims to institute a $15 statewide minimum wage. The current state minimum wage is $10.10 per hour. Montgomery County passed a $15 minimum wage law in 2017.

Emily Shetty, a Kensington resident who will soon represent District 18 covering parts of Wheaton and Rockville, said after the election she went through an orientation to learn the basics of lawmaking, such as how to draft bills.

Most recently she has been assembling her office staff, which will share space with the staff of Del. Pamela Queen in District 14, which includes Olney and Damascus.

Shetty said one bill she plans to submit would require an environmental impact statement to be included in the “fiscal note” section of every bill, where costs, benefits and risks of proposed legislation are spelled out.

“What [a bill’s] impact is on the state budget [and] small businesses is already included, and it’s really important to keep in mind how it’s impacting the environment,” she said.

Shetty said she also plans to introduce a bill that would aim to coordinate the schedules of all public transit systems in each jurisdiction. In Montgomery County, this would include services such as Metrorail, Metrobus, MARC commuter train service and the county’s Ride On bus service.

“Every night, the MARC train stops in Kensington and Ride On buses have already left,” she said.

District 39 Delegate-elect Lesley Lopez had a busy 2018, finishing as one of the top three finishers in a seven-way Democratic primary in June, spending the summer planning a wedding, campaigning for the general election and then preparing to serve her constituents.

“On Sept. 23 [wedding day] I took a nice nap and Sept. 24 I got back into doing things for the general election,” she said.

Lopez, whose district includes Germantown and Montgomery Village,  said she plans to introduce a bill that helps fund the Boys and Girls Club as well as one that would increase the fine for drivers who pass a stopped school bus.

She also said she also hopes to work on legislation that helps fill the void left by the lack of reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired at the federal level due to the government shutdown. VAWA, she said, authorizes grants at the local level for helping improve public safety and greater prosecution of violent crimes against women. She hopes to transfer some of that authority to the state in the wake of the federal law’s lapse.

“I’m a survivor of domestic violence and worked on this at the federal level as a congressional staffer, and I want to make sure those protections are in place,” she said.

Montgomery County’s 10 new delegates also include:

Lily Qi- District 15 (Poolesville/North Potomac)

Sara Love- District 16 (Bethesda)

Julie Palakovich Carr- District 17 (Rockville/Gaithersburg)

Emily Shetty and Jared Solomon- District 18

Charlotte Crutchfield and Vaughn Stewart- District 19

Lorig Charkoudian-District 20 (Silver Spring/Takoma Park)

Gabriel Acevero and Lesley Lopez-District 39 (Germantown/Montgomery Village)

Maryland’s legislators are considered part-time, and make $50,330. The annual session lasts 90 days.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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