Montgomery County state senators and delegates today touted the transportation bill, death penalty repeal and new gun control law that came out of the just completed 90-day 2013 state legislative session during a press conference in Rockville.
Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) said finding transportation funding was priority No. 1, 2 and 3 for the Montgomery County delegation. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who led the press conference, has long advocated for a gas tax increase to provide funding for transportation projects in the county, including the state’s Purple Line light rail.
In March, the House and Senate approved a gas tax hike from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that will raise gas taxes by 4 cents in July and 13 to 20 cents by July 2016.
Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) said a gas tax hike in Virginia helped get the transportation bill the votes necessary.
“For legislators who don’t represent transit-dependent areas, it was a tough sell,” Leventhal said. “So when it was clear when we were losing in competition to Virginia, that won a lot of votes from suburban and rural Democrats. …From the governor’s perspective, it was absolutely decisive. It created the political space that he needed to make it happen.”
The Montgomery delegation also brought back more than $28 million in state grants for MCPS construction, including $137,000 for improvements at Walt Whitman High School, $898,000 for Thomas W. Pyle Middle School and $332,000 for Strathmore Elementary School. Education aid to the county grew by almost $14 million.
Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase was key in the state’s gun control bill, leading the effort soon after the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting.
The State Senate last week approved an O’Malley-backed bill 28-19 one day after the House of Delegates ushered it through. It’s one of the most restrictive gun control bills in the county, with a ban on assault weapons, an ammunition limit of 10 rounds, a license and fingerprint requirement for all new handgun sales and a ban on gun ownership by the mentally ill.
District 16 Del. Susan Lee and District 18 Del. Al Carr and Sen. Richard Madaleno joined the gathering, which included Leggett, Leventhal, Councilmembers Nancy Navarro, Nancy Floreen, Craig Rice, Marc Elrich and Hans Riemer. Roger Berliner was at another meeting.
“This is a very special moment for us, because the elected officials in Montgomery County are a famously opinionated and contentious lot,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park. “We fight about a lot of things and have a lot of conflict, but the point of this is when we get together and we have our eyes on the prize, we are absolutely unstoppable.”