Sen. Joan Conway details 2015 agenda issues before the ministers, community members, and politicians gathered for the Baptist Ministers Conference annual legislative breakfast. (AFRO Photo/Roberto Alejandro)
Sustained community engagement in Annapolis, decreases in the number of schools to be built under Baltimore’s 21st Century Building program, and the unlikelihood of a statewide police body camera mandate were among the issues discussed by lawmakers who briefed the Baptist Minsters Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity at their annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast.
“We need you to have our backs,” Del. Adrienne Jones (D) of Baltimore County said about potential budget fights with the Hogan administration. She and others spoke before the ministers, community members, and politicians assembled for the breakfast on Dec. 8.
“It makes it a whole lot better for us if we can say that I’ve heard from my constituency. It does make a difference,” Jones later added.
Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D) of Baltimore City, chair of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, spoke at length regarding her expectations for the 2015 legislative session.
Conway said that she expects some form of relief from what has become known as the “rain tax,” a tax levied on property owners for those portions of their property which do not absorb rainwater in an effort to reduce water run-off into the Chesapeake Bay.
Conway also said that she does not see a statewide mandate coming for police-worn body cameras, but that she personally believes that they should be adopted sooner than later and that a policy can be formulated concurrent with implementation of the cameras, not necessarily prior to their distribution.
With respect to the 21st Century Building campaign, Conway said that, while the original plan was to produce 35 new schools over the course of 10 years, she expects that the number is now closer to 19.
“We still have the money, but because of inflation and because of other things, it’s less than the [$1.2 billion] we originally had—I think I read $965, $968 million, something like that—so we’re close to a billion but we don’t have the same amount of money,” Conway said. “But the issue then becomes, the cost (of school construction) has increased.”
Conway added that lawmakers can always seek and receive more funding for school construction, and that the education fight in which constituents most need to be engaged was school closings. She said she is concerned that closed schools will simply become abandoned blights in their communities.
“It’s just going to be a drain on those communities because they’re not maintaining them now,” said Conway, referencing the poor state of many Baltimore public school buildings.