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Moving Education Forward

Education is a ladder to middle class success. So over the course of the O’Malley-Brown Administration, we’ve focused on creating opportunity by investing in our schools. We’ve made record investments in Maryland’s top ranked public schools, and since 2007-08 we’ve done more than any other state in the nation to hold down the cost of college.

Today, we’re moving education forward again for Maryland students by expanding pre-kindergarten to more families across our State. I was proud to sign a bill into law today that will expand PreK to an additional 1,600 children across Maryland. The bill, Senate Bill 332, also moves our State one step closer to universal PreK by ensuring that the State’s long-term plan for education funding accounts for expanded access to PreK for all Maryland children.

I invite you to share this good news with your friends, family, and anyone interested in expanding early childhood learning in Maryland. Please share via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.

Pre-K progress

Research shows that investments in early childhood education make a huge difference as children move through the later stages of their education. And when our students succeed, Maryland succeeds.

As part of our 16 strategic goals, we have focused on boosting the number of children in Maryland who enter kindergarten fully ready to learn.

With these better choices, we continue to get better results. Eighty-three percent of Maryland’s kindergarteners entered school lasts year fully ready to learn — that is up 38% (from 60%) since 2005. By opening more opportunities to more students, we’re going to build on this record of success and create a brighter, better future for our One Maryland.


Trees are the Answer

Ask a question about our environment – the Chesapeake Bay, air quality, wildlife habitat, even climate change – and more likely than not, trees are a big  part of the answer.

JW Parks EMS

Trees clean the air we breathe and filter the water we drink.  They provide homes for all types of birds and animals.  They help cool temperatures, reducing energy costs and the greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels.  They beautify our neighborhoods and highways, increase property values, and contribute to safer communities.

Here in Maryland, we have worked hard to earn our reputation as leaders and innovators in forestry practices.  Citizens have planted and registered more than 110,000 trees through our Marylanders Plant Trees program, and that number continues to climb.  In the space three years the Maryland inmates’ Forest Brigade planted a record one million trees on public lands.   Students are now planting buffers along stream sides near their schools, through the Stream Restoration Challenge.

Last year, our General Assembly passed a no-net-loss of forest law, first-of-its-kind legislation committing us to maintaining or expanding our current 40 percent tree canopy.  Last month, we launched Lawn to Woodland, a program to provide free trees, planting and technical services for landowners who agree to convert one to four acres of unused lawn to forest cover.

Still, with so much progress, challenges remain, especially when it comes to our urban tree canopy – street trees and patch forests located in and around our cities.  Wednesday we celebrated Arbor Day in Maryland and on Friday, I met with more than 20 experts on this critical issue, including representatives from municipal governments, non-governmental organizations and State agencies. Together we identified a host of opportunities for escalating doing more and doing better.

Because this work is happening at every level, we agreed on the urgent need to develop a cohesive statewide strategy for protecting and expanding our urban tree cover. Standards, specifications, performance measures, monitoring requirements and protection ordinances will be key components of our overall new common platform.  And I committed to using State resources – BayStat, the Cabinet at large, and our mapping technologies – to help get us there.

Additional grow-out stations managed by Maryland inmates can help us meet the demand for native species, the trees that are best suited to perform environmental services here.  Increasing incentives – coupons, free trees, planting assistance and technical advice – will help us engage more citizens. Targeting priority neighborhoods and committing to maintenance for at least the first two growing seasons can significantly improve the survival rate of new trees.  And of course, at the crux of every environmental effort is encouraging citizen stewardship — individuals taking action toward the common good.

Parks and People Roundtable Discussion on Urban Trees

All this talk of trees reminds me of an experience I had a long time ago, when a friend showed me an enormous pine tree on his family’s property.

“It’s hard to believe that grew from a Christmas tree we replanted one year,” he said.

Awed by tree’s size and stature, I had to ask, “How does that make you feel?”

I will never forget his response.

“It makes me feel like I should have planted more trees.”

As Marylanders, we take pride in working together to create a smarter, greener more sustainable state.  Planting and maintaining trees are by far the easiest, least expensive and longest lasting contributions we can make. And I hope you will join us as this conversation continues and our work progresses.


New Data Indicates Reduction in Uncompensated Care from Affordable Care Act

We are three days away from the end of Maryland Health Connection’s first open enrollment period, and as Governor O’Malley announced today, more than 270,000 Marylanders have enrolled in coverage – either in private health plans or Medicaid. I want to personally thank the hundreds of consumer assistance workers who are logging long hours to help everyone who still wants to enroll.

Among the 270,000 are 96,000 Marylanders who transitioned from limited benefits under the Primary Adult Care program, to full-benefit Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion. This means that, in addition to some basic and preventive care benefits, these Marylanders now have coverage for a full range of health care services – including hospital services.

Just this morning, the Health Services Cost Review Commission sent me an analysis of the cost of uncompensated hospital care in fiscal year 2013 for these 96,000 Marylanders who are now enrolled in Medicaid, but weren’t last year.

That amount was $164.4 million. That means that Maryland hospitals provided $164.4 million worth of care last year for which they were not directly paid.

Instead, this care was funded by a surcharge on every single hospital bill in the state. That is, the rest of us covered the cost through higher insurance premiums and higher hospital bills.

The data shows just how important the Medicaid expansion is, not only for those who are now covered, but for the long-term affordability of our healthcare system for businesses and families.

PAC Enrollees Who Received Hospital Care, FY 2013

3-28-2014 Blog Chart

Everyone who needs coverage should visit www.marylandhealthconnection.gov to get started or finish an application or call 1-855-642-8572 for assistance.

Congressman Cummings and Governor O’Malley will host a healthcare enrollment fair March 29, 2014, at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 West Pratt Street, from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.


Working Together to End Childhood Hunger

Across the country today, schools and school nutrition personnel are celebrating National School Breakfast Week, an opportunity to shine a light on the importance of school breakfast and its role in preparing our students to learn each morning.  In Maryland, while we have made record investments in our public schools and worked to ensure that our educators are prepared to teach students to succeed in a 21st Century economic climate, this week also serves as an important reminder that all of those efforts are for nothing if we are unable to meet one of a child’s most basic needs: proper nutrition.

When the O’Malley-Brown Administration launched the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland in 2008, we did so because we believed that it was within our capacity and our compassion as Marylanders to ensure that no child goes hungry in this state. Recognizing that hunger can manifest itself in our youngest citizens in so many different ways, including in our classrooms, we have implemented a variety of strategies to increase school breakfast participation in an effort to ensure that children who may arrive at school without eating breakfast at home are still equipped to succeed.

Schools throughout Maryland have worked with us to introduce new methods of serving breakfast, allowing students to eat together in the classroom or stop by a central kiosk to pick up a breakfast on the way to first period. With a diverse group of partners, from non-profits to members of the private sector, we have come together to ensure more than 63,000 additional children are now receiving a free or reduced-price breakfast at school each morning, an increase of 74 percent.

Now, other states are beginning to take notice, looking to Maryland as a leader in the effort to address childhood hunger.  The state-funded Maryland Meals for Achievement program has come to serve as a national model for states seeking to close the participation gap in the School Breakfast Program, and according to the Food Research and Action Center, Maryland’s growth rate in school breakfast participation has been amongst the top five states in the country the last two years, one of only two states to achieve that feat.

The March issue of Governing magazine recognizes Maryland’s accomplishments in the work to connect children with nutrition resources, but perhaps more importantly, our willingness to set ending childhood hunger as a policy goal and to hold ourselves accountable to that goal through StateStat.  It is due to this consistent evaluation of our efforts that we can tell you not only how far we have come, but also helps us identify the work we have left to do.

In the words of Frederick Douglass, “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  Here in Maryland, we have made a commitment to ensuring every child is strong and free from the effects of hunger. Together we can continue to lead the way in addressing issues that truly matter.

To find out more about our efforts to end childhood hunger in Maryland, visit nokidhungrymd.org.


Aiding and Abetting Bad Behavior

Chesapeake Bay Pic 2014-03-04 (Compressed)

The Chesapeake Bay is not only an essential natural resource for Maryland, but also for the United States. It is a recognized national treasure. Here in our great State, we’ve taken on this moral imperative by making a commitment to restore the Bay and ensure that it’s an economically and ecologically viable resource for our children and our grandchildren. We have made these commitments in partnership with the other jurisdictions of the Bay’s watershed.

Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and the federal government are, together, committed to restoring and protecting our nation’s largest estuary.

Despite the pressures that come with population growth and the challenges of economic crises, we have made great progress in conserving thousands of acres of land, reducing levels of harmful nutrient pollution, providing farmers with millions of dollars to implement water quality protection practices. But we still have more work to do.

Now, our years of hard work and partnership efforts are being challenged and threatened by other states objecting to what we have done and plan to do to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Recently, the Attorneys General of twenty-one states sued to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from working with Maryland and the other Bay watershed states to restore the Chesapeake Bay. While Maryland certainly wouldn’t consider fighting Florida’s efforts to restore the Everglades or Utah’s efforts to protect the Great Salt Lake, they seem more than willing to challenge our efforts to restore the Chesapeake.

Quite frankly, we do not appreciate their trespassing on our turf.

We are part of the most ambitious, scientifically-driven ecosystem clean-up effort in the nation if not the world.  We are working across a watershed of 64,000 square miles to stop polluted runoff from extinguishing our fisheries, suffocating our oysters, and making our waters unswimmable.  With wastewater treatment plants incorporating state of the art technology, local governments controlling stormwater runoff, citizens limiting fertilizer applications on their lawns, and farmers planting cover crops, we are taking action to restore the Chesapeake.

Other ecosystem restoration efforts can learn a lot from Maryland’s work on the Chesapeake Bay. We know that there is a vital link between how we use our land and the condition of our waters.  We cannot become more prosperous if we are not more mindful of the other living systems upon which our prosperity depends.

What good is it for us to spur innovation or make the next major biotechnology discovery if we no longer have a Chesapeake Bay or a Red River? A Lake Michigan or a Missouri River? If we can’t swim or fish in our waters? If we no longer have clean air to breathe? If sea-level rise destroys that which we have fought to preserve?

The urgent transformation of the Chesapeake Bay is not just about Maryland or even just the United States. It’s about all of us. We need to move from global economies of depletion to local economies of regeneration.

The leaders of these twenty-one states who want to stop the work of Maryland, its sister states, the District of Columbia, and EPA on restoring the Chesapeake Bay could better spend their time preserving the waters in their own backyards.  Stop aiding and abetting the polluters who want to prevent us from bringing back the Bay to the glory that we know it offers our citizens.  Rather than standing in our way, we encourage them to join us in doing more, together, for the future of our children and for our planet.

Please join the tens of thousands of Marylanders who have voiced their support of the EPA and Bay states efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay by clicking here.


An Economy with a Human Purpose

state of state photo

Maryland’s Nation-Leading Progress

Yesterday, Governor O’Malley delivered his eighth State of the State address, focused on our work as a State over the last seven years to be fiscally-responsible, strengthen and grow our middle class and create jobs for more Maryland families.

Throughout the speech, the Governor spoke about a central pillar to our progress as a State: accountability.  He pointed out that the test of any policy, action, or expenditure has been whether or not it is actually working to produce the intended results.

We see the results of that test in the presence of a Maryland family, an Eastern Shore manufacturer, and a community college president, all of whom have benefited from strategic policy actions established just last year: The Veteran’s Full Employment Act and the EARN Maryland Program.

Better Choices for Families

Sandra Rolph, an active-duty Army nurse, came to Maryland with her husband, Rob and daughter, Megan, from North Carolina, where she was previously stationed.  They chose Maryland for the top-rated schools, but Rob faced challenges using his master electrician’s license in their new home state.  Their situation was further complicated by their daughter’s fight against Lupus, an autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, including skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body.

The Veteran’s Full Employment Act ensures that we do right by veterans who sacrificed so much for us overseas, by removing the bureaucratic barriers to full employment here at home.  Thanks to the VFEA, which covers veterans and their spouses, Rob secured his Master Electrician License in just two days.  The license enabled Rob to have a schedule flexible enough for him to take Megan to critical doctors appointments during the day.  Today, Megan is enjoying her junior year in Montgomery County Public Schools and their family is thriving.

The Right to EARN

In a presentation on income disparities yesterday, Mark Zandi, a nationally-recognized voice in economics, cited strategic partnerships and skills training as essential tools to growing local economies and addressing income disparities.  On the Eastern Shore, we’re taking charge of jobs training programs by directly connecting employers, community colleges and worker advocate groups in partnership.  The EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) program equips students at community colleges such as Chesapeake College with training tailored to the needs of manufacturers like Cambridge International.  Strategic collaborations like EARN empower Marylanders with the skills they need to find family-sustaining jobs in our new economy.

Our Work Continues

While we’ve made tremendous progress, there’s still more work to be done to honor the dignity of Maryland families.  That work continues in our mission to raise the minimum wage; together, we can forge consensus and continue to grow Maryland’s economy from the middle out.


Realizing the Dream

Biotechnical Institute of Maryland

Today I join the people of Maryland, and the entire nation, in celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. Dr. King’s enduring legacy of fighting for civil rights, workers’ rights, and economic justice was written in far too short a time, but we strive to carry on his memory and work every day here in the State of Maryland.

In the speech that changed the course of our history, Dr. King spoke of a nation where many lived “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

Too many of our people are still stranded on that island.  In recent decades, we’ve seen people work harder and harder, only to fall further and further behind — while, at the same time, incomes in the top 1 percent have skyrocketed.

The way we grow our country and the way we grow our economy is to grow our middle class.

If workers don’t have money, businesses won’t have customers.  Better pay for workers means more consumer demand.  More consumer demand means more customers for businesses.  And more customers for our businesses mean a better and stronger economy.

We have an opportunity here in Maryland to do something that makes a difference.  It makes a difference in putting food on the table.  It makes a difference for kids and their moms and dads to be able to put a roof over their heads.

This year, we are taking an important step to grow our middle class and reward hard work: passing a $10.10 minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.  Twenty-one states have minimum wages higher than Maryland’s—while we have the highest median income in the country, and one of the most highly educated workforces.

This effort is important to protecting the dignity of hard-working Marylanders who are more productive than they’ve ever been, yet are falling further behind.  And it’s important to a strong economy.  A thriving middle class isn’t a consequence of growth…it’s the source of growth.

With his life and his words, Dr. King called us to action.  The work he set in motion is not finished.  The dream is not yet realized.

But we are united in our belief in the dignity of work, the dignity of home, and the dignity of every individual. We have a shared belief that each of us can make a difference and that all of us must try.  We believe that our children deserve a future of more opportunity, not less.


Natural Resources Police: Protecting and Preserving the Waters we Love

CSX Oyster Train Press Event

At the heart of our State’s history and economy is the Chesapeake Bay.  For the last seven years we have made the better choices to restore the health of this natural jewel—the largest estuary in the world.

We have improved the health of the rivers and streams that run into the Bay, planted a record 415,000 acres of cover crops, preserved more than 140,000 acres of open space and agricultural land, and built the most productive oyster hatchery in the world.

As a result of our efforts, the iconic Maryland blue crab is coming back.  And our native oysters—an irreplaceable part of a health Bay ecosystem—are surviving at rates not seen in 27 years.

Our efforts are undermined when poachers loot our waters.  That’s why the role of the Natural Resources Police is so vital.

On Wednesday, our Natural Resources Police stopped a tractor-trailer  headed to a Virginia processing plant with 188 bushels of oysters—most of them undersized and illegal.  This is one of the largest oyster poaching cases in recent years, and illustrates the threat that our fisheries, and our investments, face.

Fifty bushels of undersized oysters were returned to an Eastern Shore sanctuary where they will grow to legal size.

The Administration’s 2010 Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan contains a robust enforcement component to protect the resource, habitat and sanctuaries.  Thanks to new tools like the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network, officers are able to track vessels on the Bay.  This new system of radar units and cameras has already been used to make several oyster poaching cases this season.

All those who live and work near the Chesapeake owe thanks to our Natural Resources Police for protecting and preserving the waters we love.

For more information on this week’s incident, click here.


Today: Secretary Jewell Visits Maryland to Promote Wind Energy

unnamed (2)

Earlier today, I joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell and Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Tommy Beaudreau at the Maritime Applied Physics Corporation in Baltimore to talk about next steps in our continuing effort to spur wind energy development in Maryland.

Our federal partners are proposing to lease approximately 80,000 acres off the coast of Maryland for commercial wind energy development. Maryland’s offshore wind investment will create 850 construction and manufacturing jobs, plus 160 permanent supply and operations jobs after the site is completed. The site will generate $1.3 billion in total economic impact, and is expected to support the generation of up to 1,000 megawatts.

Today’s announcement gives Maryland momentum to continue to increase our renewable energy progress, create jobs, and encourage economic development. By working together, we can strengthen our in-state renewable energy generation, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce public health costs.

Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown Administration has increased our renewable energy usage by 40 percent. Our workforce has more green jobs per capita than any state in the Mid-Atlantic region – the 6th highest concentration in the nation.

Learn more about wind energy in Maryland.


Celebrate Computer Science Education Week

Highlighting Broadband Access at Kent Island High School

This week we celebrate Computer Science Education Week throughout the State of Maryland, and we encourage all of our citizens to participate in the Week’s activities.  We also encourage our education stakeholders and their partners to expand access to meaningful professional development for teachers, as well as to expose all students to the concepts of computer science while providing pathways to advanced learning.

As one of the nation’s leaders of the technology industry, Maryland is in a strong position to capitalize on our recent accomplishments.  We are making better choices to get better results: we’ve made record investments in our schools; we are the first state in the nation to set specific science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education standards; and, we have substantially expanded access to Career and Technical Education in Maryland’s public schools.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Maryland as the number one state for entrepreneurship and innovation and one of the top two states for employment in STEM fields.  Over the past decade, we have created more STEM jobs than all but five states.  Currently, we have 140,000 employees in the technology industry, making an average salary of $82,000.  These attractive, high-demand positions are going to increase in number at a rapid rate:

  • By 2020, the number of cybersecurity jobs in Maryland is projected to increase by nearly 25 percent, to more than 13,000 jobs;
  • By 2020, the number of computer and information technology jobs in Maryland is projected to increase by more than 22 percent, to nearly 77,000 jobs;
  • And, Maryland is projected to generate an additional 7,695 job openings in computer science and information technology every year between now and 2020.

This type of growth presents incredible opportunity for our children to succeed in the 21st century marketplace. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that we expand opportunity so our children have the critical skills necessary to achieve their dreams.  Computer Science Education Week is just one of the ways we’re making sure that our students are the best prepared in America.  From being number one in the nation in Advanced Placement success, to being the first state in the nation to set specific STEM education standards, to launching Skills2Compete, we’re making better choices and getting the right results for Maryland families.  This week, take the opportunity to learn a new computer skill and join us in working to make Maryland a great place to live and learn.