Busy Times In Annapolis

The 2024 Maryland General Assembly is getting down to business.

Delegate Kris Fair (Photo from Md. General Assembly website)

Annapolis, Md (KM) It’s been “incredibly busy” in Annapolis as legislators work on  importance issues. That’s according to Frederick County Delegate Kris Fair who says one of the biggest issues is  “looking at our budget, making sure that we’re making smart investments, and assuring we have the necessary amount of resources to fund our government,” he says.

With projections of a state budget shortfall, Fair, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, says lawmakers may need to make some tough decisions this year. “So right now, we’re in the analysis phase of all of that where we’re meeting with all the various stakeholders to talk about the various important programs that the State of Maryland runs, and trying to figure out the best pathway forward to address those challenges,” he says

Sometimes, the only choices are budget cuts, tax increases or a combination of the two. “I’m optimistic that the General Assembly is going to take a discerning eye at both the expenses, making sure that we’re making proper investments, and that we’re obviously not spending more than what’s in the budget,” Delegate Fair says.

Fair hopes legislators will come up with a “piecemeal approach” that looks at “dozens of areas” where expenses can be cut.  Also, areas where the state can “close gaps” and “increase opportunities for revenue.”

Last week, Governor Wes Moore introduced his proposed fiscal year 2025 budget totaling $63.1-billion.  It addresses a $1.1-billion shortfall by leveraging the state’s debt capacity..

In addition to the budget, Fair says he’s working on other issues.   One of which is making changes in Maryland’s voting laws, including changes in what age  to register to vote. “I’m looking at lowering the voter registration age from 16 years to 15 years and nine months. And we’re also looking at making voter registration more accessible through  the county boards of education websites,” he says.

But this not a radical change in Maryland’s voting laws. “To be clear, it does not lower the age at which an individual can vote,” says Fair. “It lowers when they can register from 16 year to 15 years and nine months.” He says that coincides with the age a teenager can receive a learner’s permit to drive.

The voting age in Maryland would still be 18 years of age and older.

Along with that, Fair says he’s sponsoring a bill to require realtors to tell potential home buyers if the  properties they’re interested in are located within a half mile of  a superfund site, a location where chemical, biological and other wastes were dumped years ago, contaminating the soil. “The intention being to simply make sure that all residents of Frederick County and of the 26 superfund sites across the state of Maryland that they are being able to make fully informed decisions when they purchase their house,” he says.

Delegate Fair says this bill is in response to plans for a residential development outside of Fort Detrick’s Area B, where biological and chemical wastes were dumped for several years, contaminating the soil and the groundwater. That area has been cleaned up.

Even though it gets very busy at Annapolis, Delegate Fair says it’s important for legislators to make time to meet with their constituents. “The constituents are the reason that I’m here. And I make sure that no matter their concerns, if they visit this office, I’m available to chat with them at some point that day,” he says.

When he’s not in Annapolis on the weekends, Fair says tries to attend as many community events as possible to meet with constituents in District Three, and let them know where and how they can reach him if they have questions or concerns.

By Kevin McManus