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Community Voices (Ready): Education, crime, transportation key issues facing 2020 General Assembly session

I hope that the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season was a good one for you and your family.

The 2020 session of the Maryland General Assembly begins on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Every year legislators, including myself, take part in a 90-day session to deal with everything from the state’s upcoming annual budget to tax policy to county-specific alcohol and hunting laws.

As I’ve written before, the issue getting the most press attention has been the recommendations from the Kirwin Commission, which was focused on how to properly fund and improve K-12 public education in Maryland over the next decade. While some of it has been implemented already, the proposed cost of full implantation is enormous.

I believe education dollars should be focused in the classroom on teaching our students, hiring and retaining quality teachers at good salaries and providing services that promote academic achievement and career readiness. At the state level, decision-makers need to look at what successful local jurisdictions are doing rather than trying to spend more on failed policies of the past.

However, education funding is not the only critically important issue.

Crime in Baltimore continues to explode and it is destabilizing the region. Many of the murders and shootings are committed by people with criminal records using illegal guns, but a lenient judicial system and the prosecutor in the city are not consistently punishing criminal activity with swift, firm sentences that remove them or protect the community.

A third major issue is the future of transportation and roads as Gov. Hogan’s plan to add capacity to I-270, I-495 and other highways much closer to Carroll County could be on the chopping block from members of the Democratic majority who believe in dedicating most of our transportation trust fund to mass transit systems which help only a small fraction of the state’s travelers.

This “pro-traffic” caucus has loudly protested the Hogan administration’s efforts to expand and improve our road capacity since the governor took office in 2015. Mass transit has its place but the proper priority focus of transportation policy is where 90% of Maryland commuters and travelers spend their time — on highways.

As the session gets underway, I’ll be rolling out specific legislation that I’m putting forward. As always, I love to hear from people directly about the issues that are on their mind.

It's an honor to serve as your representative in the State Senate. I’ll do my best to keep you informed as the 2020 Session moves forward.

Justin Ready is a Maryland state senator representing District 5