Hornberger looks ahead to 2020 General Assembly

January 7, 2020

Hornberger hopes that his time in the House of Delegates will net him some time with the rising leadership, especially with Jones, as the two have co-sponsored bills and served on the Millennial Action Project together.

ANNAPOLIS — With institutional change and a fight on funding education reform looming in the Maryland General Assembly, Cecil County’s all-Republican delegation will redouble its efforts to make its voice heard as the 2020 session begins on Wednesday.

Delegate Kevin Hornberger — the only state representative in Annapolis that is a resident of Cecil County — believes new leadership in both the Senate and the House will mean a dramatic session with his colleagues on the shore.

New leadership, new challenges

New leadership is on the horizon as House Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-10, will take to the rostrum and Senate President Mike Miller, D-27, the longest serving president of Maryland’s Senate, announced he would step down last year.

Jones succeeds Michael Busch, who led the House for 16 years until he passed away on the eve of the 2019 session’s conclusion. Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-46, is expected succeed Miller, who served as senate president for 30 years. Miller is expected to return to the floor.“

The next six months are the most exciting times from a government standpoint that Cecil County has seen in a while. It’s probably the most exciting time in the General Assembly in at least a generation. It’s going to be different,” Hornberger told the Whig.

“Not only will there be an ideological change, the leadership is getting younger.”

Hornberger hopes that his time in the House of Delegates will net him some time with the rising leadership, especially with Jones, as the two have co-sponsored bills and served on the Millennial Action Project together.

But as the leadership passes the gavel to the younger generation based out of greater Baltimore, Hornberger foresees that his compatriots in the Eastern Shore delegation will need to rally as one force to achieve key legislative goals.

“We need to try and strengthen our voice by doing things as one delegation as opposed to just individual members for our counties,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about relationships. We [in the delegation] have been here for a number of years. Because of those relationships at different generation levels, we can be at the table to best negotiate what’s best for Cecil and the shore.”

Education funding

Public education reform looms large for the General Assembly, as the General Assembly’s Democratic majority has made passing a law for a new funding a key piece of the upcoming session.

“One of the ways to make it an easier pill to swallow is passing the cost onto the counties. That is a non-starter for us,” Hornberger said. “Local governments don’t have this kind of money laying around to fund this.”

For years, the Kirwan Commission has met to discuss additional programs like expanding prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds, raising teacher salaries and support for schools with high concentrations of low-income families.

These recommendations would be phased in for a decade, and are predicted to cost $4 billion per year. That cost would be split between the state and local governments, with the local piece predicted to cost around $1 billion.

“If it is the intent of the legislature to fund this, they need to find the funding within existing expenditures,” Hornberger added. “We cannot survive another tax increase in the state. We’ve made it work for five years … If we can all look at the budget together, I’m sure we can find the difference.”

Sports betting and Medicaid reimbursement

Hornberger has an ambitious plan for the next four months when it comes to proposing legislation. One of his top priorities is sports betting, something that Maryland has yet to legalize.

As sports betting was legalized in neighboring Delaware and threatening profits for Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Hornberger is bullish on putting sports betting on the 2020 ballot.

“This is the biggest funding mechanism for education, and we need our casinos to be successful. They’re getting significant pressure from bordering states,” he said.

Another gambling bill he’s planning would offer a $250,000 credit for those gambling in state with $1 million or more. While not prohibited by law, many Maryland casinos do not offer that credit because of the additional liability. In theory, this bill would attract high-dollar gamblers, which in turn would create more profit for education.

Hornberger also plans to file a bill to increase the Medicaid reimbursement from $100 to $200 for ambulances. He’s also seeking to include calls out to treat patients on scene without transportation for the reimbursement, as he said the opioid epidemic has drained resources.

“When calls come for an [overdose], an ambulance arrives and they treat them with Narcan — but they don’t take the patient. Who pays for that? You and I,” Hornberger said.

Remote access to classes?

Looking away from funding and towards education policy, Hornberger said he plans to work on a measure county Board of Education Vice President Jim Fazzino proposed: Allowing students remote access into classrooms when ill or physically unable to attend class.

Hornberger is also planning to tackle what he calls another nationwide issue, the transferability of two-year college credits to a four-year institution.

“We’re finding that if you transfer with an associates degree, you’re losing credits. That means you have to take some classes over again and that incurs more costs and takes more of your time,” he said.

A laundry list of other bills

Other bills Hornberger said he is planning to tackle are setting age limits on legislators; a right to repair bill, so that consumers can repair equipment without voiding warranties or contracts; streamlining the process for VIN numbers for military vehicles to be sold for legal civilian use; and decriminalizing the possession of a snare trap for hunting.

Once again, Hornberger said he will be fighting for creating a journeyman’s license for electricians, as Maryland is among the few states that does not have one. The bill has been filed for two years in a row, but this year, Hornberger and his team consulted various unions, trade associations and state agencies. He’s confident it will pass with a cross-file in the Senate.

Regarding bond bills and funding requests, Hornberger will continue to push for the $4 million in funding from the state for sewer infrastructure to the former Bainbridge property. Now that contractors are working on clearing the bulk materials with trace asbestos, the Bainbridge Development Corporation is turning its eye to get sewer connected to the site.

Hornberger is also looking at potential bond bills for the Boys and Girls Club of Harford & Cecil County and for the Cecil County Historical Society, to fund for the Rev. Duke Cabin behind the county’s arts council.

Wife’s campaign

With an already packed legislative session ahead of him, Hornberger is also facing a battle on the home front in Cecil County. His wife, Danielle, is running against County Executive Alan McCarthy in the Republican primary, scheduled just days after the legislative session will end.

Hornberger said his role in Danielle’s campaign is what it always has been: to be a supporting husband.

“She’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and I think she’ll do a fantastic job. But we have to do it together,” he told the Whig. “Obviously I have a finite amount of time, and I will do the best I can within session and getting our bills done.”

Hornberger added that he will be assisting his wife with strategy throughout her campaign, but will put politics aside to do what’s best for Cecil County when he heads to the capital.

“We’re assisting the current administration in what they’ve asked us to do. Politics aside, our number one goal is to administer government effectively and efficiently,” Hornberger said.

“We’re not impeding on county government, we’re going out of our way to assist them. Politics have no place in the statecraft.”

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Rep. Sara Jacobs


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