(Nov. 1, 2019) State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, (R-38C), began her “Listening Hours” at the Ocean Pines Community Center Monday, and engaged roughly 40 to 45 constituents about a variety of topics.
Carozza’s Listening Hours are essentially a town hall, but smaller and more intimate.
“Before we know it, the 2020 Maryland General Assembly will be kicking off in January, and I appreciate all those who have come out to my listening hours to visit and share their views on our Shore priority issues,” Carozza said.
Before speaking with constituents, however, she began by explaining her opinions on the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, colloquially known as the Kirwan Commission.
While Carozza said she supports many of the recommendations made by the commission, such as salary increases for teachers, she said the challenge is determining how to pay for it.
Currently, the funding package is expected to cost an additional $3.8 billion over current education funding over a 10-year period.
She argued that this would require sharp hikes in property and income taxes.
Rather than Dr. William “Brit” Kirwan’s all-or-nothing approach, Carozza wanted the commission to prioritize its recommendations, and divert funds to high priority items.
Carozza also said funding is based on property value, not income, which results in nominal funding for Worcester County schools, despite 42 percent of Worcester County students living in poverty.
After her comments on the Kirwan Commission, Carozza lent her ears to constituents.
Rather than a traditional Q-and-A session, however, Carozza went table-to-table and talked with constituents in small groups and individually.
Among the topics discussed were requests for services for disabled people and their caregivers, concerns about the location of an aquaculture lease on the southern tip of South Point Road, support for gun control legislation, support for tax withholding changes for reserve and active duty military residents and support for career trade-focused education.
At times, Carozza seemed cautious in offering direct solutions and opinions, particularly on certain hot button issues.
“My approach is to take the challenge before me, and look at what the options are,” Carozza said. “Can we find a balance? Is it possible to fix [the issue] without legislation?”
Her preference for finding balanced and alternative solutions was evident during her conversations with constituents.
To White Horse Park full-time residents, who were fighting to remain at the seasonal campground, Carozza suggested that they request a longer transition period, rather than attempting to get grandfathered in to the property, which would require legislative action.
To gun control advocates, Carozza said she could not focus on singular issues, and had to take a broader approach.
She told them that she would factor in their opinions when gun proposal legislation came to her attention, but she stressed that she would also factor in the opinions of those who oppose stricter gun control legislation.
Carozza will continue her forums at the following locations and dates: Pocomoke City Hall, Nov. 4, from 4 to 6 p.m., Princess Anne Town Hall, Nov. 5, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Bubby’s Wing Shack in Crisfield, Nov. 13, from 4 to 6 p.m., Fruitland City Hall, Nov. 19, from 4 to 6 p.m., and Delmar Public Library, Dec. 3, from 4 to 6 p.m.