Yes, to come through these tough economic times as quickly as possible, we must protect the priorities of our families. for we have tremendous challenges ahead.On health care, we need to advance health care IT and to extend dental care for children so that no child in any county ever dies again because of the inability to treat a toothache. There are thousands of Marylanders returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were there for us. We need to be there for them, and that is why I ask for your support and engagement on a series of bills to ensure that their health and well-being is protected when they come home to Maryland. On improving Maryland's Homeland Security and Preparedness, many efforts are under way to better integrate emergency preparedness, emergency information sharing, and to finally bring into service our first statewide system of interoperable communications. I ask for your support as we bring former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, who is with us today, to Maryland to assess our level of preparedness and make recommendations for making Maryland safer and better prepared in the face of natural and man-made threats. For the health of the bay, we must continue searching for ways to make farming more profitable, to upgrade water and wastewater treatment plants, and to fulfill our obligations in the bay watershed with Pennsylvania and Virginia in order to preserve and ultimately expand forest cover. Last year, we passed the Stormwater Management Act and the Clean Cars law. This year, I will ask for your support and ideas as we search for ways to update our Critical Area Law- so massive developments like the Four Seasons project on Kent Island are prohibited at the first step in the process, not the last. On education, we must find better ways to recruit great principals to our most challenged schools, to improve outcomes in science, technology, engineering and math. We must do a better job of listening to our teachers in a regular systematic way so that we can constantly improve the learning process and working conditions that are so essential to retaining quality teachers. And we must rededicate ourselves to reducing our dropout rate with better career and technical programs available to high schools in every district. On work-force creation, I ask for your support on our proposals to reduce the nursing shortage throughout our state, and on our broader efforts to equip the 750,000 chronically undereducated adults in Maryland with the skills they need to compete and win- and care for their families- in this new economy. We can and must do better. We must build a new system for educating our adults and harnessing the potential of our entire work force, including new Americans who remind us, in the words of Maryland's Harriet Tubman, that we were all once "strangers in strange land." We must also better align the education needs of our adults with the work-force needs of our employers. I urge you to support our proposal to bring our adult education system into the 21st century. In terms of our pursuit of a more sustainable future for the land, the air and the water that we share, I urge your support of new legislation to promote transit-oriented development. I also look forward to working with you in the development of the science, technology and the public education that it will take to combat climate change, improve energy conservation and energy efficiency; and to make Maryland a leader in the development of renewable energy and green building techniques of all kinds. In order to protect Maryland's future, we must address Maryland's energy needs. The task before us is to develop a long-term plan for energy generation, distribution and conservation, and it will not be easy. It will take a sustained commitment from our political leadership to turn that vision over time into reality. The days of cheap and abundant energy are past, but that does not mean our only options are crippling energy bills and rolling brownouts. In the coming weeks, months and years ahead, we will be undertaking a number of efforts- legislative, regulatory- and legal if need be- to secure fair and reasonable energy rates while also ensuring an adequate supply for our future. Deregulation has failed us in Maryland and we cannot allow our future to be determined by that mistake. In conclusion, my friends, the most important days in life are not always the easy days. As we work our way through the important and difficult days ahead, let's not forget the good in our lives, our family and friends, our neighbors, our fellow Marylanders. Let's stay focused on the fact that people are counting on us to make these tough times more bearable. Let's work together- regardless of personality, party or place- to face the challenges ahead. We know that Maryland is a stronger state than most. We can get through these tough economic times more quickly than other parts of our country, but only if we can continue to come together to protect the priorities that make us strong. We come here to make a positive difference for our neighbors. That's what Senator Britt did. That's what Delegate Lawton did. And that's what we are going to do. Now we must take from here, Bishop Muse, striving to do all that we can for the hardworking people we have the privilege to serve and the One Maryland we carry in our hearts. Thank you very much. END
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