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Move to Adjourn Sine Die - End of Session Update

The 2017 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly has just wrapped up and we have accomplished a number of great things for Montgomery County and the residents of Maryland. This was my second session serving on the Appropriations Committee, where I chair the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee.

 

The General Assembly opened by considering a bill that the Governor vetoed last session. We  decided to override the Governor’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which increases Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio by requiring 25% of the state’s energy to come from clean, renewable sources by 2020. Doing so will not only protect our environment and allow our state to proactively address the risks of climate change, but it will also encourage further development and commitment to innovative industries working with renewable energy sources.

 

This year I sponsored a total of eight bills. I’m excited that 6 of those bills have passed out of both chambers and were sent to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

(1)   Rape & Sexual Offense Re-Classification - updates language in State law around the classification of rape to be more inclusive of victims, regardless of type of violation, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation of both, the victim and perpetrator.

(2)   Reorganization of State Procurement - reforms the processes by which the State buys goods and services in order to form a more streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective system of procurement. Working closely with the Lieutenant Governor’s office, it is our belief that this reform can save upwards of $100 million per year in taxpayer money.

(3)   Mid-Atlantic Redistricting Reform Compact - establishes an independent commission to redraw congressional district lines, pending the implementation of a Mid-Atlantic state compact.

(4)   Expansion of Participation of Veteran-Owned Small Businesses in State Procurement - expands opportunities for veteran-owned small business by allowing them to self-certify in their bids for State contracts.

(5)   Use & Regulation of Teletherapy - allows for and regulates the use of teletherapy practice in the state while creating a mechanism to ensure the safety, privacy, and well-being of Marylanders wishing to utilize teletherapy. This is the first legislation of its kind in the nation.

(6)   Energy Storage Income Tax Credit - establishes a first-of-its-kind in the nation tax credit for residential homes and commercial facilities to purchase and install energy storage systems, in order to reduce energy waste, lower our carbon footprint, improve energy efficiency, and save consumers money. This will also help encourage the use of renewable resources and increase jobs in sustainable industries.

 

Furthermore, I have worked tirelessly throughout the interim last year and the 2017 Session to make sure that the Watkins Mill Interchange comes to fruition. Though my bill mandating the construction of the project did not pass, I’m happy to see that Governor Hogan finally put the invitation to bid for the project on the street. I look forward to seeing the project move forward and will update you as it does.

 

 

 

Additionally, I am disappointed that my bill to establish an Election Day voter registration did not make across the finish line. For eight years I have been fighting to expand access to the ballot box for all Marylanders eligible to vote, and though I believed that this was the year to join 13 other states in having Election Day voter registration, it is my hope that next year I can work with my colleagues in the Senate to get it passed.

 

FY 2018 Budget: In addition to pursuing my own bills this Session, I helped craft the State Operating and Capital Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 as a member of the leadership for the Appropriations Committee. For

the fourth year in a row, we were able to pass an Operating Budget without any tax increases, as well as a Capital Budget under the spending affordability cap. Under the approved budget, the state is left with about $1 billion in cash resources on hand, including $860 million in the “Rainy Day Fund,” as required by the bond rating agencies to maintain our AAA bond rating. Here are some highlights of operations funded for FY 2018:

·   Tuition increases at state colleges and universities, including community colleges, were capped at 2%

·   Public K-12 education was funded at $6.4 billion, which includes a $96.4 million increase in direct aid to local school systems and $28.2 million in new funding for grants to school systems experiencing declining enrollment and/or providing full-day pre-k to their four-year olds

·   Though Governor Hogan initially proposed eliminating the grants to robotics education that I passed last year, I was successfully able to restore that program and that funding through the budget process

·   Allocates funding of $10 million to address the opioid epidemic through treatment and public health measures

·   Restores the promised increase of 3.5% for providers serving the developmentally disabled community, originally cut by Governor Hogan to 2%

·   Full funding of $11.1 billion for Medicaid

 

Montgomery County & the Budget: A grand total of $195 million was approved in capital funding for Montgomery County. Funding includes an extra $10 million in public school construction for the County, on top of what was already allocated  in the Capital and Supplemental Budgets, bond money for economic development projects in Poolesville and renovation of Strathmore Hall, and money to begin construction for the new Math & Sciences building at Montgomery College.

 

Legislative Priorities

Along with the bills I personally introduced this Session, the Legislature considered many important issues, including college campus safety, environmental health and sustainability, immigration and law enforcement, and sexual offenses and criminal justice. Here is a small list of those important initiatives passed this Session (The District 39 Delegation will mail out a more comprehensive Annapolis Report in a few months):

·        Sexual Offenses Legislation:

o  Testing Sexual Assault Kits: Legislation establishes a statewide standard for handling sexual assault evidence to ensure rape kits are properly tested and stored so victims aren’t treated differently because of their ZIP code, allocates State funding for rape kit processing, and establishes funding for rape crisis centers to help with the processing of rape kits and support victims.

o  Physical Resistance: Deems that a victim of rape does not have to prove an attempt of physical resistance in order to pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator.

o  Victims of Sex Trafficking Act: Protects federal funding for wraparound services provided to victims of sex trafficking.

 

 

 

 

·        Labor & Health Policy Legislation:

o  Earned Sick Leave: Under this legislation, employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide up to 5 days of earned sick or family support leave, or unpaid leave for those with 14 or fewer employees, in order to encourage a healthy, safe, and fair working environement.

o  Family Planning Service-Continuity of Care: Maryland become the first state in the nation to guarantee continued funding for vital family planning and women’s health services at Planned Parenthood if the Trump Administration and Congress defund their clinics. In Maryland, 25,000 women rely on Planned Parenthood clinics every year for non-abortion-related healthcare. 

o  Opioid Epidemic Response & Relief: The HOPE Act increases funding and establishes processes for a statewide opioid epidemic response.  The Start Talking Maryland Act of 2017 mandates that drug addiction and prevention education units in schools

cover heroin and opioid addiction and authorizes specified school personnel to administer naloxone and requires public schools to obtain and store naloxone or other overdose-reversing medications on site.

o  Preventing Price Gouging of Prescription Drugs: Authorizes the Attorney General to prevent prescription drug price gouging of off-patent drugs. The legislation would help the Attorney General investigate why the prices for certain drugs skyrocket and would force pharmaceutical companies to the table to justify those increases.

·        Environmental Health & Sustainability Legislation:

o  Banning Fracking: In order to protect the State’s natural resources, sustain our environment, and maintain public health, we passed a ban on hydraulic fracking, which has been linked to significant climate and public health crisises.

o  Protecting Oyster Sanctuaries: Placing a ban on opening Maryland’s oyster sanctuaries to harvesting, in order to protect our existing oyster recovery investments, gives these sanctuaries additional time to grow, and making sure that decisions related to oyster harvesting are guided by science.

·        Maryland Defense Act of 2017: Gives Attorney General Frosh the ability and resources to protect Maryland from unconstitutional actions by the Federal Government. Maryland joins 41 other states that allow their attorneys general to act independently from their governors or state legislatures to defend their states’ interests.

·        Education and Student Well-Being Legislation:

o  The Protect Our Schools Act of 2017: Reaffirms the State’s commitment to our public education system by requiring schools to meet certain quality standards that are not related to student testing in order to ensure comparative quality of learning for all students.

o  Suicide Prevention: Public Schools throughout the state will now provide training to staff to identify suicidal risk behavior of our kids/students. 

o  The Less Testing, More Learning Act: Requires the State Board of Education to limit the amount of time for Federal, State and local assessments for each grade to 2.0% of instructional hours in order to give students the opportunity to learn in new and innovative ways. The bill also requires each school district to set up a committee to monitor the jurisdiction’s assessment programs. The goal is to move away from teaching to the test and move toward using assessments as a true measure of what students learn.

 

As always, it is a pleasure to represent you in Annapolis. Feel free to stay in touch with me throughout the year and let me know how I can be of service to you.

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Reznik Report from Annapolis - 2017 Session Week 8

Things have gotten very busy in the last couple of weeks and as a result I wasn’t able to send an update last week, so this update has several weeks’ worth of updates.

My Bills

Sexual Office Reclassification.
  I’m happy to announce that HB 647, my bill to update Maryland’s laws around the classification of sexual offenses, has passed out of the House the Judiciary Committee and will be considered by the entire House next week. You can following along with this bill through the legislative process
HERE.

Energy Storage Tax Credit.
  Last Thursday, my bill establishing a tax credit for the installment and usage of energy storage systems, HB 490,  was heard in the Ways and Means Committee. This week, the Senate version of the bill, SB 758, sponsored by Senator Guy Guzzone of Howard County, passed out of the Budget and Taxation Committee unanimously and will be considered on the Senate Floor next week. That bill can be tracked
HERE.

State Procurement Reform
. This week, my bill reforming the state procurement system, HB 1021, was heard in the Health and Government Operations Committee. HB 1021 would streamline the way the state purchases goods and services through our procurement processes, making our processes more efficient, more transparent, and saving the state money.


I am working very closely with the Lieutenant Governor’s office on the issue of procurement reform, a topic we both feel very strongly about. Though we started out with very different visions of how procurement should be reformed, I believe we are very close to achieving a compromise on a strong plan for reform.  You can track the progress of the bill
HERE
.

Appropriations Committee


Over the last two weeks, my subcommittee on Appropriations has concluded all of our budget hearings for the budgets of the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Human Resources, Aging, Disabilities, Housing and Community Development, and other agencies such as Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, and the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  On Monday, my subcommittee will be meeting to make budget decisions that will then be presented next Friday to the full Appropriations Committee.


Priority Issues Update


Earned Sick Leave Bill.
 The full House of Delegates voted 88-51 to enact a fair and progressive policy to provide earned sick leave policy for all Marylanders.  HB 1 passed the House of Delegates and is moving onto the Senate Chambers for consideration. I was proud to cast my vote in favor of this important bill, which will encourage a healthy, secure workforce, and stronger, empowered families. Marylanders should never have to choose between going to work and recovering from an illness or caring for a loved one.

Opioid Addiction.
  When Governor Hogan was running for office, he said that he would declare a state of emergency on the opioid epidemic on day one of his administration.  On Thursday, the Governor finally done so over two years later.  He promised to add $10 million to the fight on opioid addiction, and we hope that he can bring down a supplemental budget shortly to tell us how he plans on paying for it. 

While this is happening, Speaker Michael Busch has convened a special task force to examine this issue and coordinate the effort to examine the right approach to dealing with this epidemic.  I’m pleased to announce the Speaker has appointed me to a special task force and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find comprehensive, safe, and effective solutions to such a complex situation.

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Reznik Report from Annapolis - 2017 Session Week 5

We’re at the point in Session when we’re starting to make real progress on some important issues. Just this morning for example, we were able to move House Bill 159: Weapon-Free Higher Education Zones off of the House Floor. The bill codifies existing University policies and establishes public places of higher education to be weapon-free zones, increasing the safety of our campus communities and ensuring a safe learning environment for our students. The bill will now be heard by the Senate.

Appropriations

The Appropriations Committee continued budget and bill hearings this week. This week we were briefed by the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office for Children and Interagency Fund,  as well as on state aid to local governments. My subcommittee, Health and Human Resources, was briefed by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Health Professional Boards and Commission, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, and the Department of Disabilities.

My Bills

This week I had the pleasure of presenting two of my bills before their respective committees for hearings.  HB 352, my bill to regulate the use of teletherapy on Maryland patients, was heard before the Health and Government Operations Committee, followed by HB 587, which would increase the participation of veteran-owned small businesses in state procurement. Both were greeted with productive questions and I look forward to working with various stakeholders in the coming weeks to make progress on both bills.

Tax Help for County Residents

Did you know that the County offers free tax filing services for county residents making less than $54,000 a year? Staffed by volunteers, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program provides filing services at locations throughout the county during the tax cycle. In order to utilize this service, appointments are encouraged. For more information, look here:
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/HHS-Program/OCA/VITA/VITA.html

As always, it’s a pleasure to represent District 39 in Annapolis. Please feel free to contact me throughout the year with your thoughts and concerns. I would love the opportunity to personally meet you or any groups of which you are a member of in the district, to talk about the session, neighborhood issues, or plans and thoughts for the future.

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Reznik Report from Annapolis - 2017 Session Week 1

Wednesday marked the opening of the 437th Legislative Session. I’m always excited to return to Annapolis, after months of preparation and collaboration with constituents and stakeholders, to hash out some of the issues facing our communities. Just like last session, I will update you on our work every week and you are always welcome to contact my office on specific issues and concerns.

Some Important Issues to Keep An Eye On

We’re tackling some major issues this session and I want to keep you updated on their progress. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect from the General Assembly this session.

The Budget: As we convene this legislative session, the state will need to overcome $500 million in shortfall from last year’s budget- a combination of falling revenue and deficiency spending, or overspending, by the Administration. At the same time, we will need to work diligently to find solutions to fund unmet needs throughout our state.

Earned Sick Leave: I was happy to see the District of Columbia pass a comprehensive earned sick leave package late last year and I’m hoping that momentum can do the same in Maryland this year. Earned sick leave is an issue that we should finally put to rest- hardworking Marylanders shouldn’t have to decide between taking time to recover from an illness or care for an ill child or family member and the security of their jobs.

Protecting Our Environment & Empowering Clean Industries & Jobs: I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in recent years to protect our environment and to safeguard the public interests that accompany it, such as developing clean industries and jobs, protecting public health, and working to ensure a sustainable future for our future generations. This year the General Assembly will continue those efforts, including an override effort of the Governor’s veto last session on the Clean Energy Jobs Act and the Renewable Portfolio Standard, both of which are necessary to guarantee a safe and sustainable future for our state. Additionally, we’ll have to tackle the issue of fracking this year, as our state moratorium is due to expire.

Healthcare Reform: We don’t know what action the federal government will take with respect to healthcare, so we must work this year to plan in advance to protect Marylanders from any potentially damaging changes to our healthcare system. We will work to do everything in our power to protect the 400,000 Marylanders at risk for losing coverage as a result of federal action. We will also re-introduce the Death with Dignity act again this session, which also passed in D.C. late last year. I’m hopeful this will be Maryland’s year so that we can ensure all Marylanders have the utmost dignity and freedom in the sensitive process of nearing the end of their life.

My Legislative Agenda

This session is a particularly exciting one, as it is my second year sitting on the Appropriations Committee and chairing the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee. The Appropriations Committee will work tirelessly this session to find reasonable solutions for the budget considerations I mentioned earlier. In order to do so, we will be briefed by various state agencies and offices that receive state funds, as well as budget analysts and experts.

In Health and Human Resources, we will seek budget solutions for Maryland’s programs and agencies that work to reduce poverty and hardship and to empower Marylander’s toward a better future. These include Medicaid, CHiP, SNAP, energy assistance, and affordable and subsidized housing. In addition to being responsible for approximately 40% of our state budget, we will serve an exceptionally important role moving forward, as healthcare policy unfolds at the federal level. I am honored to continue my service and leadership on this pressing issue.

In addition to my work on the Appropriations Committee, I’m pursuing a range of legislation this year. The following is a quick synopsis of the bills I’m introducing, with periodic updates to come as Session progresses.

Updating Maryland’s Rape Laws & Closing the Gaps: This year I’m putting in a bill to update Maryland’s laws on rape to be more inclusive and to better support victims. Currently, Maryland law exclusively classifies rape to non-consensual experiences of women and leaves out other categories of non-consensual sex acts. Although rape and sexual assault are currently charged with the same punishments, the classification of these crimes varies depending on the gender of the victim and the perpetrator. I believe the experiences of victims should no longer be minimized by being classified as anything other than rape, so through this bill I’m seeking to correct this unfair practice in the handling of situations of non-consensual acts.

Election Day Voter Registration: I’m proud to introduce a bill this year to create a mechanism to allow for Election Day Voter Registration. Voter empowerment and improving our democratic processes are of the utmost importance and all Marylanders deserve the opportunity to participate in our elections. This is an issue that I have championed since my first year in the legislature, and we have seen some expansion to allow for same-day registration during early voting, but it’s time we extend that opportunity to include Election Day.

Watkin Mills Interchange: I will re-introduce my bill from last year ensuring the funding and construction of the Watkin Mills Interchange project, which is long-overdue and desperately needed.

Energy Storage: I will also re-introduce a bill from last year that provides tax credits for businesses and residential properties that purchase and install energy storage systems. Energy storage systems can be used to store energy that would otherwise be wasted, ultimately increasing public use of renewable energy and decreasing reliance on non-renewable sources like energy generated from coal.

Redistricting Reform:
Finally, I’m re-introducing a bill to provide for fair and non-partisan redistricting. My bill would create an interstate compact to mandate the use of non-partisan and professional commissions to redraw district lines, utilizing the skills and expertise of statisticians, demographers, cartographers, and others.

I’ll continue to update you on these efforts and those of the greater General Assembly as session continues. In the meantime, as always, it’s a pleasure to represent District 39 in Annapolis. Please feel free to contact me throughout the year with your thoughts and concerns. I would love the opportunity to personally meet you or any groups of which you are a member of in the district, to talk about the session, neighborhood issues, or plans and thoughts for the future.

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Reznik Report from District 39 - It's A New Year Edition

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and a great end to 2016.  With the new year, comes the start of a new legislative session.  The 437th session of the Maryland General Assembly will convene next Wednesday, January 11th and will continue for 90 days until Monday, April 10th. 

During that time, as I always do, I will send out a weekly update on the important highlights of the week and the status of my own legislative priorities.

For now, I wanted to provide one last monthly update for December.  It was, as always, a very busy month in our community.


MoCo Board of Education Calendar for 2017-2018.  In response to Governor Hogan’s Executive Order concerning the beginning and ending of the annual school calendar, the Montgomery County Board of Education has adopted the school calendar for the 2017-2018 year.  Because the Governor has decreed that school must start after Labor Day and must end no later than June 15th , and because the Board needed to include the minimum number of instructional days required by State law, as well as take into account holidays, weather and emergency-related closing, etc., several major changes were included.  Some of these changes include a shorter winter and summer break, and only holidays mandated by State law. 

To see the calendar CLICK HERE.


MDBioLab stops at Magruder High School. The MDBioLab is a mobile lab that travels around the state to provide hands on science instructions to students.  It is sponsored by the MDBio Foundation and funding comes from the State, private donations, and grants.  On its recent stop at Magruder High School, I had the opportunity to tour the lab and watch a class grow and analyze bacteria. This kind of hands on instruction is critical to a well-rounded education and I applaud the MDBio Foundation for its work.



Local Bill Hearings in Rockville.  On December 5th and December 7th, the Montgomery County Delegation held our annual local bills hearings in the County Council chambers in Rockville. 

Local bills are bills that are proposed at the State level but only affect Montgomery County.  The topics ranged from alcohol regulation to hunting to education policy.  For a full list of local bills being proposed CLICK HERE, along with other information about the Montgomery County Delegation.




Tour of Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus.  I had a great opportunity to visit Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus this month.  Each of Montgomery College’s three campuses (Rockville, Germantown, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring) is as large as or larger than any other Community College in the State, and combined is far and away the largest in Maryland. 

The TP/SS campus is the most limited in space and ability to expand hemmed between a residential community on one side and a commercial area and major artery on the other. In addition, a number of the buildings on campus have long lived past their expected use.  I will be working with my colleagues this session to see if we can get additional resources to replace the aging math and science buildings so that students have decent, modern facilities to be able to learn and grow.


Committee for Montgomery Breakfast.  The Annual Committee for Montgomery breakfast took place in mid-December.  This breakfast is often considered the unofficial kickoff to the legislative season.  Attended by nearly 1,000 guests from throughout Montgomery County, including business, government, non-profit, and civic sectors, this year’s theme was regional cooperation, with a keynote address presented by County Executive Ike Leggett and newly elected Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh.



Reception for Montgomery County Olympians.
  If you are a fan of Jeopardy! then you might have seen the Final Jeopardy! clue on December 20th’s episode – “If this State was a country, it would have been in the Top 10 in Gold medals with 14 – 9 of them by 1 man and 1 woman.”  Of course, we all know that the answer is “What is Maryland?”


Our great State had an incredible showing at the Olympics in Rio this year, and four of those Olympians call Montgomery County home; Katie Ledecky (swimming), Jack Conger (swimming), Helen Maroulis (wrestling), and Ashley Nee (canoeing).

All four were honored by Montgomery County in December and it was announced that the four of them will be the first to be inducted into the newly formed Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame.  No doubt past Olympians and athletes from Montgomery County, like Dominique Dawes, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Shawn Springs, Freddy Adu, and of course, Walter Johnson, will be quick to follow.




AELR Committee Hearing Fracking Regulations.
  The AELR Committee (a Joint Legislative Committee tasked with final review of all regulations proposed by the Executive), held a hearing to review the final proposed regulations on fracking implementation in Maryland.  The two year moratorium adopted by the Legislature expires this year and the Department of Environment has proposed regulations to govern fracking, should it go into effect.  The hearing was highly contentious and well attended by numerous people with opposing points of view.  Though the AELR Committee has no authority to either approve or ban fracking and cannot even cancel the regulations (only hold them for a period of time), the hearing was a good preview of what we can expect during the legislative session on this contentious issue.


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