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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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