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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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