2019 End of Session Letter

April 11, 2019

The 2019 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly has come to a close, and while it was full of very difficult decisions, we were able to accomplish some wonderful things for Montgomery County and the entire state of Maryland. This was my fourth session serving on the Appropriations Committee, where I chair the Health and Social Services Subcommittee, as well as my first session serving on the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. Within Appropriations, I am also on the Capital Budget and Pensions subcommittees. In the Montgomery County Delegation, I served on the Economic Development Subcommittee. I was also honored to return as the House Parliamentarian.

There was a great deal of change in the legislature this year, with 17 new members in the Senate and 43 new members in the House of Delegates, two of whom are my new district-mates. There were 1,429 bills introduced in the House and 1,049 in the Senate. I was the primary sponsor on 12 bills, and co-sponsor on an additional 70 bills.

With Speaker Busch in 2007

It is also important to acknowledge the loss of Speaker Michael E. Busch, who passed away on Sunday, one day before the end of the 2019 legislative session. Speaker Busch was the longest serving Speaker in the history of Maryland, taking the gavel in January 2003. There is a reason he was able to maintain that position for so long; Speaker Busch loved Maryland, and he loved the House of Delegates. He went out of his way to listen to every member, regardless of party or region, and worked to craft the best legislation that we could for the people of our State. He is the only Speaker I have ever known, and today feels very different. In the coming weeks, we will likely gather to elect a new Speaker and continue with the work of our State. However, Michael Busch will, in my mind, be the shining example of what a Speaker should be. He will always be remembered as our “coach.”

I had three bills that passed through both houses and will go the Governor for a signature.

Registration and Voting at Precinct Polling Place – The result of one of my bills from last session, which was on the ballot during the general election and received 68% approval from Maryland voters. This will allow residents to register or update their registration and vote on Election Day, similar to what is available during early voting. This is the implementation of what we’ve worked on previously.

Pilot Program – Alleged Rape, Sexual Offense, or Child Sexual Abuse – HIV Postexposure Prophylaxis – I was proud to work with the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Maryland Hospital Association to establish this program to provide a full 28 day course of this medication, which can prevent HIV for victims of rape or sexual abuse. If administered within the first 72 hours after an assault, this can prevent HIV infection in over 80% of recipients

Robotics Grant Program – Alterations – During the 2016 session, I helped to establish a grant program for high school robotics clubs. It has been an amazing success, and we are now expanding the amount of funding in the grant, and the ability for out-of-school groups to access the grants.

This year’s budget process was incredibly difficult, as the General Assembly was left to fix a large structural deficit. As established by the Maryland constitution, the Governor presents a budget, and the Assembly may cut or re-allocate funds, but we are not allowed to add anything. We had to say no to a number of wonderful, new ideas because we simply didn’t have the room in the budget. The budget we ultimately passed was very pro-education, covering students from Pre-K through higher education.

We did very well for Montgomery County, bringing back $57 million public school construction, on top of what the county will provide. This includes money for Magruder High School, Seneca Valley High School, and Martin Luther King Jr Middle School. We secured $6.5 million for Montgomery College, to finish the construction of the Math and Sciences building, as well as other facility improvements on the campus. $4 million was included for health facilities in the county. During the legislative bond initiative (LBI) process, replacing what used to be called bond bills, I was able to get funding to start construction on the police station for the City of Gaithersburg. Under the umbrella of Project Open Space, I put through initiatives for Center Way Park in Montgomery Village, Ovid Hazen Wells Park in Clarksburg, and Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg. Blackrock Center for the Arts and the Boys and Girls Club of Germantown were also recipients of some of the $5.5 million in LBI that will be going to the County.

“Kirwan” and “blueprint” were the buzzwords as we worked to fund the recommendations made thus far by the Kirwan commission, and provide much needed school construction money. We were able to include $750 million over the next 2 years as we move forward towards full implementation of the Kirwan commission report. The “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” includes:

• $133 million extra for special education
• $75 million to increase teacher salaries, and make Maryland a more competitive work environment
• $29 million for full-day Pre-K for low-income families

We were unfortunately not able to pass the “Built to Learn Act”, as it made it out of the House and then stalled in the Senate. This would have provided $500 million next year for school construction projects, and $2.2 billion going forward. While this is frustrating, we have a great structure in place to try again next year.

The Assembly came together to override a veto on a bill regarding school start dates

• Gives local boards and counties the ability to decide their own start dates
• Overturns an executive order mandating schools start after Labor Day
• Allows school districts with more holiday or weather events flexibility

• Reducing solitary confinement for juveniles – a juvenile may not be placed in solitary confinement unless there is clear and convincing evidence of an immediate risk of harm to the minor, staff, or other inmates

• Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) will be available to inmates suffering from opiate use disorder

• Sexual Assault evidence kits – law enforcement will be required to submit so-called “rape kits” to a forensic lab within 30 days, and it must be processed within the next five months

• Increased funding for the Baltimore Safe Streets initiative

• Public Safety and Violence Prevention Act – allocates funding for research based violence prevention programs

• Eliminated the handgun review board. All conceal carry appeals will go straight to an administrative law judge

• Expanded prohibitions on sex trafficking, and renaming human trafficking to sex trafficking; makes this offense a felony to further deter sex trafficking

• Prescription Drug Affordability Board – will have the authority to set an upper price limit on drugs purchased by health plans that serve state and county employees, in an effort to combat rising healthcare costs

• Protecting the ACA – in the event that the Supreme Court overturns protections provided by the Affordable Care Act, the Maryland Health Insurance Protection Commission will continue to be funded so that we can still provide benefits to Marylanders

• Contributions to the “reinsurance” program – insurance companies contribute a rate assessment to the program to cover more of the healthcare cost for the sickest Marylanders, and provide market stabilization

• Maryland Health Insurance Option – there will be a check box on state income tax returns to enroll in free or low cost health insurance

• Summer SNAP – counties will be able to extend free and low cost meals to kids over the summer, when it can be the most difficult for families

• Raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21

• Flood mitigation grant program – expands the program to cover damages to infrastructure repairs, watershed restoration, and emergency protection work. We’ve experienced multiple “hundred year floods”, especially in Ellicott City, over the last few years

• Banning the use of chlorpyrifos pesticides, which pollute our water reserves and can cause neurological damage

• Protecting and restoring 5 oyster sanctuaries, as oyster populations in the Chesapeake reach an all-time low of 1-2% of historic levels

• Establishing a group to make decisions on a Fisheries Management Plan for oysters, bringing together industry watermen and conservation advocates

• Clean Energy Jobs Act – requires that Maryland move towards having more of its energy portfolio come from renewable sources, including wind and solar

• Clean Cars Act – expands the vehicle excise tax credit for purchasing plug-in electric drive vehicles

• Styrofoam ban – prohibiting food service businesses and schools from selling or using single use expanded polystyrene products, and conducting public education and outreach about anti-littering efforts

• Creating a gender neutral option on drivers licenses
• Expansion of early voting – more polling centers and expanded hours
• Establishing a designated voting coordinator in correctional facilities

• Ban the box – we overrode the Governor’s veto on legislation from last session that bans the criminal history box on the initial college application for schools receiving state funds, providing equal opportunity for college students

• Fight for fifteen – Minimum Wage Increase. The legislation raises the minimum wage in Maryland to $15/hour by 2026, but includes an 18 month delayed implementation schedule for businesses with 14 or fewer employees. It also increases reimbursement rates for Developmental Disability Administration and Behavioral Health Administration providers, and requires the Department of Laborto develop a form for tipped workers to calculate their hourly wages

• Brewery Modernization Act – the result of several years of fighting for changes, all parties reached an agreement to update Maryland’s beer laws by increasing taproom sales, production capabilities, self-distribution limits and hours of operation for the craft beer industry

• Childcare tax credit expansion – expands income eligibility up to $92k for single filers and $143k for married filers to utilize the federal child and dependent care credit

• Federal Shutdown Paycheck Protection Act – allowing civilian federal employees to receive unemployment benefits in the event of a federal government shutdown and altering the Catastrophic Event Account to respond to such a shutdown

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

Categorized in: