Session Begins Tomorrow – My legislative agendaJanuary 11, 2022
Tomorrow begins the 444th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly. There are a lot of issues on tap for us to consider. We expect to hold hearings on thousands of proposed pieces of legislation, review and approve an operating and capital budget for the next fiscal year, and work to make sure that our residents continue to stay safe and continue to prosper while we continue to deal with the COVID pandemic.
Before we start tomorrow, I wanted to give you a preview as to my legislative priorities.
I want to emphasize that just because I don’t list a particular issue that you care about doesn’t mean that I am ignoring it or do not believe in it. No one legislator can sponsor everything or track everything, but we all focus on what we have become expert in to get the work of the day done. As you all know, I’m happy to discuss any issue or legislation with you if you email or call my office. The contact information can be found HERE.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, my focus is on making sure we get the best budget out that we can, given our priorities, mandates, and limitations. As Chair of the Health and Social Services Subcommittee, I am particularly focused on making sure we are funding the necessary priorities that will help us get through the COVID crisis and that our most vulnerable residents are cared for and protected. This includes children, the elderly, those struggling with behavioral health issues, and those living with developmental challenges.
This year, I anticipate sponsoring ten bills that I believe are critical to helping Marylanders in a variety of ways, and they fall into four categories.
Healthcare and Social Services
As always, I am going to spend a lot of time on health care issues. This year, four of my bills will have that focus:
1. Medicare Supplemental Insurance Birthday Rule. For the third year, I am re-introducing a bill that will allow seniors on Medicare to have a true open enrollment period for their supplemental insurance. There is no reason that seniors paying for supplemental insurance should have any less of an opportunity to pick their insurance providers than the rest of us do.
2. NPEP for Rape Victims Sunset Repeal. Three years ago, Senator Nancy King and I passed pilot legislation to provide HIV prevention medication to all rape victims. The program has been a tremendous success and, I believe, has saved many lives. It’s time for the pilot status of the program to end and for it to continue indefinitely.
3. Foster Child Medical Facility Placement. For a number of years, I and several of my legislative colleagues have been working to resolve the issue of foster children being left by the Department of Human Services in hospitals for days, weeks, months, and in a rare instance, over a year, for no reason other than they have had no place to put them. This is besides the fact that I have passed legislation allowing for them to open new group homes and specialized treatment facilities and provided funding. Nevertheless, children continue to languish in hospital beds without behavioral health treatment or education and taking up a bed often in emergency rooms. This needs to stop and I’m sponsoring legislation to that end.
4. Montgomery County Nursing Home Inspection. For 10 year, Montgomery County and the State’s Department of Health have had a Memorandum of Understanding to allow Montgomery County to inspect nursing homes and long term care facilities and investigate complaints instead of the State. In July, that MOU ended and the Department has refused to renew it. Since July, not one nursing facility in Montgomery County has been inspected and not one complaint investigated. I will sponsor legislation that will allow for the renewal of that MOU.
While my colleagues who specialize in education policy focus on education, I will have two bills that will focus on the healthcare aspects of our schools.
1. Expansion of in-school meals. Kids who are not hungry learn better. With the federal ARPA money, we have been able to feed every child in a Maryland public school and it has done wonders. That money runs out after two years, and I am worried about what that will do to their well-being. I am sponsoring legislation to significantly increase in-school meals to help them thrive. Most other developed nations on earth feed their students, there is no reason we shouldn’t.
2. Mental Health Staffing. The COVID pandemic has caused a crisis in mental health for our kids and we do not have enough professionals in school to deal with it. That is why I am working with the schools, professional associations, and the University system to help us produce more school-based mental health professionals.
The level of staffing in State government is reaching critical levels, and we see it everywhere, from the inability to process unemployment claims to a lack of corrections officers in our detention centers and every department in between. My legislation will not solve all of these issues, but I hope that they will contribute.
1. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner staff. If we were not in COVID, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner would have lost accreditation because of our staffing levels. This is unacceptable and the Department of Health continues to use the same failed recruitment policies for the last five years. My legislation will force them to change.
2. Natural Resources Police Diversity Hiring. To say that the NRP is under-represented by people of color is an understatement to end all understatements, and despite efforts to fix this problem, few if any efforts have been made to recruit and train new officers that better represent the people of Maryland. I’m working with the Black Officers Association to bring change to this problem.
Continued improvement in economic and business development is always critical to making sure we as a State prosper. I have been successful over the years in passing legislation that improves the prospects for small businesses and always try and have a couple of bills every year continuing to do so.
1. Alternative Asset Management Transparency. This legislation will expand on legislation passed in 2019 requiring private equity disclosures regarding our state pension investments. This bill will add disclosure requirements for fees charged, the diversity of investment manager staff and boards, and certification of compliance with state and federal law.
2. Maryland Rye as the Official State Spirit. Maryland has over 30 distilleries across the state and the industry is growing every day. Many of them produce Maryland Rye, a unique Maryland whiskey that has been distilled for hundreds of years. Recognizing Maryland Rye as an official state symbol will help not just our distillery industry, but our tourism and agriculture industry as well. If distilleries in Maine, Kentucky, and Colorado can produce a “Maryland Rye,” then we should capitalize on the brand.
Over the next 90 days, I will be working on this and a whole lot more in my various roles in the General Assembly. As always it is a whirlwind of activity, and I look forward to updating you weekly as to the progress.
Categorized in: District 39