The past few months in Annapolis have been jam packed with significant bills. Some great ones passed, and some great ones dies, unfortunately. Here’s a list of some of the General Assembly’s bills and where things stand:
OYSTERS – HB 298, Speaker Busch & Chairman Barve
Oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay are at an all-time low; the population is just 2% of historic levels. We are at a tipping point and bold action is necessary to save this keystone species for the Chesapeake Bay. Their ability to filter the Bay and their commercial value make them a unique resource that we must protect.
This bill would protect and restore 5 oyster sanctuaries. Significant public investments have been made in support of these large-scale restoration projects and this bill would protect those investment by making them off limits to oyster harvesting in perpetuity. These oyster sanctuaries are critical to the recovery of the Bay’s oyster population- they serve as nurseries that send larvae throughout the Bay, incubate disease resistance, and provide complex habitat that is not provided by harvested reefs.
FIGHT FOR $15, MINIMUM WAGE- HB 166
This bill establishes that the state minimum wage will be $15 by 2025. It establishes an 18-month delayed implementation schedule for employers with 14 or fewer employees – they will reach the $15.00 minimum wage rate on July 1, 2026. It also requires DLLR to adopt regulations to develop a form for restaurants to provide to tipped employees to calculate their hourly wage rates. The bill includes an additional $319 million above and beyond the existing out year budget for provider reimbursement rates – which is $86 million more than the initial House version. DDA providers will receive a 4.0% annual increase for fiscal years 2021–2026. BHA providers will receive an increase between 3 & 4% between FY21 and FY26. All other providers will receive a 4.0% annual increases for fiscal years 2021–2026.
22% of our State’s workforce – more than 573,000 working Marylanders would get a pay raise and nearly 273,000 Maryland children will benefit from increased family income.
ALCOHOL & TOBACCO COMMISSION- HB 1052
This bill establishes an independent Alcohol and Tobacco Regulatory Commission (ATC) with a full-time executive director who reports to a 5-member commission who are all appointed by the Governor. New responsibilities of ATC, as recommended by the Task Force, include: educating the public by serving as a local-government information/resource clearinghouse related to alcohol consumption; studying similar laws in other states or countries and federal laws that may affect the State’s alcohol and tobacco industries; and developing best practices for topics related to alcohol regulation. This bill also transfers all powers and personnel of the Field Enforcement Division (FED) in the Comptroller’s Office to ATC by July 1, 2020 and keeps existing motor fuel regulation in the Comptroller’s Office.
LOCAL SCHOOL CALENDAR CHOICE – SB 128
This legislation allows county boards of education to choose the start and end dates for the school year. Schools are still required to follow state & federal guidelines such as: hour requirements, and maintaining a 180 day school year over 10 months. Local boards may still decide to start school after Labor Day or end after June 15th; this legislation just gives them the autonomy to decide. This bill also allows schools to extend the year without seeking special waivers from the State board.
Local boards of education need flexibility to craft a school calendar that meets the specific needs of that jurisdiction. Under the Governor’s Executive Order, local boards have a difficult time accommodating snow days, teacher training days, and religious and secular holidays. Economic policy should not drive education decisions, and educational policy should not be made via executive order.
As the Governor has threatened to have this bill petitioned to the ballot, this bill also includes potential language for a ballot question. Many Boards of Education, parents, and students have expressed concern about the current law’s impact on learning, students’ access to social services, and family finances.
This is an emergency bill, so schools can make appropriate adjustments as they develop next year’s calendar. The House voted 93-43 to override the Governor’s veto.
BUILT TO LEARN ACT – HB 727, Del. Dumais
As passed by the House, is a historic school construction investment- the largest one-time investment in Maryland’s history. This will infuse $2.2 billion into school construction and renovation around the state. This bill authorizes $2.2 B in Maryland Stadium Authority 30 year bonds. These bonds will start to be issued July 1, 2020 and will be paid for by $125 M from the Education Trust Fund.
All of these projects will be subject to the same IAC rules. The revenue bonds would be have the same county matching ratios, and smaller counties will be able to use the funds for planning and design. This bill is in addition to all current school construction programs and funding. Unfortunately the Senate did not follow our lead passing this important legislation
P-TECH EXPANSION ACT 2019 – HB 440, Del. Harrison
This bill expands the successful P-TECH program. P-TECH brings together public schools, a community college, and a private business to give students an opportunity to graduate high school with a high school degree and Associate’s degree. This bill expands the program to allow other schools to participate, and passed the House of Delegates unanimously.
University System of Maryland- Board of Regents- Transparency and Oversight - HB 533, Del. Barnes
This bill will add more accountability to the University System Board of Regent in order to rebuild the public’s trust in higher education. The board must make available to the public live and archived video streaming of each open meeting, allow time at each open meeting for public comment, include all motions and vote tallies from open and closed sessions in publicly available board meeting minutes, conduct any votes related to the employment of university presidents or the chancellor in a closed session; and conduct any votes related to the termination of university presidents or the chancellor in an open session.
SAFE SCHOOLS MARYLAND - SB 165
This bill establishes the Safe Schools Maryland program, an anonymous tip line, within the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS). The program will establish procedures for anonymous reporting of behaviors of concern and other dangerous, violent, or unlawful activities, or the threat of these activities, involving one or more students. Participation in the program is voluntary for local school systems, public schools, and nonpublic schools.
PROVIDING FOR MD FAMILIES
CHILDCARE TAX EXPANSION - HB 810, Del. Kelly
This bill will expand the childcare tax credit to help working parents by expanding the income eligibility. Now, single filers making up to $92,000 per year, and married filers making $143,000 per year are eligible. The tax credit is equal to up to 32% of the federal child and dependent care credit. If the filer makes less than $50,000 or $75,000, this credit is refundable. Childcare can cost more than a year of college tuition, this bill will help working families afford high quality care for their kids.
WORKERS COMPENSATION – HB 595, Del. Rogers
This bipartisan bill adds bladder, kidney, and renal cell cancer to the types of cancer that are covered under Worker’s Compensation for volunteer and professional fire fighters, firefighting instructors, rescue squad members, life support unit members, and fire marshals at airports. This bill was a major priority for public safety unions.
SUMMER SNAP FOR CHILDREN ACT – HB 338, Del. Queen
This bill creates a summer SNAP program for children, which will help feed hungry kids. Kids who are eligible for free and reduced priced meals at schools summer and winter break are eligible for this program, which will help to ensure they’re getting nutritious meals no matter if school is in session or not. This bill will give families who already receive SNAP benefits of $30 per month per child in June, July, and August, and $10 per child in December.
TAX SALE PROTECTIONS - HB 1209, Chairman Kaiser
Tax sales disproportionately harm low–income people, senior citizens, and people of color. Tax sale foreclosures displace the elderly, contribute to vacancy and abandonment, and destabilize communities. Some tax sale investors have taken advantage of vulnerable people by charging excessive fees. Many homeowners in tax sale do not understand what is happening and don’t know where to go for help.
The bill reforms the tax sale process to protect low-income homeowners from losing their homes assessed at $300,000 or less. It also creates an Ombudsman to explain the process to homeowners and help them apply for tax credits and programs that would benefit them.
PROTECTING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT – HB 697, Chairman Pendergrass
This legislation protects Marylanders with pre-existing conditions in the event that the Supreme Court overturns protections provided in the Affordable Care Act. House Bill 697 also renews The Maryland Health Insurance Protection Commission for an additional three years to continue working closely with the evolving healthcare landscape.
This bill passed in committee unanimously and the House by a bipartisan majority.
INDIVIDUAL MARKET STABILIZATION ACT – HB 258, Del. Peña-Melnyk
This bill requires insurance companies to contribute a 1% assessment rate through 2023 to the Maryland’s Reinsurance Program. The state reinsurance program was established last year and required health insurance companies to cover more of the healthcare costs for the sickest Marylanders. House Bill 258 will continue to stabilize health insurance costs by bringing more certainty to the market.
MARYLAND HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION – HB 814, Del. Peña-Melnyk
This bipartisan legislation establishes Maryland’s Easy Enrollment Health Program (MEEHP): a simple, seamless system for enrolling uninsured Marylanders into free or low cost health insurance coverage by adding a checkbox on state income tax returns. This allows the state health exchange determine eligibility for free or low-cost health insurance.
This new system will allow those who qualify to be enrolled automatically in Medicaid – an estimated 50,000 Marylanders. For those who are uninsured but do not qualify, the exchange will offer information on health plans, including possible federal premium tax credits to help ease the costs of health insurance. Maryland will become the first state in the country to implement this program allowing families to use tax information to qualify for health programs.
OPIOID RESTITUTION FUND – HB 1274, Opioid Workgroup/ Del. Rosenberg
This bill creates a special state fund for any money received from a legal judgements or settlements against an opioid manufacturer. This dedicated fund ensures money recovered from this crisis is used to fund treatment and recovery programs.
TITLE X FAMILY PLANNING - HB 1272, Chairman Pendergrass
Maryland House Democrats will not allow President Trump to dictate women’s health care policy. Title X is a long standing federal grant program for family planning services for women with low-incomes. Title X provides free or sliding scale fee-for-service family planning services such as: education, preventive services, breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI prevention, and pregnancy tests. Under federal law, Title X funds do not pay for abortions.
While currently any private or public entity can apply for these funds, the Trump Administration has proposed rule changes that would not allow any facility that counsels or educates women on abortions, or provides abortions in that facility to receive funding.
This bill would remove Maryland from the Federal Title X program if these new rules are enacted. Maryland will be the first state in the nation to ensure this continued access. The bill creates a Maryland family planning program which will be funded entirely with state funds and include providers, like Planned Parenthood, who provide comprehensive health services for women.
CLEAN ENERGY JOBS ACT- SB 516, Senator Feldman
This bill increases the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 25% by 2020 to 50% by 2030 and makes other related changes. This bill will help to preserve and create jobs in the clean energy sector, while also reducing Maryland’s reliance on fossil fuels. This is a huge step in the battle against Climate Change.
OYSTERS – HB 720, Chairman Barve
This bill will set up a group, staffed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, to make decisions on a Fisheries Management Plan for oysters. This group brings all interested stakeholders to the table: 60% of the group are industry watermen and 40% are advocacy groups for conservation. The goal of bringing this stakeholders together is to get them to make compromises and agree, which is why decisions are required to pass with 75% approval.
CHLORPYRIFOS – HB 275, Del. Stein
This bill bans the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used in agriculture. This is another example of Maryland protecting itself from the Trump Administration, which in 2017, went against the advice of its scientists and overturned its own proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. No level of chlorpyrifos is safe in food and drinking water, so the legislature stepped up to protect Marylanders. Unfortunately the Senate did not follow the House’s lead and the bill was not ultimately enrolled.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
EXPUNGEMENT & MD JUDICIARY CASE SEARCH -- HB 13, Del. Barron
This legislation passed by the House is a Legislative Black Caucus priority and allows partial expungements from the Judiciary Case Search website. Currently, someone cannot remove an expungeable charge from the Case Search website if the charge occurred at the same event as a non-expungeable charge. This bill removes that provision and allows all expungeable charges to be removed from the website regardless of if they occurred at the same event. This bill also allows a fourth degree burglary misdemeanor charge to be expunged. While this bill passed the House, it was not ultimately enrolled.
INSIDE THE WALLS OPIATE DISORDER TREATMENT – HB 116, Opioid Workgroup/ Del. Barron
This bipartisan legislation puts Maryland on track to offer full medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to inmates suffering from opiate use disorder in all local jail by 2023. After release, inmates suffering from opiate use disorder are 10 times more likely to overdose than the general public.
Starting in 2020, four counties (Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s) will begin MAT at local jails. By 2021, six more counties will be required to start programs, and by 2023 the entire state will offer MAT in local jails. House Bill 116 ensures inmates have a behavioral health screening and all FDA approved medications available for treatment.
REDUCING SOLITARY CONFINEMENT -- HB 1001, Del. J. Lewis
This overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation passed by both chambers, says 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. If a minor is sent to solitary confinement, they will be guaranteed daily mental health assessments, and other basic rights such as: phone calls, mail, visitation, and recreation. This bill also significantly increases the information jails are required to report on solitary confinement.
REPORTING POLICE USE OF MILITARY GRADE EQUIPMENT -- HB 138, Del. Moon
This legislation as passed by both chambers, requires police departments to disclose the acquisition of military grade equipment from the federal government. This bill also requires the Department of State Police to display a link on their website to view military equipment acquisition in the state.
JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM COUNCIL -- HB 606, Chairman Clippinger
This bill as passed by the House and Senate, establishes the Juvenile Justice Reform Council. Among other duties, the council must use a data-driven approach to develop a statewide framework of policies to invest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism of youth offenders. Areas of concentration include: juvenile justice policy reform, advocating for groups with disproportionate contact with the 8 juvenile justice and criminal justice systems, advocating for victims of crime, and restorative justice;
PUBLIC SAFETY & GUNS
BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR PRIVATE LONG GUN SALES – HB 786, Del. Atterbeary
This legislation as amended closes a loophole in the background check process for long gun (rifle and shotgun) transfers by requiring a licensed firearms dealer to facilitate a private long gun sale.
House Bill 786 will result in tens of thousands of additional background checks conducted and ensure each and every transaction is properly vetted. The bill does not include transfers between immediate family members, antique firearm collectors, or hunting as long as the owner of the firearm is present. This bill passed the House but was not ultimately enrolled.
BAN 3D GUNS – HB 740, Del. Dumais
Passed by the House, This bill bans the creation, sale, or possession of 3D printed guns. 3D guns circumvent every aspect of Maryland’s firearm laws, including background checks, license requirements, and are entirely untraceable. As technology advances, it is crucial that we update our laws to ensure public safety.
House Bill 740 also requires the State Police to create a plan for a system to register untraceable ‘ghost guns’ which can be sold in kits of loose parts and do not have a serial number. Unfortunately the Senate did not ultimately vote on the bill.
ELIMINATE HANDGUN REVIEW BOARD – HB 1343
Last session, the General Assembly passed legislation to bring more transparency to the Governor’s Handgun Permit Review Board. Since the start of his administration, Governor Hogan’s political appointees have overturned State Police decisions and issued concealed carry permits at a record rate.
This legislation will disband the Handgun Review Board, and send appeals of rejected concealed carry permits to the Office of Administrative Hearings. We trust in the State Police’s ability to determine who should be allowed to wear and carry a handgun – not a board of political appointees.
SEXUAL ASSAULT EVIDENCE KITS – HB 1096, Del. Hettleman
This bill protects victims of sexual assault by requiring rape kits to be counted and tested. It requires law enforcement to submit a rape kit to a forensic laboratory within 30 days and must be processed at the laboratory as soon as possible. It also establishes an independent review process for any rejected evidence kit.
CYBER BULLYING (GRACE’S LAW 2.0) – HB 181, Del. Cardin
As the use of social media continues to influence and shape the lives of children, bullying and harassment online has become a serious issue. House Bill 181 improves the first version of Grace’s Law by increasing the potential maximum fine from $500 to $10,000, and from one year in jail to three. If a child commits suicide due to cyberbullying, the bully can now be sentenced up to 10 years in jail.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING - HB 871, Del. Pippy
The amended version of this bill passed the committee unanimously. This bill expands prohibitions on sex trafficking, and renames human trafficking to sex trafficking. It would make this offense a felony to further deter sex trafficking.
TOBACCO 21 – HB 1169, Chairman Davis
This bill, a priority of the Legislative Black Caucus, will ban retailers from selling a tobacco product to anyone under the age of 21 and requires retailers to post this age restriction in their stores. This will help to keep these addictive products out of high schools, and reduce teen smoking and addiction.
At current smoking rates, roughly 92,000 kids now under 18 years old in Maryland will die prematurely from smoking. 7,500 people in Maryland die due to smoking annually and it causes roughly 27 percent of all cancer deaths in the state. Further, tobacco costs Maryland about $2.71 billion annually in health care costs. By reducing teens’ access to smoking, we reduce addiction rates, reduce premature deaths, and reduce associated healthcare costs.
BUDGET FISCAL YEAR 2020
Fund balance of $118.2 million
$26 million structural surplus for fiscal 2020
$1.1 billion in the Rainy Day fund
State support for public schools total a record $7.0 billion
Direct aid to local school systems will increase an estimated $435.2 million, or by 7.5%
At least $255 million for Kirwan
$500 million in the operating budget for school construction
The budget plan also directs the Governor to process a budget amendment adding $150.3 million of special funds earmarked for education to implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission
State support for Maryland’s public four year colleges grows by $110.7 million (7.3%) allowing for a tuition increase of only 2%
Final Kirwan Deal in Budget
$31.7 million for Full day preK for 4 year olds
$65.5 million for Special Education grants
$54.6 million for Concentration of Poverty Grants
$75 million for Teacher Salary Incentive Grants
$23 million for Transitional Supplemental Grants
$2 million for Mental Health Coordinators for Each Local School System
$2.5 million for Teacher Collaboratives
$300,000 for Outreach and Training
$500,000 for MSDE IT System
Total: $255 million
Medicaid funding totals $11.2 billion, allowing the State provided coverage to 1.4 million residents
3.5% rate increase for providers serving the needs of developmentally disabled individuals and people with behavioral health needs
3% rate increase for most other health and human service providers
State Employees and Public Safety
3% general salary increase for state employees
5% salary increase for law enforcement officers
Additional 6% salary increase for correctional officers
$4 million to establish a Rape Kit Testing Grant Fund
REMOVE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON CHILD SEX ABUSE – HB 687, Del. Wilson
As passed by the House, This bipartisan legislation removes the statute of limitations to file a civil suit for victims of child sexual abuse. It also applies retroactively for victims who are currently outside of the statute of limitations (38 or older), allowing them to file suit by October 2021.
Maryland already has no statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse, but this bill will allows victims to file a civil suit at any point, even if criminal charges were never pursued. The Senate did not pass this bill.
GENDER NEUTRAL DRIVER'S LICENSES – HB 421, Del. Love
House Bill 421 allows a person who does not identify as male or female to chooses an “x” designation on their driver’s license. By passing this legislation, Maryland will become the sixth state in the country to allow a gender neutral designation on driver's licenses.
Marylanders who are non-binary, gender non-conforming, or transgender deserve to identify openly in society. Gender designation will be treated like other categories - such as weight and height - where the applicant is not required to submit proof. Additionally, no law enforcement agencies opposed this bill.
WORKPLACE HARASSMENT – HB 679, Workplace Harassment Commission
This bill is another step toward eliminating workplace harassment which was passed unanimously in the House of Delegates. The bill prohibits county, municipal, and state agency government relations employees from engaging in unlawful harassment or discrimination.
FLOOD MITIGATION GRANT PROGRAM – HB 428, Del. C. Watson
This legislation passed the House with a bipartisan majority and expands MDE’s flood grant program to cover damages to infrastructure repairs, watershed restoration, and emergency protection work. The bill increases the annual funding for the flood grant program by $5 million and allows areas that have been hit the hardest by flooding since 2009 to still receive a grant for repairs.
Improvements to 9-1-1 System - HB 397, Del. Krebs
This bill modernizes the 9-1-1 system to make it more effective for Marylanders in crisis by adopting the internet based Next Generation 911 system. This would allow people to send a text message to 9-1-1 in an emergency and send pictures and videos. This will help officers have a better understanding of a situation before arriving, allowing them to be best prepared and equipped. This system will also help improve location accuracy and prevent misrouting of calls.
ELECTRIC CO’S AND GAS CO’S ALT RATE PLANS – HB 653, Chairman Davis
The bill provides legislative intent that if a utility company files an alternative rate plan with the Public Service Commission (PSC) that the Commission finds to be “just and reasonable” that the plan should be approved – instead of rejected without just cause.
Instead of only looking at historical data to set utility rates, the bill allows the PSC to look prospectively when appropriate.
It is not an overhaul of the regulatory process – and the bill does not increase utility rates. It preserves the Commission’s oversight and the ability for customer advocacy groups to fully participate in the rate setting process and includes mechanisms – like the annual “reconciliation” to ensure that customers never overpay.
39 other states, including California, Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania use one or more forms of alternative rate plans (ARPs).
This bill did not get a vote in the Senate.