Gov. Hogan signs Del. Lopez's first bill

House Bill 1027 makes it possible for state law enforcement to pursue predators who possess child porn in digital formats and that contains images of sexual conduct that does not involve physical or sexual contact with the victim. Currently, Maryland ranks among the most lax states in terms of child porn laws, but this legislation empowers our police and states attorneys to go after predators who could have only be pursued by federal authorities at this point.  

My first job in broadcasting was as a production assistant for America’s Most Wanted in Bethesda, and the many emotional stories I heard there are forever seared into my memory. Not only is the trauma from abuse and exploitation horrific, so is the fact that survivors have to live with knowing their abuser went free because of loopholes in the law. I’m glad to have partnered with some great allies like the Maryland State Attorneys Assoc. and MCASA to lead this change.

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5/9 GAME OF THRONES TRIVIA NIGHT 🐉 🐉🐉

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Join Lesley Lopez, First of her Name, Delegate for D39, Member of the Judiciary Committee, Passer of Bills, Fighter for Progressive Values, Mother of Rescue Dogs, and host Andy Michaels, for a night of Game of Thrones trivia at Flanagan's Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda (4844 Cordell Ave).

The Welcome Reception will begin at 6:30pm and trivia will kick off at 7:00pm sharp.

Come with a team or join one there. Prizes will be awarded for winners of each round and for best costume.

Get your advance tickets here for $25 per person for trivia, with any additional host contributions deeply appreciated. Price will go up at the door

Host Levels
$100- Hodor
$250- Brienne of Tarth
$500- Three-Eyed Raven
$1000- Eddard Stark

TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

New Voter Day event on 5/18! Come meet your local electeds and learn what we can do for you.

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and it can be quite overwhelming if not armed with all the necessary information.  For this reason, I am hosting New Voter Day with U.S. Rep. David Trone, Councilmember Craig Rice, State Sen. Nancy King, and nonpartisan organizations.

I’m joining your representatives from other levels of state, local and federal government, to introduce ourselves and share what our responsibilities to you are. We have a duty to you as a voter and constituent to help address issues you might experience. This event will help clarify “who does what” and who to contact when you have a problem.  

We will also be joined by the State Board of Elections and the League of Women of Voters to answer any questions about voting. They will also register anyone who wants to become a voter on the spot, so please bring your friends and family.

What: New Voter Day

When: May 18th, 2019 at 11:30 am-12:30 pm

Where: Upcounty Regional Center, 12900 Middlebrook Road, Germantown, MD 20874

Speakers: Congressman David Trone- Congressional District 6 (Federal Government)

Senator Nancy King- Montgomery County, Legislative District 39 (State Government)

Delegate Lesley Lopez- Montgomery County, Legislative District 39 (State Government)

County Councilman Craig Rice- Montgomery County (County/ Local Government)

Hope to see you there!

Del. Lesley Lopez, District 39


And the 2019 Session is in the books!

Hard to believe my first session as a legislator is finished and that work for the next is on its way! It’s been such an amazing experience to learn from seasoned lawmakers and I’m very proud of the progress we’ve already made.

Thank you for every email, letter and call to my office! This feedback is critical to our work to represent the interests of the people of District 39. This session I introduced four original bills and one bond initiative to bring funding for a project in district. Two of those bills will be signed into law and we successfully secured the bond funds! I also co-sponsored 80 other bills that I lent my support to other lawmakers.

Here’s a round up of what I worked on and what the General Assembly achieved this session.

Primary sponsored bills:

HB 343- School Bus Monitoring Cameras — Sunset Repeal — Passed and will be signed into law!

Under the current law, a vehicle caught on camera passing a stopped school bus could be fined up to $250. On June 30, however, this law will expire and school children will be vulnerable yet again. This bill makes the penalty permanent and seeks to protect all students traveling to and from school. Getting an education should be the safest part of a student’s day, whether they are in the classroom or simply on their way. I’m very proud to partner with Senator King and see this bill signed into law!

HB 1027- Criminal Law- Child Pornography- Passed and will be signed into law!

It is hard to believe that our great state has some of the most lax laws in relation to child pornography. In fact, Maryland ranks in the bottom 13 states in this regard. This bill aimed to strengthen our current child porn laws by elevating them to the federal standard. Specifically, we fought to include the phrase “lascivious exhibition” to the definition of what constitutes sexual conduct. Lascivious exhibition essentially involves a sexual act or exhibition that does not involve actual physical or sexual contact with the victim. The bill expands the prohibition against possession of child pornography of the Criminal Law Article by prohibiting the knowing possession and intentional retention of a computer-generated image that is “indistinguishable from an actual child younger than age 16.

HB 226- Food Stamp Program-Minimum Benefit for Disabled- State Supplement

Currently, the disabled in our state can receive as little as $15 per month in food assistance. In comparison, the USDA reports that the average monthly grocery bill is around $300 per adult. This bill requires the state to ensure that all disabled individuals who receive federally funded benefits (such as Social Security or Veterans benefits) are eligible for a minimum benefit of $30 per month. The elderly (62 years and older) already receive the $30 minimum, which was made possible in a 2016 bill. I believe there should be parity in the law. Unfortunately, HB 226 did not progress with a favorable vote but, that does not mean that I will give up trying. I plan on working on reducing the cost to administer the legislation and re-introducing it next session.

HB 699-Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission- Training Requirements- Hate Crimes

Hate crimes in Maryland have increased by 79 percent from 2016 to 2017 and so, we need our state’s law enforcement to have the proper training to address this new reality. HB 699 requires the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to include (as part of entrance-level and in-service level police training conducted by the State and each county and municipal police training school) special training about the enforcement and reporting of hate crimes and the appropriate treatment of hate crime victims. A patchwork of standards for policing and reporting, which is what we currently have, simply does not serve Maryland’s diverse communities. When each county makes up it’s own rules about how to treat hate crimes, areas with stricter reporting standards appear to have high frequency of hate crimes, and those with no standards have none to report. This is why I felt the need to push for this bill. Being that we have such a diverse district, I want to do as much as possible to make sure that our peace officers can identify and properly respond to hate crimes. Unfortunately, this bill remained stuck in committee, but I will work on reintroducing it next session.

Working Group on Guns:

This session I had the rare opportunity as a freshman to chair a working group on several priority bills on firearms. Specifically, HB 740 bans the creation, sale, or possession of 3D printed guns. 3D guns circumvent every aspect of Maryland’s firearm laws, including background checks, license and training 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.

My working group also amended HB 786 to close 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 sales. House Bill 786 will result in tens of thousands of additional background checks conducted and ensure each and every gun transaction is properly vetted. Unfortunately, despite our hard work to introduce bipartisan bills that passed in the House, both bills failed in the Senate.

The full 2019 summary

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 comprehensive list of the General Assembly’s bills and where things stand.


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VETO OVERRIDES

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.

EDUCATION

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.

HEALTHCARE

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.

ENVIRONMENT

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.

PUBLIC HEALTH

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

Operating Budget

  • Financial Responsibility

  • Fund balance of $118.2 million

  • $26 million structural surplus for fiscal 2020

  • $1.1 billion in the Rainy Day fund

Education

  • 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

Healthcare

  • 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

MISCELLANEOUS

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.



Five more weeks to go

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Five more weeks of legislative session in Annapolis to go! It's been a whirlwind (in fact, last Monday alone we had an 18-hour hearing on gun bills), and I'm really proud of the progress our D39 Annapolis team has made. 

Here’s a quick update on the four bills I introduced this session and a list of the ones I cosponsored:

H.B 0226- Increases the minimum food stamp benefit for those on disability from $15 to $30 per month, which is the allotment that seniors and people on social security currently receive. Presented to Appropriations in January, along with leaders in the disability rights community and the fight against hunger, awaiting vote from subcommittee.

H.B 0343- Makes the fine for driving around a stopped bus permanent.  PASSED COMMITTEE ALMOST UNANIMOUSLY

H.B 1027- Sets entrance-level and in-service police training standards for all Maryland law enforcement to include the criminal laws concerning hate crimes, the treatment of victims of hate crimes, and the proper procedures for reporting hate crime. TESTIFIED IN JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ON 2/26, WAITING TO HEAR ON SUBCOMMITTEE.


H.B 1027- Strengthens our state’s laws against child pornography to be just as strong as the federal law. HEARING ON MARCH 6 (WISH ME LUCK!)

Offering the Morning Prayer on the House Floor

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This morning, I had my first opportunity to formally speak on the floor and I choose to share a message about the importance of inclusiveness and empowerment. We often throw around the term “diversity,” but simply acknowledging differences rings hollow if not coupled with the action of inclusion and engagement. So today in that spirit, I offered this prayer written collectively by our district faith leaders: by Rabbi Charles Arian of Kehilot Shalom, Imam of the Islamic Center of Germantown Amman Najjar, and the pastoral staff of the Covenant Methodist church.

Colleagues, Thank you allowing me to join with you in fellowship this morning.

Please bow your heads.

God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country — for its government, and for all who exercise just authority.

Creator of all flesh, bless all the inhabitants of our country with Your spirit. May all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony, to banish hatred and bigotry, and to safeguard the true ideals and free institutions that are the pride of our country.

God of all yesterdays and all tomorrows, today we are reminded that you made us all from the same colorless clay and you intentionally made us all different. Not to incite dischord, but to give us the opportunity to learn from each other.

“God of many colors and many signs, as the old ways disappear and we extend our hands to forge new unions, let your love cast out our fears and renew our hope as we strive to be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom. And let us say, Amen.


We’re starting our fourth week of session and things are heating up!

Within a few days of swearing in, I cosponsored my first bill, which gives all sexual assault survivors the opportunity to file a restraining order against their attacker, and even introduced a bill of my own! This legislation — a direct result of feedback in the community — provides those who are disabled with eligibility for at least $30 in food stamps each month.

I’ve got three more bills in the works this session too, that aim to:
- Strengthen Maryland’s weak child pornography laws to be as tough as those at the federal level.
- Keep children safe by creating a permanent fine for driving around a stopped school bus. 
-Train all Maryland’s police to identify and properly respond to hate crimes.

The hearing for the disability bill is on Feb. 5, and we’ll send out some ways for you to support the legislation next week. Stay tuned!

Thanks for your support,
Lesley

PS- I’d love to hear your insights on what legislation we should be working on in Annapolis and about what’s happening in your neighborhood. My official email (Lesley.Lopez@house.state.md.us) is working now, so drop me a line.

PPS- Check out some of the press clips (!!) about our work.

Washington Post included me in an article about several young women who were starting as leaders in Annapolis. It’s an honor to be featured along side the youngest Senator ever elected Sarah Elferth and my Emerge sister Wanika Fisher. These ladies inspire me everyday.

Master of her Craft podcast, hosted by the phenomenal Colette Breyer, asked me ahow being from a military family taught me about public service. In short, it taught me everything!

I was proud to stand with several legislators against a gas pipeline through the western region of our state and also urge the Metro to restore regular hours so that up county residents can have full access to public transit. Team work makes the dream work!