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.