Issues Update - June 2011
I am pleased to report to Howard County citizens some of my achievements in Annapolis. The efforts of my work, as well as Team 13, Senator James Robey and Delegates Guy Guzzone, and Frank S. Turner, and the County Executive, have resulted in increased resources that will benefit our entire community. Please note: Underlined bill numbers will link you to internet information for the bills. A more detailed summary of the session can be found on the legislative web site in the 2011 Legislative Wrap-Up or the 2011 90 Day Report.
HB 784/SB 723, sponsored by Delegate Pendergrass, increases the privacy protections for citizens’ medical information in electronic Health Information Exchanges.
HB 1182, sponsored by Delegate Pendergrass,limits angioplasty procedures to hospitals that have been approved to perform them. It enables the Maryland Health Care Commission to develop an approval process based on new research, so that no unsafe facilities will opened in the intervening time period.
This year’s budget, HB 70, contains a $5.8 billion investment in K-12 educational aid for teachers, textbooks and other important educational needs so that Maryland can retain its ranking as the best educational system in the nation (for the THIRD consecutive year). The budget also includes $9 million to hold in-state undergraduate tuition growth to 3% at the University of Maryland and $5 million to keep Community Colleges affordable. The Capital Budget, HB 71/SB 86, funds over $297.5 million for school construction and renovation, so our children can study in an environment supportive of learning.
HB 858/SB 771 requires concussion awareness programs for coaches, school personnel, and student athletes.
SB 679 authorizes county schools to place cameras on school buses to record motor vehicles committing violations relating to overtaking and passing school vehicles.
SB 695 increases regulations on For-Profit Higher Educational Institutions to prevent unfair or deceptive practices concerning course credit or other educational services.
HB 166/SB 182 and HB 170/SB 183 approves a framework for a new online marketplace allowing Marylanders to compare and choose Health Insurance in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. When complete in 2014, this federal program will extend health insurance to 350,000 Marylanders and save the state approximately $800 million over ten years.
HB 291/SB 308 establishes a work group to study the medical benefits of marijuana and allows for an affirmative-defense option for sick people already using the drug.
HB 1229/SB 883 establishes the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of specified drugs which are frequently abused in Maryland. States which have this program have found a significant decrease in prescription drug abuse.
HB 1213/SB 994 adds $15 million during FY12 to help people with developmental disabilities by raising the state tax on alcohol. In addition, money will be used for school construction, $4 million of which will go directly to Howard County Schools.
HB 573/SB 487 establishes maximum limits for nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer to reduce pollution in the Bay.
A number of bills tighten and clarify the scope of the State’s responsibilities related to aquaculture activities to protect the Chesapeake Bay including enhanced penalties for illegally poaching rockfish, crabs (HB 1154/SB 635, HB 1252 and HB 1225/SB 655), or oysters (HB 273/SB 159).
HB 162/SB 178 establishes child neglect as a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
HB 345/SB 299 adds human trafficking to the list of crimes for which evidence may be gathered through the interception of oral, wire, or electronic communications. HB 674 requires the Maryland State Department of Education to increase educational materials and information on Human Trafficking. HB 266/SB 327 vacates a judgment of prostitution if the crime was due to human trafficking.
HB 510 strengthens Maryland’s harassment and stalking law.
HB 1276/SB 803 requires the following drivers to participate in the state’s ignition-interlock program: any Maryland driver under 21 with any alcohol in their blood; anyone pulled over for drunk driving who refuses a breathalyzer test; anyone with a blood alcohol content of .15 or more; or anyone convicted of a second drunk-driving offense. HB 363 creates a new crime of misdemeanor manslaughter for criminally negligent operators of cars, trains, or boats who cause the death of another person. Violators may receive 3 yrs in prison and/or a $5000 fine. HB 196/SB 424 prohibits both writing and reading text messages while driving.
HB 70 balances the Maryland budget as mandated by our State Constitution. It establishes a $34.1 billion State operating budget and contains reductions of $616 million, including $319.8 million in reductions that are contingent upon HB 72, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2011 (BRFA). Together the budget and BRFA reduce the State’s projected future year short fall by 42%. Maryland still retains its AAA bond rating, one of only 8 states in the nation to do so. In addition, Maryland has over $650 million in its rainy day fund and is one of only 4 states that has not raided its rainy-day fund to balance the budget. The budget includes pension reform for state workers and retirees. Although not as severe as first proposed by the Governor, the state pension and medical plans were modified to ensure the long term sustainability of the state system, including preserving a defined benefit plan. The legislature rejected recommendations to permanently divert Program Open Space funding, and instead allocated $36.5 million for land conservation programs.
A variety of animal related bills passed. HB 227/SB 115 authorizes a court to prohibit a defendant convicted of animal abuse from possessing or residing with an animal. HB 339/SB 639 establishes a task force to study a statewide spay/neuter program. HB 407/SB 747 authorizes protective orders for pets. HB 897 adds a bittering agent to antifreeze so that animals are less likely to drink it and die. HB 940/SB 839 adds requirements to kennels in order to regulate puppy mills. HB 941 allows dogs in outdoor portions of restaurants that choose to allow them.
HB 87/SB 132 prohibits employers from using an applicant’s or employee’s credit report or credit history in determining whether to deny employment to the applicant, discharge the employee, or determine the employee’s compensation unless the credit history is relevant to the job.
HB 529/SB 718 allows phone companies to stop delivery of White Pages to customers’ homes unless they request it. Phone number listings will be available on a CD ROM free of charge. Yellow Pages will continue to be delivered.
HB 671/SB 820 shifts the Maryland gubernatorial primary election to the last Tuesday in June and moves the Presidential primary election to the first Tuesday in April to comply with federal law.
HB 1175 allows all wineries to ship wine to Maryland citizens. Residents can receive up to 18 cases per year and will have to be 21 and show proof of age to the package carrier. Maryland sales and excise taxes will be collected.