Issues Update - May 2007
Wrap-up – What matters to you?
I am pleased to report to Howard County citizens some of my achievements in Annapolis. The efforts of my work, as well as the Howard County Delegation (which I chair), and the County Executive have resulted in increased resources that will benefit our entire community. The following are some of our successes
Education - This year’s budget, HB 50 / SB 55, continues the funding increase for K-12 educational excellence known as Thornton. In addition, the Capital Budget, HB 51 / SB 56, funds a record sum of $400 million for school construction so our children can study in an environment supportive of learning.
Higher Education Tuition – After record tuition hikes at state colleges and universities under the Ehrlich Administration, the Legislature passed HB 134 / SB 108 which freezes tuition at state schools for a second year. The Commission to Develop the Maryland Model for Funding Higher Education is working to find solutions to make higher education affordable for the average family.
Smoking Ban -- Maryland passed HB 359 / SB 91 entitled Clean Indoor Air Act of 2007 which will prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants in Maryland to protect the public and employees from involuntary exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in indoor areas open to the public. All of Maryland’s citizens will now be able to work in a smoke free environment.
Equity in Insurance for Families -- HB 1057 entitled Health Insurance - Equity in Family Coverage requires that dependents up to age 25 be allowed to remain on their parent’s health insurance policies. In addition, this bill will require insurance companies to make available to employers, policies that will cover domestic partners and the children of domestic partners or grandchildren living and supported by grandparents, if the employer chooses to offer that coverage.
Small Group Health Care – HB 579 / SB 427 entitled Health Insurance - Authorization of Additional Products and Small Group Administrative Discounts and Study will enable part time and seasonal workers to purchase limited healthcare benefit policies. In addition, the Maryland Health Care Commission will conduct a study of the comprehensive standard health benefit plan for the small group health insurance market.
Expanding Health Care -- The most important proposal to expand health coverage was HB 754 entitled Children and Working Families Health Care Act of 2007. This bill would have given every child in the state access to health insurance as well as additional low income adults. This initiative was funded by a $1.00 per pack increase in the tobacco tax. Unfortunately, this legislation was held up in Senate committees for further study.
Wellness Incentives – SB 714 / HB 157 authorizes health insurance carriers to provide reasonable incentives to an insured for participation in a bona fide wellness program offered by the carrier.
Jessica’s Law – HB 930 / SB 413 entitled Jessica’s Law – Sexual Offenses – Parole Eligibility and Mandatory Minimum Sentences eliminates the option of parole for child sexual predators.
HB 213 / SB 170 entitled Child Sexual Abuse and Crimes of Violence was also enacted to keep Maryland’s children safe. This bill targets repeat offenders by classifying child sexual abuse as a crime of violence. It requires mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offense, up to a life sentence without parole for the fourth offense.
Identity Theft – HB 117 / SB 52 entitled Consumer Protection - Consumer Reporting Agencies - Security Freezes will allow consumers to place a security freeze on the consumer's credit report. This is a major step in preventing identity theft in Maryland. HB 208 / SB194 entitled Consumer Protection - Personal Information Protection Act will require a business to take special precautions when destroying a customer’s personal information.
Exit Ramp Safety – SB 935, introduced by Senator Jim Robey, establishes a new violation for the failure to stop at a non-functioning traffic control signal when approaching a highway from an expressway exit ramp.
Clean Cars - HB 131 / SB 103 entitled Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 will require every new car sold in Maryland to be more fuel efficient, which will reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions that create air pollution. The new regulations will take effect beginning with the 2011 model year. Motor vehicles contribute over 40% of the state’s air pollution. This bill will have the equivalent environmental impact of taking 190,000 cars off the road.
Green Buildings – SB 332 / HB 942 codify the existing Maryland Green Building Council to make recommendations on the most cost-effective green building technologies the State should consider using.
Solar Energy – SB 595 / HB 1016 add a solar component to the Renewable Portfolio Standard and alter provisions on net energy metering, to accommodate increased use of solar generation in the State.
Stormwater Management – SB 784 / HB 786 require MDE to draft regulations and a model ordinance for implementation of environmental site design to the maximum extent practical, and to evaluate options for a stormwater management fee system.