After 90 days of work, there are far more issues and bills that were passed and defeated. This is part 2 of the 2-part update just touching on most of the issues that were hot this year.
Environmental issues & Energy Your electric bill is going UP! The environmental advocates pushed the so-called Clean Energy Jobs bill in Annapolis. This bill will drive up the cost of your electric bill by mandating that Maryland generate 50% of our power by renewable resources by 2030. Family bills will increase by an estimated $500 per year or more. We are committed to improving our environment but not on the backs of seniors on a fixed income and the working poor who cannot afford it.
Transource Power Line Hearing: There is a major high voltage power line project proposed for Northern Harford County. If you are interested in attending a hearing by the Maryland Public Service Commission, it is being held on April 27th, 11 AM to about 6 PM at North Harford High School. For more information, check our Facebook pages or call our offices.
Styrofoam Ban: Maryland is the first state in our nation to ban Styrofoam cups and to-go containers that comprise about 3% of the total Styrofoam waste. I introduced an amendment to this bill that would have established a Styrofoam recycling program for the packaging materials that make-up about 90% of the Styrofoam in the waste stream, including those slabs of Styrofoam that are used to pack TVs and electronics. The recycling program was rejected even though there are Maryland companies working on it today! Banning Styrofoam cups and to-go containers is a feel-good policy that will have minimal impact on the environment, so I voted against this bill. Finally, the paper products that will be replacing the banned Styrofoam are NOT recyclable. They have a plastic coating on them that prohibits them from being recycled. They also will NEVER break down in a landfill.
Health Care and Opioids Healthcare needs to be affordable and accessible, yet the Affordable Care Act has not accomplished those goals. I voted for HB 814, a bill that ensures that illegal immigrants cannot get health insurance on the Health Exchange. HB 814 also provides that people with pre-existing conditions will continue to get health insurance and that parents can keep their kids insured until they are 26. A reinsurance program we passed last year for people on the Health Exchange is helping to reduce insurance costs, and I voted for the continuation of that successful program.
The Prescription Drug Affordability Board bill, HB768, received a lot of publicity. The lobbyist for this bill spent upwards of $1 million advertising and advocating for it! We all know that prescription drugs cost too much and we must find a way to protect patients who need essential drugs. However, socialist price controls or price fixing does not work. It will only stop drugs from being sold in Maryland, which could leave many people unable to get their medications at all. It may even be unconstitutional. I voted against HB 768.
Harford County did receive funding from the state to help complete their new Upper Chesapeake Crisis Center in Bel Air. This will help support families in acute crisis with Opioid Addiction and other mental health-related issues.
University of Maryland Medical System & Healthy Holly A vital success of the 2019 legislative session is the bi-partisan passage of legislation to audit and reform the UMMS Board. The daily headlines continue with stories of apparent self-dealing by Mayor Pugh and other members of the Board. The story continues to unfold, but it seems as though Healthy Holly may have been the tip of an enormous iceberg. It certainly looks like cronyism and political kickbacks. I have been among others who are calling for Mayor Pugh’s resignation. Baltimore City has enough troubles with crime and other problems to have their Mayor embroiled in corruption and ethics charges.
Senior Citizens I continue to advocate for tax cuts for our seniors to make sure that Maryland is a competitive state for retirement. Unfortunately, none of the bills we submitted made it through. Maryland’s tax structure is pushing our aging populations to surrounding states with more friendly retirement tax codes. Let’s keep our grandparents in Maryland!
Minimum Wage The debate surrounding the minimum wage is often framed as a fight between those who care about workers and those who do not. The reality is far more complicated than that. I firmly believe this legislation will harm the very people it is designed to help.
We all want people to make more money, allowing them to provide for their families and achieve their goals. However, we face a harsh reality that with this forced wage increase jobs will disappear, either because businesses reduce their number of employees to stay afloat, relocate to another state, or close altogether. Higher wages do not matter if the jobs themselves disappear.
I voted against the bill and supported Governor Hogan’s veto. In response to the pending increase in the minimum wage, a movie theatre in Frederick County announced they are closing their doors. Automation and technology will take away entry-level jobs when the $15/hour is fully implemented.
Firearms SB 346 criminalized knowingly “loaning” a regulated firearm to various people. The original bill would have criminalized vast amounts of innocent conduct, but as enacted the legislation is a win for common sense. NRA, MSI and other advocates count the passed version as a big win. I still opposed the bill, as the majority party refuses to increase the penalties for illegal use of a gun and continue to seek to find ways to penalize lawful gun owners.
SB 1000 abolished the Handgun Permit Review Board, thus ending civilian oversight of the Maryland State Police (MSP) for decisions made on Wear and Carry Permit denials and permit modifications. If denied by the MSP, an applicant or permit holder must appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings at considerable cost. This was a clear attack on both the Governor’s power and our Second Amendment Rights.
Passing more laws that impact lawful firearms owners will have no impact on illegal gun crimes. Criminals will not follow any new laws. The House GOP introduced two measures that would have made a significant impact on illegal firearms. It’s astonishing that stealing a firearm is only a misdemeanor! One amendment would have made it a felony to steam a firearm. The second amendment would have imposed a mandatory sentence for repeat illegal gun crimes. Both measures were defeated along political party lines.
Fighting for Life I opposed the Assisted Suicide legislation. Fortunately, it was defeated on the floor of the Senate. We must protect vulnerable seniors from coercion at the end of their lives that is so often seen in places that allow this. The number one reason given for desiring assisted suicide is feeling like a burden to loved ones. No one should feel forced to take his or her own life out of guilt, shame, or coercion. We should be expanding palliative care options to help those suffering at the end of life.
In reaction to a Trump Administration rule to deny Title X federal funding for clinics providing abortion referrals, the General Assembly passed a bill to reject federal funds if Planned Parenthood is not permitted to take those monies and instead force Maryland taxpayers to fund Planned Parenthood. There are 93 women’s health centers around the state and only 10 Planned Parenthood centers. More women would get health care services if the money was sent to other providers rather than selecting only Planned Parenthood. I also did not support this legislation because I oppose the taxpayer funding of abortions.
Alcohol and brewery legislation I am proud to have supported successful legislation to allow local craft breweries to operate more freely in Maryland. Additionally, I introduced a bill to allow Baltimore County packaged liquor stores to open on Sundays if they desire. The Sunday sales bill did not pass, but we will bring it back against next year.
Local Priorities Together, I worked with Delegate Lauren Arikan from my district to pass legislation to help Boordy Vineyards and other agritourism projects. Boordy will be able to undertake a significant project on the big barn soon thanks to the passage of this bill. Additionally, we were able to get a $250,000 matching grant for the renovation of the historic stone bank barn at Jerusalem Mills on the Baltimore-Harford County line. Our rural communities and farms are a priority, and I will continue to help with historic preservation and the Farm Bureau’s priorities.