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Steve's News from Annapolis

2017-02-06

The Maryland legislature has been in session for a little more than three weeks. There are bill hearings being held, votes have been taken on the floor of both the House and Senate, and there are intensified deliberations on the state budget. 

 

Last week, I participated in a press conference which highlighted legislators’ concerns about actions taken by the new President’s Administration. Collectively, we have a great concern about the roll back of consumer protections, the repeal – without replacement – of the Affordable Care Act, the ban on and treatment of immigrants coming to our country, and protecting the health of the Bay.  Legislation is being considered to enable Maryland to act quickly should the well-being of our residents and businesses be put in jeopardy. 

 

The Governor presented his State of the State, striking a positive and bi-partisan tone.  The Governor commented on his most extensive legislative agenda to date, including many issues where I know there will be agreement and cooperation.   

 

Clean Energy Jobs Act 

 

The Clean Energy Jobs Act was passed by the legislature in 2016 but vetoed by the Governor. Last week, both the House and Senate overrode the Governor’s veto so that the bill now is law.  I supported the override. 

 

The new law will increase the use of renewable energy – such as solar, wind and hydroelectric – to 25% by 2020. This advances our state’s overall goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and poor air quality, to address causes of climate change and to facilitate the creation of jobs in the renewable energy industry. As the solar industry expands, hundreds of new clean energy jobs will be created. 

 

The law does not impose a tax. And, while energy ratepayers do not always welcome increases, the non-partisan Department of Legislative Services estimates that when fully implemented, residential customers could see an increase between 48 cents to $1.45 a month.  I care about and will act to protect the ratepayers, but I believe that the benefits outweigh the minimal cost that may result. 

 

Addressing Opioid  and Heroin Abuse and Treatment Needs 

 

We are losing the fight against opioid and heroin addiction in Maryland. Recent reports indicate that many Maryland counties, including Baltimore, have seen the number of overdose deaths nearly double over last year! And, in Baltimore City, the number of deaths from opioid and heroin outnumbers homicides! 

 

Soon after his election, Governor Hogan created a task force and a coordinating council to address this crisis. Again, this year, the Governor has proposed legislation to tackle the problem. The Maryland General Assembly also has a number of pieces of legislation and proposals to address these addictions and overdoses.  I do not believe that increasing criminal penalties will get the solutions we need. And, we cannot only focus on countering overdoses with naloxone. We must attack addictions directly and provide the treatment and prevention services that are needed. This will require more funding. We need to look at the medications that are prescribed and how to better ensure that those who are treated with opioids for their pain do not become addicted as a result. 

 

I look forward to the discussions between the legislature and the Governor so we can, together, stem addiction and pain. 

 

A Ban on Fracking? 

 

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a process of drilling for oil and gas that goes vertically into the earth and then horizontally. Using a mix of sand, chemicals and water, the underground shale is fractured so that the fossil fuels can be released. It has been, and currently is being, used in many states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia. 

 

Approximately six years ago, a commission was created to examine the benefits and impacts of fracking in western Maryland.  While the Commission reported in 2013 that such drilling could be done safely, the legislature remained skeptical because of the uncertainty of the impact on public health. Therefore, we put a two year moratorium in place in 2015 in order to determine whether the public health implications warranted any further halt to this process 

 

This year, bills have been introduced to ban fracking. No hearing has been set in my committee, Environment and Transportation, yet.  However, from the information and research I have received, I believe a ban would be appropriate due to negative impacts on public health, the economy and the environment, particularly on potable water.  

  

In conclusion, I want to mention two matters that relate to actions and potential actions by the new President. 

 

Since November 1, 2016, almost 158,000 Marylanders enrolled in private health coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace and another 343,500 enrolled in Medicaid.  This demonstrates, to me, that Marylanders want health insurance and that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a comprehensive replacement could be devastating people throughout Maryland. Data indicates that this would be particularly harmful to those living in the rural parts of the state.  The legislature is committed to monitoring the potential changes and to developing strategies to protect health care in Maryland. 

 

Towson University, as a part of the University System of Maryland, has hundreds of international students and faculty scholars from more than 80 countries. The series of executive orders from the President regarding immigration and immigration status has raised anxieties and concerns about those orders at Towson and at other academic institutions and their students, staff and faculty. 

 

I want to applaud the University System of Maryland for affirming its commitment to providing support and guidance for those who are on its campuses while complying with federal and state laws and regulations. This guidance will not permit immigration enforcement authorities to enter the campus for an enforcement action or to examine any records without a warrant or subpoena and directs the universities not to ask the immigration status of those on campus.     

 

If you are interested in particular issues or want more information on bills that we will be considering, please visit the legislature’s web site at www.mgaleg.maryland.gov. I can also be reached at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us or at 410-841-3487. 

 

Best wishes, 

Steve 

Contact Steve

Contact Delegate Lafferty
By Phone: 410-841-3487
By Email: stephen.lafferty@house.state.md.us

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By Phone: 410-377-4521
By Email: lafferty@delegatelafferty.com

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