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Steve's News from Annapolis

2017-03-05

During the time that I have served in the legislature, I have learned that there are many highs and lows at this time of the Session. We are nearly two-thirds of the way through, and this year is no exception. The legislative process can be protracted as competing points of view and concerns need to be reconciled. This is not always easy and can lead to heated debates as we have seen in the past couple of weeks.

Joint Ethics Committee Reprimand of Del. Dan Morhaim

The legislature addressed one of our most difficult responsibilities - ensuring that our members adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct while performing our duties as legislators. In response to a complaint last October, the legislative Joint Ethics Committee, comprised of Senate and House Democrats and Republicans, investigated the facts and circumstances to determine whether Del. Dan Morhaim violated public ethics laws.

Del. Morhaim has been a leading advocate for legalization of medical cannabis for many years. He is highly regarded for his work on this issue. The complaint asserted that, subsequent to the passage of laws allowing medical cannabis and the process for awarding licenses to growers, processors and dispensaries, Del. Morhaim was retained as a consultant for an applicant. At the same time, in his legislative capacity, he continued to actively push the Cannabis Commission to make changes in the way licenses would be awarded.

The Joint Ethics Committee, after months of investigation and deliberation, determined that Del. Morhaim did not break any laws but that his “actions were improper because they were contrary to the principles of the ethical standards” applicable to legislators. As a result, the House of Delegates approved a Joint Resolution reprimanding Del. Morhaim, expressing our disapproval of his actions. Del. Morhaim was also requested to make a public apology, which he did by a letter, to acknowledge and express regret for his conduct and the disrepute and dishonor he brought to the members of the Maryland General Assembly.

For me, it was a very sad and gut wrenching day because one of our members breached the public’s faith and confidence in all of us by his improper actions.

Healthy Working Families Act

Last Friday, the House of Delegates passed HB 1 that will provide sick and safe leave for nearly 700,000 people in Maryland. It will require companies with 15 or more employees to provide up to 56 hours (equivalent of 7 days) of paid sick time each year. Part-time workers will earn 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours worked unless that person is a minor, works less than 90 days in a year or less than 8 hours a week. Companies with fewer than 15 employees must provide unpaid sick leave.

I supported this bill as an appropriate way to better ensure that workers, often those with low hourly wages, can take care of themselves and not go to work sick. Home health care workers, food service workers and thousands of other employees should not have to choose whether to

stay home and get well or to carry the illness or disease into the workplace and possibly infect others or make them sick.

An employee would be able to use sick days to recover from an illness, care for another sick person or to seek preventative care. Days could also be used as safe days to obtain treatment or seek assistance for one self or a family member in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Fracking

On Friday evening, the House Environment and Transpiration Committee voted favorably to ban fracking in Maryland! We had extensive debate about whether a ban or moratorium was more appropriate. With a bi-partisan vote of 18-4, the bill now goes to the full House for further debate. I am proud to have supported this effort based on environmental, economic and public health reasons.

The role and potential dangers of fracking have been studied for more than six years in the legislature. This has afforded me the opportunity to talk with and listen to dozens of people and to better understand the technique and the impacts it has. Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling into the arth and then drilling horizontally using water, sand and a chemical cocktail to explode the shale and release the gas. Of these chemicals over 1,000 have been identified as potential water or air pollutants, with over 80% of them being untested as carcinogens . The release of natural gas includes the highly potent greenhouse gas, methane, and other toxic hydro carbons. These gases and chemicals can potentially leak into the surrounding drinking water and soil and have been linked to well contamination.

There are also numerous public health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. Exposure to air and water contaminated with the toxins around drilling sites according to studies conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other Institutions to have a significant correlation with premature births, high-risk pregnancies, mild to severe asthma, migraines, fatigue, and varying chronic sinus diseases. Recent research has also found links to cancer, cardiac and neurological conditions, damage to organ systems, and endocrine disruption.

Now is the time to ban fracking in Maryland.

Keep the Door Open Act

HB 580 requires funding and rate adjustments for community providers that serve people with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. Reimbursement rates would be indexed to medical inflation in order to stabilize community based facilities so they can “keep their doors open” for patients. Across the state, there are waiting lists for access to behavioral health services. It is vital to retain and hire skilled and competent providers. HB 580 will address a critical shortcoming in the way we reimburse the cost of providing behavioral health services and enable more people to be served.

Leadership Workshops for Youth

Leadership Maryland is offering leadership workshops for Maryland Middle and High School students. These weeklong summer camps offer creative and interactive workshops, hands on leadership opportunities and personal coaching. In addition to team building games, fun activities are designed to help youth build leadership and social skills. Maryland Leadership Workshops is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that is a State Aided Institution through the Maryland State Department of Education. More information and applications can be found at www.mlw.org

Delegate Lafferty Scholarship Opportunities

Once again this year, the application for a 2017-18 Delegate Scholarship are available on my web site: www.delegatelafferty.com. In order to be eligible for these scholarship funds, one must live in District 42A and be enrolled in, or planning to attend, a Maryland two-year or four-year college or university as a full-time or part-time degree seeking student. The deadline for submitting all applications is April 3, 2017. I strongly urge you, or others you may know, to apply for funds to help defray the cost of college. If you have any questions, please contact my office at 410-841-3487.

I greatly appreciate hearing from constituents on the wide range of issues that concern you. I encourage you to continue to share your opinions and positions. I can be reached at 410-841-3487 or at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us.

Best wishes,

Steve

Contact Steve

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

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

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