Stay Informed

Steve's News from Annapolis

2018-02-11

It was another very busy couple of weeks as the legislature’s pace picks up. My committee, Environment and Transportation (E&T), along with the other House Committees had full hearing schedules. This past week, for example, E&T had bill hearings to ban the neurotoxic pesticide Chlorpyrifos and to require a study of air emissions from animal (dairy, cattle, hogs and chickens) feeding operations to determine if there are negative public health impacts. The hearing on these two bills, alone, took over five hours.

The bill filing deadline was this past week. Additionally, the extraordinary number of bills filed exceeded the number that were filed in previous years.

Both the House and Senate acted quickly to pass the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act that will enable the courts to deny parental rights to rapists. The Governor has said he will sign the bill as early as this coming week. The legislature’s priorities came into greater focus, as well. The House of Delegates’ five priorities for this legislative session are:

  • Tax relief for Marylanders
  • Stabilizing the health insurance market
  • Restoring our education system to being the best in the country
  • Addressing the staggering opioid crises
  • Providing more economic opportunities for all workers, including those who need further training and preparation

I will be sharing information about these priorities throughout the Session.

Gaining a Better Understanding of the Health Insurance Market

The House Health and Government Operations Committee (HGO) began an intense examination of the health insurance market and how rates are set in Maryland. With the cost of health insurance premiums soaring and the individual health insurance market barely existing, HGO is considering a number of bills to expand affordable health insurance. Controlling drug costs, changing the factors used in setting rates, creating a fund to help pay for health insurance and the idea of having a single payer system are all on the table. Providing affordable and accessible health care is a complicated issue that will unfold in the coming weeks.

Creating a “Lock Box” for Casino Revenues

When voters approved casino gambling in Maryland, they were told that those revenues would go to education. Casino revenues did go to the education budget but, largely, as a substitute for other, general funds, so the total did not dramatically increase. General Assembly Democrats presented a plan to have Maryland voters decide whether to guarantee that money from casino gambling should benefit public education.

There will be a bill to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot which would mandate that the roughly $500 million in state casino revenues each year goes to education, in addition to the funding already mandated by law. How this can be structured so as to neither raise taxes nor harm other programs will require further discussion and analysis. The work of the Kirwin Commission makes it clear that we need to keep our promise and find ways to increase educational funding.

Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Legislature

The stories and revelations about sexual harassment in the General Assembly workplace were highlighted this past week in a set of recommendations by the Women’s Legislative Caucus. Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker Mike Busch had previously created a Commission to examine this problem.

A Sexual Harassment Workgroup, created by the women’s caucus, devoted numerous hours of research, meeting with experts, discussion and debate. They also heard from individuals who personally experienced sexual harassment in Annapolis. Their work produced twenty-two (22) recommendations to the leadership and a bill, HB 1342, which would:

  • Grant jurisdiction to the State Ethics Commission to receive and investigate complaints by/against lobbyists
  • Propose to make anti-harassment training more frequent and make it subject to the Maryland Public Information Act
  • Require a biennial and confidential climate survey on sexual harassment to help assess the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the workplace
  • Require the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to develop a code of conduct that includes a clear definition of harassment and retaliation and includes consequences for violating the policy, and
  • Require the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to refer formal complaints of sexual harassment to an outside, independent investigator

This bill is an important step for changing the culture in the legislative workplace. Kudos to the leaders of the Women’s Caucus and Workgroup who have laid out a plan and solid recommendations to address sexual harassment.

Banning “Bump Stocks” on Semi-Automatic Weapons

House and Senate Democrats also joined together to oppose the availability of “bump stocks” and other “Rapid Fire Trigger Accessories”. A bump stock was added to the weapon used to massacre over 50 people in Las Vegas. There are technologies that enable a semi-automatic weapon to become an automatic weapon. Since automatic weapons are already illegal in Maryland, this is a small, but important change to our laws to further protect Marylanders against gun violence.

Baltimore County Education Issues

Selecting the Baltimore County School Board

The Baltimore County School Board is currently appointed by the Governor. This will change this year when Baltimore County voters will have the chance to elect Board members! We will be electing seven (7) members – one from each of the Council districts in non-partisan elections. If you are interested, you have until February 27 to file for election. The Towson Flyer has a good description of the process that needs to be followed. Check this link: If you’re considering a run for Board of Education, the time to file is now

Additionally, four (4) members will be appointed by the Governor after going through a county based Nominating Commission. The Commission will make recommendations to the Governor who must choose from that submitted list. The Commission is currently accepting applications for consideration. Applications are due by March 16, 2018. The Commission is required to consider the diversity of the County in its process. Applications can be found at http://www.bcps.org/board/bcsb-nominating-commission.html.

Interim Superintendent White Appeared Before the House Delegation

Verletta White, the Interim Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools met with the County House delegation on Friday, February 9th. She emphasized efforts that she is undertaking to maintain and restore public trust, including ethics training, posting more information about BCPS activities on the web site, and working with the Board to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an outside, independent audit of the processes and procedures used to procure educational technology. This would be more expansive than the one that she previously proposed.

Delegation members posed a number of questions about the system. The primary focus was on discipline in the schools and how BCPS is addressing bullying and other disciplinary issues. She affirmed her commitment to providing a safe learning environment and to protecting students. The Baltimore County House delegation live streams our meetings so you can see her presentation and responses in full by going to the Baltimore County House Delegations Facebook page.

The Need for An Independent, Third Party Audit of Certain Public School Procurement

Last December, Ms. White initiated a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire an independent, third party auditing firm to look at BCPS’ procurement of education technology. I sent a letter to her requesting that she and the Board go beyond the RFP and re-issue an expanded RFP to seek an independent audit of the entire time when Dr. Dallas Dance was Superintendent (2012- 2017).

This expansion is essential since he was indicted for perjury related to his outside income. Furthermore, I asked that a new audit be sought to include interactions between BCPS and education technology vendors and a review of the criteria and processes used to purchase technologies. Ms. White told the Delegation that the Board has established a subcommittee to help develop a more expansive scope than was previously proposed. I asked that she advise us of the dates and deadlines as soon as they are known.

Request for Funds for State Roads in the District

Annually, the County submits a request to the Department of Transportation for various improvements and projects. This year, the County Executive included two of my requests: planning and design for streetscape improvements on Loch Raven Boulevard from Taylor Avenue to the City line; and, a study of the functioning of York Road from Cross Campus Drive to at least Burke/Bosley in order to accommodate pedestrians, bicycles, transit and motorists. We need to have a public process where there can be an open discussion about how this highly congested area can be improved to better serve residents, businesses, the University and general public.

Unfortunately, the Maryland Department of Transportation decided not to fund either project this year.

Wishing the Governor a Speedy Recovery

Governor Larry Hogan was diagnosed with two forms of treatable skin cancer and had several lesions removed from his face and body. It appears that the surgery went well and that none were life threatening. I wish the Governor a quick recovery. It is another reminder that we need to protect ourselves with sun screen!

Please feel free to contact me to share your positions on the issues we will be addressing and let us know if we can be of any assistance.

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

more contact info