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Steve's News from Annapolis


The legislature has just passed the mid-point of our 90 day session.  The hearings, debate and committee deliberations have made the work days very productive but much longer.

This past week, the House of Delegates took the extraordinary action of censuring a member. Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti acknowledged that she had used the racially offensive “N” word in describing part of Prince Georges County. Her language hurt, insulted and outraged the African American members of the legislature. I was shocked, offended and appalled by her actions. As elected leaders, we should be held to a higher standard in our language, behavior and understanding of our diverse communities. Her actions were neither acceptable nor tolerable.  Speaker Mike Busch recognized that her words had damaged the integrity of the House so, he acted swiftly and   removed her from her leadership positions and from her committee and introduced the resolution of censure. It was a somber day for us.

There was one uplifting and remarkable moment on the House floor during the prior week when freshman Delegate, Lilly Qi, stood up to tell us that she had immigrated from China 30 years ago to the day. She went on to say how thrilled and humbled she was to have been elected and to be serving in the House was beyond her wildest dream.  Of course, she received a standing ovation!

The Olszewski Administration Gets Started

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is just wrapping up the Town Hall meetings he has held in all of the County Council districts.  Hundreds of residents have attended to share their thoughts, concerns and wishes with the Executive.

At the same time, the Baltimore County Administration has released two significant documents and received the Baltimore County Public Schools budget proposal. The Olszewski Transition Team Report was released and includes dozens of proposals regarding education, public safety, inclusion and diversity, infrastructure and transportation and economic and community development. You can see the report at  Transition - Baltimore County.

Additionally, the County Executive’s Commission on Fiscal Sustainability  issued an interim report. The report describes the current fiscal situation, including revenue constraints, the need to strengthen fiscal policies and procedures, the need to modernize technology and to identify outcome metrics. It also critiques the process for formulating the budget, including the lack of strategic plans and limited public engagement. It was startling to read this comment about the County’s past budgeting process:

By design, the structure is confusing to all but a few staff members involved in the process on a day-by-day basis, rewarding those who understand past practices and frustrating those who prize efficiency, precision and openness.

Some of My Legislation Advances

During the past two weeks, I have seen four of my bills move forward. The House unanimously (141-0) passed my HB 112 which increases the penalties for motorists who kill or seriously injure bicyclists, pedestrians, motor cycle riders and other “vulnerable individuals”.  Another bill, HB 272, has passed “second reader” and will be voted on by the full House this week. All who are building or removing large areas of trees are obligated to provide for replanting under the Forest Conservation Act. My bill will hold counties accountable for spending the money to plant trees that they receive when they accept a fee-in-lieu.  We need to ensure the law is followed.

Two of my bills have been passed out of the Environment and Transportation Committee and will go to the full House this coming week. HB 190 creates a definition of a failing septic system so that violations and enforcement can be uniform throughout the state. HB 703 will improve and expand reporting on violations of sediment and erosion control laws and regulations.  Since sediment is one of the largest pollutants to our waterways, it is important to know what, where and how violations are being addressed.

Significant Issues Before the Legislature

Minimum Wages

The House passed legislation to increase the minimum wages of workers in Maryland.  This followed an eight hour Economic Matters Committee hearing, hours of debate in committee and over 90 minutes of debate on the House floor. The minimum wage will become $15/hour beginning on January 1, 2025. Essential elements of this bill are:

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum wage will be $11/hour and will increase $.75/hour annually and will increase by $1/hour on January 1, 2025, becoming $15/hour
  • The tip credit will remain at $3.63/hour but tipped workers minimum wage will increase at the same rate and time as other workers
  • Workers under the age of 18 can be paid at 85% of the minimum wage
  • The Board of Public Works can delay an increase if the state’s economic conditions deteriorate
  • Mandates $96 million in funding for community service providers, including those working with people with developmental disabilities, in behavioral health, receiving medical day care and personal care and in nursing homes

Regarding funding of community service workers, the legislature has been able to increase reimbursements and pay over the past years but realizes that these vitally important workers still need added compensation. The House is committed to taking a comprehensive look at pay and reimbursements for all workers who serve people with developmental disabilities and behavioral health needs.

It is estimated that 22% of Maryland’s workforce will receive a pay raise.

Gun Regulation

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee heard 16 hours (from 10 am Monday until 4 am on Tuesday!) of testimony on 19 different bills about guns, gun ownership and purchases.   Hundreds of supporters and opponents were given time to speak about the bills. One of the most contentious was HB 786 which would regulate hunting rifles and shotguns like handguns, including a qualification license and a waiting period for a purchase. HB 740 would make it illegal to possess, create or sell homemade 3D printed guns and other firearms.  Another bill, HB 468 would change the gun storage laws to require that unloaded firearms are in a location inaccessible to unsupervised children.

A full list of the bills regarding firearms can be seen at the Maryland General Assembly website, and going to the Judiciary Committee and clicking on Session Legislation.

Health Issues

HB 1169 would raise the smoking age in Maryland from 18 to 21 years of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 7500 people die in Maryland every year from smoking.  And, as we have seen, raising the age for smoking and the price of tobacco products saves lives.

HB 139 would establish overdose prevention sites in the state.  This bill is aimed at preventing deaths from opioid abuse and is still working its way through the Health and Government Operations Committee. Another important bill, HB 258, would establish a health insurance mandate similar to the one that had been a part of the Affordable Care Act.  However, while creating a penalty for the failure to have insurance, the penalty payment would become part of a down-payment for the individual to purchase an insurance policy.

Ban on Polysterene

Polysterene is usually referred to as Styrofoam (which is a trademarked name).  HB 109 will ban the use and sale of single use polysterene products used for food and beverage consumption in Maryland by July 1, 2020. The Senate is poised to vote on the bill and the two House committees (Environment and Transportation and Economic Matters) are finalizing their work.  The bill should be on the House floor this coming week for a vote. I will be leading the floor debate on behalf of the E&T committee.

State Budget

As the House and Senate Committees are reviewing the Governor’s FY 2020 budget, they were briefed by Legislative Services that the revenue projections are well below expectations. This possible “write down” could be $200 million to over $300 million. This could mean reductions in the current year’s spending and/or reducing the 2020 budget significantly. If reductions are needed, it could impact state employees’ COLA, the Rainy Day Fund, pension funding, Medicaid, transfer tax repayments or other programs. The actual revenue projections will be known soon.

You can find other legislation at the Maryland General Assembly web site,

House Study Group on Economic Stability

House Speaker Busch appointed me to Chair a House study group to examine the challenges that hundreds of thousands of Marylanders face to maintain economic stability. It is more than assisting people to find employment or transportation but requires an examination of how much income is needed for a “survival budget”, what earnings are needed to afford market rate housing, how individuals can position themselves to move up the economic ladder and much more.

Our group has only had a few meetings but we have started to examine and question some of the basic assumptions. We heard from the United Way about ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) individuals and the income that is needed to survive. We received presentations from researchers at the University of Maryland School of Social Work on those who move in and out of poverty; from the Maryland Center for Economic Policy about income and employment issues throughout the state; and, from the Garrett County Community Action Committee about their use of a very different approach referred to as 2 Generation since it addresses the needs of the whole family.

We are just getting started and have more work sessions planned before the legislature adjourns in April.

College Scholarship Assistance

Those students who plan to go to college in Maryland or who may already be enrolled, can apply for a Delegate Lafferty scholarship.  The application deadline is April 1, 2019. The details are on my web site,  I urge all who qualify to please apply so we can assist you with the growing costs of college.

Chat With Your Delegate

Next Monday, March 11, 2019, I will be at THB on Allegheny Avenue in Towson from 8 – 9 a.m. to chat with constituents about Annapolis and legislation that we are addressing. Please feel free to join us.

As always, if you have views you want to share, are in need of assistance or have questions, please contact me at 410-841-3487 or at

Best wishes,


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