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Steve's News from Annapolis

2019-03-17

The 2019 legislative session will end in less than four weeks.

Monday will be "cross-over", the date by which a bill must pass from one chamber in order to be assured it will be considered by the other one. [or pass from the House to go to the Sente, or vice versa]. That means we are holding multiple sessions of the full House, more subcommittee meetings and more committee voting sessions in order to meet the deadline. It has been a rush between all of these for the past week!

Meeting with Constituents

On March 11, I had a wonderful opportunity to hold a "Chat With the Delegate" with a number of constituents at the Towson THB to discuss issues of importance to them. The conversation was wide ranging and , hopefully, helped them to better understand some of the issues and legislation we are dealing with this session.

This past week, I was visited by over 60 students from the Towson High School Law and Public Policy program. I talked with them about our Committee work and some of the legislation we have tackled regarding the environment. They had many great questions about our votes, representing constituent interests, and legislation.

After the legislature adjourns on April 8, I look forward to the opportunity to attend community meetings in the district to share information about the session and answer constituent questions about our work. If you would like me to attend and speak with your community, please contact me at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us or at 410-841-3487.

Some of the Major Legislation from the Past Two Weeks

Kirwan and the State Budget

The House of Delegates passed the state budget this past week. This is one of our primary responsibilities.

While the budget covers all aspects of the state's operations, funding for education was a real highlight. The budget calls for more money for school construction and nearly $325 million in increased funding for public schools:

  • $275 million for special education
  • $150 millon for raises in teachers' salaries
  • $110 million in grants for schools with high concentrations of poverty
  • $80 million to expand full-day kindergarten for 4 year olds
  • $46 million for more services for learners who are struggling in school

Final decisions regarding school construction funding will be made soon. In fact, HB 727 was just presented to the House to dramactically increase school construction funds to $2.2 billion over the next five years.

Passage of the End of Life Option Act

In one of the most somber and serious floor debates I have been a part of during my service, the House of Delegates passed HB399, the End of Life Option Act. This legislation enables an individual to seek aid-in-dying from a physician under very limited conditions and with what I believe are important safeguards. This bill enables one to have more control over the end of his/her own life.

The bill provides that a person can request medication to end one's life. He/she must:

  • Have the capacity to make a medical decision
  • Make three requests for the medication, twice orally and once in writing with time between these requests; the written request must be witnessed by a person who is neither a relative nor would benefit from the individual's death
  • The attending physician must certify that the individual has the capacity to make the medical decision and that the prognosis is that death is likely within six months
  • The individual may withdraw the request at any time
  • The individual does not have to use the medication

The debate was compelling, sensitive, personal and sometimes painful. We heard about the pain and suffering felt by, and observed, by family members and pleas to allow one to determine his/her own destiny, to have dignity at the time of death and to enable those who are suffering to have control. I have concerns from a number of people with disabilities that this law could make them susceptible to coercion. However, over the 20 years that the Oregon Death with Dignity law has been in place, there have been no similar complaints expressed by people with disabilities. I believe we should enable an individual to control one's own decisions at the end of their lives and believe the controls in HB 399 will protect against coercion or abuse and are appropriate.

Ban on Polystyrene

Both the House of Delegates and the Senate have passed legislation to ban the sale and use of various expanded polystyrene products. While there are different versions,, the differences should be readily resolved. I was the "floor leader" to advocate for and defend HB 109. As passed, this bill:

  • Defines "expanded polystyrene food service product" as one that is used for selling or providing food or beverages, is intended for single use and is generally recognized as items to be discarded after a single use
  • Includes food containers, plates, hot and cold beverage cups, trays and cartons
  • Creates an exemption for packaging raw meats, seafood and poultry
  • Applies to food service businesses, the government and institutional cafeterias
  • Requires a public information and education campaign
  • Goes into effect on July 1, 2020

Efforts to Prevent Lead Poisoning

The House has taken up bills to address lead poisoning. No level of lead is safe and the damage to a child's brain - and his/her future - from lead can be irreversible. One very important bill, HB 1233, will lower the actionable level of lead poisoning from 10 micrograms per deciliter to the level established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDCP standard is curently 5 micrograms and not 10. This means that more children can receive treatment if there is this lower amount of lead in their blood stream.

Another bill, HB 1253, expands the legislation that I sponsored two years ago to require testing for lead in school drinking water. This bill lowers the acceptable level from 20 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion (ppb). The bill also makes funding available from an existing Healthy Schools Fund and establishes a separate fund to help schools comply with the new standard. I applaud the sponsor for taking my idea to the next level of implementation.

Protecting the Oyster Population

The oyster population has drastically decreased over the years. A recent stock assessment indicated that more than half of the zones examined were overfished. HB 298 takes an important step to expand the number of oysters in the Bay and its tributaries by establishing sanctuaries in five tributaries. These will be off limits to harvesting and will enable the number of oysters to grow in order to further clean the Bay and, overtime, to reestablish a sustainable harvest.

Status of Some of My Legislation

During my time in the legislature, I have often pushed big issues that require more time to get passed. This year is no exception. My efforts to pass legislation to establish a "green amendment" in the state Constitution (HB 472), to ban coal tar sealants (HB 411) and to expand fair housing opportunites for all (HB 451) got stymied for different reasons. So, none of these are going forward in 2019 and I have withdrawn them from consideration. I am still committed to seeing that they pass in the future sessions.

I have been successful, however, getting legislation passed by the House to require improvements in the reporting of violations of sediment and erosion control laws (HB 703), eliminating the publication requirement for a minor who wants to have a name change (HB 83), creating greater accountability for funds received in lieu of required tree plantings (HB 272) and protecting vulnerable users of our roads and sidewalks  (HB112). I also have two bills that await a final vote in the House. Stay tuned!

Establishing Development Impact Fees

The House is poised to pass HB 449 which will authorize the Baltimore County Executive and County Council to establish development impact fees.  The County Executive  has explained to the public that there is a revenue gap and that additional means for raising revenue need to be considered. I sponsored the bill, which has been adopted by the County House delegation, so that development projects that have an impact on school population and infrastructure may be required.

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 website, www.delegatelafferty.com . I urge all who qualify to please apply so we can assist you with the growing costs of college.

Please feel free to contact me at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us or at 410-841-3487 to share your thoughts on legislation or issues we are addressing.

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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