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Steve's News from Annapolis

2019-03-24

As the General Assembly hit the “cross-over” point in the session, the House took up and passed a lot of bills so that, now, the Senate can take them up. We also learned of the death of former Governor Harry Hughes whose election provided a welcome calm at a time of political turmoil in Maryland. His death caused us to pause, appreciate him and his life as a public servant, and to reflect on our own commitments to serving as legislators.

At the same time, unfortunately the Governor chose to issue harsh and unwarranted criticism of the General Assembly, calling us reckless and irresponsible – for promoting greater spending on public education! – and for being pro-criminal! Neither assertion is close to the truth. I wish the Governor had, instead, tried to work with legislative leaders to address any disagreements instead of resorting to name-calling.

Highlights of Some Legislation the House Has Passed

Oysters

HB 298 protects, and will restore, five (5) oyster sanctuaries. Significant public investments have been made to support these large-scale restoration projects and this bill will further protect those investments by placing these five tributaries off-limits to oyster harvesting in perpetuity. These oyster sanctuaries are critical to the recovery of the Bay’s oyster population

HB 720 will set up a group, staffed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, to make decisions on a Fisheries Management Plan for oysters. This group brings all interested stakeholders to the table: 60% will be industry watermen and 40% will be from advocacy groups for conservation. The goal is to get the stakeholders to work together to develop a Plan for managing the oyster fishery so that the oyster population grows, is sustainable and available for harvesting in the future.

Build to Learn Act of 2019

By an overwhelming bi-partisan majority, the House passed HB 727 to fund the most exciting and largest school construction program in Maryland’s history. An estimated $2.2 billion will be available over the next five years for school renovations and construction throughout the state. A portion of the state’s lottery revenues will be used to purchase bonds that will fund the construction. Baltimore County is scheduled to receive 18.2% of the construction funding or approximately $400 million!

The Senate will now consider the bill and, hopefully, will agree with our language and goals.

Raising the Age for Purchasing Tobacco

HB 1169 will ban retailers from selling a tobacco product to anyone under the age of 21 and will require retailers to post this age restriction in their stores. At current smoking rates, roughly 92,000 young people now under 18 years old in Maryland will die prematurely from smoking. This law will help to keep these addictive products out of high schools and reduce teen smoking and addiction.

Cyber Bullying

Referred to as Grace’s Law, HB 181 improves the first version of Grace’s Law by increasing the potential maximum fine from $500 to $10,000, and from one year in jail to three. If a child commits suicide due to cyberbullying, the bully can now be sentenced up to 10 years in jail. As the use of social media continues to influence and shape the lives of children, bullying and harassment online has become a very serious issue.

Background Checks for Private Long Gun Sales

This legislation closes a loophole in the background check process for long gun (rifle and shotgun) transfers by requiring a licensed firearms dealer to facilitate a private long gun sale.

HB 786 will result in tens of thousands of additional background checks conducted and ensure each and every gun transaction is properly vetted. The bill does not include transfers between immediate family members, antique firearm collectors, or hunters as long as the owner of the firearm is present.

Individual Health Insurance Market Stabilization Act

HB 258 will help continue to stabilize health insurance costs by bringing more certainty to the individual market. This bill requires insurance companies to contribute a 1% assessment to the Maryland’s Reinsurance Program through 2023. The state reinsurance program was established last year and required health insurance companies to cover more of the health care costs for the sickest Marylanders. It helped to keep health insurance rate increases more affordable for Marylanders.

Minimum Wage Increase Approved by Senate and House

I previously shared information about the passage of HB 166 that sets a new minimum wage in Maryland. The Senate passed another version and, after working out differences, the House and the Senate have sent identical bills to the Governor. The agreed upon version will enable businesses with 14 or less employees to delay implementation by eighteen (18) months and re-set new steps of wage increases for those businesses. Additionally, both Developmental Disability Administration and Behavioral Health Administration providers will see a reimbursement increase to 4% in the next budget.

The Outrageous Conduct of the University of Maryland Medical System Board

Members of the legislature, and the public at large, have rightfully been shocked, outraged and appalled by the self-dealing and questionable business payments by the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) to various Board members. I was pleased to see three resignations, four other Board members take leaves of absence and the CEO, Dr. Chrencik, to be placed on leave.

House Speaker Mike Busch, who also sits on the Board but was unaware of the payments, has introduced HB 1428 to address the ethical behavior and practices at UMMS. According to his

bill, Board members will require advice and consent from the state Senate; prohibits sole source procurement; establishes stronger financial disclosure and ethical standards; and, directs UMMS to conduct an internal review of its Board policies and to hire an outside firm to conduct a performance audit.

College Scholarship Assistance

This is my last reminder that those students who plan to go to college in Maryland or who may already be enrolled can apply for financial assistance through a Delegate Lafferty scholarship. The application deadline is April 1, 2019. The details are on my web site, www.delegatelafferty.com. I urge all who qualify to please apply NOW so we can assist you with the growing costs of college.

The Session will end in two weeks so, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or wish to share your views on any legislation.

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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