As the 2001 session draws to a close, I want to bring you up-to-date on issues the Maryland General Assembly addressed, as well as my own activities. Thank you for taking the time to write, call, fax, and email. Please know that I study your correspondence and factor it into my perspective on issues. I am convinced that I can best represent the 11th district when I hear from you. For those of you with web access, please see my web page: www.drdanmorhaim.com. I have attached copies of various articles that highlight the issues I have worked on this session.
The beginning of the session saw the completion of the work of the Task Force on Addiction Treatment which I co-chaired with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. This task force, which was the result of legislation I sponsored, produced a very well received report detailing why treating addiction is cost effective in reducing crime and uncompensated health care costs. To receive a copy of the report, call 301.403.4391.
Healthcare is and will always be a prime concern of mine. This year I introduced legislation, HB 190, that requires insurers to pay for routine colonoscopies. Each year over 1500 Marylanders lose their lives to colon cancer. Yet, colo-rectal screening tests can reduce this rate dramatically, as almost all colon cancer is preventable and treatable if caught early. While this is not an easy subject for many to confront, the tests are safe and painless, and as HB 190 reduces the financial barriers for many, I urge you to discuss this with your own physician. Also, I sponsored legislation which helps fund the Janet L. Hoffman Building of the Wellness Community. The Wellness Community provides support, free of charge, for cancer patients and their families. I also worked on other healthcare issues including helping the deaf & hard of hearing, kidney patients, the disabled, and helping senior citizens obtain affordable prescription medications.
The biggest one time expenditure most of us make in our lives is the purchase of a home. Not only does this represent a significant financial commitment, but it is where we raise our families and create memories for our children. We have all heard stories of friends buying a home and having it pass inspection only to later find out that their home inspector was not qualified to perform the inspection. Then major repair bills await the new homeowner. HB 379 will protect home buyers by requiring that home inspectors are licensed and have completed required training. Today, virtually anyone can claim to be a home inspector. Passage of this legislation will help to close that loophole and insure homebuyers that they are getting what they paid for.
I also continued my efforts to ensure safe food and water. Three bills had special impact. HB 189 Aquaculture Operations-Transgenic and Genetically Altered Species passed and will make Maryland the first state in the nation with legislation designed to protect the bays and waterways from genetically engineered (Superfish), These have been shown to damage ecosystems and native species in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. HB 740, which has been slated for further study by the legislature, will review the role of routine antibiotic use in animal raising and whether this use is adding to the growth of resistant bacteria. HB 12, which addressed sewage overflows and toxic spills, was incorporated into a Governors executive order and will help to ensure that our water is safe.
Education is one of the top priorities for all of us. I introduced HB 251 which would save money for schools by developing a voluntary buying consortium. The bill, which unfortunately did not pass, did get very positive attention. I believe elements of this concept will be pursued by the Maryland Department of Education.
Local issues are of prime importance. Efforts are underway to continue to fund repair and renovation of schools, including the construction of New Town High School. The State Highway Administrations Director and I are scheduled to review the problems of Reisterstown Road with a site visit immediately after the end of session. We will review traffic congestion and lack of sidewalks and safe crossing areas for pedestrians and work toward making our roads safer for drivers and pedestrians.
The 11th District Team continues to work together for the district. I wish to acknowledge the excellent work of my legislative staff: Sharon Bloom, Penny McDougal, and community liaisons David Goldsmith, Jeff Rosen, and Bobby Jones, who have attended community meetings and kept me informed of your concerns and ideas. Even though the legislature is only in session for 90 days, my staff and I are available throughout the year to meet with your group or organization, arrange tours of the State House, help deal with bureaucratic "red tape", or any other needs. I would be happy to send you a map of Maryland bicycle routes or a State of Maryland road map.
I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me. While we may not agree on every issue or every approach, I know that as parents, friends, and neighbors we share similar goals as we work toward the betterment of life for our families and our community. As I return to my position as an emergency physician and to spend time with my family, I want to reiterate what an honor it is to serve the 11th legislative district. I look forward to hearing from you.