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2008 Legislative Summary Letter

 


 Health and Government Operations Committee
________
 
Chair
Government Operations Subcommittee
________
 
House Chair
Joint Committee on Health Care Delivery and Financing
________
 
Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review
________
 
Minority Health Disparities Subcommittee

 

 

 

 




 
Dan K. Morhaim, M.D.
Deputy  Majority Leader
 

 

 

11th Legislative District
Baltimore County
________
 
AnnapolisOffice
The Maryland House of Delegates
6 Bladen Street , room 362
Annapolis , Maryland 21401
410-841-3054
 1-800-492-7122 Ext.3054
_________
 
District Office
8 Park Center Court #100
Owings Mills , Maryland 2117-5609
410-581-8712
_________
 
Email dan.morhaim@house.state.md.us

2008 END-OF-SESSION REPORT: LEGISLATIVE UNSUNG HEROES


Each legislative session gets extensive media coverage. High-profile issues and human-interest items receive the most attention, so you've probably read about utility rates, foreclosures, tech tax repeal, and the Smith Island Cake.

But there are many bills that the media overlooks. These bills may have more impact on state policy and average citizens, but they are either too complex or not controversial enough to warrant media attention. Often these bills have a long history during which the issues have been thrashed out, so there are no Democrat vs. Republican fights to report.

The following is my list for 2008 Legislative Unsung Heroes. All these bills passed. Their numbers are listed too, so you can look up details at: http://mlis.state.md.us. I was actively involved with many of these bills as lead-sponsor, co-sponsor, sub-committee chair, and/or House floor manager.

Money: Efficiency, Economy, Streamlining 

In the tension between raising revenues (taxes, fees, surcharges, etc.) and cutting programs, there exists yet a third path: making government operate more efficiently. The following bills reduce waste, encourage competition for state contracts, and trim bureaucracies. This gets into complicated and arcane areas where the wheels of government grind slowly.  Boring? Yes. Important? Absolutely. With procurement (State purchases) running at about $10 billion of the State's $30 billion budget, even small percentage savings translate to big bucks.

Two examples.
HB 484 encourages unsolicited bids for state business. Why wait for government to act? If the private sector has a better idea, HB 484 lets that idea come forward. 
HB 865 requires all state and county contracts be advertised on EMaryland Marketplace, making it easier for newer and smaller businesses to bid. 
See also HB 142, 312, 358, 362, 484, 527, 561, 805, 881, 865, 1277, 1431.

Health Care
HB 120, 257, 343, 419, 580 are a series of bills that affect every Marylander who takes prescription drugs. These costs involve hundreds of millions – if not billions - of dollars because pharmaceutical costs are the most rapidly rising health care expense.  Surely, that's worth some attention.

Pharmacy Benefit Manager companies (PBM's) have sprouted into existence over the past 15 years. Giant but obscure, they manage the flow of money that pays for our medicines. Along the way, a number of them figured out "creative" ways to divert more money into their own pockets, which they call "rebates" but others call "kickbacks."  This has led to a number of class action lawsuits, eventually settled with millions of dollars in fines.  But litigation is costly and protracted. Bills to regulate PBM's have failed in years past. But this year, under the guidance of the Health and Government Operations Committee, with participation by the Attorney General's Office, the Maryland Insurance Administrator, pharmacists, and eventually the PBM's themselves, consensus bills were hammered out in hours of intense meetings. With bi-partisan sponsorship and unanimous passage these five bills set up a framework that protects consumers, supports health care providers, controls costs, and maintains smooth – but open – business operations.

See also HB 372 (veterans health), 906 (organ donation registry), 1391 (health insurance for children), 1452 (speeds and simplifies registration for health care programs), 1492 (CareFirst funds senior drug costs), and 1587 (increases federal health grants by $40 million).

Environment
By all accounts, this was a good session for the environment. But overlooked and under-appreciated was SB 208- the Governor's bill to require that all new State construction and major renovations and all new school construction meet high-performance "green" LEEDS building standards. Buildings use 71% of all energy, 50% of the electricity, and 50% of the water. Green design standards can reduce that use by 20% to 80%. There are even buildings being designed that actually generate electricity. There are more than environmental gains: green buildings reduce absenteeism and increase productivity for workers, and green schools lead to significant improvement in student test scores. Reducing global warming and protecting the environment are laudable goals, but building green is the most effective way of achieving those goals.

Maryland is now in the forefront of modern building design. With the State setting the standard, the stage is set for more homes and commercial construction to build green, as architects and contractors (who both supported this bill) will be able to consistently build to LEEDS standards.

Children 
Problems with group homes and the juvenile justice system continue, despite legislation passed in recent years. SB 742, 782, and 783 require group homes to meet standards while protecting neighborhoods from excessive concentration of these facilities. This will improve care and outcomes and constrain unscrupulous group home operators. HB 1158 helps reduce bullying and abuse in schools.  It's important to get kids on the right path, before they become adult criminals. 

Biotechnology and the Life Sciences

Many believe the future of Maryland lies in biotech. We've done well, with great institutions like Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, and UMBI (University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute) and federal facilities, such as the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and NCI (National Cancer Institute). We've got a growing private sector with companies at the cutting edge of research. But competition is fierce, and it comes from North Carolina to Dubai to Korea. This year marked the formation of the Maryland General Assembly's Biotechnology and Life Sciences Caucus, which I chair. With membership from across the state and from both parties, the Caucus is working with the academic, research, and business communities to build our biotech infrastructure. Not only does this lead to jobs and economic growth, new technologies and products help with health care and the environment.  The Caucus gave its support to HB 723 (biotech investment incentive) and HB 1409 (promotes nanobiotechnology).

I'd also like to thank my staff for their hard work: Mary Lou Cole, Penny McDougal, Tyler Cymet, Keshia Pollack, and Shannon Frattaroli.  

I am honored to serve the 11th District of northwest Baltimore County with my teammates Bobby Zirkin, Jon Cardin, and Dana Stein. Together we share a common vision to improve our community.  Your priorities are clear, and we have worked hard to reflect them. 

Please stay in touch on any issue.

Sincerely,
 

Delegate Dan Morhaim