2011 Legislative Summary Letter
Dear Constituents and Friends,
It has been an honor for me to continue to serve as your representative to the House of Delegates and as the only physician in the 188-member General Assembly. I am pleased to serve with my colleagues Bobby Zirkin, Jon Cardin, and Dana Stein, to represent District 11 of northwest Baltimore County. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you who contacted me during this session. Our democracy cannot work without your input, voices, and involvement.
This session I reintroduced legislation (House Bill 291) that allows the medical use of marijuana. The bill as introduced creates a tightly monitored program that will ensure that medical marijuana is safely available only to patients who have been identified by doctors as suffering from a debilitating medical condition. Although it received overwhelming support when introduced, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene preferred to have time to study the best method of implementing such a program. As a result, it was changed to 1) create a work group to develop a model program, and 2) to allow patients who are prosecuted by law enforcement for marijuana possession to be found not guilty by reason of medical necessity. These concepts were adopted into the Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 308, which passed. Our state is taking a step forward to provide access to medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses without expanding inappropriate use.
I also introduced several bills, all with bipartisan support:
(HB=House Bill, SB=Senate Bill; information available at http://mlis.state.md.us/)
- HB 48 extends greater transparency in government by improving the Open Meetings Act, which requires “public” bodies to meet in open session, and by tightening up regulations regarding complaints and meeting notices. Although this bill did not pass, I plan on introducing similar legislation next year.
- HB 82 (passed) improves a form now titled “Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” or MOLST. The form summarizes a patient’s desires for specific life-sustaining treatment and establishes a uniform document that will be used at health care facilities throughout the state.
- HB 286 (passed) requires greater monitoring of procedures done by physician practices. It mandates that every hospital or ambulatory care facility establish objective standards for thepractitioner performance evaluation process. This will be a condition of the facility’s licensure and will help prevent unnecessary procedures by physicians, which unfortunately we have all too often read about in the media.
- HB 456 (passed) improves and extends the state’s Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program. This bill is one way to provide citizens equal access to business growth opportunities and to eliminate discrimination against minority- and women-owned businesses.
- HB 941 (passed), the Dining Out Growth Act of 2011, brought together restaurateurs from across the state. The implementation of this bill is cost-free, and it will help support local jobs, tourism, and economic development. The pet-friendly sector is the fastest growing part of the tourism industry. This bill permits restaurants to decide whether to allow dogs in outdoor eating areas under well-defined and narrow circumstances.
I continue to serve as the House Deputy Majority Leader, as a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, and as Chair of the Government Operations Subcommittee, where my efforts on identifying efficiencies and streamlining government operations allows us to save money without raising taxes or cutting essential programs. I worked hard to ensure that spending on priority issues such as health, education, and public safety was maintained.
Overall, the 2011 General Assembly session saw many challenges, including debates over the alcohol tax, same sex marriage, and parole procedures. We also deliberated in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants, which I and the other District 11 legislators voted against.
Despite the divisive nature of many of the issues that made the news, my colleagues and I worked hard on many which did not receive media attention. Here are some that passed, all of which I co-sponsored, followed by bills introduced by my colleagues:
- HB 83 helps our volunteer ambulance companies get paid by requiring direct reimbursement by health insurance plans.
- HB 452 makes hearing aids more affordable.
- HB 460 helps unused medications be discarded safely.
- HB 736 and HB 784 expand and support use of electronic medical records.
- HB 793 supports behavioral health programs for veterans.
- HB 888 requires insurers to cover prescription eye drops medication refills.
- HB 983 supports umbilical cord blood donation.
- HB 511 provides female juvenile offenders with special services.
- HB 520 makes sure that bidders for state MARC train contracts disclose any involvement in Nazi deportations.
- HB 766 creates a commission to promote transparency and citizen access to government.
- HB 933 gives renewable energy credits for solar hot water heating.
- HB 1175 allows for direct shipping of wine.
- SB 200 (Senator Zirkin) requires the Secretary of Juvenile Services, as part of an initial step in overhauling the Department, to collect data on the recidivism rates for children placed in residential care.
- HB 11 (Delegate Cardin) adds members of the Maryland Defense Force to the list of volunteer fire, rescue, and emergency medical services personnel to be eligible for a tax credit. The Force is based in Pikesville and assists the National Guard with civil services.
- HB 972 (Delegate Stein) allows local jurisdictions to adopt internationally recognized “green” standards into existing or developing building codes in order to promote sustainable building science, safety, and performance.
Finally, I would like to thank my full-time, part-time, and volunteer staff who did an outstanding job this session. Michelle Bernstein, Shannon Frattaroli, Clarence Lam, Keshia Pollack, and Daniel Krauth all worked hard to meet constituents’ needs and help advance legislation to improve the lives of those in District 11 and in our great state.
I look forward to continuing to hear from you.
Delegate Dan Morhaim