Dear Constituent and Friend,
It remains an honor for me to serve as the only physician in the 188-member General Assembly and as your District 11 representative along with my colleagues Senator Bobby Zirkin, Delegate Jon Cardin, and Delegate Dana Stein. I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to all of you who contacted me during this session.
This session was challenging, with the continued discussion of many controversial issues and the budget dominating many debates. As you may know, as we adjourned the 2012 General Assembly Session, there was still much uncertainty about the state budget for Fiscal Year 2013. It is extremely disappointing that the Governor and the Legislature could not find common ground. Despite these obstacles, I advanced many important initiatives that will improve the lives of Maryland citizens.
Building on the findings of a broad-based stakeholder work group - which included law enforcement, health professionals, researchers, legislators, and patients - established after last year’s session to design a medical marijuana program, I introduced House Bill (HB) 1024 and HB 1158 that would provide safe and accountable ways to responsibly provide medical marijuana to patients. Although both bills had the support of the medical marijuana work group, at the eleventh hour the Governor withdrew his support for either bill citing liability concerns for state employees administering the program. I did not agree with his position, nor did numerous legal experts. Despite this setback, a third medical marijuana bill, HB 15, was amended to allow legalprotection for caregivers who are assisting patients using medical marijuana. With budget discussions delaying many bills, HB 15 passed the House but time ran out to attempt passage in the Senate. However, two related bills passed: HB 350 which reduces the penalties for a small quantity of marijuana possession and Senate Bill,SB 422 which allows a police officer to issue a citation for marijuana possession. Patients, however, face numerous challenges without a true medical marijuana program as was evident in the testimony of many patients who came to Annapolis to support this issue (Patients Speak Out Video). I ask you to keep patients in mind by continuing to advocate for a medical marijuana program.
As a champion for environmental issues and as part of my continuing work on environmental issues, I sponsored two electronic recycling bills, HB 448 and HB 879, both of which passed. HB 448 requires the State to meet certain environmentally friendly standards when purchasing and recycling electronic products. This would support local businesses that safely and responsibly recycle computers and electronics. HB 879 improves the existing Statewide Electronics Recycling Program. I also sponsored HB 1237 which would have created a pilot program to encourage the use of solar technology on public school buildings to generate electricity. I hope to introduce this again next year since great progress was made on the topic this session.
I introduced HB 1118 which protects older Marylanders in nursing homes and related institutions. This bill passed both the House and the Senate.
As Chair of the Government Operations Subcommittee, I continue to fight for efficiency in government as a viable alternative to increasing taxes and fees or cutting valuable programs. You might have heard about the recent audits of various state agencies (http://www.ola.state.md.us) where millions of dollars were squandered as a result of mismanagement. I introduced HB 1473 that will allow for state agencies to take corrective action more quickly when an audit has raised concerns about financial management or operations. Greater efficiencies can also be achieved through deliberate purchasing strategies such as the coordinated volume discount purchasing that I proposed in HB 992.
House Joint Resolution (HJ) 3, which I sponsored and which passed, will ratify the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators by popular vote. While this has long been in practice, the State had never actually approved of the 17th Amendment. This was a bipartisan opportunity to clarify our state law and join the other states in ratifying this important amendment to our Constitution.
I secured funding to install security cameras at Franklin, Woodlawn, Lansdowne, and Hereford High Schools. These cameras will help to assure that the recent investments in their upgraded athletic fields will be protected and available for our community to enjoy over the long term.
As the House Deputy Majority Leader, I worked on many bills that did not receive much media attention. All bill information is available at the Maryland General Assembly site
Below are some that passed, almost all of which I co-sponsored, followed by bills introduced by my colleagues in District 11:
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 Meghan McGinty all worked hard to respond to constituent concerns and to advance legislation to improve the District 11 community and our great State.
I look forward to continuing to hear from you.
Delegate Dan Morhaim, M.D.