Thank you for allowing me to serve the residents of District 11 for my 23rd General Assembly session. I continue to focus on health, the environment, public safety and government efficiency, and to work for innovative and sound public policies. I am honored to serve my constituents along with Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegates Dana Stein and Shelly Hettleman.
After serving on the Environmental Matters Committee (1993–2003) and Health and Government Operations Committee (2003– 2017), this session I started my service on the Judiciary Committee. Judiciary handles many significant issues such as criminal justice, gun laws, civil procedure, and domestic violence – issues that I see in my role as an emergency room physician. Many of these concerns are what led me to go into public service.
My Lead Sponsored Legislation – Passed House & Senate
Focused on advocating for improved end of life care, I introduced House Bill HB 188 – Public Health – Advance Directives – Witness Requirements, Advance Directives Services, and Fund. This legislation finalizes many aspects for a State electronic advance directive service and assures funding for it. Last year, the Governor signed my legislation (HB 91) to commemorate National Healthcare Decisions Day which the State will recognize for the first time on April 16th. Education about important topics occurs in degrees, and this is one step to teach Marylanders about end of life care. I encourage you to explore this topic and acknowledge this day.
I sponsored HB 180 – Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – Renaming (passed the House 133-0 and the Senate 46-0) which as of July 1 will rename the department to the Department of Health. This is a bi-partisan initiative to more accurately reflect the scope of the department’s work.
HB 81 – Estates and Trusts – Conditions of Disability and Incapacity – Confinement removes “confinement” (an offensive, archaic term that refers to pregnancy) as a condition of incapacity relating to a trust or estate. This practice is not occurring anymore, but language is important and the House and Senate agreed this was a needed update.
HB 518 – Public Health – Prenatal HIV Testing will improve the process of prenatal testing by adding flexibility for testing at appropriate times during pregnancy. This legislation passed both Chambers unanimously.
Opioid Crisis Legislation
Due to my long legislative history of introducing bills to end the war on drugs and my position on the Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders during the interim, I was appointed by the House Speaker to serve on the House Opioid Workgroup where we examined over 30 proposed bills. These were combined into a few important pieces of legislation that took an innovative comprehensive public health approach to this crisis. I proposed several bills on this topic this year, and these concepts were adopted into HB 1329 – Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act of 2017, which will establish 24/7 access to addiction treatment services and instructs hospitals to set protocols for treating patients with substance use disorders through a proper continuum of care. Additionally, I introduced language into HB 1329 to instruct the Department of Health in coordination with the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention to report to the General Assembly on new, innovative, evidence-based programs to better manage the State’s substance abuse and opioid crisis, such as safe consumption facilities. Other passed bills were HB 869, HB 1082, HB 1093, HB 1147, and HB 1432.
The General Assembly passed HB 1325 – Oil and Natural Gas – Hydraulic Fracturing – Prohibition which I co-sponsored and bans fracking in Maryland. I have been concerned about the public health consequences for years (see my article Baltimore Sun, January 2017), and I am proud of my colleagues for coming together to pass this legislation. Governor Hogan has already signed this bill.
During the interim, I was selected as one of the two members of the House of Delegates to serve on the Commission to Modernize State Procurement. Procurement is the process by which government purchases goods and services. Based on our work, the following bills were passed: HB 390, HB 426, HB 433, HB 587, HB 1021, HB 1107, and HB 1446. These bills save money by increasing efficiencies, transparency, competition, and by simplifying the procurement process. These bills represent a major re-structuring of the procurement process that will impact Maryland for decades but were almost completely overlooked by the media.
Delegate Dana Stein introduced HB 266 – Public Senior Higher Education Institutions – Financial Aid – Reduction Restrictions which I co-sponsored and which passed. It limits the circumstances when a college or university can reduce scholarship money already awarded to a student after they find that the student has secured additional outside funding.
Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegate Shelly Hettleman sponsored SB 349/HB 255 – Criminal Procedure – Sexual Assault Victims' Rights – Disposal of Rape Kit Evidence and Notification. This bill, which I co-sponsored and which passed, requires that written information regarding the testing and disposal of a sexual assault evidence collection kit be given to the victim after an exam; unsolved rape kits to be kept for 20 years; and the victim to be notified before the destruction of the kit. Another bill of interest on this topic that passed was HB 429 – Criminal Law – Sexual Offenses – Physical Resistance, which removes the absurd and insulting requirement that a victim must fight the attacker in order to proceed with prosecution.
Bills of interest to constituents that passed this session:
· HB 211 – Cownose Ray Fishery Management Plan and Moratorium on Contests
· HB 216 – Emergency Veterinary Care – Immunity From Liability
· HB 631 – Public Health – Essential Off-Patent or Generic Drugs – Price Gouging – Prohibition (stops price gouging for pharmaceutical drugs)
· HB 879 – Public Integrity Act of 2017
· HB 1083 – Health – Family Planning Services – Continuity of Care (supports Planned Parenthood should federal funds get cut)
· HB 1283 – Alcoholic Beverages – Class 5 Brewery License (brings the Diageo Guinness Brewery to Baltimore County while supporting already existing businesses)
Bills of interest that did not pass:
· HB 172 – Home Act of 2017
· HB 408 – Criminal Procedure – Charging Procedures and Documents – Citation
· HB 949 – Procurement and Pensions – State Sanctions – Discriminatory Boycott of Israel
· HB 1362 – Criminal Procedure – Immigration – Community Trust
· SB 1200 – Internet Consumer Privacy Rights Act of 2017
Ø The District 11 team worked hard to obtain $5 million in the FY2018 budget for environmental remediation at the site of the former Rosewood Center that will help to expedite the process of Stevenson University’s expansion there.
ØWe were also able to secure State matching funds for the following community enhancements:
· Jewish Teen Advancement Program House will receive $100,000 towards a new facility for at-risk teenage girls
· Bais Yaakov Middle School received $100,000 for campus improvements
· $190,000 for generators for Ner Israel Rabbinical College's dormitories to provide back-up electricity
I would like to thank my full-time and part-time staff who assisted me with answering constituent concerns, researching legislation, and representing me in Annapolis and the district – Michelle Bernstein, Tricia Christensen, and David Fakunle. Tricia and David are graduate students at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I appreciated their experience and perspective as emerging leaders in the health field.
Your questions and feedback are of the utmost importance and helped guide me throughout these 90 days. I hope you will continue to voice your perspective.
Dan K. Morhaim, M.D.