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End of Session 2018

 

 

 

 

April 11, 2018

 

Dear Friends,

 

As the 438th session of the Maryland General Assembly drew to a close, I reflect on my 24 years in office. As you may know, I decided not to run for re-election. It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve Marylanders, and the 11th District, during my tenure as a Delegate. Thank you for the honor of representing you.

I am proud to be the longest-serving physician in the history of the Maryland General Assembly. I have been the lead-sponsor of 139 enacted bills (complete list at www.drdanmorhaim.com). My priorities were public health, the environment, public safety, education, and improving government operations. I took on challenges that were not always politically popular but were based on evidence and data. I never wavered in my commitment towards advancing change and innovation for communities throughout the State. Here are a few examples from this year’s session.

Our citizens have many needs, but funds are limited. To get the job done, the standard options have been to raise taxes or cut needed programs. Each has its flaws. But there’s another path, one I have worked on for years: identifying and implementing cost-effective strategies and smart purchasing. It’s not a topic that gets attention because it’s dense and complicated, but my efforts have saved taxpayers $100s of millions. This year’s approach, House Bill (HB) 1400, starts the process of having state, local governments, and school systems buy health insurance for their employees in a coordinated manner. When fully implemented, it could save over $300,000,000 per year and bring better coverage for employees. With many bi-partisan co-sponsors, HB 1400 passed unanimously.

I continued to introduce legislation reflective of my perspective as an emergency medicine physician. HB 1635 (passed unanimously) extends the time for mental health evaluations in the hospital emergency department. This will allow physicians and hospital staff to obtain the optimal placement for psychiatric patients.

I sponsored HB 202 (passed unanimously) which taps the multidisciplinary resources of the Maryland Department of Health for evaluating defendants who are deemed criminally incompetent by a judge. This allows the Department (newly renamed from legislation I sponsored last year) to develop a treatment plan for some of Maryland’s most vulnerable and dangerous patients.

Far too often in my role as a physician helping people is hampered by navigating technically complex electronic medical records. HB 115 (passed unanimously) will enable clinicians to know exactly what medicines their patients are taking. Too often in the ER, for example, we don’t know what a person has been prescribed. This bill will take steps to be sure that this information is available appropriately as needed.

It’s hard work, and it takes time to build consensus on legislation like the ones above. There are lots of meetings and discussions, concerns to address, and personalities to manage, but it’s worth it.

Substance abuse and the opioid epidemic is a problem that’s been around for decades but sadly is only getting attention now that it’s become a crisis. Further, according to experts, substance abuse is the root cause of up to 90% of all crime.

The first bill I introduced on this subject was in 1998 (HB 149), and had more of its recommendations been implemented, some of today’s problems might have been avoided. It’s largely a public health issue and deserves a public health approach, along with a recognition that the policy known as the “War on Drugs” is a failure. What’s needed are open-minded, “upstream” problem-solving initiatives like those in HB 325 (turning drug arrests for possession of small amounts from a criminal to a civil offense) and HB 326 (authorizing supervised consumption facilities). It’s too bad that these evidence-based approaches are seen as too controversial. If Maryland is to face this epidemic and future public health challenges, we must be willing to explore innovative solutions irrespective of party affiliation or perceived political paybacks. If you’d like more information about either of these, please contact my office.

Similarly, this year has seen a refocus on gun legislation. The debate came directly to the Judiciary Committee where I serve, and I contributed to the discussion and voted for each of these bills. * We banned the sale and possession of bump stocks and other rapid fire trigger activators (HB 888).

* Law enforcement can execute a search warrant to remove any guns from a domestic violence offender’s home if they failed to turn them in upon conviction (HB 1646).

* Persons identified as high risk of dangerous violent behavior may have their guns taken away after due process (HB 1302). This bill is known as the “red-flag” bill. * Senate Bill (SB) 101 and SB 1137 were controversial crime bills that both passed with large majorities. While I’ve always emphasized the need for substance abuse treatment, the public needs protection from the small group of people who repeatedly get convicted of felonies for the worst of crimes.

I am honored to serve with Senator Bobby Zirkin, Delegate Dana Stein, and Delegate Shelly Hettleman. We each have unique expertise and experience to share which allowed us to individually make our own impact and collectively come together as the District 11 Team. Here are highlights of their accomplishments. * Senator Zirkin led the way on SB 121, which expanded the definition of abuse to include “revenge porn” and SB 725, which helps manage cyber bullying. * Delegate Stein’s HB 1350 will require that the State and local governments better prepare for climate change by increasing protections for new roads and public buildings from sea level rise and requiring planning for nuisance flooding and saltwater intrusion. * Delegate Hettleman’s HB 1103 implements improved disclosure requirements for private career schools and for-profit ones so students can make sound financial choices prior to enrollment. It also protects students from financial harm if the school goes bankrupt.

We were pleased to secure funding for our communities:

* $125,000 for Hatzalah of Baltimore for expansion of their volunteer emergency medical care services

* $175,000 for the New Town High School Stadium Committee towards a permanent outdoor stadium

* $250,000 to study the environmental impact of changes at the Pikesville Armory

* $5 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and $6 million for FY2020 for Stevenson University expansion

* $750,000 for Franklin High School for infrastructure improvements

* $30,000 for Randallstown High School for infrastructure improvements

* $1.4 million for safety improvements for the intersection at Route 30 and Mt. Gilead Road

I serve as the Vice-Chair of the Baltimore County House Delegation, where many topics of local interest are discussed, including Baltimore County Public Schools and the role of the Superintendent.

* We passed a bill to create records of actions and votes of the Baltimore County Board of Education meetings and specified that these be placed on their website. (HB 76) * I introduced HB 1831 which would require Baltimore County Public Schools to report the number of school weapon incidents. This is a topic that must be explored further because data is needed to inform policy implications in this student safety area.

* It’s important to note that 2018 brings the first Baltimore County elections for school board. Please pay attention to the candidates in this important election.

I’d like to highlight an “unsung hero” bill. Delegate Brooke Lierman’s HB 535 codifies the Complete Streets Program within the Maryland Department of Transportation. This is a holistic approach to developing healthy communities by looking at design that takes into consideration safety, multiple ways of transportation, environmental issues, and unique community needs when designing street and transportation projects. Emphasis is on sidewalks, bike lanes, green spaces, and local meeting areas. I’ve seen the benefits in other cities around the country and the world, and it’s long past due that we formalize this here.

There are also bills that I’m glad did not pass. SB 30 (repeal of medical malpractice expert witness laws) was voted down in the House of Delegates in the last hour of the session by a vote of 41-89. I worked actively to convince colleagues of its negative policy implications, the main one being risking Maryland’s federal health care waiver, the backbone of our hospital system.

As I look back, I’ve observed that some bills seemed controversial and/or confusing when first introduced but eventually become part of everyday life. Others took years for the full benefit to be appreciated. The very first bill I passed (HB 78-1996) focused on the State’s wine industry, direct farms sales, and organic food. As a result, we’ve gone from 2 to over 80 wineries; farmer’s markets are in every community; and organic food is now commonplace. HB 575 (2005) created the State’s electronic recycling program, and it became the model approach of many other states, keeping millions of tons of toxic materials out of the waste stream. HB 906 (2008) revamped Maryland’s organ donation system, leading to the excellent programs we have today at our leading medical centers, and HB 190 (2001) helped reduce colon cancers. Legislation, such HB 556 and 557 (2004) and HB 91 (2016) and my various outreach efforts, supported patients and families during advance illness and end-of-life care. Often legislation was suggested by constituents. For example, in 2002 I passed HB 210 which lowered the minimum age for blood donation from 18 to 16. This idea came up in conversation with a high school student from the District who wanted to give blood after 9/11. HB1352 (2014) regulated or shut down scam charities while supporting legitimate ones.

I have been fortunate to work with a wonderful full-time and part-time staff. This session I want to thank Michelle Bernstein, David Fakunle, Ann Marie Gustafson, and Rachel Hartsell. They researched and testified on legislation, responded to constituent concerns, and represented me when I couldn’t attend meetings. Over the years Mary Lou Cole, Sharon Bloom, Penny McDougal, Keshia Pollack Porter, Tricia Christensen, Sarah Sawyer, and Shannon Frattaroli have helped me to advance legislation in Annapolis and with community work.

Your correspondence over the past 24 years has informed my decisions, and please fully appreciate your crucial role in these accomplishments. While the communication methods may have changed since my first legislative session in 1995, the involvement and mindfulness of District 11 residents has endured.

I look forward to joining you in connecting our communities and priorities to the discussions and work we must do together. This will be the first time since 1994 that I won’t be on the ballot but let me encourage everyone to register and vote. It’s the key to our democracy.


Regards and Best Wishes,

Sincerely,

 Delegate Dan K. Morhaim, M.