The 435th Session of the Maryland General Assembly brought a fresh start to my sixth term in office. I was eager to represent the communities of the newly formed District 11, work with new government leadership, and get to know 69 new colleagues, many of them serving their first term in the legislature. I was pleased to continue my role in the House of Delegates as Deputy Majority Leader and as Chair of the Government Operations and Long Term Care Subcommittee.
While the media covers many high-profile items, please allow me to call your attention to a variety of my legislative proposals which received bipartisan approval and reflect the wide range of issues for which I continue to advocate. Full details on all bills can be found at the Maryland General Assembly web site (http://mgaleg.maryland.gov).
Regulations to establish a statewide medical cannabis program are in development and will now be greatly helped by legislation I sponsored, House Bill (HB) 490 (passed). It updates and clarifies the rules of the program so that thousands of Marylanders who can benefit will be helped in a responsible and safe manner.
I continue to sponsor legislation for improved end-of-life care. New policies can increase autonomy in the last days of life, support patients and families at a difficult time, and reduce healthcare costs. HB 1106 (passed) allows for electronic witnessing for advance directivesand is an important step to allow a newly funded State advance directive registry to take effect.
I introduced HB 216 (passed) which prohibits the manufacture and phases out the use ofmicrobeads, tiny synthetic non- biodegradable plastics that are in personal care products as cleansers. Though seemingly innocuous, these tiny plastics enter the food chain at the very bottom and cause irrevocable harm to aquatic life and eventually us when we eat seafood. Microbeads, unfortunately, are now found throughout the Chesapeake Bay and the world’s oceans.
In March, the sale of powdered alcohol was preliminarily approved at the federal level. Many public health advocates, and even those in the alcohol beverage industry, are concerned about the potential negative impacts on public health, though there may be some industrial applications. I introduced HB 1288 (passed) which would place a one-year moratorium on powdered alcohol sales to give us time to review the problems and potential uses of this product and develop a rational policy.
HB 119, a common-sense bill that I sponsored, would have helped businesses that do contracting work with the State get paid in a timely manner while protecting State interests, something that does not happen now. These small businesses employ thousands of Marylanders in a variety of key trades. When the State bureaucracy inappropriately drags out the payment process, people do not get the income they earned. It’s a complex topic, and though key compromises were developed, some last minute political jockeying kept the bill from passing. I will re-introduce this again next year.
HB 698, which I co-sponsored, would overhaul our State’s convoluted procurement system by creating the position of Chief Procurement Officer. Purchasing and contracting reform could save taxpayers millions of dollars without raising taxes or cutting programs. Comprehensive reform bills like this rarely pass when first introduced, but it opened a discussion among stakeholders, and this issue will be back next year. Please see my Baltimore Sun op-ed on this subject.
Our Public Information Act had not been updated in decades, and open and transparent government operations are key to an informed citizenry and vibrant democracy. I have always advocated for open government and played a key role as Subcommittee Chair and House floor leader for HB 755 (passed). This bill sets clear rules to allow citizen and media access to government information.
I serve as House Chair of the Fire-EMS Caucus which advocates for important issues facing first responders and the fire safety community. Among other key bills, we supported HB 1080 (passed) which removes any prefix needed before dialing 9-1-1.
I testified in support of HB 449 (passed) which I co-sponsored, that places a statewide two-year moratorium on fracking. This will allow us time to continue to study the public health implications.
As a practicing physician and one of only a few in the General Assembly, I serve on theHealth and Government Operations Committee that advanced many essential health related bills which received approval from our colleagues.
HB 9 (passed), which I co-sponsored, establishes a licensing process for certified professional midwives and regulates them under the State Board of Nursing. This provides a safe alternative to hospital births for families who can now choose this home childbirth option.
I co-sponsored HB 978 (passed), which removes outdated barriers for patients to getHIV testing. This legislation will update our screening guidelines to match the CDC’s guidelines.
Colleagues Senator Bobby Zirkin, Delegate Shelly Hettleman, Delegate Dana Stein, and I – our 11th District Team - work closely together to represent our constituents. For example,
Bobby Zirkin was appointed Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to continue his leadership role advancing legislation on public safety, family law, and key environmental protections.
HB 571 (passed), introduced by Shelly Hettleman addresses the important issue of sexual assault on campus. New requirements will help our academic institutions better assess, investigate, manage, and reduce sexual assaults.
Dana Stein introduced HB 514 (passed) that establishes the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. It will advise the Governor and General Assembly on developing policies and programs related to climate change.
I was voted Vice-Chair of the Baltimore County House Delegation and am honored to represent District 11, a diverse community that has a wide variety of capital needs. We are pleased that the following projects in the District have been funded through the Capital Budget.
Greenspring Montessori School – received $75,000 for a state-of-the-art educational center
Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company – received $250,000 for the expansion of their firehouse
Robert E. Lee Park Nature Council – received $200,000 for a new Nature & Environmental Education Center
St. Mark’s on the Hill – received $65,000 for the renovation of the Gilead House shelter
I would like to thank my Legislative Director Michelle Bernstein, David Fakunle, a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Marc Szczepaniak, my Legislative Intern from UMBC, who responded to constituent concerns, researched legislative policies, and represented me throughout the 90 days.
Most important, thank you for contacting me and expressing your thoughts on a wide range of issues. With your guidance I was able to make informed decisions and convey your positions to colleagues. I look forward to continuing to work with you to advance the priorities of the neighborhoods in the District and hope you will stay in touch.