Thank you for allowing me to serve my 22nd year in the Maryland General Assembly representing District 11. It’s an honor and a responsibility. As Deputy Majority Leader, I would like to call your attention to several noteworthy legislative proposals. Full details on all bills can be found at the Maryland General Assembly web site (http://mgaleg.maryland.gov). Bills I lead sponsored are designated with an asterisk*, and bills designated as “passed” were approved by the House of Delegates and the State Senate and are going to the Governor’s desk for signature.
I remain an advocate for end of life care planning and sponsored House Bill (HB) 91* (passed) which will have Maryland join other states and organizations in recognizing National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16. This will help educate Marylanders on the importance of advance directives and address a significant health disparity among disadvantaged communities. I collaborated with the Department of Health to create an electronic advance directives service in our State. HB 1385* (passed) takes us closer to this goal.
My career as an emergency room physician along with my experience in the legislature has given me the opportunity to see firsthand how the War on Drugs has failed. I introduced four harm reduction bills (HBs 908*, 1119*, 1212*, and 1267*) and welcomed the many perspectives on this challenging issue. I worked with the Maryland Hospital Association on legislation (HB908) to require hospitals to provide substance abuse treatment at-need and to address mental health admissions in emergency rooms. It passed the House 133-0, but there was not time for a Senate hearing. I intend to reintroduce these evidence-based and innovative legislative measures.
As a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, I worked to ensure that treatment for those facing drug dependencies remained an important piece of the Justice Reinvestment Act, Senate Bill (SB) 1005 (passed). This bipartisan consensus legislation will focus on treatment and support rather than incarceration for minor crimes. Over time, the prison population will be reduced thus saving funds to be reinvested in drug and mental health services while not sacrificing public safety. As House floor manager, I guided SB 97 (passed) that further expands the State’s efforts to combat opioid addiction through treatment programs and syringe services.
HB 403* State Procurement Change Order Fairness Act (passed) won unanimous votes in the House and Senate. This bill will help businesses get paid in a timely manner when doing work for the state. Not only will this support local jobs and companies, it will encourage more competition for state contracts, thus saving taxpayer dollars. It was a challenge to get State agencies and independently owned businesses to agree on how to alter state bureaucratic functions, but after many meetings, emails, and conference calls, we were able to work out the complex details agreed to by all stakeholders.
I was appointed by House Speaker Michael Busch to serve on the newly formed Commission to Modernize State Procurement, chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. I have long favored procurement reform. This topic does not get much attention, but changing how government buys goods and services can save tens of millions of dollars without raising taxes or cutting programs. There will be opportunities for public involvement as we prepare recommendations, and I hope you will share your feedback.
As Chair of the Government Operations and Long Term Care Subcommittee, I guided legislation through the House of Delegates to further enhance transparency and fairness in government. HB 217 and HB 823 would have strengthened Maryland’sOpen Meetings Act and HB 5 ensured that Government House furniture would be sold in an open and transparent manner.
HB 990* (passed) creates a remedy for citizens if their disability insurance policy company has acted with a lack of good faith in denying a claim. This important effort began with a constituent who shared his story of fighting to get benefits that he was due and for which he had paid premiums for years.
The Board of Physicians is charged with licensing and regulation of medical professionals, but over the years I have seen that the Board has contributed to public health problems by needlessly and inappropriately promoting certain ineffective health policy programs. HB 185* (passed) would keep the Board focused on its prime directives.
HB 104* (passed) allows health practitioners (dentists, podiatrists, and advanced nurse practitioners – all of whom have the same authority as physicians to prescribe controlled dangerous substances) to recommend medical cannabis to their patients under Maryland’s stringent medical cannabis program. This will take effect in 2017.
As Co-Chair of the Fire-EMS Caucus, I worked to support our fire and EMS agencies and personnel with a variety of issues. In particular, I introduced HB 394* to require hydraulic fracturing companies to disclose the chemical components they use during the fracturing process because first responders must know what chemicals they are dealing with in the event of possible exposure to themselves and citizens.
Many of you contacted me about the Off Track Betting facility opening at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. There was widespread community concern with the lack of communication about the facility, changes to the nature of the Fairgrounds, and increased traffic.
As Vice Chair of the Baltimore County House Delegation, I worked with my colleagues from Districts 11 and 42 to enable a Memorandum of Understanding between the Timonium State Fair and Agricultural Society and the Greater Timonium Community Council. This was a win-win for all.
The District 11 Team – Senator Bobby Zirkin, Delegate Shelly Hettleman and Delegate Dana Stein and I – worked together on many issues. In particular, we continue to facilitate a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Stevenson University and the State regarding the disposition of the former Rosewood Center property. The Capital Budget authorizes funding for environmental abatement on this property once a MOU is signed. We look forward to the planned expansion, including green space for the community, of this educational resource.
In addition, the District 11 Team was successful in securing funding for many improvement projects planned throughout our diverse communities. The following projects will receive matching funds through the Capital Budget to support:
- Renovation of the HopeWell Cancer Support Center and building of a new Welcome Center
- Installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Worthington, Greenspring, and Tufton Avenues
- Reconstruction of the gymnasium at the Jemicy Lower/Middle School Campus
- Renovation of the gym at the Talmudical Academy
- Acquisition and construction of the Irvine Nature Center Native American Village site
- Replacement of an assistive listening system and upgraded lighting for the Gordon Center for Performing Arts
I would like to thank my Legislative Director Michelle Bernstein, along with part-time staff Tricia Christensen, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH); David Fakunle, a doctoral student also at JHSPH; and Fareen Karachiwalla, M.D., a family physician, who responded to your emails and calls, researched legislation, and met with constituents and visitors during the 90-day session.
I appreciate you the taking the time to express your thoughts on a wide variety of issues so that I could stay close to the views of my constituents and represent them accordingly in Annapolis. I look forward to seeing you at community meetings and in the many wonderful neighborhoods that make up District 11. Please stay in touch.
Dan K. Morhaim, M.D.