Thursday, April 2, 2015

Significant Bills that Have Passed the House of Delegates

Tuesday, March 24th was the last day that bills could pass the House of Delegates and still be heard by the Senate (it was a very busy few days).    Here are some of the more significant bills that passed the House (with my vote).

House of Delegates Passes the Budget:  This is the big news.

 The House approved a $40 billion state budget (with largely bi-partisan support).

* Restores $132 million of funding for K-12 education.

*Erases 75% of our structural deficit without new taxes.

*Avoids proposed salary cuts for State employees.

*Restores $140 million for Medicaid primary care physician provider rates to ensure rural health care access.

*Restores $6.5 million for community mental health providers.

*Restores $4.8 million for health care coverage for low-income pregnant women and family planning services.

*Restores $4.8 million in rate increases for DDA (developmental disability) providers.

*Increases $2.0 million for expanded substance abuse treatment to combat heroin addiction.

*Protects State Employees’ Pensions/Retirement Savings. The House bill puts less money in the pension system this year than was proposed, but it still commits to get the system up to 80% funding (from the current 65%) by 2023.

Moratorium on Fracking – HB449 This bill prohibits the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) from issuing a permit to authorize the hydraulic fracturing of a well for the exploration or production of natural gas for a three-year period and until a panel of experts has reported to the Governor and General Assembly regarding whether the State should issue a permit.

Climate Change Bill – HB514 This bill establishes the Commission on Climate Change within the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to advise the Governor and General Assembly on ways to mitigate the causes of, prepare for, and adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Expungement of Record If Offense Is No Longer a Crime – HB105  This bill expands eligibility for expungements to persons convicted of a crime that is no longer a crime (this is especially relevant for prior convictions for  possession of a small amount of marijuana, which is now a civil, not criminal, offense).

Decriminalization of Drug Paraphernalia – HB124   Altering the penalty for the possession or use of drug paraphernalia involving the use or possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana to  a civil offense.

Enabling Counties to Provide a Property Tax Credit for Veterans and Elderly –  HB644 Enables a county to provide a property tax credit of up to 20% for veterans, and for residents over 65 who have lived in their homes for over 40 years.

Tax Amnesty Program – HB1233   Mandates a tax amnesty period for delinquent taxpayers from September 1, 2015, through October 30, 2015, for civil penalties and half the interest attributable to nonpayment, non-reporting, or underreporting of specified taxes.

Commission to Review Testing  – HB452 Establishes a Commission to Review Maryland's Use of Assessments and Testing in Public Schools, to survey and assess how much time is spent on tests in each grade and to make recommendations for improving the process so that adequate time is “allotted to both administering assessments and instruction.” This is meant to address the disproportionate amount of testing in schools.

Seven-Day Liquor Store Sales In Prince George’s County  –  HB931  The bill establishes a special Sunday off-sale permit in Prince George's County and establishes a $450 fee for the permit.  (I was originally opposed to this bill, but after sending out a survey and finding out that it was overwhelming supported by the respondents, I voted for the bill.)

Community Solar Energy Generating System Program – HB1087  This legislation will expand access to clean energy for renters and others who aren't able to install solar panels on their own homes. Marylanders could pool their resources to participate in these projects through a variety of financing options.

Repeal of Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Second-Time Drug Offenders – HB121 This bill repeals specified mandatory minimum penalties and imposes specified maximum penalties for repeat offenders of specified crimes generally involving the manufacture, sale, and distribution of controlled substances.  It allows the judge to make the determination on the length of the sentence.

State Lakes Invasive Species Act of 2015 – HB860 Allows the Department of Natural Resources to detect and remove aquatic invasive species on vessels and requires that specific protocol be taken before placing a vessel in a lake.

Parole and Probation - Revocation Prohibited for Violation of Civil Penalty – HB615  Provides that a person may not be sanctioned for a violation of a condition of probation or parole only because of receiving a citation for the commission of a non-jailable civil offense.

Youth Wellness Leadership Pilot Program in Prince George's County – HB1197 Requires Prince George's Board of Education to implement a Pilot Program for 125 students in public high schools to promote skills in youth-led health and wellness advocacy and student leadership. Sponsored  by Delegate Fennell. 

Expansion of Coverage for Infertility Services for Same Sex Couples – HB838  Prohibits insurers, nonprofit health service plans, and health maintenance organizations from excluding benefits for infertility services  for a married policyholder when the patient and the patient's spouse are of the same sex.