Maggie’s Legislative Update: April 1, 2011

Posted by Matt on April 1, 2011  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update: April 1, 2011

Dear Friends:

Since the last time I sent an update things have finally slowed a bit in Annapolis and I’ve had a brief chance to catch my breath. This week is known as crossover, when the House and Senate exchange the bills they have each passed so far this year. With just about two weeks left in the 2011 legislative session, things will be fast and furious as we complete work on the budget, hear testimony on bills sent over from the Senate, complete our work in committee, and spend hours debating and voting on bills on the floor.

In this week’s update I’ll be giving you an update on what is happening in the Environmental Matters Committee and news on some of the issues you’ve been writing me about, including direct wine sales, transgender anti-discrimination legislation, and a whole host of human trafficking bills. As always, if you have questions or concerns about any legislation before us in Annapolis do not hesitate to call, write, or email my office.

Environmental Matters Update:

There has been a lot happening in Environmental Matters and I wanted to update you on three of the biggest issues we have resolved this session.

HB 1033, which I sponsored with Del. Nathaniel Oaks, toughens the standards for lead risk reduction standards and ensures that rental properties are meeting those standards. Lead poising continues to be a problem in Baltimore City, especially in areas with older housing stock and areas with high poverty rates. The bill passed the House by a vote of 130-7 and is currently being considered by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

When people fall behind on their mortgage and are facing foreclosure, often the first bills they stop paying are homeowners or condominium association fees and assessments. As more and more homes are facing foreclosure, many homeowners associations are have been facing budget shortfalls with little legal recourse to collect past fees. HB 1246 puts these associations ahead of banks and allows them to have a priority lien when properties are sold in foreclosure. The bill received a favorable report in committee and is currently being debated on the House floor. This is an issue we’ve talked about in committee for years and I am proud that we have gotten to this point.

Several of you have written to ask about HB 177, which would prohibit the construction of septic systems within the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal watersheds unless those systems utilize best-available nitrogen removal technology.  The Environmental Matters Committee heard testimony on HB 177 in mid-February but the decision was made to not move the bill to the floor this session. Instead, Governor O’Malley is expected to issue an executive order creating a task force that will be charged with studying the available nitrogen removal technologies and the effects septic systems used in larger residential developments have on water quality. I will be working closely with the Governor to determine the duties and membership of this task force and will continue to work with him as we look to implement the recommendations of the task force in future sessions.

Direct Wine Shipping:

After years of trying, the Senate and House have finally passed legislation allowing Marylanders to purchase their favorite wines and have them shipped directly from the winery. HB 1175, which I cosponsored, and SB 248 both establish a direct wine shipper’s permit which allows for holders of the permit to ship wine to consumers’ homes and places of business. For years, Maryland’s liquor regulatory system made it difficult for consumers to purchase wines from smaller wineries whose small volume made them unattractive to wholesalers.

Transgender Anti-Discrimination:

Many of you have written asking my support for House Bill 235, which would make transgender individuals – those whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex at birth (whether or not they self-identify as transgender) – a protected class by prohibiting discrimination based on that characteristic. 10 years ago when anti-discrimination legislation passed the General Assembly, the transgendered community was omitted from protections in housing, employment, and credit. I have cosponsored anti-discrimination bills the past few years because I feel we need to correct the wrong made a decade ago. This bill extends real, concrete protections to a community that experiences a 12% homelessness rate due in large part to discrimination.

While I am happy to report that HB 235 passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 86-52, it does look like we will have to fight this battle again next year. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Rules committee rather than Judiciary, effectively killing it for this session. I know I’ve said this about a lot of bills this session, but while this is a setback we’ve still made encouraging progress. Like marriage equality, transgender anti-discrimination legislation has come up for the past several years and never made it to the floor for a vote. Not only did we bring the bill to the House floor, it passed by a huge margin. I will tell you now that I will be a sponsor of this bill again next session and for as long as it takes for us to extend these vital protections to transgender Marylanders.

Human Trafficking Legislation:

Another issue I’ve heard about from a number of you is human trafficking. Human trafficking is a problem that is becoming more prominent and from which Maryland is not immune. Both the House and Senate have considered a number of bills this session regarding human trafficking and I wanted to briefly update you on a few of the more significant ones:

SB 247 and HB 418 give law enforcement expanded authority to seize property used in human trafficking. SB 247 recently passed the Senate unanimously and will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee.

SB 32 and HB 266 – The Human Trafficking Victim Protection Act –  have each passed their respective chambers and will be sent to the Governor’s desk. These bills allow the courts to require people convicted of human trafficking pay restitution to their victims and allow people charged with prostitution who were victims of human trafficking to have their criminal records expunged.

HB 674 gives educators the resources and training to identify potential human trafficking and raises awareness of the problem. This bill passed the House by a vote of 139-0 and was reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 30th.

HB 1304 would require that the national Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline number be posted in restrooms at all state-owned bus stations and truck stops. The bill passed the House by a vote of 134-1 and was assigned to the Senate Rules Committee.

As always, it is my honor and pleasure to be your voice in Annapolis. Thank you for your interest in State government and the issues we’re debating.

Sincerely,

Maggie McIntosh

Maggie McIntosh