The 2017 legislative session was an eventful one, and saw many critical pieces of legislation advance. The session opened with great uncertainty with the State facing a major budget shortfall, the incoming Trump administration threatening actions that would disproportionately hurt Marylanders, and the Baltimore City public schools facing a $130 million structural deficit. It closed with the legislature having nearly eliminated Maryland’s structural deficit, passing a balanced budget, passing legislation to take on President Trump, and committing millions in new funding to help fix the BCPS funding gap.
The House considered over 1600 bills during the 2017 session, and below you’ll find synopses of some of the most noteworthy. I look forward to catching up with you around the 43rd District, and also want to invite you to Senator Conway’s 43rd District End of Session Meeting on Wednesday, May 17th at 6pm. The meeting will be held in the Student Center at Morgan State University.
DELEGATE McINTOSH’S LEGISLATION:
HB 694 – Maryland Fair Access to Education Act: This bill “bans the box” on college admissions applications and prohibits colleges from automatically or unreasonably disqualifying applicants for admission based on their criminal history. Maryland colleges will not be able to ask about an applicant’s criminal history on campus-based admissions applications and must develop a transparent policy detailing how information collected on third-party applications is used in the admissions process. HB 694 and its Senate crossfile – sponsored by Senator Conway – passed.
HB 503 – Income Tax Revenue Estimate Cap & Revenue Stabilization Account: This bill caps projections on certain highly volatile types of revenue – mainly capital gains paid by a few very wealthy taxpayers – and helps more accurately project the funds available for the annual State budget. When revenues are greater than expected the excess will be used to close budget deficits, shore up the “rainy day fund”, and provide additional money for school construction projects. HB 503 was signed by Governor Hogan before the session ended.
Capital Investments in the 43rd District: Each year, the capital budget provides funding for local projects across the state. This year, Manna House receives $50,000 for renovations and upgrades to their Charles Village headquarters, which will help them better serve their mission of providing meals to the homeless. The Woodbourne Center will also receive $150,000 toward their vocational training program. While located just outside the 43rd District, the Hampden Family Center serves many families in the 43rd. They receive $100,000 towards their facility renovation.
STRENGTHENING BALTIMORE SCHOOLS:
There was perhaps no issue more pressing for the members of the Baltimore City Delegation than helping to close the structural deficit faced by Baltimore City Public Schools. As the session opened, BCPS faced a $130 million deficit for the 2017-18 school year. Working together, State and City leaders have now resolved almost $100 million of that deficit. The following legislation was aimed at fixing the gap and helping BCPS improve its financial picture:
HB 684 – This bill aids declining enrollment schools throughout Maryland, most especially Baltimore City. This bill provides a total of $23.7 million in additional aid to BCPS, including a $13.5 million grant to mitigate the impact of declining student enrollment and a $10.2 million grant to help offset the cost of BCPS’ full-day Pre-K program. HB 684 has been signed by Governor Hogan and the grants funded in a supplemental budget.
HB 1109 – This bill relieved local boards of education from specified portions of their pension payment obligations, allowing them to direct more money into classrooms. For Baltimore City, this provided $1.8 million in relief.
SB 1149 – This bill requires MTA to allow qualified Baltimore City students to ride transit free of cost. MTA is the primary provider of student transportation in Baltimore City and this bill allows BCPS to put $7.5 million back into classrooms. SB 1149 was passed this morning and is on its way to the Governor’s desk.
Other legislation returned $4.6 million in excess Baltimore City bottle tax revenue from the 21st Century Schools program to BCPS. This is money above and beyond what the City is required to pay in to the 21st Century Schools programs. Legislation also required the City to step up to the plate, and Mayor Pugh did so in committing $22 million next year as part of a 3-year $180 million City and State investment.
Protect Our Schools: The General Assembly passed and overrode Governor Hogan’s veto of the Protect Our Schools Act. This bill (House Bill 978) establishes parameters about how to implement the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act, while giving the State Board of Education discretion on the implementation of the details. The bill prohibits the State Board from making test results count for 100% of the assessment of school progress. It also blocks the privatization of our public schools, by preventing the transfer of operations to private and for-profit interests who look out for their bottom lines first and our kids second.
Capping Public School Testing: The Less Testing, More Learning bill requires the State Board of Education to limit the amount of time for Federal, State and local assessments for each grade to 2.0% of instructional hours, in order to give students the opportunity to learn in new and innovative ways. The bill also requires each school district to set up a committee to monitor the jurisdiction’s assessment programs. The goal is to move away from teaching to the test and move toward using assessments as a true measure of what students learn.
Expanding School Breakfast: The House passed the Maryland Cares for Kids Act that benefits over 45,000 students by expanding the existing school breakfast program for low income families to students in middle and high schools. The program authorizes schools that have 40% or more low income students to provide free meals, by accessing federal funds through the National School Lunch program. My 43rd District colleague Mary Washington was floor leader on this bill and did an admirable job defending this vital program.
BALTIMORE CITY LEGISLATION:
As introduced, Governor Hogan’s budget de-funded a number of items from the “Baltimore Package” the City delegation worked so hard on during the 2016 session. Working together we restored many of those cuts, including:
- $3 million annually to expand the hours of the Enoch Pratt libraries
- $5 million annually through FY 2022 for the Next Generation Scholars Program
- $12 million annually through FY 2022 for the Baltimore Revitalization Neighborhood Initiative (BRNI).
- Funding to expand academic, recreational, and enrichment activities for youths
HB 562 – For the first time in 20 years, the Mayor of Baltimore will have sole authority to appoint members of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. This authority will help clarify fiscal oversight, which is critical as the City and BCPS work to eliminate the school system’s structural deficit.
HB 441 – This bill gives Baltimore City a 2-year grace period for repayment of State debt on the 26 school buildings set to be closed and returned to the City for new uses. Many of these schools are being replaced by new or renovated buildings under the 21st Century buildings plan. The legislation gives the City valuable time to find new productive uses for these buildings without putting additional strain on the City budget.
SB 166 – This bill made modest but meaningful reforms to the Civilian Review Board. The legislation removes the requirement the requirement that complaints to the CRB must be notarized and extends the time period for filing an excessive force complaint from 90 days to one year. While the City Delegation will continue to tackle the issue of police reform, these changes ensure that citizens will be able to have their grievances heard without unnecessary bureaucratic interference.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS:
Banning Fracking: The General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed House Bill 1325, an outright ban on fracking in Maryland. Each fracking well can pump over 5 million gallons of water into the ground and contains 600 unknown chemicals. This bipartisan legislation will protect public health and drinking water across the State. We are pleased the Senate and Governor Hogan followed the House’s lead to enact this critical ban.
Protected Oyster Sanctuaries: We passed a ban on opening Maryland’s oyster sanctuaries to harvesting. This legislation protects our existing oyster recovery investments, gives these sanctuaries additional time to grow, and makes sure that decisions related to oyster harvesting are guided by science. Oysters are the natural filters of the Chesapeake Bay. We need to continue to support efforts to help their population rebound for a cleaner Bay.
Clean Energy Jobs Act: The General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan’s veto in January to increase the state’s renewable energy goals to 25% by 2020 and, in the process, create thousands of jobs across the wind and solar energy sectors. Maryland has more than 170 solar companies and over 4,000 solar jobs paying nearly $21 an hour. These increased renewable energy standards will allow 1,300 more megawatts of renewable energy, which will reduce carbon emissions equal to 563,000 passenger vehicles in the State.
STANDING UP TO THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION:
The General Assembly took the lead this session in defending Marylanders from some of the most extreme and damaging policies of the Trump administration. Some of the bills we passed to protect our state include:
The Maryland Defense Act: This law gives Attorney General Frosh the ability and resources to protect Maryland from unconstitutional actions by the Federal government, including: eliminating healthcare for over 430,000 Marylanders; cutting $73 million in funding to protect the Bay; rolling back consumer protections; damaging civil rights and voters’ rights. Maryland joins 41 other states that allow their attorneys general to act independently from their governors to defend their states’ interests. The Baltimore Sun noted, “We elect attorneys general to represent our interests in court. We need to give him the power to do that.”
Calling on the Governor and Congress to protect the Bay and Maryland health care: The General Assembly passed two resolutions to voice Maryland’s strong opposition to harmful proposals in Washington, D.C. The first resolution expressed our opposition to the elimination of health care coverage for 433,000 Marylanders if the Affordable Care Act was repealed. The second resolution opposes the potential cut of all $73 million of the EPA’s budget to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
Repealing our call for the Constitutional Convention: The legislature has five outstanding calls for a constitutional convention, dating back to 1939. While these calls never expire, we are getting close to the two-thirds of states needed to for a convention. The General Assembly repealed all of Maryland’s outstanding calls so as not to open up our country’s most important guiding document to the Trump Administration.
Protecting Planned Parenthood: Maryland become the first state in the nation to guarantee continued funding for vital family planning and women’s health services at Planned Parenthood if the Federal Government defunds their clinics. In Maryland, 25,000 women rely on Planned Parenthood clinics every year for healthcare. Backfilling the federal government cuts will cost approximately $2.7 million.
Redistricting Compact: Senate Bill 1023 creates a Mid-Atlantic Regional Compact with New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for bipartisan redistricting. If all 6 states act together to create similar independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions, it will remove the partisan wrangling over redistricting reform and send a message to Congress and the rest of the country.
FIGHTING FOR MARYLAND WORKERS AND THE MIDDLE CLASS:
Earned Sick Leave: House Bill 1, the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, will allow over 693,000 Marylanders to no longer make an impossible choice: go to work sick or send an ill child to school, or stay home and sacrifice much needed income – or worse, possibly lose his or her job. Under the bill, employees will be able to earn up to 5 days of sick leave. The bill exempts seasonal businesses and employers that already offers comparable benefits don’t have to change a thing.
Hometown Heroes: House Bill 100 is bipartisan legislation that provides a $15,000 income tax deduction on the retirement income of thousands of law enforcement, fire, rescue, and EMS personnel who are 55 years and older.
Manufacturing Tax Credit: Senate Bill 317, The More Jobs for Marylanders Act, provides $10 million of income, sales, and property taxes per year to manufacturers who move into Maryland from out of State and create new manufacturing jobs in counties with high unemployment. The tax credits are good for 10 years. The bill also allows existing manufacturers in the State who create new jobs to claim an income tax credit for each new job created, along with depreciation tax benefits for new equipment placed into service.
Foreclosure Protection: The House passed a series of bills to help communities with high foreclosure rates recover from the housing crisis. These bills will help bring properties more quickly to the market and ultimately improve Maryland’s property foreclosure registry so counties and neighborhoods are better informed about vacant homes around them.
Preventing Price Gouging of Prescription Drugs: House Bill 631 authorizes the Attorney General to prevent the prescription drug price gouging of off-patent drugs. The legislation would help the Attorney General investigate why the prices for certain drugs skyrocket and would force pharmaceutical companies to the table to justify those increases.
BIPARTISAN ETHICS REFORM:
Speaker Busch and Governor Hogan each introduced legislation to strengthen our public disclosure laws and tighten conflict of interest provisions governing elected officials. The House merged those bills in to The Public Integrity Act of 2017, which increases transparency for elected officials disclosure forms; requires lobbyists to provide more information about their clients; prohibits elected officials from lobbying in front of government entities on personal matters; requires a cooling-off period for more categories of elected officials than under current law; and establishes a Citizen Advisory Board to increase input with the Legislative Joint Ethics Committee on existing ethics laws.
PROTECTING AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT AND DOMESTIC ABUSERS:
Testing Sexual Assault Kits: The Attorney General reported in December that Maryland had 3,700 untested rape kits, with many more never recorded at all. House Bill 255 establishes a statewide standard of handling sexual assault evidence to ensure rape kits are properly tested and stored so victims aren’t treated differently because of their ZIP code.
Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse: House Bill 642, which the Governor has signed in to law, expands the statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse when the victim was a minor. Maryland joins 45 states allowing a victim to seek damages through civil actions well into adulthood.
Stripping the Paternal Rights of Rapists: For the second year in a row, the House passed legislation that establishes an easier process to strip rapists of their paternal rights to a child conceived during rape. Unfortunately, this bill failed to advance through a conference committee as the session drew to a close.
Helping Rape Victims Find Justice: House Bill 429 aligns Maryland law with 30 other states and eliminates the requirement the requirement to prove a victim physically resisted to establish that a sexual offense occurred. House Bill 647 reclassifies the crimes first- and second-degree sexual offenses as first- and second-degree rape. This change eliminates gender distinctions in our rape statutes, which will better protect LGBTQ victims.
Funding Rape Crisis Centers: Senate Bill 734 allocates $3 million per year of State funding for sexual assault services and crisis programs. The bill establishes the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee which increase access to help for victims of sexual assault.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY LEGISLATION:
Maryland Breweries: House Bill 1283 significantly increases the amount of beer that all of Maryland’s breweries can serve on-premises in their taprooms and allows Guinness to open their only brewery in the United States right here in Baltimore County. There was concern about this bill as it originally passed the House regarding how it might impact brewers such as Peabody Heights in the 43rd District, but as amended the bill allows Maryland’s breweries to keep their existing operating hours and provides them with the flexibility to innovate and continue to grow.
Home Act: The Home Act, passed by the House of Delegates, makes it illegal for landlords to discriminate against renters based on the source of their income. This carefully crafted legislation would decentralize poverty and make sure Maryland veterans, disabled, and those of limited means can choose neighborhoods that fit their means and family. Unfortunately, this legislation was not passed by the Senate. I was proud to partner with Delegate Lafferty on this important legislation.
Trust Act: The House of Delegates passed legislation to: prohibit local law enforcement from stopping people on the street to ask for immigration status; create or contribute funding for the federal creation of any kind of registry based on immigration status or religion; and prohibit correctional facilities from detaining undocumented Marylanders without a judicial warrant, unless they are participating in an existing federal immigration program. Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass this bill.
Same Day Voter Registration: Senate Bill 423 would have asked voters to amend the Maryland Constitution to allow Election Day registration and voting. The legislation would also have allowed Marylanders to register and vote at any precinct in their county using a similar process to registering and voting during early voting. This bill passed both chambers in slightly different forms and unfortunately did not pass before the session adjourned.
Medical Cannabis: Speaker Busch created a bipartisan workgroup on medical cannabis to award five grower and processor licenses according to the results of a disparity study on race and gender. The House legislation also changed the makeup of the Medical Cannabis Commission and created a compassionate use fund for low-income patients to access this alternative medicine. Unfortunately the Senate did not pass the House bill.
Banning guns on college campuses: The House passed strong legislation to ban guns on college campuses to ensure all Maryland public colleges and universities are safe. Across the country, 95% of college presidents support a gun ban on college campuses, 79% of college students would not feel safe with concealed guns on campus, and 89% of campus police chiefs believe preventing guns from being on campus is the best practice. Unfortunately, there was not time for the House and Senate to resolve differences on this bill and it did not pass prior to adjournment.