2021 Legislative Session Review - Part 4
This is Part 4 of a four-part series on the 2021 Legislative Session.
To read Parts 1,2,3, click here.



2021 Legislation -
The Good and The Bad

While we were told prior to session to limit the number of bills introduced, many did not heed that request and we still had a huge number of bills to consider- 2,359 (both Senate & House)!  Most were completely unrelated to the ongoing pandemic.


It was a very unusual session and Zoom meetings were prevalent.
Pictured: McDaniel Virtual MICUA Day (Maryland Independent College & University Association), The Delegate with President Roger Casey, and participating students.
Some good bills that passed… 

Improving Emergency Management  
For the past three years, I have been a member of the Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1- Across Maryland (NG911). The Commission’s recommendations in their annual reports have been incorporated into nine laws with bipartisan support. As a result of our efforts, Maryland is a national leader as we transition to NG911. This year, two bills I sponsored passed that will implement key recommendations from the Commission’s third annual report.
 
The bill makes various changes to the regulatory structure related to 9-1-1 service outages. It also requires additional mental health training for 9-1-1- Specialists. There is an emotional toll on 9-1-1- Specialists, especially now that they are responding to live videos and texts. Providing our current and future 9-1-1- Specialists with the tools to handle traumatic events will help reduce burnout, turnover, and long-term onboarding costs. Read More.
 
Upgrades the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to a Cabinet-level Department and transfers the 9-1-1 Board to this new Department (currently, they are awkwardly housed under the Department of Corrections). This will align our emergency management services to be better able to support our local 9-1-1 operations. This change is very timely with the important work of our emergency managers highlighted during our State of Emergency.

2-1-1 Maryland - Mental Health Services Phone Call Program Establishes an opt-in phone call program that will help with the accessibility to connect citizens with local mental health providers.
Improving Access to Care During the Pandemic

The healthcare industry had been very slow to adapt to this telehealth technology – until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and made us all a little more comfortable with the virtual world. This legislation expands telehealth services by requiring private insurers, other carriers, and the Medicaid program to reimburse providers for telehealth services provided via audio-only modalities.
 
Pharmacists – Prescription Drug and Device Labels – Expiration Dates Current Maryland law requires pharmacists to re-label prescriptions dispensed in the original packaging with a maximum one-year expiration date, regardless of the shelf life indicated by the manufacturer. This practice can cause confusion for consumers and result in usable medicines and devices being thrown away or needlessly replaced. Example: the Epi-Pen - many families must have these devices available at home and at school for children who are prone to allergic reactions. Parents were forced to replace these expensive medications annually even though they were still effective.

Nursing Homes – COVID–19 and Other Catastrophic Health Emergencies – Visitation:  During a catastrophic health emergency issued by the Governor, visitation in nursing homes will be prioritized to balance the physical needs of residents with the mental and spiritual needs of the residents and family members from isolation and separation during the emergency. 

 Alcoholic Beverages - Sale or Delivery for Off-Premises Consumption Restaurants licensed to sell alcohol, have been able to sell carry-out or delivery of alcohol with a food purchase during the pandemic per a Governor’s Order. This made it convenient for consumers and helped struggling restaurants. This bill would allow that to continue. Cheers!
Bad bills that passed….
Taking Away the Rights of Parents

Health – Mental and Emotional Disorders – Consent (Mental Health Access Initiative) This will lower the “age of consent” by their parents for children in need of mental health treatment from the current age of 16, to 12. According to the opponents of the bill, including the Maryland Psychological Society, the Maryland Psychiatric Society and the Maryland Board of Nursing, this legislation could result in unintended adverse consequences. Most pre-teen and younger teenage children do not have the cognitive capacity to consent to such treatment without parental involvement. Almost every effective strategy at treating younger children with mental illness benefits from the involvement of the parent or guardian. Parents must be involved in their child’s health care, including mental health. 
 
Erasing History
State Song – Repeal  The committee I serve on has wasted precious time over the last decade sitting through hearings, workgroups and briefings and then debating the meaning of every word in every verse of our state song. This song is, for all intents and purposes, extinct because it is not sung anywhere anymore. The Democratic leadership made repealing, our state song, a top legislative priority this year. “Maryland, My Maryland” has been our state song for 81 years, but it has now been construed as offensive and racist. What is wrong with learning about our history, no matter how imperfect? Our state and nation have grown and we should be working on more pressing issues like reopening our schools and educating our children.
 
I voted against removing our song because using the argument that anything in our history is offensive that has a historic reference to the Civil War or slavery could next lead us to removing our beautiful Maryland Flag, State Seal, and renaming Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Hospital and University. The cancel culture has focused on issues that do nothing to actually improve the lives of our citizens. I would have been happy to have kept “Maryland our Maryland” as our historic song and had a contest for a new contemporary song like, my favorite, West Virginia’s “Country Roads.” 

Tough Year for Landlords
A collection of landlord/tenant bills were introduced this year. Most of the focus has been on renters’ rights with little regard on the unintended effects on property owners. The property owner still has to pay a mortgage, property taxes, registration fees to the state and county, insurance, water bills, and more, while the renter gets to stay in the home for free. Fortunately, only one bill passed both houses.

Landlord and Tenant – Eviction Action – Right to Counsel If you are thinking of renting your home while you travel abroad; if you’re thinking of buying a rental property as an extra source of income, you might want to think again. This legislation gives lower-income tenants the right to have legal representation in eviction proceedings, at the expense of state or local taxpayers. Landlords will have to pay their own legal fees. This is unfair to landlords – especially small ones and it will drive up rent due to increased costs. General funds expenditures increase significantly to fund the legal representations required in this bill. 
Not Ready for Prime Time

Plastic Bag Reduction Act  Studies have shown that most plastic bags (78 percent) have a secondary life where people use them for packing lunches or disposing of pet waste and other garbage. Also, during the pandemic many felt like plastic bags were cleaner and safer than reusable bags that are not washed regularly and can more easily carry bacteria and viruses. The bill will result in increased costs for stores and restaurants and does not address the vast majority of plastics contained in shipping and packaging materials. Bill Failed
 
Climate Solutions Act An effort to reconcile the competing versions of major environmental legislation collapsed in the final hours of the General Assembly session, rendering the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021 dead. The bill called for net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, or offsetting the amount of emissions produced and amount removed from the atmosphere by 2045. Bill Failed to Pass both Houses.

Cannabis - Legalization and Regulation (Inclusion, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Act of 2021 Marijuana bills were again introduced that would have made it legal for individuals age 21 and older to use marijuana. The bill would have established a regulatory and taxation framework for cannabis establishments as well as provided relief and expungement for marijuana-related convictions. Similar legislation was introduced in the upper chamber by Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery). Both bills died in their respective committees.
During the interim, the best way to contact my office is to email, Susan.Krebs@house.state.md.us

Staff: Stephanie Duncan Troxell (right)
Leigh Appel (left)
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