Floor Action

Here are are some of the bills the House passed this week (you can see all the floor agendas and debates here):

Voting. The House has passed several bills to ensure people have access to exercise their right to vote.
HB 745 adjusts the number of early voting centers, resulting in more centers in some counties to ensure fairness and access across the state.

HB 1047 codifies the procedure of 2020 using drop boxes and provides for the security of the boxes while they are in use and a chain of custody for the ballots to ensure integrity of the process.

Housing. The pandemic has caused severe problems with housing. Tenants have lost their jobs so cannot pay rent, which means the landlords, both large and small, are not getting paid so cannot pay their bills. In addition to the state and federal monies, the House has a package of housing bills to help tenants stay housed.

HB 52 requires landlords to provide two forms of notice to tenants seven days before a landlord can file for an eviction. The notice must include resources for the tenant, including information for rental assistance programs and court services. This will help landlords and tenants resolves disputes before resorting to court action and give tenants additional time to seek help if needed.

HB 1312 will strengthen the Governor’s executive order which created an affirmative defense for failure to pay rent by allowing tenants to use the defense up to six months after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended. Tenants will be required to show the court that they suffered a substantial loss of income due to the pandemic. This includes job loss, reduction in work hours, or need to miss work to care for a home-bound student. The effects of the pandemic will last for months after this crisis. While the state of emergency may end, the economic effects on Marylanders will continue.

HB 31 increases the fee to file for an eviction. Currently, Maryland has one of the lowest eviction filing fees in the nation. This increase is needed to reduce frivolous claims and incentivize landlords and tenants to resolve disputes outside of court. The fees collected will be reinvested into rental assistance and legal aid programs.

HB 18 provides that individuals who make 50% or less of the state median income will be eligible for a lawyer in specific cases, such as retaliatory actions by a landlord, rent escrow disputes, and lead hazards.

Juvenile Justice
HB 315 ensures that when law enforcement takes a minor into custody, they provide the minor's parent or guardian with notice that they have the minor, where the minor is, why the minor is in custody and prohibits the questioning of a minor without a lawyer present.

HB 1187 makes a number of changes to the juvenile justice process based upon recommendations from the Juvenile Justice Reform Council, including limiting when a child younger than 13 is subject to the jurisdiction of juvenile court and expanding the use of informal adjustments. The bill also creates a permanent Commission with a number of responsibilities, including researching culturally competent, evidence-based, research-based, and promising practices relating to child welfare, juvenile rehabilitation, mental health services for children, and prevention and intervention services for juveniles.

Other Bills
HB 507 is the Clean Water Commerce Act of 2021. This bill reauthorizes the Clean Water Commerce Act and allows the use of funds from the Bay Restoration Fund to further our efforts to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.

HB 114 increases operating and capital spending for the Maryland Transit Administration.

HB 264 moves Maryland towards better waste reduction management by requiring facilities that have over two tons of food residuals each week and are within 30 miles of an organics recycling facility to separate their food residuals and ensure they are diverted from the waste system by either donating serviceable foods, composting onsite or sending them offsite for composting.

HB 807 is my bill setting up a workgroup to update and amend the Maryland Recycling Act and to examine the feasibility of regional waste and recycling facilities.

HB 875 removes "black liquor" from our renewable energy portfolio. This issue has long been a source of discussion. While this material is 'renewable,' it is not clean energy and thus should not be eligible in law for clean energy credits. Black liquor had been kept in law so as to not destroy the jobs at the lone paper mill in Western Maryland, but since that mill closed it is time to remove it.