Floor Action

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

SB 52/HB 78 - establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity. Covid-19 has highlighted the health disparities in our State, and this Commission will help address and mitigate these disparities by (1) employing a “health equity framework” in specified examinations; (2) providing advice on issues of racial, ethnic, cultural, or socioeconomic health disparities; (3) facilitating coordination of expertise and experience in developing a comprehensive health equity plan addressing the social determinants of health; and (4) setting goals for health equity and prepare a plan for the State to achieve health equity in alignment with other statewide planning activities. 

HB 1372 - updating the Blueprint for Maryland's Future, including additional funding for specified educational technology costs. In addition, to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill provides that local boards of education must implement a specified summer school program, provide certain tutoring and supplemental instruction, and use specified funds to address trauma and behavioral health issues.

SB 819/HB 1139 - addresses unemployment insurance (UI) during the pandemic When unemployment benefits are considered, the weekly allocation is reduced by any amount of wages earned over $50 for the week. We heard from constituents during the pandemic that this amount was exceedingly low and harmful. As a result, this bill increases, from $50 to $200, the wages that are disregarded for purposes of determining a UI claimant’s weekly benefit amount. The bill is an emergency bill, meaning it goes into effect immediately. It terminates when the current state of emergency as declared by the Governor is over.

HB 409/SB 494 - authorizes a court, when sentencing a minor convicted as an adult, to impose a sentence less than the minimum term required under law. A court is prohibited from imposing a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or release on a minor convicted as an adult. The bill also authorizes an individual who was convicted as an adult for an offense committed when the individual was a minor to file a motion with the court to reduce the duration of the sentence and establishes procedures to do so.

SB 71 - requires law enforcement officials, who regularly interact with members of the public as part of their duties, to wear body cameras. Each agency must have a written policy, consistent with the statewide policy created by the Maryland Policy Training and Standards Commission. (On a personal note, I am happy that the issue of body cameras has come so far from when I initially fought for them 6 years ago!) In addition, this bill requires law enforcement agencies to have a system to identify officers who are at risk of engaging in the use of excessive force, and providing them with assistance and resources to reduce that risk. Finally, the bill recognizes the stress that the job places on law enforcement personnel and supports them by requiring agencies to provide access to an "employee assistance program" that includes confidential crisis counseling, stress management counseling, resiliency sessions and peer support services.

My bills

Three of my bills are moving:
HB 295, which recognizes the effects of climate change by ensuring that the Maryland Department of the Environment incorporates the most recent rainfall data into stormwater management regulations, passed both chambers and has been sent to the Governor.

HB 76, which aligns Maryland with the requirements of the Federal Clean Water Act and enables citizens & citizen groups to join State enforcement actions in state court, passed the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and is now in the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee (EHEA).

HB 807, which creates a task force to review and update the Maryland Recycling Act, was heard in EHEA last week. There is no opposition to the bill, so hopefully the Committee will pass it this week!