Floor Action

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

HB 1048 will make voting easier and more convenient by creating a permanent mail-in ballot option. Marylanders who want to vote by mail in future elections will not need to request a ballot for every election. Elections during the pandemic have shown us that our existing mail-in voting process works well and that voters should be able to choose the option that works best for them.

HB 3 takes the Governor out of parole decisions for those who are sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and after they have served 20 years. We are one of only 3 states where the Governor can override the Parole Board's decision to grant parole (the Governor appoints the members of the Parole Board). Politics should not have any place in our parole system. This bill has a special meaning for me, as I worked on it years ago as the Policy Director for the ACLU of Maryland.   

HB30 will ensure that climate change is part of the conversation when energy and utility regulations are considered at the Public Service Commission. The Office of the People’s Counsel will add staff to focus on climate change and environmental issues, including our progress towards meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

HB 742 (The Walter Lomax Act) requires the Board of Public Works to pay compensation to an individual who has been erroneously convicted, sentenced, and subsequently confined for a felony. Walter Lomax was convicted at age 18 and released at age 65 for a crime he did not commit. I worked with Mr. Lomax for years and was so honored to vote for this bill. While there is no amount of money that can make up for the damage the state did to him, his family and his community, this is a step in the right direction. The bill passed out of the House unanimously.

Environment & Transportation Committee

This week our Committee voted on several bills I'd like to highlight for you:

We passed HB 2. Jointly assigned with the Appropriations Committee, this bill reforms the Maryland Environmental Service as a result of the information found by the Legislature after an investigation into a lavish payout of its former Executive Director. See here for Baltimore Sun article on the bill and the investigation.

We also passed HB 50, the Tenant Protection Act of 2021. This bill does a number of important things to protect tenants, including: extending existing lease termination protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to victims of stalking; requiring landlords who use a Ratio Utility Billing System to notify tenants in writing what they are being charged for; requiring landlords who withhold any part of the security deposit to provide tenants with supporting documentation; and allowing tenants the right to use community spaces within their buildings for organizing tenants' associations.

We voted on HB 33, the Climate Crisis and Education Act. This bill would establish the Climate Crisis Initiative in the Maryland Department of the Environment, require the State to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 60% of 2006 levels by 2030, achieve net-zero GHG emission by 2045, and be net-negative thereafter. The bill also establishes various pollution fees on fossil fuels and certain new vehicle sales and registrations. While our Committee vote was largely symbolic (the bill had been voted down by the Economic Matters Committee, which was the primary committee on the bill), I voted for the bill (against the unfavorable motion) and hope that we will pass it next year.

You can see the Committee hearing schedule and videos of our hearings here.

My Legislation

The House passed HB 295, ensuring the Maryland Department of the Environment uses up to date rainfall data to create stormwater management regulations. The bill now heads to the Senate.