The Latest

Spring 2022

Dear Friends,

On Sine Die, April 11th, I completed the last legislative session of my third term as a member of the House of Delegates.  It was an unusual session in terms of the pace, the significance of the policies being discussed, the residual security measures with respect to the COVID-19 virus and for the first time in over two decades, a budget surplus.  Added to all of these was the fact that it is an election year, when all of us wanted to make sure our constituents could see our work—and have the benefits of any new laws.  All these factors made the time in Annapolis intensely busy, but in the end, I honestly believe that all Marylanders will be positively affected because of this work.

The amount of substantive legislation passed in 2022, most of which is now on the governor’s desk, is much greater than in past sessions.  What I am attempting to do in this letter is to summarize some of the most impactful new laws in several categories.  If you do not see a bill here that you were following, you can learn its status by going to https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Search/Legislation or contact our office for more information. 

The 2022 session was a successful one for me personally.  I was able to pass two major bills that help Marylanders who rely on Medicaid for health care:  HB6/SB150 Medicaid Dental Coverage for Adults will provide dental care for all adults on Medicaid and HB80/SB28 Home and Community-Based Waivers will increase the opportunities for those who need support for activities of daily living to receive that support at home instead of going into nursing homes.  I also worked with Senator Ben Kramer to pass HB1073/SB824 Accessibility of Electronic Advance Care Planning Documents which will allow individuals the choice to upload their health care wishes to a secure platform so providers can see it if they cannot speak for themselves. 

As Chair of the Insurance and Pharmaceuticals Subcommittee I shepherded two major health care bills through to passage.  HB413 will assure that our “reinsurance program” which has reduced health care premiums over the last three years will remain funded and stable. HB1148/SB834 will allow health care providers to contract with insurance carriers in ways that do not rely on the volume of patients, but rather the quality of service.  

BUDGET 

The budget surplus gave us an opportunity to identify some one-time expenditures and some reductions in revenues that will be replaced by savings over time.  Maryland has maintained its AAA bond rating for over 20 years by consistently being responsible in its approach to balanced budgeting and we did not

want to put that rating at risk by over-utilization of the surplus.  So, we approached this task judiciously with the following results:

SB290 FY 23 State Operating Budget

Paid for all mandated programs, put a record $2.4B in the Rainy-Day Fund for emergencies and funds the following priorities:

  • $800M set aside for future Blueprint education funding 
  • Over $50M in help for families to afford childcare
  • An increase of nearly $150M in funding for crime prevention and victim services 
  • Over $100M in funds to create more affordable rental housing
  • $202M for providers serving vulnerable populations
  • $35M toward benefits for cash assistance recipients
  • $27M to expand Medicaid dental benefits for adults
  • $50M for grants for arts and tourism organizations 
  • $47 for implementation of cannabis reform 
  • $30M provided to serve 1,350 youth on the Autism Waiver waiting list 
  • $9M to address climate impacts 
  • $10M to launch paid family leave 
  • $36 million to support economic development and revitalization efforts

SB291 FY 23 State Capital Budget

This year’s capital budget is one of the largest in State history. Working with the Administration to target spending toward one–time infrastructure investment, the capital budget provides $1.5 billion in funding for our most important priorities, including $50.0 million for legislative bond initiatives.  The General Assembly also pre authorized funding for nearly $600 million for projects in future years.

Capital Funding for Local Projects

  • $120 million for transportation, including funding for the County’s new bus rapid transit system (BRT), zero emissions buses, the Bethesda South Metro station entrance, and a new north entrance at the White Flint Metro Station. Funding also was provided for a new bike trail and pedestrian investments
  • $59 million for public K-16 education, which includes several major Montgomery College projects and funding for Montgomery County Public Schools (which does not reflect any allocations from the $420 million in “Built to Learn” funds earmarked for County schools)
  • $35 million for parks and playgrounds
  • $20 million for health facilities, including full funding of the County’s new Restoration Center that will provide behavioral health services for those in crisis
  • $16 million for the White Flint redevelopment project that will help support a national epicenter of computationally enabled life sciences research

TAXES AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The surplus also allowed us the opportunity to reduce tax impacts in some areas, including the following:

  • Tax exemptions on diapers, baby products, medical devices, oral hygiene products, diabetic care products
  • State retirement income tax credit for seniors, 65+ years, with income of less than $100K (single) or $150K (joint)
  • Maryland Earned Income Tax Credit Assistance Program for Low-Income Families sustained

CHILDCARE

Our constituents tell us that childcare is simply unaffordable and is a barrier to employment. To address this issue, several bills were passed to support families in this area.

  • HB89 Child Care Stabilization and Child Care Expansion Grant Programs Act prioritizes family childcare providers most in need for the State’s $50 million stabilization grant 
  • HB725 Therapeutic Child Care Program Act provides up to $45K for each child with severe developmental disabilities that a childcare worker supports
  • HB995 Child Care Scholarship Program Improvements automatically allows for the enrollment of student on the edge of eligibility in the childcare scholarship program so that childcare providers participating in the program to receive their payments faster
  • HB1100 Bonuses for Child Care Providers and Employees fences off $16 million in the budget for childcare providers to use for employee retention and new hire bonuses

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

There were two major topics debated in criminal justice during this session.  The first is the legalization of recreational cannabis.  Ultimately it will be the voters who will decide whether to move forward with this initiative. HB1 Legal Cannabis Constitutional Amendment puts a referendum for legalized cannabis on the 2022 General Election ballot. It would allow individuals 21 or older to use and possess cannabis. However, if the referendum passes, there must be systems in place to implement the changes and transitions. The HB837 Cannabis Reform does this by addressing criminal justice and public health issues facing legalization while building the necessary foundation to create social equity in the recreational cannabis industry. 

The second topic was equitable justice for juveniles. HB269/SB53 Child Interrogation Protection Act extends access to counsel to children during an interrogation. It prohibits officers from interrogating children until an attorney has been consulted and requires law enforcement to try to notify the parent, guardian, or custodian that the child will be interrogated unless there’s a threat to public safety. This ensures due process for children and equal treatment across the board. SB691 Juvenile Justice Reform makes changes to the juvenile justice process by implementing the recommendations of the Juvenile Justice Reform Council (JJRC). The bill, among other things, limits the circumstances under which a child is subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.  It further creates a permanent Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform and Emerging and Best Practices to research evidence– and research–based practices to improve child welfare, juvenile rehabilitation, mental health services for children, and prevention and intervention services for juveniles.

EDUCATION 

The General Assembly passed the Blueprint for Maryland’s future in 2021 and its implementation is in process. HB1450 Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Alterations adjusts the Blueprint’s implementation plan to better align with the formation of the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) adjusts some timelines and dedicates a certain percentage of tax revenues to funding the plan.  The bill extends the dates for when the AIB must adopt a Comprehensive Implementation Plan (CIP) for the Blueprint and extends the dates for when the plans should be approved. The bill also dedicates a certain percentage of sales and use tax revenues to the Blueprint’s funding.  

Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh is retiring at the end of this term.  She started her professional career as an art teacher and has continued to be a strong advocate for arts in education.  As a former educator, I recognize how essential arts education is to any academic program.  We unanimously supported HB1469 Maggie McIntosh Art Fund to provide grants to help Baltimore City public schools purchase art supplies for their classrooms and expand the arts curriculum for students in schools in Baltimore City that are eligible for concentration of poverty grants (CPGs). 

ELECTIONS

Maryland has always been committed to making voting as accessible as possible. This year we passed SB158 Protecting Voting Rights emergency legislation that requires the State Board of Elections and local boards of elections to provide at least the same number of in-person precinct polling locations as the 2018 election. This was the response to local boards preparing to consolidate and eliminate some polling locations.

ENVIRONMENT

To reach our more aggressive greenhouse reduction goals, we seek to increase the utilization of electric vehicles. HB696 Electric School Bus Pilot Program establishes a 3-year electric school bus pilot program to begin transitioning Maryland’s 7,300 school buses from diesel to electric buses. HB1391 Clean Cars Act of 2022 extends the Clean Cars program for zero-emission and fuel cell electric vehicles that cost $50,000 or less.

SB528 Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 is possibly the most comprehensive and landmark climate control legislation in the country.  It sets s achievable goals to reduce greenhouse gases and meet the goal of net-zero statewide emissions by 2045. To reach this goal there will be a data driven process and that will require use of technology that has been scientifically proven to achieve verifiable carbon reductions and ensure continued use of Maryland’s existing zero carbon electric generators. 

In addition, the bill also requires the following:

  • Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), in coordination with the Commission on Environmental Justice to address issues of climate equity for communities disproportionately affected by climate change 
  • Maryland Commission on Climate Change to establish four Working Groups to identify programs to improve workforce development, support small businesses to transition to renewable energy, improve state infrastructure to modernize energy transmission and how to decommission, dispose, and recycle solar panels
  • Department of Labor to adopt the 2018 version of the International Green Construction Code and continuously update
  • MDE to develop building energy performance standards to achieve a 20% reduction in net direct greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero direct by 2040 
  • Creation of the Building Energy Transition Implementation Task Force to make recommendations for programs and incentives to reduce emissions from the building sector through retrofitting and electrification
  • County boards of education to purchase electric school buses if there is available federal, state, or private funding and ensures MDE works with county boards and private school bus contractors to develop a sufficient electric school bus infrastructure
  • State vehicle fleet to be completely transitioned to Zero-emission Vehicles by 2036
  • Improvements in the electric grid and study of the grid’s capacity by 2023

GOVERNMENT

This session, the General Assembly made progress in recognizing and honoring the contributions of African Americans to our history and our culture. HB227 State Government – Legal and Employee Holiday – Juneteenth National Independence Day makes Juneteenth, June 19, a State legal holiday and State employee holiday. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when hundreds of thousands of enslaved people in Texas found out they were free – 2.5 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  HB1088 African American Heritage Preservation Program Funding provides the program with $4 million in new funding to preserve more sites in Maryland that are significant to African American history, culture, and heritage. The program is one of only two grant programs in the nation that is solely dedicated to funding African American heritage sites.

HEALTH CARE

The Health and Government Operations Committee was perhaps one of the busiest committees this year.  In addition to those mentioned above, some of the other highlights include the following:

  • Maryland Department of Health – Waiver Programs – Waitlist and Registry Reduction (End the Wait Act) which will require the development of a plan to reduce the waitlist by 50% for many waiver programs 
  • HB1080 Healthy Babies Equity Act allows pregnant people and their babies access to health care coverage regardless of their immigration status  
  • SB353 Insulin Cost Reduction Act limits the total amount of cost share for insulin for individuals with health insurance plans $30 monthly  
  • HB937 Reproductive Health Care Access removes unnecessary and outdated barriers to accessing reproductive health care by allowing more types of trained providers to perform abortions and removes financial barriers by requiring Medicaid and private insurance plans to cover abortion care without cost-sharing or deductible requirements

HOUSING

Affordable housing is a significant issue throughout the State.  Several of the bills passed in this area are targeted at providing ways for tenants to stay in their homes.  These include

  • HB932 Require Landlords to Accept Federal Rental Assistance for Failure to Pay Rent which simply clarifies that landlords must accept a check of federal rental assistance provided by a tenant to avoid eviction. This became an issue when renters were not always able to take advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)
  • SB384 Stay of Eviction Proceeding for Rental Assistance Determination requires judges to pause eviction proceedings for failure to pay rent cases up to 30 days when there is a good faith effort to apply for rental assistance. This will prevent people who are eligible for rental assistance from being evicted from their homes
  • HB86/ SB6 Tenant Protection Act increases protections for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking in lease terminations. It also improves transparency in utility costs when they are passed on to tenants and security deposit disbursement at the end of a lease

LABOR 

The bill that got the most notice from the press this year was SB275 Time to Care Act of 2022.  It establishes the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Fund to provide up to 12 weeks of benefits to covered workers who need to take extended time away from work to care for themselves or a loved one. This will allow workers to take paid time off for events like the birth or adoption of a child, caring for an aging family member or caring for themselves during a medical emergency without having to endure hardship. A commission is being set up to design the program and the fund should be available in January 2023. 

Another issue that frequently confronts labor is the lack of compliance to or the application of our prevailing wage laws. Two bills were passed to address this issue. HB145 Stop Work Order requires the Commissioner of Labor to start an investigation after receiving a complaint or being made aware of a violation of paying prevailing wage for a qualified project. If the Commissioner determines a violation of prevailing wage laws has occurred, they may issue a Stop Work Order for every work site in violation. The Commissioner then must give the contractor a reasonable amount of time to fix the violation to release the Stop Work Order. The General Assembly passed prevailing wage laws to ensure workers are paid fairly, this is a commonsense step to make sure all parties do their job. HB611 Prevailing Wage for Mechanical Service Contracts extends prevailing wage requirements to routine mechanical service contracts that are part of a public work valued more than $2,500. While prevailing wage laws already apply to public work construction projects which cost $250,000 or more, this legislation ensures future work done involving HVAC, refrigeration, plumbing, electrical, elevator systems, etc. also qualifies for prevailing wage.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Maryland continues to enhance our gun control laws to assure responsible and accountable selling, purchasing and use of lawful firearms.  Considering the increase of the use of untraceable guns, HB425/SB387 Ghost Gun Ban was passed and creates a plan for a system to register guns that can be sold in kits of loose parts and do not have a serial number.  HB1021 Enhanced Security Requirements for Licensed Firearms Dealer Shops requires firearm dealers to put common sense security features like video cameras, burglary systems and safes in their shops to prevent stolen firearms. These enhanced security measures will prevent stolen firearms from going on the black market and being used to commit crimes.   

TRANSPORTATION

The metropolitan areas of the state are significantly affected by traffic issues; the data shows that we spend much more time traveling to and from locations than other jurisdictions.  While roads will always be an important part of our systems, there is an effort to increase the use of other elements, such as transit and bicycles when possible.  To that end, HB254/SB 874 Vision Zero Implementation Act of 2022 requires the State Highway Administration (SHA) to conduct an infrastructure review of each pedestrian or bicyclist fatality that occurs on a state highway or at an intersection of a state highway and another highway or municipal street. By December 1, 2023, SHA must publish the vulnerable road user safety assessment required by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) on its website. HB778/SB514 Maryland Regional Rail Transformation Act requires the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to establish individual investment programs to advance the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC)

Cornerstone Plan and other MARC improvements, as specified. The bill also requires MTA to (1) advance specified rail priority projects as part of the investment programs, as specified and (2) conduct a MARC Cornerstone Plan Implementation Study.  

Thus far, the governor has signed almost 200 bills, some of which are on this list.  Some have become law with a veto override and some without the governor’s signature.  However, there are still many of these bill awaiting the governor’s action.  For final disposition, please check the Maryland General Assembly Website, mgaleg.maryland.gov or feel free to contact my office via email at bonnie.cullison@house.state.md.us, or by phone at 301-858-3883.  Please remember that during the intercession we are not in the office every day, so we would ask for your patience.

All the best,

 

Previous Legislative Sessions

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