2019 Legislative Session Recap


Dear Friend:


Thank you for your support and your feedback throughout the legislative session. I am providing you with an overview of some key pieces of legislation from the 2019 legislative session. Unless otherwise noted, all bills listed passed in the General Assembly are awaiting the Governor’s signature. ENVIRONMENT

Clean Energy Jobs Act I had the unique opportunity to serve as Floor Leader on the Clean Energy Jobs Act, SB 516, leading it through second reader and then final passage on the last day of Session. This legislation requires 50% renewable energy by 2030, sets a process to work toward 100% renewable energy, increases in-state solar (from 2.5% to 14.5%) and offshore wind production, and will create thousands of good jobs for Marylanders in the clean energy industry. I am disappointed that we were not able to remove trash incineration from being subsidized as a source of clean energy. I co-sponsored a separate bill (HB961) specifically to remove subsidies for trash incineration, but this bill died in committee. I will continue to work to end these subsidies and develop more sustainable ways to reduce and address waste.

Protecting the Chesapeake Bay The General Assembly voted to pass and override the Governor’s veto on HB 298, legislation to permanently protect five oyster sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay. This bill was one of late Speaker Busch’s priorities to maintain a healthy, cleaner Chesapeake Bay, and I was proud to vote in favor of this bill.

Polystyrene and Chlorpyrifos Bans I was a co-sponsor on HB 109, legislation that will make Maryland the first state in the country to ban the use of expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) food containers. Starting in 2020, food distributors will use recyclable or compostable single use containers. I proudly voted to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that has been shown to have toxic effects on both people and wildlife. HB 275 passed in the House, but unfortunately was not approved by the Senate. EDUCATION

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, SB 1030, will implement the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission to transform Maryland education. Funding for schools will increase $250 million this coming year to begin supporting programs including full-day pre-kindergarten, increasing pay for teachers, raising standards for college and career readiness, and establishing accountability for schools and students. This legislation is the first step in implementing the Kirwan Commission recommendations.

Restorative Approaches in School Discipline I introduced HB 725, which works towards dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline through implementation of restorative approaches in school discipline. Restorative approaches are proactive, preventative, relationship-focused discipline methods, which emphasize building strong relationships and setting clear behavioral norms for school communities. In response to behavior that violates these norms, restorative approaches focus on the harm caused by the behavior and reparation of the harm and relationships.

Students with Reading Difficulties SB 734 will create a screening protocol to identify students at risk for reading difficulties, so schools can provide comprehensive support and instruction for students identified to need appropriate supports. ECONOMIC JUSTICE

Minimum Wage – Fight for $15 I strongly advocated for the Fight for Fifteen movement, and I am proud to say Maryland will join the few states in the country to succeed in raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. The General Assembly voted to override the Governor’s veto on HB 166, which will raise the state minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025 for most businesses. More than 573,000 Marylanders will see their wages raised.

Childcare Tax Expansion HB 810 addresses the high childcare costs that working families are facing today. This bill will expand the existing child and dependent care tax credit to help working parents, by expanding income eligibility for single and married filers.

Federal Shutdown Paycheck Protection Act After President Trump’s government shutdown affected the livelihood of federal employees, the General Assembly passed HB 336 to ensure federal employees who work during shutdowns without pay have access to either unemployment insurance benefits or a no-interest loan program.

Prevailing Wage Rates HB 524 will allow employees who are paid less than the prevailing wage under a public work contract to sue to recover the difference in wages. These suits can proceed without first filing a complaint with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry.

Ban the Box The General Assembly promoted fair chance hiring by voting to “ban the box,” removing the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record from hiring applications. HB 994 increases reintegration opportunities for individuals who have criminal convictions. CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM, PUBLIC SAFETY AND GUN SENSE

Gun Safety The House successfully passed two crucial gun laws, one banning printing of 3D guns and the other requiring background checks for private long gun sales. Unfortunately these bills did not pass out of the Senate. HB 1343, which eliminated the politically appointed handgun permit review board in favor of a judicial process to review such applications, passed both chambers and is now awaiting action by the Governor.

Decriminalization of Open Containers Under current law, carrying an open container of alcohol in public is a criminal offense. My bill, HB 88, will decriminalize the public consumption of alcohol changing it to a civil offense. The new law will create a more efficient and fair system that punishes minor alcohol violations without resulting in a criminal record for life for the offender.

Crisis Intervention Team Technical Assistance Center I fought hard for the establishment of a Crisis Intervention Team Technical Assistance Center, a partnership between law enforcement, behavioral health providers and advocates to assist and divert individuals in mental health crisis from the criminal justice system to the health system. HB 1210 passed with overwhelming support in the House, but stalled in the Senate. I plan on continuing my efforts to pass this important legislation in the coming session.

Reducing Solitary Confinement I co-sponsored legislation to protect incarcerated minors from the harmful use of solitary confinement. HB 1001 will ensure minors are only placed in restrictive housing for the safety of themselves and others. They will also be guaranteed access to mental health assessments and other basic rights. PROTECTING MARYLANDER’S HEALTH

Protecting the Affordable Care Act As the federal government continues to threaten the American healthcare system, Maryland has taken legislative action to defend the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). I co-sponsored HB 697, legislation that will protect Marylanders with pre-existing conditions and renews the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission.

Individual Market Stabilization Act HB 258 will require health insurance companies to contribute a 1% assessment rate to Maryland’s Reinsurance Program. This will restore confidence and stability in the health insurance market and will ensure health insurance companies cover more of the healthcare costs for the sickest Marylanders.

State Prescription Drug Benefits I supported SB 946, legislation limiting out-of-pocket prescription expenses for retired state employees. This reimbursement will cap out of pocket costs for prescription drug benefits as part of an emergency measure to protect state retirees from the expiration of state-sponsored health coverage.

Title X Family Planning HB 1272 will protect Marylanders who choose to participate in family planning services and combats the federal government’s authority concerning women’s health care policy. New proposed changes at the federal level to the Title X grant program would not allow any facility that counsels or educates women on abortions, or provides abortions in that facility, to receive funding. If these new rules are enacted, HB 1272 would remove Maryland from the Federal Title X program and will create a Maryland family planning program.

Tobacco Age HB 1169 will increase the age to buy tobacco products in the state of Maryland to 21, which will reduce the prevalence of teen smoking and addiction.

End of Life Option After an emotional debate, the House passed HB 399, a bill I co-sponsored. This bill would have given individuals suffering from a terminal illness with less than six months to live the ability to request and receive aid-in-dying from their physician. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass out of the Senate. CIVIL RIGHTS AND VOTER ACCESS

Gender Neutral Driver’s License House Bill 421 will make Maryland the sixth state in the country to enact a gender neutral option on driver’s licences. This bill allows a person who does not identify as a male or female the option to mark “x”, a gender neutral designation.

Early Voting We have taken progressive steps this session towards expanding voter access. HB 237 improves early voting by establishing additional early voting centers proportional to the population of each county.

Correctional Facility Voting Coordinator HB 252 would have required each correctional facility to designate an employee to act as a voting coordinator to work with incarcerated individuals and detainees. The coordinators were required to distribute voting information and absentee ballot applications. Unfortunately, this legislation did not pass in the Senate. FOOD SYSTEMS One of my priorities this session was to build a healthier food system in Maryland.

Farms and Families Fund Maryland Farms and Families Act increases access to fresh, local produce for Marylanders who are food insecure; puts more money in the pockets of farmers; and makes farmers markets financially viable in food deserts. This session my bill, HB 84, passed to ensure that vital state funding is guaranteed for the Maryland Farm and Families Fund.

Healthy Food Access and Complete Streets Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. My bill, HB 82, will expand Maryland’s definition of a complete street policy to include prioritization of access to healthy food when complete streets are being designed in food deserts.

Cottage Foods Maryland’s Cottage Food Law allows residential kitchens to produce and sell homemade products, such as breads, jams, cakes, cookies, and candies in their community. My bill, HB 527, will expand opportunities available for cottage food producers by allowing cottage food products to be sold in retail food stores, including grocery stores and food cooperatives. Protections for the health of consumers will remain in place, with only non-potentially hazardous foods with proper labeling of ingredients qualifying for sale. This legislation supports local businesses and fosters strong connections between producers and a wider range of local consumers.

Local Food Task Force My work led to the creation of a task for to increase state procurement of locally grown food. The goal of this effort is to build a strong local food system, which is important for Maryland’s economy, farmland preservation, residents’ health, environmental sustainability, and resiliency. The focus of this task force effort is to identify changes necessary to increase the procurement of Maryland grown food in state contracts, identify support needed for Maryland farmers to engage in state procurement, and establish benchmarks and a reporting system for state procured food from local sources. BELTWAY AND 270 I know many of you join me in our concern about the Governor’s plan to widen 495 and 270. The proposal to use a public private partnership raises concerns about privatization of public goods, the long term fiscal risks to the state, the disastrous environmental effects, and the possibilities of losing homes and businesses in our community. I was proud to work with my colleagues on bills to require more accountability, transparency, and local control in this process. I was disappointed that House Bill 1091, a bill that would have brought financial oversight, moved through the House, but stalled in the Senate. I will continue to work with you to fight the Beltway widening. DELEGATE SCHOLARSHIPS As a Member of the House of Delegates, I am able to provide my constituents with academic scholarships. This scholarship is available to students who attend or are planning to attend a Maryland community college, a four-year university, or a graduate school during the 2019-2020 school year. Applications must be completed and submitted by May 14th, 2019. Awardees will be informed by June 15th, 2019. The application can be completed here.

THANK YOU

I reflect on my first session proud of all our accomplishments and I look forward to getting more work done in upcoming sessions. I hope to have many opportunities to engage with you as I plan for next Session. I will be spending a lot of time in the District and encourage you to meet with me to discuss this session, to share your priorities and to share how I can better serve you. Please take note that my office will not be staffed 5 days per week during the interim. The best form of contact is via email at lorig.charkoudian@house.state.md.us. We will be checking our voicemail. Thank you again for putting your trust in me. It has truly been an honor to serve.

Onward, Lorig Charkoudian