2020 Session Recap

Updated: Jan 24


Dear Friend:


The 2020 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly has adjourned. It started in a historic fashion with two new presiding officers, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson. It ended historically with an abbreviated session due to COVID-19, after an intense 71 days of work on behalf of the people of Maryland.


It is customary to share the summary of key pieces of legislation, both those that passed and other important pieces that did not pass. I will do so below. But first, I want to acknowledge that this is a scary time for many and to share my faith in the goodness of our community to make it through.


I want to thank all who are serving – healthcare workers, first responders, school staff ensuring children are fed, National Guard members, non-profits responding to food insecurity, grocery and pharmacy workers who are keeping us fed and with access to medicine, small businesses finding ways to deliver food and keep people employed, mental health providers, state employees who are processing unemployment claims, everyone who is checking on friends and neighbors. . . and so many other unsung heros. And I want to thank all who are staying home for your vital role in stopping the spread.


This pandemic, as with many crises, highlights the inequities in our system and how many people in our community live far too close to the edge. It also shows how deeply connected we are to one another. I ran for office with a commitment to build a More Just and Inclusive Maryland, and I see the need for greater economic and social justice now more than ever.

While we may have adjourned early, I am both proud of what we were able to achieve for Maryland’s residents, and am humbled by the work we have ahead of us. While our attention now is on protecting all Marylanders from the pandemic and the immediate economic fallout, we will continue to work for economic, social, and environmental justice.


The General Assembly will be back in Annapolis for a Special Session potentially in late May to take additional legislative steps to aid in the response to this crisis and the economic recovery. In the meantime, my office stands ready to help constituents with unemployment claims and access to other services. Please reach out if you or others you know need help.


Thank you for putting your trust in me. Below is a summary of key pieces of legislation from this Session.


COVID-19 Emergency Legislation

House and Senate leadership, the Governor and all state agencies are unified in the effort to keep residents safe in the wake of this rapidly evolving public health threat.


HB 1661/SB1079: State Budget – Revenue Stabilization Account Transfers – Coronavirus: This bill provides the Governor with up to $50 million from the State’s Rainy Day Fund to help respond to the public health threat. This bill was passed and signed by the Governor.


HB 1663/SB1080: COVID–19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020: This bill will help combat the public health crisis and economic fallout from the pandemic by providing job protections for people who are quarantined; provide unemployment benefits for people who are temporarily out of work or quarantined; expand access to telehealth services; reduce or cover costs for testing for the virus; and prohibit price gouging for necessary goods and services. This bill was passed and signed by the Governor.


Budget: We separately included a provision in one of the budget bills allowing the governor to use up to another $100 million from the state’s reserves for the crisis.

The Speaker and Senate President have established a special workgroup, the Joint Committee on the COVID-19 Response, to monitor the effects of the virus and advise the General Assembly on the steps to take to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Public Education


Built to Learn Act: This bill is aimed at repairing and expanding school buildings, starting with communities that need it most. The bill authorizes the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) to issue up to $2.2 billion in revenue bonds for school construction. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 1300/SB 1000: Blueprint for Maryland’s Future: I proudly voted in favor of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, implementing the policy and accountability recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. The bill includes expanding pre-kindergarten programs; raising teacher pay; and increasing funding to schools with a high percentage of poor, special education or limited-English students. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 1260/SB 1043: Historically Black Colleges and Universities: This legislation provides an additional $57.7 million annually for Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities from fiscal 2022 through 2031 (a total of $577 million). This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


Environment


Community Choice Energy (CCE): CCE allows local governments to aggregate and purchase energy on behalf of residents. In the 9 states that enable CCE’s, this has led to lower prices for rate-payers and more clean energy. My legislation to enable CCE’s in Maryland was amended to create a pilot program in Montgomery County, with an evaluation at a future date. The amended bill passed the House but did not get out of the Senate in time.


HB 982/SB 740: Low income Energy Efficiency: My bill established goals for improving energy efficiency for low income households, and provided funding for this purpose. Energy efficiency is a crucial piece of our fight against climate change, and this bill ensures that it is done in an equitable way, prioritizing households that struggle to pay their energy bills. This bill did not get out of committee, however, we were able to move some funding in the budget out of a fund to expand natural gas infrastructure and into a fund for low income energy efficiency. I will bring the full bill back next year.


HB 531/SB 656: Mandating Consideration of Climate and Labor in Public Service Commission (PSC) Decisions: This bill required the PSC to consider the impacts of climate change in their decision-making. Under the proposed statute, the PSC would need to formulate policy in the context of short-term and long-term warming. The bill also required the PSC to consider labor standards in their decision-making. This bill did not make it out of committee.


HB 229/SB 300: Chlorpyrifos Ban: This piece of legislation bans the use of chlorpyrifos in agricultural pesticides and seeds. The bill protects our own well-being as well as our environment from harmful degradation by this chemical. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 209/SB 313: Plastic Bag Ban: This bill would reduce the amount of plastic bags in circulation in our state, by prohibiting single-use bags to be distributed by most retailers. As Maryland makes every effort to become more sustainable, it is important to rely increasingly on reusable bags to reduce our harmful impact on the environment. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass before the end of Session.


Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion: The bill would have required large-scale food waste generators to source-separate food residuals if an organics recycling facility that has the capacity and is willing to accept food residuals exists within a 30 mile radius. This policy has been critical in building out the compost infrastructure in other states. The Committee referred this issue to summer study. I will work with committee members and bring this bill back next year.

Protecting Marylanders Health


HB 959/SB 872: Health Insurance: As the Trump administration makes efforts in Congress, in the courts, and across the country to derail the Affordable Care Act, it was important to join my colleagues in supporting this bill which will codify several aspects of the ACA into state law, specifically the consumer protection provisions. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 1120/SB 738: Health Care Providers and Health Benefit Plans: This bill restricts hospitals and medical facilities from withholding medical services from a patient due to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or disability of the individual. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 448/SB 402: Telehealth Practices: This bill authorizes health care providers to provide telehealth services for their patients so long as the level of care remains consistent. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 1100: Prescription Drug Affordability Board: This bill allows the Prescription Drug Affordability Board to set upper payment limits with the ultimate goal of lowering the cost of prescriptions for Marylanders. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


Medical Debt Protection Act: My bill would have put into place a number of guardrails to protect Marylanders from predatory hospital debt collection practices and ensure that Marylanders would not become destitute because they got sick. The committee decided to study this issue over the interim, including quantitative modelling of several different policy scenarios. I will work with the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission over the interim and bring back a strong bill to protect Marylanders next Session.


HB 1420/SB 875: Hospital Financial Assistance Policies and Bill Collections: I was a proud co-sponsor of this legislation which will expand financial assistance to families across Maryland who otherwise would not be able to afford hospital care. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 722/SB 434: Heat Stress Protection: As climate change leads to hotter summers, workers need greater protections from heat stress. My bill directs the Department of Labor to establish heat stress protections for workers and to do so based on guidance from national occupational health organizations and community input through regional meetings across the state. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


Transportation


HB 540/SB 645: Purple Line Construction Zone: I was happy to co-sponsor my district-mate Jheanelle Wilkins’ legislation, which establishes an income tax credit and grant program for small businesses that have lost revenue and otherwise have been negatively impacted by the construction of the Purple Line. This bill did not make it through the process in the shortened timeframe, however, $2 million in the budget was set aside to aid businesses affected by Purple Line construction.


HB 194/SB 285: Pedestrian Access Act: I was proud to vote in favor of this bill that requires the State Highway Administration to maintain safe pedestrian access throughout roadway construction zones that are within one mile of transit stops or stations. This is targeted at eliminating inconvenient or lengthy detours and unsafe pedestrian facilities around construction zones. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 1236: Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train Expansion: I am a proud co-sponsor of this bill, which will require the MTA to negotiate for the expansion of MARC service into Delaware and Virginia and improve rail connectivity in the Mid-Atlantic region. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 1424: P3 Process and Oversight: This bill would have created accountability for the major infrastructure changes already underway in our communities. This bill would establish a Public-Private Partnership Oversight Review Board and alter the review and approval process for public-private partnerships (P3s) valued at more than $500 million and expands the requirements for all P3 agreements. This bill passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate in the shortened Session.


HB 1249: Requirements for I-495 and I-270 P3 Projects: I was proud to co-sponsor this bill, which would add provisions and requirements to the P3 law. Toll adjustments would be subject to local hearings, 10% of toll revenues would go to transit projects, requires the winning bidder engage in a community benefits agreement, and holds MDOT accountable to a number of important provisions.This bill passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate in the shortened Session.


HB 299: Prohibiting Property Acquisition for New Toll Lanes: This session, I was once again proud to co-sponsor this legislation to limit the state’s authority to take property for the purpose of expanding I-495 and I-270 for P3 toll lanes. Unfortunately, it did not make it out of committee.


Economic Justice


HB 365/SB 425: Debt Collection Exemptions: I co-sponsored this legislation which increases the amount of money protected from a wage garnishment for debt collection. HB 365 allows working families to protect more of their wages from garnishment. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 231/SB 530: HOME Act: I co-sponsored The Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act (HOME) that creates housing options that are more inclusive for all Marylanders. It limits the capacity of landlords and homesellers to discriminate against potential renters or buyers because of their source of income. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 123/SB 217: Wage History and Wage Range: I proudly co-sponsored HB 123 that prohibits employers from relying on the wage history of an applicant and allows an applicant to have access to the wage range for the position they applied for. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 312/SB 473: Reasonable Accommodations for Applicants with Disabilities: My bill clarified that reasonable accommodations include accommodations during the hiring process, and outlined specific accommodations that allow individuals with disabilities to demonstrate their ability to do a job during the hiring process. The Committee chose to send a letter to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, asking them to establish these regulations. We will review the regulations and bring back legislation if the regulations do not sufficiently provide the accommodations necessary.


HB 1048/SB 1011: Prevailing Wage in Investor Owned Utilities: My bill would have required investor owned utilities to require contractors and sub-contractors to pay prevailing wages for underground utility work. Prevailing wages lead to greater project safety and efficiency and support working families. This bill did not make it out of committee.


HB 1097/SB 641: Maryland Wage Protection Act: My bill established detailed standards for what needs to be included on pay stubs so workers can see that they have been paid the appropriate amount. This bill also established protections from retaliation when workers file claims related to wage theft. This bill did not make it out of committee.


Criminal Justice Reform


HB 607/SB 305: Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Center for Excellence: My bill establishes guidance and technical support for local law enforcement to implement best practices in responding to behavioral health crises. Too often, law enforcement interaction with people suffering from mental illness results in a lethal outcome or in incarceration in a situation where treatment may be needed. Implementing CIT best practices will save lives and result in people who need treatment receiving treatment instead of incarceration. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 801/SB 684: Women’s Pre-Release Unit: I was happy to support HB 801, which would establish a women’s only pre-release facility for incarcerated women reentering their communities from state prisons. Pre-release centers are critical resources for successful reentry, connecting incarcerated individuals to opportunities and community programs. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


Anti-Discrimination Measures


HB 1444/SB 531: Hair Textures and Hair Styles Discrimination: I was a proud co-sponsor of Delegate Smith’s bill which adds hair texture and style to the definition of “race”, with the aim of prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees for their hairstyles. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


Food Systems


HB 1488/SB 985: Locally Grown Food in Maryland Institutions: My bill establishes a process so that prime contractors bidding on Maryland state food contracts must engage with and attempt to purchase from Maryland farmers. It also creates a grant fund to support local aggregation facilities so that farmers can aggregate and distribute products directly to institutions. This bill is an important effort in building the local food system, which is crucial for local economic development, environmental sustainability, farmland preservation, and disaster preparedness. I am thrilled that this bill will become law and I will continue working on efforts to continue to build the local food system. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 1017: Strengthening Maryland’s Cottage Food Law: Maryland’s Cottage Food Law allows residential kitchens to become small business incubators for a limited selection of non-potentially hazardous foods. Last year, my legislation expanded options so cottage food could be sold in grocery stores. However, the label requirements required a name and business address, which in this case was a home address, raising significant safety concerns. My bill this year established a system to allow the cottage food business to include an identification number assigned by the Maryland Department of Health, where the home/business address could be kept private. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


Public Safety


HB 408: Gas Regulator Safety (Flower Branch Act): After the tragic 2016 explosion at the Flower Branch Apartments, the National Transportation Safety Board made a number of recommendations, including moving gas regulators to the outside of buildings, prioritizing multi-family housing. My bill required gas companies to install all new gas regulators outside of buildings and to work with the Public Service Commission to develop a schedule to move all installed regulators outside of multi-family buildings. This passed the House but did not make it out of the Senate in the curtailed Session.


HB 4/SB 208: Gun Safety: I was proud to vote for HB 4, which will require background checks on private sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 5/SB 161: Hate Crimes – Use of an Item or a Symbol to Threaten or Intimidate: It was important to pass HB 5, the Hate Crimes Act, which makes it illegal for a person inscribe or place hateful items or symbols on public or private property, without the owner’s consent. The bill establishes criminal punishments for violations. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


HB 917/SB 606: Hate Crime – Basis: This bill alters the law to prohibit the commission of hate crimes if they are motivated either in whole or in substantial part by another person’s or group’s race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or national origin. The need for this type of legislation was further brought to light when Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III was fatally stabbed by a University of Maryland student for his race. The judge dropped hate crime charges against the attacker because it was decided that his motivation for violence was only in part due to the victim’s race. With this new bill in effect, the legal loophole that allowed the judge to drop hate crime is closed. This bill was passed and sent to the Governor.


Awarded District 20 Bond Initiatives:


Arts on the Block Studio Expansion: $100,000: Arts on the Block will use this grant to add a new studio location with the purpose of providing high-quality job readiness and creative workforce development training for Maryland’s youth.


Easter Seals Inter-generational Center and Regional Headquarters: $150,000: Easter Seals will use this grant to upgrade the center’s facilities to better meet the needs of their clients and address some of the most critical challenges faced by our community.


Long Branch-Garland Neighborhood Park: $350,000: The Montgomery County Department of Parks will use this grant to replace the playground and provide additional neighborhood amenities within the park.


Delegate Scholarship


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 2020-2021 school year. Applications must be completed and submitted by May 13th, 2020. Awardees will be informed by June 15th, 2020. Applications can be completed here: https://forms.gle/ZJQC32k5AadgSkTD7


Thank You


Once again, it has truly been an honor to represent you in Annapolis. I appreciate every call you made, every email you sent and every visit to my office. Your activism kept me informed about District 20 priorities and helped me formulate my position on certain pieces of legislation. I want to thank my Chief of Staff, Victoria Tajzai, my Office Manager, Ben Huvos, and my wonderful interns, Sherri McGee, Rebecca Mollet, Carly Redett, and Jacob Vassalotti. This work wouldn’t have been possible without them.


I hope to have many opportunities to engage with you as I plan for next Session. I will continue to spend a lot of time in the District and encourage you to reach out to me to discuss this session, to share your priorities and to suggest 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