My Advocacy Between Sessions

Updated: Jan 24


Dear Friend:


I hope you have been enjoying your summer and finding ways to stay cool, despite the incessant heat (more on the increasingly hot summers below).

Advocacy on behalf of our community is a crucial part of my job, during and between sessions. Some of the issues I am working on include:


Flower Branch Explosion:

Three years ago our community experienced a natural gas explosion at Flower Branch Apartments. In this tragic explosion, seven people were killed, many people were seriously injured, and others lost everything and were left homeless. Many in the community are still traumatized by this event. Since the release of the National Transportation Safety Board report earlier this year, I have been working with the Flower Branch Tenants Association, CASA, and Impact Silver Spring to ensure that members of the community have a voice with Washington Gas, and that oversight by the Public Service Commission is strengthened. I will continue my efforts to ensure accountability and safety.


Transportation:

I have worked on pedestrian and bike safety on several State Highways, advocated for funding for the Complete Street on Georgia Ave in Montgomery Hills, and fought against Beltway Expansion.


Sustainable Local Food System:

Legislation I introduced in 2019 led to the creation of the Maryland Food for Maryland Institutions Task Force. This task force, of which I am a member, is exploring policy and infrastructure changes to significantly increase the purchasing of locally grown food by state agencies. Institutional procurement is an important piece of the puzzle to build a strong local food system – which is crucial for environmental sustainability, economic development, farmland preservation, and our physical health.

The summer is also when I research possible legislation, coordinate efforts with advocacy groups, and begin to outline a legislative agenda. As always, my focus is on building a More Just and Inclusive Maryland – with economic justice for working families, a sustainable environment on a livable planet, and an end to the system of mass incarceration. Below are a few topics I am working on:


Wage Protection and Protection Against Retaliation:

Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour was an important victory last session. Now we need stronger legislation to protect workers from wage theft and ensure they are not retaliated against when they stand up for their rights. I am working with colleagues and advocacy groups to craft such legislation.


Community Choice Energy:

I plan to re-introduce legislation to enable local government to aggregate and purchase energy on behalf of residents. This gives county and municipal government a tool to fight climate change and lower electricity rates.


Medical Debt Collection Protection:

Too many Marylanders become destitute because they got sick. I am developing legislation to protect consumers, guided by the National Consumer Law Coalition’s Model Medical Debt Protection Act.


Heat Stress Protections:

As we experience one record-breaking summer after another, we need to protect workers who have to work in the heat. OSHA does not have specific standards for heat stress, but some states do. My legislation will ensure that Maryland has standards in place to protect workers from heat stress.


Sustainable Local Food System:

The Maryland Food for Maryland Institutions Task Force will have some interim findings by the 2020 session, and I will introduce legislation based on these recommendations.


Crisis Intervention Team Technical Assistance Center:

I will re-introduce this bill, which passed in the House, but not the Senate, in 2019. The Center will strengthen local law enforcement response to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.


Natural Gas Distribution System Safety:

Following the Flower Branch Explosion, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a number of recommendations regarding the placement of gas regulator devices outside of residences. I will introduce legislation to codify these safety recommendations into law.


Reasonable Accommodations in Hiring:

Too often, people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have trouble finding work because the hiring process does not create an opportunity for them to fully demonstrate the skills they have. I will introduce legislation clarifying that reasonable accommodations include hiring practices such as a job coach’s participation or a video resume that demonstrates the skills the applicant possesses.


I am also exploring legislation to clean up the renewable energy standards portfolio, increase composting and improve waste management, require consideration of climate change in permitting of power plants, support worker co-ops, and ban the declawing of cats.


As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of these topics or other ideas you may have. I will keep you posted as I further refine my legislative plans for the next session. Please follow me on Twitter for regular updates and send me email at friendsoflorig@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.


Onward,

Lorig Charkoudian