Brooke’s Brief: Annapolis Report #5

Phew! Last week I presented nine bills to various committees, in addition to bill hearings in Appropriations, budget decisions, and passing the operating budget on Friday. We have one week until the crossover deadline and less than a month of session left so it’s an all out sprint to the finish from now on. I’ll be detailing our FY20 budget in my next newsletter, but below I offer some highlights from Annapolis from the past week.  If you have any questions or concerns, please email or call me! I can be reached at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3319.
Bond Bills: This past Saturday I spent the day in Annapolis listening – as a member of the Capital Budget Subcommittee – to 160 bond bill presentations. It was a fascinating day listening to the needs of the myriad number of organizations around the state doing great work. Sen. Ferguson and I (on behalf of the entire team) presented our local bond initiatives as well – for projects like the South Baltimore Learning Center, Westport CDC, Garrett Park master plan, Cherry Hill Town Center, Chesapeake Shakespeare, Port Discovery, and more… Although we may not be able to secure funding for every project, we will do our best to ensure that these important projects get completed!  

Blueprint for Maryland’s Future: Last week I participated in a press conference where our House and Senate leaders unveiled the first bill to implement the Kirwan Commission recommendations. This bill – HB 1413 – will provide $1 bn of funding from the state’s budget over the next two years to begin implementing the recommendations. The money in these first two years will go toward:implementing full-day prekindergarten for low-income three and four year olds and expanding services like Judy Centershiring and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers, and increasing certification standardsincreasing services in schools with concentrations of poverty and increasing funding for children with special needs; andestablishing a robust accountability system for the state and for locals.As many of you know, the Thornton Commission’s work was enacted over a few different legislative sessions in the early 2000’s. Similarly, the recommendations of this updated Commission’s work will be implemented over several years. You can read more here and review the Kirwan report here

End of Life Options Act: Many constituents called or emailed me in support of the End of Life Options Act, a bill that creates a pathway for individuals with terminal illnesses to end their lives in a safe and legal way – only if they wish to and only after going through multiple steps. The debate on this bill was incredibly emotional. After several years of thought (the bill has been pending for at least three yeras), I voted to support this bill.Read more about it here.   The Baltimore Sun keeps a bill tracker on a few big bills moving through session. You can check it out here to see how things are moving: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-general-assembly-bill-tracker-20190102-htmlstory.html. 
The final two bills I presented last week (after seven others!) were two important bills for Baltimore focused on enhancing community development opportunities to ensure that all communities can benefit.  HB1260: Creating the Opportunity Zone Enhancement ProgramHB1162: Updating the Historic Tax Credit program to ease use for renovating multiple rowhomes and to allow smaller developers to more easily use it The Opportunity Zone program was created in the tax bill passed by the federal government in 2017 to incentivize commercial development in traditionally underdeveloped neighborhoods.  Without action by the legislature, however, such development would likely ignore longtime residents of communities in these zones and be done without disclosing any information on who is investing. HB 1260 would incentivize developers to work with community members to create their development plans and hire members of the community to work on these projects. I am excited to be working on both of these bills with my Senator, Bill Ferguson, who has the companion legislation in the Senate! Since my last newsletter, I have also introduced a new bill in the House to establish the Maryland Arts and Culture Capital Grant Program.

Every year our capital budget is more constrained and we have numerous arts and cultural institutions requesting capital dollars. It is impossible for the Legislature to fairly decide which projects are ready to go and which can wait a year. This program will award increasingly scarce in a more fair and meritocratic way to ensure that institutions around the state who need capital dollars can receive them as they are ready to use them.  The best place to keep track of all of this activity is my legislation page on the MGA website. From here you can live stream bill hearings, read the bills, and keep track of a bill’s progress throughout session.
MTA Regional Transit Plan: Last year, we passed a bill to require MTA to create an updated long-term transit plan for Central Maryland. The planning begins this month! Take a moment to complete and share MTA’s initial survey: https://rtp.mta.maryland.gov/.  The Baltimore Police Department Consent Decree Monitoring Team is steadfastly continuing its work and welcoming a new era with BPD Commissioner nominee Michael Harrison coming to Baltimore.  Please reach out directly to the Monitoring Team if you’d like to learn more about their work, have comments or concerns — info@bpdmonitor.com.  

Less Waste, Better Baltimore is looking for your input on recycling and trash issues in our city. Take this survey to make your voice heard! 

The Port Continues to Break Records – A critical component of the 46th District, the Port of Baltimore surpassed last year’s record for the amount of cargo after handling 10.9 million tons in 2019. 

Howard Street Tunnel – In the effort to continue modernizing transportation of cargo out of the Port and increasing its capacity, the State has once again applied for federal funding to expand the Howard Street Tunnel
I joined Aaron Henkin on Life in the Balance on WYPR last week to discuss gun violence as a public health crisis. I discussed the bill I passed last year – the Violence Intervention & Prevention Act – and its implementation. Listen here: http://www.wypr.org/post/gun-violence-public-health-crisis.  

Progress to make Maryland the first state in the nation to ban foam food containers continues! The Senate passed companion legislation (SB0285)  to my House version of the bill (HB0109) and my bill will be up for a final vote either TONIGHT or TOMORROW!

Maryland will be the FIRST state in the country to ban this ubiquitous form of single-use plastic if we succeed in passing this legislation this year. On March 2, I moved to amend my proposed student athlete bill to first create a commission of a experts from across the state to study the fair treatment of college athletes.  

To fundamentally reshape the power imbalance in college sports will require a methodical approach that includes diverse perspectives. I look forward to continuing this important work in this session and beyond. 

The Washington Post reported on the toll road legislation I introduced this session (HB102) to ensure that local governments have the opportunity for input and approval on any new toll road construction. This measure is key to make sure the state thoughtfully plans transportation policy, in ways that won’t simply delay the fundamental causes of traffic congestion. I am consistently reminded that the General Assembly must not only pass laws, but also ensure that adequate resources are allocated for those laws to make a difference. 

My legislation to establish a legal representation fund for those involved in Title IX Proceedings, would provide funding for a law that the legislature passed last year. HB0633 will ensure that we keep the promises we made to our state last year by funding these key legal services.  

Thank you for reading! Please keep in touch during session – and consider coming to visit. My phone number is 410-841-3319 and you can reach me at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.  My best, Brooke