Annapolis Update: Halfway Done

This weekend marked the halfway point of the legislative session – we have 45 days to go! As I have learned, however, even though we only have 45 days left, we have way more than half the work left to accomplish. Now begins the sprint to Sine Die, the last day of session! 

The majority of the legislation I have individually filed is now waiting action in various Committees – I have several bill hearings left in the next two weeks, and we have over 100 bills left to hear in my Committee. Not sure how to follow a bill or want to peruse filed legislation this year? Check out the Maryland General Assembly Website: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/ 

My committee and subcommittee work continues – in the coming weeks, we will vote on bills related to climate change, toll roads, ethics, land use, and the HOME Act! Below I share a few items of interest from the past two weeks, and things yet to come.

Make sure you follow me on Facebook to keep up with me in real time and to see my weekly video Friday roundups of the work we do each week: www.facebook.com/brookeliermanfordelegate

The big news last week was on HB 1300, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future! Senate and House committees heard over six hours of testimony for the hearing on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (SB 1000/HB 1300) last week. Our schools are not preparing our students to lead our economy in future decades – our rates of graduation and college or career readiness are far too low for us to stay competitive in a global economy. It’s time for Maryland to follow the lead of other states that have made new investments in their public school systems, while also ensuring accountability for results. If we don’t provide children a great education now, we will be paying higher costs in Medicaid, higher costs in public safety, and higher costs in benefits, for generations to come. See Dr. Brit Kirwan’s excellent testimony on the bill online HERE (start at 27:10). If you have any questions about the Blueprint, please feel free to reach out to my office.

HB1: Funding for School Buildings: The House has passed HB 1, legislation to provide additional capital funding for school districts around Maryland, including $400 m for Baltimore City Public Schools. Passing this bill would enable Baltimore City Public Schools to continue renovating and building new school buildings. Every child deserves a first-class school building in which to learn and grow.

Public Safety: Baltimore is facing an unprecedented public safety crisis – and violent crime has risen in other parts of the state as well. House and Senate Democrats have introduced innovative and important public safety legislation that we will work to pass this year. No single bill will solve the issues we are confronting, but there are important things we can do at the state level. The bills we have introduced focus on three areas:

1) Real Accountability: In 2019, over 30% of murder victims and suspects were on supervision of parole & probation – that’s an incredibly high number! These victims and suspects are in the custody of the state and yet are being killed or are committing crimes. We need the Governor’s help to get this done, but the General Assembly will:

  • Require a staffing plan and vacancy elimination in Parole & Probation, Juvenile Services and Corrections to provide more resources that prevent recidivism. These departments need the resources to do their jobs to stop crime;
  • Pass legislation to stop witness intimidation, and ensure that gun offenders answer for their crimes;
  • Work with the Administration to support more resources for targeted prosecutions of the most violent offenders, particularly gun offenders.

2) Smarter Resources: All the laws in the world don’t matter if they are not enforced, or if county lines stop the needed collaboration to ensure those who violate the laws are prosecuted. The General Assembly will pass legislation to:

  • Require improved law enforcement coordination to identify regional crime trends; intelligence; outstanding warrants; to enhance resource deployment
  • Create special coordinated teams focused on violent offenders and support for high need neighborhoods to better prepare returning citizens for re-entry and a life that is not reliant on crime
  • Free up local officers to focus on crime by charging State Police with responding to accidents in major interstates;
  • Improve opportunities for local law enforcement to cross jurisdictional lines to better coordinate and identify crime trends.
  • Invest in evidence-based, public health approaches to prevent violence, using models proven in our state and elsewhere (VIPP).

3) Fewer Illegal Guns: Crime is not properly addressed as long as illegal guns continue to be present in our homes and communities. This year, legislation will:

  • Require a statewide audit of gun crimes to pinpoint where the breakdown exists in the criminal justice system, from 911 call to disposition;
  • Increase penalties for lost and stolen guns; gun thefts; and close illegal gun loopholes to make sure that fewer people have access to illegal guns.

I’ll provide updates in future weeks on these bills!

Environment & Transportation Committee: You can find information about my Committee online here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Details?cmte=ent. All assigned bills, as well as our meeting schedule, are online! We have over 300 bills assigned to our Committee, so we have long days of hearings.

BROOKE’S BILLS!   Here are a few of the pieces of legislation that I’m also working on this week…  The Equitable Access to Information Act:Maryland’s Public Information Act needs an update. Agencies can be overwhelmed with repetitive requests and members of the press and public are often denied information in a timely or cost-effective manner. And yet, there is no way to enforce the PIA provisions without resorting to the courts. The State’s PIA Ombudsman is issuing a report this month that will recommend changes to the law to strengthen it so that members of the public can have confidence that our government is being transparent in its decision-making. This bill is based on those recommendations and on the need for more proactive disclosure of information by our agencies.     Violence Intervention & Prevention Program: My first bill hearing this week is for HB 822, legislation to require funding for the Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (VIPP), our state’s only grant program designed to fund evidence-based public health oriented violence prevention programs. These programs, including Safe Streets, Roca, hospital-based interventions, and more – are a fundamental piece of creating a safer City and a safer state. These programs are credited with helping to reduce violence in Chicago, Boston, and Oakland. We must fund these programs to bring them up to scale in Baltimore!   Foster Care Reforms: You may have seen this article on NPR recently, highlighting the fact that our state’s foster care system routinely leaves children with behavioral problems in hospital emergency rooms for weeks and months at a time because it has nowhere else to house them. During that time, they cannot go outside, they cannot go to school, and they do not interact with peers. This unconstitutional and inhumane situation must end. I’m bringing a bill, HB 1382, to highlight the need to do right by our foster care children and to help solve this horrible problem.
IN THE NEWS!   Public safety is always a priority. A recently released poll of city residents shows clear support for my work on the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (VIPP). As covered in Baltimore Fishbowl, most city residents support an expansion of Violence Intervention Programs like Safe Streets. The survey shows clear support for the kinds of programs that would be funded by VIPP, groups that reach out on the streets, in our emergency rooms, and in our schools to interrupt violence before it happens.   The Jordan McNair Safe & Fair Play Act has had hearings in the Senate, WJZ reported, and in the House. This past week, I was honored that Jordan’s father, Marty McNair, gave testimony in support before the Appropriations Committee. He gave an impassioned plea for the legislature to consider  protections and opportunities this bill would give our college athletes. Did you know that according to NCAA rules, college swimmers can’t coach swim lessons?  Meanwhile, college sports coaches are the highest paid employees of our state. The Sun reported on this issue both in the paper and as an editorial.   Our efforts to clean up the State of Maryland and welcome a greener, cleaner future are drawing national attention. The New York Times mentioned the successful statewide ban on styrofoam I sponsored last year with Senator Kagan. We also had the hearing for the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act. This legislation is a no brainer: it will help us clean up our environment and waterways, it’s good for consumers, and the Maryland Retailers Association endorses my approach, as Maryland Matters Reported. The Frederick News-Post pointed out how the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act fits into the wider efforts to respond to climate change.  Maryland Matters also took note of our push to reform our state’s public information laws. Making the Public Information Act actually work for citizens means enforcing the laws already on the books and passing these common sense changes. I think our state agencies should make information as available to the public as is reasonable, and that includes publishing frequently asked for things out in the open. We’re also seeing a lot of support for our transit funding legislation from community leaders around the state. Our Transit Safety and Investment Act would allocate the capital funding that would, as Maryland Matters points out, “get things moving.” Thank you for reading! Please keep in touch during session – and feel free to come visit! My phone number is 410-841-3319 and you can reach me at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.