Author: Brooke Lierman

Team 46 Town Hall

We held our annual Team 46 Town Hall this weekend! We had great turnout from constituents, young and old, from many corners of the district.

Many people requested that we post the Power Point presentation we did online, as well as links to some of the resources we mentioned.

The Power Point is available HERE.

The Maryland General Assembly Website is available HERE.

The Preakness/Pimlico video is available HERE.

Look forward to seeing you in Annapolis or around the District soon!

Annapolis Update: Bill Hearings & Team 46 Town Hall

February 10, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

Parents of grown children often tell me that the “days are long but the years are short.” Well, in Annapolis, the days are long but the weeks fly by! I am working every day on my own legislation, in my new Committee and leadership role on environmental, housing, land use and ethics bills, meeting with constituents and advocates about a variety of issues, participating in Women’s Caucus, Latino Caucus, and leading the Transit Caucus… and responding the mail I receive (190 emails this past weekend!).

I have introduced all the legislation I plan to work on this year, and you can review the bills I am working on at my webpage on the new General Assembly website: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Members/Details/lierman01/?activeTab=divLegislation. Over 300 bills have been assigned to my Committee – the Environment & Transportation Committee – so I will be in long Committee hearings over the next 6 weeks as we hear bills, discuss them, and vote on them. Below I share a few items of interest from the past two weeks!

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

In Annapolis

Veto Overrides: On January 30th, working with the Senate, we override several of the Governor’s vetoes of bills that we had passed last session, including vetoes on bills that protect our oyster population, ensure Marylanders re-joining society after spending time in prison have a fair chance to get a job, removing bureaucratic hurdles that made it difficult for undocumented students to get in-state tuition at four-year universities, ensuring that political appointees are not deciding who gets a handgun, and ensuring public employees have a chance to bring their grievances.

State of the State 2020: The Governor delivered his State of the State address on February 5 at noon. While we do not always agree, it is a great event and an important opportunity to hear his perspective and think at a high level about the future of Maryland. You can read his address here: https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/02/05/2020-state-of-the-state-address/

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, is online! We had many bills over the past two weeks, including a bill about reforming our toll payment process, helping to ensure that condominium owners have full information on their purchases, and more.

HB1 – Funding for School Buildings: This week the Appropriations Committee voted out HB1, the bill to provide additional capital funding for school districts around Maryland. Passing this bill would enable Baltimore City Public Schools to continue renovating and building new school buildings

Brooke’s Bills

Housing Opportunities Made Equal: I am proud this year to be carrying on the work of my predecessor Del. Steve Lafferty and my colleague Del. Maggie McIntosh and am the lead sponsor of the HOME Act, working on it with Sen. Will Smith (HB 231/SB530). This legislation has been introduced every year for at least a decade – but it is such a simple fix to a pernicious problem. It simply ensures that for all those Marylanders who receive government assistance in housing – veterans, low-income Marylanders, people with disabilities – that landlords may not deny them a rental unit simply because they wish to pay with a voucher. I am delighted to be working with great organizations like the Homeless Persons Representation Project and Public Justice Center and more on this legislation. I hope this is the year that we end discrimination based on one’s source of income!

The Transit Safety and Investment Act is another major bill and priority for me this year because it would address the systematic dismantling and underinvesting in transit in Central Maryland that the Hogan Administration has delivered. It is a simple but profoundly important bill: it requires MDOT to ensure that MTA has adequate capital resources to fund its state of good repair needs, which is about an additional $123m per year for the next 6 years. All of these needs and the costs are detailed in the first-ever MTA Capital Needs Inventory, available online here.

Investing in housing and mobility options are key to success for Maryland – these two bills are some of my top priorities this session. Look for more updates on Facebook and Twitter! And join me at Transit Caucus Night this Wednesday to get more involved! February 12, 2020 from 6-8PM in the House of Delegates. RSVP HERE / Facebook event here.

Coming up next…

I will continue preparing for the six hearings that I have in the next two weeks and working with individuals and groups to come support these pieces of legislation. These six bills focus on reducing plastic pollution (#BantheBag), strengthening our Public Information Act; funding community development programs in Baltimore and around the state; protecting juveniles’ civil rights; granting student athletes the right to use their name, image, and likeness; and enhancing environmental enforcement.

All bill hearings are open to the public – if you are interested in attending a hearing or providing written support for any of my bills, please let me know!

In Baltimore

The Census! 

The 2020 Census count begins in April! We want to make sure that Everyone Counts. Accurate census numbers impact funding and representation for Baltimore. It is important that everyone participates in the Census. For more information on the Census, click HERE. To get involved or check out upcoming events related to the Census, click HERE.


To follow Maryland Census 2020 on Twitter and Facebook – Follow @MdCensus2020 and like @MdCensus2020 – to stay in touch with Maryland’s Census 2020 complete count efforts. Join the conversation by using hashtag #2020MDCensus on Facebook and on Twitter.

TEAM 46 Annual Town Hall

Please join us for our Annual Town Hall – this year on Saturday, February 22 from 11:30-1:00 p.m. at the National Federation of the Blind! Hope to see you then! Click HERE to RSVP

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In the News

MD Women Lead on Climate Change Resiliency: I was very proud to join four other women lawmakers in announcing a package of five climate resilience bills. My environmental transparency bill will empower normal citizens in the process of preparing for and combating the acute effects of our changing climate change. It’s great to be working with Senator Sarah Elfreth, Delegate Courtney Watson, and Senator Katie Fry Hester and more on legislation to prevent the worst effects of climate change in Maryland, support our communities, and ensure we are building resilient and healthy neighborhoods!

Strengthen our Public Information Act! The Baltimore Sun this week covered my proposed legislation to rectify the sorry state of public information requests and hold our state institutions more accountable. The Sun’s editorial board recommends my legislation.

The Path to Zero Waste is an initiative of several bills, including the Plastics & Packaging Reduction Act (the plastic bag ban), was in the news last week: WBAL reported on our goal to move Maryland toward zero waste. Our state relies on landfills and incinerators to dispose of our trash, and we need to be moving toward reducing plastic trash that we can’t recycle or compost and building out our capacity to compost (which is less expensive for local governments & can be a moneymaker).

Annapolis Update: Picking Up the Pace

January 27, 2020 | Volume VI-2
Friends and Neighbors,  What a busy two weeks! Although we had some breathing time during the first few days of session, we are well underway now in the 2020 Legislative Session and the pace has been furious. Legislators have already filed more than 500 bills – with the deadline for filing still weeks away. My new Committee, Environment & Transportation, so far has the highest number of bills to review and we are starting our bill hearings this week. I expect to have some long days in Annapolis!

Last year I helped found the Transit Caucus in the Maryland General Assembly – this week we unveiled our website, our membership roster, and our priority legislation. Check out our website here: www.marylandtransitcaucus.org! With a Governor who is dedicated to expanding highways running our transportation budget, we felt it was time to organize around expanding non-car options as well. Personal mobility is key for economic prosperity and for social mobility. Check out the articles about our launch here (Daily Record), here (GG Washington) and here (WTOP/MD Matters)!
I have spent these first couple weeks focused focused on finalizing all of my bills, organizing the Transit Caucus, working with advocates, meeting with constituents, preparing for upcoming bill hearings, and getting to know my new committee (Environment and Transportation) and preparing to lead my new subcommittee (Land Use and Ethics)! The Environment and Transportation Committee has been meeting regularly since the start of session to receive briefings from various Departments and organizations, including the Maryland Department of Transportation, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and more. In these briefings, the Committee receives updates on and asks questions about programs and projects related to infrastructure, energy, housing, animal welfare, the environment, and more… For more information on the Committees and the work we do, you can visit the MD General Assembly’s new website here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/. (You can also track bills!) The Governor also unveiled his FY2021 budget last week, and the Department of Legislative Services gave their annual overview. To see a written synopsis, click here. I’ll provide an overview in my next biweekly newsletter.  
I have filed several bills that are now available for viewing online here. Several of my bills have hearing dates in the coming weeks – I will now be preparing for those hearings and readying individuals and groups to come support these pieces of legislation.  Brooke’s Bill Highlight – Supporting our Arts Organizations Over 25,248 full-time equivalent jobs in Maryland owe their creation to the arts sector in Maryland, along with $87.4 million in local and state revenue. The total economic activity generated by the arts sector in Maryland has been measured to be over $961 million per year. Undoubtedly, the arts sector in Maryland is prolific, an economic engine, and adds to the wealth of reasons to live in the State of Maryland – and in Baltimore, where we are so fortunate to have an abundance of museums, music, and arts organizations working with and in our communities every day. 

My first two hearings have to do with bills to support our arts communities in Maryland – one bill to support capital funding for arts organizations and create the Maryland Arts & Culture Capital Program (HB 127) and another to support operating funding (HB 127). Combined, these bills will support our small and large arts organizations now and in the years to come. The arts not only enrich our lives, they help our state economy and our communities thrive. It’s imperative that Maryland continue to support and invest in the arts!  All bill hearings are open to the public – if you are interested in attending a hearing or providing written support for any of my bills, please let me know!
The Baltimore Police Department has several policies open for public comment. Visit the website here to check them out and provide your feedback!  
Nominate an amazing Baltimore City Public School principal for the “Heart of the School Awards” through January 31! www.heartoftheschools.org/nominations  
Attend an upcoming Juvenile Justice Reform Council Listening Session! These are part of the result of the legislation that Del. Clippinger and I worked on last session. The next one is February 11, 2020. For more information or to register, click here.  

The Census! The 2020 Census count begins in April! We want to make sure that Everyone Counts. Accurate census numbers impact funding and representation for Baltimore. It is important that everyone participates in the Census.    

TEAM 46 Annual Town Hall
Saturday, February 22
National Federation of the Blind
11:30 a.m.
Please join us for our Annual Town Hall – this year on Saturday, February 22 from 11:30-1:00 p.m. at the National Federation of the Blind! Hope to see you then! Click HERE to RSVP 
Several of my bills and issues that I am working on got coverage in the news over the past two weeks! You can check out a few articles and videos below. 
The Transit Safety & Investment Act: One area blog noted that, “[t]ransportation just might be the most hot-button issue of the 2020 Maryland legislative session this side of education.” It noted my bill –  the Transit Safety & Investment Act – as one of the key items.  

The Washington Post noted my bill – The Jordan McNair Safe & Fair Play Act – in its discussion of the movement to support the rights of student athletes that is sweeping the nation, and the role the part that I will play in Maryland. 

Several news outlets have covered my bill with Sen. Augustine – the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act. You can also listen to information about Maryland and Virginia bills to help end the scourge of plastic bags on NPR/WAMU here 

I am working with Attorney General Brian Frosh on a plan to stop suspending drivers’ licenses for unpaid fines and fees – it is counterproductive and leads to criminal sanctions for non-criminal behavior. The Sun covered our press conference last week – see the article HERE – and then editorialized that our bill is the right move. Check out the editorial here 

I am the new Chair of the Land Use & Ethics Subcommittee and Preservation Maryland asked me to share my thoughts on how we should grow Maryland and how historic preservation plays a role – here are my thoughts!  

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

My best, Brooke  

PS: Know someone who isn’t getting my Annapolis newsletters? Encourage them to sign up at my website or to email me and I’ll add them to my list!

2020 General Assembly Session: Back in Session

January 10, 2020 | Volume VI 
Friends & Neighbors,  

Greetings! For my sixth session in Annapolis, I am pleased to continue sending emails every other week with details about what we are working on and how you can stay updated and involved.  If you have any questions or concerns, please email or call me! My legislative director, Dani DiPietro, and I can be reached at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3319. And please know you are always welcome to visit! I love seeing constituents, friends, and Marylanders who care about issues come to Annapolis to talk with me about their concerns or ideas.

For the second year, the Baltimore City Delegation is working with Visit Baltimore to sponsor “Charm City Creates,” a night celebrating Baltimore’s makers and chefs and artists in Annapolis. I have also been working with my colleagues on the Women’s Caucus to organize a commemorative event on the 100th Anniversary of Suffrage! All are welcome to this special event on January 29, but please make sure to register.
The 441st session of the Maryland General Assembly convened on Wednesday, January 8. Over the next 90 days, I will be working hard to pass legislation to help ensure Baltimore (and all of Maryland) is safe, healthy, green and thriving.

I have a comprehensive package of bills this session which primarily focus on public transit, the environment, civil rights, and public safety. You can read more about the bills I am sponsoring in my more recent blog post here

This Session, the Speaker appointed me to serve on the Environment and Transportation Committee, and will be the chair of the Land Use and Ethics Subcommittee. The “ENT” Committee as it’s called, has jurisdiction over many issues, including environment, transportation, ethics, housing, real property, land use, and local government issues. I’m excited to continue my work on transportation and environmental issues in a new leadership role! The Environment and Transportation Committee has not had any hearings yet.

We are all busy preparing and polishing our legislation so that it can be assigned to committee and. Please keep in mind that the public is invited to attend all committee hearings! You can view the Committee Schedule, which will be regularly updated, here. The general schedule is available here. You can look up my legislation and track its progress here.  

Keeping up with the Maryland General AssemblyThe Maryland General Assembly website has many great resources if you are interested in following our work over the next 90 days.  I will highlight just a few:The general schedule is available here.You can look up legislation and track its progress here.  Every bill introduced by the bill introduction deadline is guaranteed a hearing and before the hearing, a fiscal and policy note about the bill will be published.You can view the Committee Schedule, which will be regularly updated, here.
BROOKE’S BILLS
This year, I am excited to work on bills that will improve public transportation, fund programs to prevent violence, reduce plastic waste, increase access to affordable housing, and enhance the transparency of government agencies. And of course, although this list does not include the the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, I will be strongly supporting that legislation – and many other pieces of legislation that my colleagues are bringing! Although by no means a complete list, here are some of the major bills I will be introducing this year… 

Transit Safety & Investment ActA recently-released Capital Needs Inventory revealed that the Maryland Transit Administration is under-funded by $2bn over the next ten years – just to maintain current levels of operation.  This bill will provide additional annual capital funding to ensure that MTA is able to maintain its assets in a state of good repair and allow the agency to implement basic modernization to its outdated fleet of buses, trains, etc. This funding is imperative to sustain our public transit infrastructure and ensure safe transit for all riders.  

Violence Intervention and Prevention ProgramTwo years ago, I championed and passed the first program to prevent gun violence using evidence-based efforts. Although the Governor funded the program during its first year, he zeroed it out in FY20. This bill will require annual funding for the Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (VIPP) to fund local efforts around the state. Many of these programs are non-profit organizations with limited resources, but that do incredibly important work. This bill will provide the resources that these programs need to double down on the highest-crime neighborhoods, and expand into new neighborhoods. 

Plastics and Packaging Reduction ActPlastic waste litters our streets and waterways in Baltimore. It’s an eyesore and it also contributes to climate change. Despite popular belief, plastic bags can not go in your recycling bin and they are not biodegradable. This bill aims to reduce plastic trash by prohibiting stores from distributing plastic bags to consumers. It also encourages residents to use reusable shopping bags by requiring stores to charge .10 for paper bags. Finally, it establishes a “Single-Use Products Working Group” to study and make holistic recommendations on reducing plastic trash and single use containers in Maryland.  

The Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act (HOME Act)Housing discrimination is far too common, including discrimination based on source-of-income. Source of income can refer to income from veterans or disability payments or a public assistance program. Seventy percent of housing voucher recipients in Maryland are seniors, people with disabilities, or children. Currently, finding rental housing is challenging for voucher holders. Based on recent studies across the East Coast, up to 67% of landlords refused renters with housing vouchers. This bill prohibits discrimination based on a renter’s source of income, just as it is illegal to discriminate against a renter’s race, sex, religion, etc. Although many local jurisdictions have already passed their own version of this bill, it is important to ensure minimum standards are the same across the state.

 Strengthening Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA)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.    If you have requested government records in the past, I want to hear from you! Please consider taking this short survey by clicking here.  Your input will help me craft legislation for an accountable and transparent PIA request process. 

The Jordan MacNair Safe & Fair Sports ActOur college student athletes are working hard to be champions for us – now it’s time for us to be champions for them. This year, I will be introducing a bill to allow college student athletes to retain the rights to their own name, image, and likeness. We cannot stop there though, because many of our students are facing true health and well-being challenges as well, including of course, the tragic loss of Jordan MacNair in 2018. This bill will also set up a permanent commission to oversee college student athlete well-being that will have the power to investigate any alleged wrongdoing. 

Supporting Maryland Arts InstitutionsI will be introducing two bills to support Maryland arts institutions, one focusing on capital funding and one on operating dollars. Both of these bills will provide important and ongoing sources of funds to ensure that our Maryland arts community can continue to thrive and grow!
DELEGATE SCHOLARSHIPSEach year, I am excited to award scholarships to students from the 46th District who are heading to college or graduate school in Maryland. (If you’re not sure if you reside in the 46th district, you can go to www.mdelect.net to check.) I’m pleased to say that my scholarship application is now open! Please find instructions and detailed information about applying for a scholarship through my office here, and the application to apply here. The scholarship application must be filled out completely and returned with all the required documentation (e.g. transcripts, letters of recommendation, a short essay, etc.) to my office by May 1, 2020. Funds will be applied to the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.
There are a few local news sources that are handy to visit during the legislative session. In addition to coverage by some great reporters in the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, these online publications offer news:
Maryland Matters: https://www.marylandmatters.org/
Maryland Reporter: https://marylandreporter.com/
Capital News Service: https://cnsmaryland.org/
Center Maryland: http://www.centermaryland.org/

I was briefly mentioned as a “Top Ten Legislator to Watch” this week in Maryland Matters, and I’m pleased that the Washington Post published a story today about efforts in Virginia and Maryland to allow student athletes to retain control of their name, image, and likeness.  

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 and my legislative director, Dani DiPietro, at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.  

My best, Brooke 

PS: Know someone who isn’t getting my Annapolis newsletters? Encourage them to sign up at my website or to email me and I’ll add them to my list!

495/270 P3 Program: BPW Should Vote No

On June 5, 2019, the Board of Public Works will review and have the opportunity to vote on whether to allow a Public Private Partnership program to move forward in the state of Maryland. The BPW will review a PreSolicitation report created by MDOT and submitted earlier this year to the General Assembly budget committees, including Appropriations on which I serve. Although we held a hearing and discussed this report – and its inadequacies – the P3 process, created by a 2013 law, is almost entirely out of the control of the Legislature. It was designed to give flexibility to our Governor and Transportation Secretary to pursue P3s to complete infrastructure projects in the state. One such project that is currently underway is the Purple Line. Unfortunately, Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn has subverted the 2013 law in an attempt to push through a massive P3 – one of the largest in the country in fact – and is doing so without the support of the counties through which the project will run. This P3 seeks to add lanes to some of our most congested highways – 495 and 270 – in an attempt to relieve congestion. This P3 is a bad idea: it will not solve our transportation challenges, it will cost drivers an excessive amount of money, and it will add to air pollution/carbon emissions.

It will not solve traffic congestion: I hate sitting in traffic. I go see my family in Montgomery County frequently, I drive around the state – I know how bad traffic is and I hate it. But I want to support solutions to truly alleviate traffic, not just pretend. Every year, more studies come out and more examples abound that demonstrate that adding lanes to highways has the reverse effect: it actually creates worse traffic. We need a Transportation Department who takes creating alternatives seriously – MDOT simply hasn’t studied increasing MARC service to Frederick, expanding lanes strategically to end bottlenecks, or adding BRT where helpful.

In addition to creating more traffic, adding more highways will increase air pollution – car emissions are the number one source of dangerous carbon pollution in Maryland today. We can’t afford to keep adding more pollution when our kids and the Bay are already suffering the effects of air pollution in the state.

Finally, these roads don’t make economic sense – to drivers or the state. These roads will be prohibitively expensive to drivers – Virginia has had numerous experiences that should give our state leaders serious pause. And, although Secretary Rahn likes to claim that he wants to do a P3 because it will have no cost to the state, we know that isn’t true. Inevitably, the state will be on the hook for payments, for costs, and if the project were to fail, for everything. Because MDOT has not seriously looked at how much it would cost for MDTA to build out lanes and keep them publicly-created though, we don’t even know how much it is likely to cost us. (And this isn’t discussing the fact that it will cost people their homes!)

Because I am opposed to this project, I have signed several letters to the BPW explaining my opposition. THIS LETTER is from 60 legislators, and THIS LETTER is from Appropriations Leaders asking the members of the BPW to carefully consider our concerns.

2019 Community Picnic in the Park

My 5th Annual Community Picnic in the Park was a huge success! We had beautiful weather, 400 Baltimore neighbors (and some folks from outside the City too!), Representative Elijah E. CummingsSenator Ben Cardin, Mayor Jack Young, Brandon M. ScottZeke CohenShannon SneedBill FergusonLuke Clippinger, too many awesome non-profit organizations to name, B-Scene Events, some AMAZING volunteers (shout out to Alison and Ashleigh!), aMuse Toys, and Miss Twist Ice Cream!

Every year, I organize a free community picnic on the first Sunday after Memorial Day weekend – we have bbq, ice cream, face painting, and bring out many of the great non-profits in our City doing awesome work. I started this tradition in 2015 after the unrest in Baltimore: I wanted to provide a way to break down the invisible walls around our neighborhoods, build community, and just give back to the City and communities that have given me the opportunity to represent them in the Legislature.

Yesterday’s event was the biggest so far, and it was really a wonderful day meeting new people, seeing old friends, and enjoying a wonderful Baltimore asset: Patterson Park. Thank you to EVERYONE who came out!  Check out the photos HERE!

Brooke’s Brief: End of Session Report

The 2019 legislative session is over and I am back home in Baltimore full time. It was a session for the history books, but not necessarily for all good reasons. As you probably know, our Speaker Michael Busch died this past Sunday, the day before Sine Die (the last day of session). Although I was heartbroken to hear the news on Sunday, walking into the House chamber on Monday morning and seeing his empty chair, I felt the enormity of the loss. We passed his final bill later that day (to help reform the University of Maryland Medical System), and held a short memorial with tributes from members that evening just before midnight. I will never forget the Speaker and am so grateful for his mentorship and leadership. I will always strive to live up to the example he set as a public servant leader.

Below you will find a short recap of some of the major pieces of legislation we passed this session and information about the FY20 budget. For my full End of Session Report, please click HERE.

FY20 BUDGET

The budget the House passed is fiscally prudent and socially responsible. It maintains our current commitments to public education and health, makes sound investments in the future, and leaves over $1.2 billion in cash and reserves in the event of economic downturn. We were able to accomplish all of this without raising any taxes or fees.

Some key accomplishments in this year’s budget include:

  • Providing $320 million to support the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which will provide funds for full-day prekindergarten for 4-year olds, special education programs, teacher salary incentives, and many other needs to transform Maryland’s education institutions into a world-class system
  • $7 billion of support for public schools, the largest budget for our children ever
  • $500 million for school construction, funded through the operating budget and the capital budget
  • $80 million to combat the opioid crisis, including services for individuals with mental and behavioral health disorders
  • $13 million for crime reduction initiatives that will bolster public safety efforts in Baltimore City and statewide

BROOKE’S BILLS

I passed seven bills this session, and two others that were combined into one Senate bill and passed. Below is a quick recap:

Protecting the Environment: I am thrilled to help lead the charge to protect our environment, by being the first state in the country to ban foam food containers. With the help of community organizations like @MDLCV, @sierraclubmd, and @TrashFreeMD, HB 109/SB285 was approved by both chambers and is awaiting signature by the Governor. The House also passed the Natural Resources Protection Program, HB 1194 that creates a whistleblower program to help ensure we are enforcing our natural resources laws, however this bill was not given a vote in the Senate.

Creating sustainable transportation infrastructure: The Maryland Bikeways Program bill (HB 1281) will codify the Bikeways program and provide mandated funding of $3.8 m/year for projects around the state. This bill also contained a provision to strengthen the requirement for an MTA Regional Transit Plan.

Creating healthy and inclusive communities: I authored and passed a bill to require for the first time that all local governments address the need for affordable/workforce housing in their local comprehensive plans (HB 1045). This planning is essential to meeting the needs of Marylanders who lack opportunity to purchase or rent affordable homes. I worked with the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative closely to pass funding for the Breathe Easy East Baltimore pilot program to remediate triggers for asthma in homes in East Baltimore. Asthma is the number one reason for absenteeism in schools – renovating unhealthy homes is key to ensuring students can succeed in school (HB1160). I also worked with Sen. Ferguson to pass a bill to create the Opportunity Zone Enhancement Program, a first-of-its-kind in the nation program to incentivize developers to be inclusive and take community input when developing in an opportunity zone.

Reducing maternal and infant mortality: Research shows that the the first three years of our children’s lives lives are the most important for healthy growth and development and we know that it takes coordinates services to reduce maternal and infant mortality. HB 520 will fund the Thrive by Three Care Coordination program to help make sure all parents have access to support services.

Providing legal services and support for those in need: A number of bills I introduced that passed the House this session will provide legal access and support for Marylanders. First, the Child Sex Trafficking Services & Screening Act, HB 827, protects child victims of sex trafficking and provides services to help those victims recover. Second, HB 633 creates the Legal Representation Fund for Title IX Proceedings to make sure legal support is available for students involved in Title IX hearings on college campuses. Finally, a bill that I passed through the House and stalled in the Senate creates the Family Law Services for Sustained Safety Fund for legal support for victims of domestic violence or child abuse, and to help families in times of crisis to ensure a more stable future (HB 665).

Continuing Efforts:There were also a number of important bills that we were able to make progress on but were unable to pass this session and that I’ll work on next year – including enabling legislation to allow Baltimore City voter to choose our City leaders through Ranked Choice Voting, increasing enforcement of truck routes through City neighborhoods, protecting our student athletes from exploitation and unsafe conditions, and removing laws that criminalize poverty, including ending the practice of suspending drivers licenses for unpaid fees and fines that have nothing to do with driving. 

NOTABLE LEGISLATION

Putting Maryland’s Students First :Although prior to session we learned that the full Kirwan Commission recommendations would not be implemented this year, we still worked to pass the first phase of those recommendations in HB1413/SB1030, The Education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. This bill establishes principles to transform public education, including (1) investing in high-quality early childhood education and care; (2) elevating teachers and school leaders; (3) creating a world-class instructional system; (4) providing more support to students who need it most, including English language learners, students in poverty, and special education students; and (5) ensuring excellence through accountability and oversight. In addition to funding these measures through the education lockbox funds, we also passed HB1301/SB728, which closes a loophole that currently allows some online retailers to avoid collecting sales tax.  These bills will ensure that all online sales tax revenues collected by the state that is over $100 million will go to funding the Education Blueprint.  This year we passed a major bill that requires school boards to incorporate the use of restorative approaches for school discipline (HB725/SB766).

Reforming our Criminal Justice System & Increasing Public Safety:I continued this year to focus on ongoing concerns of violent crime.  I am encouraged by the hiring and confirmation of Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael C. Harrison last month and am hopeful his leadership will help to continue the transformation of the BPD. One bill that I cosponsored, HB528/SB39, will require that following the decennial census the BPD Commissioner will present a plan to the Baltimore Mayor’s Office to reconsider each police district and its resource allocation. Statewide, I was sorry to see the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act fail to advance. This bill would have required an independent investigation of officer-involved deaths (SB898/HB983). HB116, a bipartisan bill, puts Maryland on track to offer full medication-assisted-treatment to inmates suffering from opiate use disorder in all local jails by 2023. SB 774 will restrict placing juveniles in solitary confinement, unless there is clear evidence of an immediate risk of harm to the minor, or others. We did successfully pass SB346 which closes a loophole that previously allowed gun owners or dealers from transferring guns to someone not legally allowed to own a gun – as long as the Governor signs the bill, that loophole will close! 

Although it didn’t make the headlines, a major public safety measure was made with a complete overhaul of the 911 system. HB397The 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System Act, modernizes our state’s outdated 911 system in a number of ways, including allowing for texting and updating improving location accuracy. This bill successfully passed both chambers!

We also passed a bill to create a Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, which is a first-step to implementing comprehensive juvenile justice reform measures to ensure our state is working holistically to keep kids out of the criminal justice system and in school and reaching their full potential, but also ensuring where necessary that serious offenders are kept away from harming others. This will allow for a data-driven approach and will ensure we are using best practices from across the country to work with our children.

Making Healthcare More Accessible:We passed two landmark health care bills this year: we created the nation’s first Prescription Drug Affordability Board and we will now allow Marylanders the chance to enroll in health insurance by checking a box on their annual state income tax returns. The Affordability Board will establish maximum costs to be paid by state and local governments for certain high-cost medications, and the second measure will ensure that we are expanding the pool of people who are insured and bringing down premiums for all enrollees.

Under a 2011 law, if a pending lawsuit is decided in favor of the state, all state benefits would have ended and retirees would have had only benefits from Medicare Part D. By passing SB946/HB1120 we have created 3 new state programs to limit out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for state retirees and require ongoing study and discussion of the challenge of funding these important benefits.

Cleaning Our State + Protecting our Environment:Along with passing my bill (HB109/SB285) to ban expanded polystyrene foam food containers (the first in the nation!), I also worked hard to champion and pass other environmental measures. We passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB516) to require that 50% of our energy come from renewable energy sources by 2030, including 14.5% from solar energy! We also took steps to preserve and restore Maryland’s oyster population and increase enforcement of environmental laws. We overrode the Governor’s veto to pass HB298/SB448 to provide permanent protection of restored oyster sanctuaries in five tributaries, protecting public investments and serving as oyster nurseries.

Unfortunately, a key environmental bill that I cosponsored didn’t advance out of the House this Session. HB 961/SB548 would have removed trash incineration from Tier 1 of the renewable energy portfolio. I am hopeful that we will be able to advance this measure next year and I plan to meet with constituents and organizations about it during the interim.

To read more about what I worked on this session, please check out my full End of Session report HERE.

Brooke’s Brief: Special Saturday Edition

I am headed down to Annapolis for a Saturday session and Monday is Sine Die (the last day of session). Before the end of session and my final End of Session report, I wanted to give you a quick update on a few big things! We’ve worked on a huge variety of issues – public safety, criminal justice reform, education, environmental issues, transportation, healthcare – but here are a few quick hits from this past week:

Education: The General Assembly has now approved a major bill called the Education Blueprint for Maryland, which will provide $800 million more for schools over the next two years. This is the first bill to phase in the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission — increasing teacher salaries, expanding pre-kindergarten, supporting students with special needs, investing more in schools with high levels of concentrated poverty, investing in tech ed, and providing more health-based services to students and families.

Veto Overrides: The Governor vetoed four bills we sent him early this year and we voted last week to override all four vetoes to: (1) ensure local school boards can control their own school calendars to meet the needs of the kids they are educating, (2) ensure workers’ wages continue to increase annually up to $15/hour in 2026, (3) create a better system to enforce alcohol and tobacco laws (like the majority of other states) by using an objective commission rather than an elected official; and (4) create sanctuaries for oysters, which are at 1% of their historic population.

UMMS Reform: After reporting by the Baltimore Sun revealed that the University of Maryland Medical System was awarding sole-source contracts (and more!), the General Assembly has moved to pass legislation sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter and Speaker Busch to require all Board members to resign, prohibit sole-source contracts, and implement audit requirements. What was going on at UMMS was completely unacceptable, and this bill is an important first step toward ensuring that we are protecting taxpayers (and patients!) from footing the bill for grift.

#FoamFreeMD: After three years of trying, I am thrilled to report that the General Assembly just passed my bill and Sen. Cheryl Kagan’s companion bill to make Maryland the FIRST state in the country to ban EPS foam (styrofoam) food containers! Foam is the worst form of plastic because it breaks down into pieces that are too small to pick up and end up in our waterways and beaches, but those small pieces attract wildlife who eat them and ingest the toxic chemicals they absorb. Our state, our country, our world are overrun with single-use plastics – it’s up to us to start cleaning up the mess that we have created and this legislation is an important FIRST step to demonstrate that we have the political will and know-how to make that happen.

Brooke’s Brief: Annapolis Report #6

Last Monday was Crossover Day — the day each Session when a bill that originates in the House must crossover to the Senate to guarantee a bill hearing before the end of Session (and when the Senate sends their bills over to the House!). There is always a flurry of activity leading up to Crossover Day, and I’m happy to report progress on a number of my bills this Session. With only two weeks left before Sine Die on Monday, April 8, there is still so much work left to do, especially related to education funding!

Appropriations & Education Funding

Two weeks ago, over 8,000 teachers, students and public education supporters came to Annapolis to rally for education funding. It was an amazing event and I was thrilled to be able to take the stage with my colleagues to let everyone know we hear them and support them!

Education is a key component of the FY20 Maryland budget that my Committee – Appropriations – worked on. The House has passed our versions of the capital and operating budgets for Maryland and we are now conferring with the Senate over differences. This was not an easy fiscal year. We came into the session expecting a balanced budget and surplus revenues; instead, we had a forecast of downward revenue of the General Fund by $269 million across the 2019 and 2020 budgets.

The budget the House passed is fiscally prudent and socially responsible. It maintains our current commitments to public education and health, makes sound investments in the future, and leaves over $1.2 billion in cash and reserves in the event of economic downturn. We were able to accomplish all of this without raising any taxes or fees.  Some key accomplishments in this year’s budget include:

  • Providing $320 million to support the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which will provide funds for full-day prekindergarten for 4-year olds, special education programs, teacher salary incentives, and many other needs to transform Maryland’s education institutions into a world-class system.
  • $7 billion of support for public schools, the largest budget for our children ever.
  • $500 million for school construction, funded through the operating budget and the capital budget
  • $80 million to combat the opioid crisis, including services for individuals with mental and behavioral health disorders
  • $13 million for crime reduction initiatives that will bolster public safety efforts in Baltimore City and statewide

The Build to Learn Act of 2019: While Maryland invests millions into school construction, repair, and renovation every year, Baltimore City and many counties still have significant unmet needs. Last week, the House of Delegates passed the largest school construction bill in Maryland history, the Build to Learn Act of 2019. Now it’s up to the Senate to act!

This bill will invest an additional $2.2 billion into school construction statewide. This would result in hundreds of millions in additional investment into Baltimore City to continue the momentum of the 21st Century Schools Program. When 21st Century Schools was originally passed, the goal was to build or fully renovate nearly 45 schools. When the program is complete, the Maryland Stadium Authority anticipates completing 27 or 28 schools. The additional investment contained in the Build to Learn Act will fulfill that original promise.

Brooke’s Bills

Eight of the bills I introduced this Session were passed by the House and are another step closer to passage this year, as they’re considered in the Senate. These bills include many issues important to Baltimoreans:

Protecting the Environment: I am thrilled to help lead the charge to protect our environment, by being the first state in the country to ban foam food containers. With the help of community organizations like @MDLCV, @sierraclubmd, and @TrashFreeMD, HB 109 passed the House and is a key step to make sure Maryland is foam free. #FoamFreeMD. The house also passed the Natural Resources Protection Program, HB 1194 that creates a whistleblower program to help ensure we are enforcing our natural resources laws.

Creating sustainable bikeways infrastructure and affordable housing: The Maryland Bikeways Program would be a created in statute through the passage of HB 1281, with a mandated minimum level of funding for the program going forward. Another bill, HB 1045, requires that all local governments address the need for affordable housing in their comprehensive plans, including both workforce housing and affordable housing below 60% of the AMI. This planning is essential to meeting the needs of Marylanders who lack opportunity to purchase or rent affordable homes.

Funding for early childhood development: Research shows that the beginning our kids’ lives are the most important for healthy growth and development. HB 520 will help make sure all kids have the tools they need for success, by providing funding for the Thrive by Three Care Coordination program.

Providing legal services and support for those in need: A number of bills I introduced that passed the House this session will provide legal and support services for victims seeking justice and help. First, the Child Sex Trafficking Services & Screening Act, HB 827, protects child victims of sex trafficking and provides services to help those victims recover. Second, HB 665 creates the Family Law Services for Sustained Safety Fund for legal support for victims of domestic violence or child abuse, and to help families in times of crisis to ensure a more stable future. And third, HB 633 creates the Legal Representation Fund for Title IX Proceedings to make sure legal support is available for students involved in Title IX hearings on college campuses. The General Assembly created this legal services program last Session, and this bill provides funding to make sure the services are actually available to those who need them.

In Annapolis

As the Vice Chair of the Oversight on Pensions Subcommittee, we are working to make sure prescription drug coverage remains viable for state retirees who depend on it.  We recently amended SB 946 to help restore some funding to the Maryland State Retiree Prescription Drug Coverage Program. I will post links and information on my Facebook page with information on the amended bill this week.

UMMS: Review my statement on my Facebook page. The House suspended the rules on Thursday to introduce an emergency bill, HB 1428, to require comprehensive audits of the University of Maryland Medical System. This bill had bipartisan support to address self-dealing and ethical breaches in our government systems.

PIMLICO: The Baltimore City Delegation remains committed to keeping the Preakness in the City. Some legislators and the Stronach Group have proposed legislation to allow money from the racing fund to be bonded to be used to rebuild Laurel into a “super track,” leaving nothing in or for Pimlico. This is unacceptable. Please review the short video here explaining how amazing rebuilding Pimlico could be: www.savepreaknessbaltimore.org. Mayor Pugh filed suit last week against the Stronach Group and the Black Caucus of the General Assembly hosted Mayor Pugh and three former city mayors to discuss how to address this key issue affecting Baltimore City.

Guns in Schools: I voted against a measure to arm school resource officers in Baltimore City schools. This is a controversial, charged issue within our city, and I understand that our disagreement stems from our passion to keep all students, teachers, staff, and community members within our schools safe. I voted against this proposal, because was just as likely, if not more likely, to jeopardize the safety of our kids, rather than make schools safer. When tragedy strikes, it’s natural to want to act, and we should be taking steps to ensure school safety. However, we must take care not to put our children in harm’s way again with poorly planned policies that jeopardize their safety.  Armed officers can make schools less safe for our kids, and also disintegrate the educational atmosphere necessary for students to thrive.  Research has found that security guards are consistently ineffective at protecting students and are associated with more incidents of school crime, and higher levels of disorder in schools.  Data also show that access to firearms is associated with an increased risk of firearm-related death and injury.  This is a risk my colleagues and I in the legislature, who voted against arming officers in Baltimore City schools, are unwilling to take. There is also little empirical evidence that fortifying schools with increased security measures like metal detectors, surveillance cameras, or lockdown procedures are effective to prevent attacks.  These additions in schools may put our minds at ease, but students at schools like Columbine and Sandy Hook were not saved by these measures. A study conducted by the Safe School Initiative reported by U.S. Secret Service recommends training for teachers and administrators to make threat assessments and recognize behaviors that are linked to violent outburst.  More guns do not equal more safety.  Instead, creating trusting environments where students, teachers, and administrators feel comfortable identifying and responding to at-risk behaviors can help to ensure safe schools.

Johns Hopkins Security: Johns Hopkins’ proposal seeking state approval to replace off-duty Baltimore police officers that currently patrol the campuses with JHU’s own sworn officers has also been a contentious issue. This proposal is not about guns – Hopkins already has 65+ armed officers patrolling – it is about Hopkins having the ability to train its employees and give them limited arrest powers. Although I could not have supported the bill as introduced, I believe the amendments make the bill one that that will provide for safeguards for the community, more oversight into what Hopkins is doing (i.e. they already are using armed guards with no oversight at all – and could hire an unlimited number if this legislation isn’t passed), and although I am still concerned about the idea of giving a private entity this police power, I believe it is a fair compromise.

Several of the amendments make it a very different bill than that as introduced. (1) As introduced, the police force would have been able to patrol neighborhoods. As amended, it is limited to just the campus and adjacent sidewalks/parking lots. In addition, there is a geographically defined area so that even if Hopkins were to purchase land elsewhere, it could not extend its police there. (For those wondering, Hopkins police will not patrol the Bayview campus.) (2) The grant of authority to Hopkins will expire in ten years. (3) There are three layers of accountability – the accountability board, whose members now must be confirmed by the State Senate to ensure they are a fair representation, the civilian review board, and trial boards. While I recognize the imperfection of these latter two methods as they exist now, I will continue to push for reforms. (4) The ultimate accountability – the ability to sue – will exist for plaintiffs. Hopkins will be fully liable (with no public/sovereign immunity) for any violations. (5) The Public Information Act, as imperfect as it is, will apply to these officers. I will continue to push for that law to be stronger and more meaningful as well. I have been very impressed with Commissioner Harrison as well and believe that his experience in NOLA will help him to craft a good MOU with JHU.

I heard from many people opposed to this bill and many people in favor of it. I even heard from some people who were originally opposed to the bill, but supported it after they learned about the amendments. I was incredibly impressed by the thoughtful organizing of many of the medical students who were opposed to the bill and I kept in touch with them and connected several of them to a community president who was looking for another viewpoint from Hopkins – I think it is important to have full engagement with all views on these complex policy questions. I tried to be very transparent and honest with everyone I talked to about how I was deliberating on the bill. There are challenging issues that confront us these days and I try to bring the best thinking I can as I confront them.

In Baltimore

TODAY: there will be an Expungement Clinic hosted at Cherry Hill Elementary School at 801 Bridgeview Road in Brooklyn, Maryland. At this clinic, individuals with a criminal history will be able to receive advice from legal professionals about how to approach getting a record expunged, from determining eligibility to steps forward. Registration through Eventbrite is encouraged, but it is not required for attendance. The Expungement Clinic is hosted by the Port Covington Development Impact Team in partnership with Maryland Legal Aid and Out for Justice.

Join ACLU of Maryland’s Legislative Counsel for Education, Sonja Santelises on Thursday March 28 from 6-8 pm for a community conversation about achieving equity in Baltimore City’s schools. Join in for dinner and conversation at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School – 1400 Orleans Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. RVSP and more info here.

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance is now accepting applications for its Transportation 101 workshops! Transportation 101 is a 7-week class in which participants meet to learn from local experts and leaders, meet other interested residents and ultimately put what they learn into action. Candidates can learn more and may apply through April 10 here:  https://www.cmtalliance.org/transportation-101/

In the News

This important Sun Editorial on funding for education is well worth a read: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-0318-kirwan-20190315-story.html?fbclid=IwAR3jr0GgoEzYmyXUXnJexTmPv2tcexBrh3idQsUVyF-kFHTiDjQzPrV-0kw

The efforts to make Maryland foam free has garnered national attention, and we are excited to be another step closer to banning expanded polystyrene foam in our state.

I am grateful to be recognized alongside so many other fantastic women leaders in Maryland as a part of The Daily Record’s Top 100 Maryland Women.


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.

Annapolis Report: Crossover!

Every year, the first big deadline during session is the crossover deadline. This is deadline to pass a bill out of one chamber in order to guarantee a hearing in the other chamber. Most bills that don’t make the crossover deadline will not be passed – although there are always exceptions, especially for bills that address late-breaking issues (i.e. the scandal that came to light regarding the self-dealing at UMMS). Below are the bills that I passed through the House by this week!