Category: Annapolis

2020 End of Session Report

Friends and Neighbors,

To download a PDF of this letter, click here.

For the first time since the Civil War, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned early this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision to adjourn the legislative session did not come lightly. House and Senate leadership coordinated to make a decision that was informed, research-based, and promptly responded to the current public health crisis. Public health research shows that the more steps we can take right now to prevent transmission of the virus, the better off we’ll be. Practicing social distancing now can save lives later.

Despite our early finish, the General Assembly session was incredibly productive. Thanks in part to our new leadership team – Speaker Adrienne Jones and President Bill Ferguson – we moved expeditiously and in coordinated fashion to pass legislation that will help our state move forward. In the pages below, you will find information on legislation that we considered.

It is an incredible honor to serve in the House of Delegates and I continue to champion legislation that reduces barriers and increases opportunities so that every Marylander can reach his/her full potential. You can always get in touch with me at 410-841-3319 and brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us. To read more about my work, please sign up for my email updates and visit my blog at www.brookelierman.com. Thank you for being involved!

MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY COVID-19 RESPONSE

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic, and a national emergency has been declared. Governor Hogan and Mayor Young announced that Maryland and Baltimore will operate under states of emergency and will take additional precautionary measures to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. My website has links and information for families, employees, students, small business owners, and more.

COVID-19 Emergency Legislation

The General Assembly and Governor are unified in the effort to keep residents safe in the wake of this rapidly evolving public health threat. The General Assembly passed two bills to provide the Governor with the necessary tools to respond to this public health emergency:

(1) SB190: FY21 State Budget. In our annual budget, we set aside and provided authority to the Governor to use up to $100 million to help respond to the public health threat. We also left a larger-than-normal fund balance because of the likelihood for a large decrease in revenues.

(2) HB1663: COVID–19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020. This bill allows the Governor to take specific actions to expand healthcare benefits and protect workers in response to the public health threat such as:

  • eliminating co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for COVID–19 testing and covering the cost of a COVID–19 immunization should it become available
  • waiving certain telehealth protocols for COVID–19 to allow more patients to be diagnosed and treated over the phone and online
  • allowing the state, in partnership with federal government, to provide unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are temporarily out of work or quarantined due to COVID–19
  • preventing retailers from price gouging necessary goods and services such as food, water, fuel, and medicine
  • prohibiting employers from firing employees who are isolated or quarantined for COVID-19
  • changing the definition of a work week to allow state hospital nurses to care for COVID identified patients and still be eligible for full-time benefits

FY2021 OPERATING & CAPITAL BUDGET

Under the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly must pass a balanced budget each year. Maryland has a “strong executive” model: the Governor proposes the initial budget early in session, and theGeneral Assembly can only cut or restrict funds and move money aroundin the operating budget (although we can add to the capital budget). The FY21 operating budget that we passed is balanced and creates a more structurally-balanced budget in future years than we have seen in some time. We worked hard to ensure that we were able to fully fund K-12 education formulas and fully fund the promised increases in salary to all behavioral health and disabilities service providers. We also fully funded our community colleges and provided our state share of funding for the Howard Street Tunnel.

Fast Fact: Maryland’s Governor has the strongest constitutional budget authority of any governor in the nation. This year you will have the opportunity to vote on whether you think (like I do!) that our General Assembly should be able to amend the operating budget like we can with the capital budget – and like nearly every other state legislature can.

FY21 Capital Budget

Capital Budget – Team 46 worked hard this year to secure & safeguard funding for many organizations & projects around our district, including…

Creative Alliance, The Well/Hon’s Honey, Living Classrooms Foundation, Middle Branch Park, Rash Field, Hands on Patterson Park Public, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery, Chesapeake Shakespeare Theater, South Baltimore Land Trust, The Cherry Hill CDC, Life Ministries Food Pantry, Ronald McDonald House, the National Aquarium …. And $12m for the Baltimore Regional Neighborhoods Initiative at DHCD that provides funding for community development corporations for capital projects around Baltimore

EDUCATION

More people emailed me about the education reform and funding bill The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (HB1300/SB1000) than about any other single piece of legislation. After 3 years of meetings by the Kirwan Commission, this year we introduced and eventually passed landmark legislation that will change public education in Maryland over the next decade. Today, fewer than 40% of graduating high school students are college and career ready. Moreover, our current school funding formula is regressive – poorer school districts receive less funding and we have large achievement gaps based on socioeconomic status, race, disability, English language proficiency, and at-risk designation. And, average salaries for teachers are 25% below comparable professions and nearly half of teachers leave the profession after two years. If we don’t provide children a great education now, we will be paying higher costs in health care, public safety, and benefits generations to come. The Blueprint is a transformational plan that makes 5 key investments, implemented over 10 years:

  • Expanding full-day prekindergarten for low-income 3 and 4 year olds and providing more family support centers in high-poverty areas
  • Hiring and keeping high-quality, diverse teachers by paying teachers a salary comparable to other fields, providing more rigorous teacher preparation programs and implementing career ladders to provide more opportunities for career advancement
  • Raising the standards for college and career readiness so students can compete with their international peers
  • Providing more resources for the students who need them most
  • Implementing an accountability board to monitor progress and ensure tax-payer funds are being used effectively

The Blueprint isn’t just good for public schools, it’s a vital investment in Maryland’s economic future. It will help attract new businesses and entrepreneurs as our state adapts to an economy increasingly rooted in technological innovation. The Blueprint relies on strong accountability measures to ensure that new funding is spent how it should be, including the creation of a new oversight body: the Office of the Inspector General for Education.

Of equal importance, I was thrilled to support the Built to Learn Act (HB1/SB1). This legislation will invest additional capital funding in our school buildings, including $450 million for Baltimore City Public Schools. HB1 prioritizes schools with the oldest buildings in the system, those with significant facility deficiencies, schools with high concentrations of students eligible for free and reduced price meals, and schools with a high number of relocatable classrooms.

In the world of higher education, we made historic progress by passing HB1260/SB1043 which finally requires the state to compensate HBCUs for over a decade of damaging program duplication that the state allowed to go on even though it undermined and hurt enrollment at HBCUs. We also took strides to support our student athletes in higher education. I am excited about the potential of a bill that I sponsored this year to support our college student athletes – the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act (HB533/SB518). This bipartisan bill would allow student athletes the right to use their own name, image, or likeness to earn money (something the NCAA doesn’t allow), and would create a Commission to review rules and ensure our student athletes are healthy and safe. We have many great supporters, including the McNair family, College Park’s student government, the NFL Players Association, former college athletes, sports law professors and more! Although the bill did not pass this year, I will continue to champion this cause because I believe that many of our college athletes are being exploited and are being stripped of their basic human rights to participate in the economy.

I also heard from many of you about the various proposals in the General Assembly to increase revenue. For many years, revenue projections have demonstrated that our state sales tax is underperforming, largely because people buy fewer goods now and spend more money on services, including online services. Many of you wrote in with concerns about the large proposed sales tax bill (HB1628). I shared your concerns about its breadth and the fact that it may have placed many of our professionals at a disadvantage with other states. That bill did not pass. Rather, we looked at ways to modernize our tax code without putting additional burdens on working families. HB932 modernizes Maryland’s tax code. Today, if you buy a CD at Best Buy, you pay sales tax – if you download the music on iTunes, you do not. This bill ensures equity across platforms and evens the playing field between brick-and-mortar businesses and online outlets. It brings us in line with 28 other states with the same exact revenue structure and will help fund public education. We also passed HB732 to increase the existing excise tax on cigarettes by an additional $1.75 and impose an excise tax on electronic smoking and vaping, something 21 other states and D.C. have already done. It also sets up Maryland to be the first state in the country to apply a gross receipts tax to large advertising buys. Companies such as Facebook will now be required to pay a tax based on the overall revenue of their online ads. Everyone can relate to constantly being buried by ads online, and this bill will ensure companies who use your personal information to make targeted ads help give back to our schools.

PUBLIC SAFETY

The violence in Baltimore City is absolutely unacceptable, and many of you wrote in to me to ask what the state plans to do to help create a safer city. The loss of life and ongoing crime is tragic and must end. I worked every day this session on legislation to create safer communities in Baltimore and around Maryland.

Two years ago, I championed and passed Maryland’s 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. Therefore, this year, I sponsored HB822/SB708, a bill to mandate a minimum of $10 million in funding for and to make several alterations to the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (MD VIPP) which funds local efforts around the state.

MD VIPP is the state’s only program designed to fund a variety of evidence-based violence prevention programs like Safe Streets, Roca, and hospital-based violence intervention programs. The Police Commissioner agrees that these programs are a fundamental piece to creating a safer Baltimore – the police can do enforcement but they cannot do the prevention and intervention that is also needed. Programs like these have been credited with violence reduction in Boston, Oakland, Chicago, and more. New York, which has long provided stable funding to such programs, has seen a nearly 40% reduction in its gun homicide levels since 2010. I am thrilled that we were able to pass this legislation on the last day of session. 

We also passed a number of other important public safety bills, including:

Strengthening Witness Intimidation Laws (HB40). This legislation lowers the standard of proof from clear and convincing to preponderance of the evidence in criminal cases when it’s believed there has been witness intimidation. This gives prosecutors another tool in the toolbox when dealing with organized crime or gun cases where members of the community can be afraid to come forward and help with a case.

Auditing and Tracking Gun Crimes (HB1629). This bill requires a statewide audit of gun crimes to pinpoint where the breakdown exists in the criminal justice system, from 911 call to disposition. The better we can track this information the better law enforcement will have the ability to allocate resources where communities need them.

The PROTECT Act (HB1408/SB929). The PROTECT Program is established to maximize the use of State, local, and community resources to combat neighborhood decline in Baltimore City and throughout the State, support comprehensive strategies to reduce crime and fear in those communities, and ensure that Baltimore City Police Department sworn officers are utilized in direct public safety roles. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention will select 10 high-crime micro-zones within the State and create, as a civilian position, one coordinator in each neighborhood who lives in the neighborhood and will work with state agencies to support that community and better prepare returning citizens for re-entry and a life that is not reliant on crime.

Maryland State Crime Plan and Law Enforcement Councils (SB907). This emergency legislation creates the Law Enforcement Coordinating Council to prevent and reduce crime by (1) coordinating and focusing State resources and (2) ensuring interagency communications and intelligence sharing throughout State and local law enforcement agencies. The legislation also requires the Department of State Police to establish regional councils throughout the State to: identify regional crime trends; strategize on the deployment of resources to respond to regional crime — particularly violent crime; review outstanding warrants; and discuss community engagement efforts.

Background Checks on All Private Gun Purchases (HB4). This crucial public safety legislation will ensure that all rifle and shotgun transfers are done above board. Currently, there is no law that requires background checks are conducted for private firearm sales. House Bill 4 will result in tens of thousands of additional background checks conducted and ensure each and every transaction is properly vetted. This bill also imposes penalties on any parties who attempt to circumvent this background check process or provide false information to complete a transfer.

I am hopeful that this robust package of legislation will make a real impact on crime and prosecution rates in Baltimore. I live in and am raising children in Baltimore and not a day goes by that I am not working to create a safer city for everyone.

ENVIRONMENT

As a coastal state and one dependent on our waterways and beaches for tourism, Maryland must play a leading role in preserving our environment – for future generations, but also for economic reasons. I am a strong supporter of environmental legislation, and am proud of my record as a “Green Champion” by the League of Conservation Voters. This year, I championed three bills to protect the environment: (1) The Plastic Bag Reduction Act (HB209/SB313), (2) the Transit Safety and Investment Act (HB368/SB424), and (3) the Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act (HB614/SB460). All three of these bills sought to address global warming and the degradation of our environment: (1) by reducing trash and pollution of our waterways, (2) by making public transit in Maryland safer and more reliable so that people can get where they need to go, and so that more people are inclined to use public transit instead of driving their own cars, and (3) by ensuring that the public has access to complaints, enforcement reports, and violations of environmental and natural resource laws — this will empower the public to be watchdogs and increase accountability at the Maryland Department of the Environment. All of these bills passed one chamber but not the other because of the shortened session. I plan to sponsor these bills again next year.

I supported many other environmental initiatives as well. Many of you reached out to me about HB1545/SB887, a bill to responsibly decrease Maryland’s carbon dioxide emissions rate by ending coal burning at Maryland’s six remaining coal plants and support coal plant workers and communities impacted by coal plant closures by establishing a Coal Community Transition Fund. I also heard from many of you about HB438/SB560, a bill to update Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards so that trash incineration is no longer classified as a renewable energy source, and is no longer subsidized by the state.Unfortunately, neither of these bills passed. After several years of effort, the General Assembly did pass a ban on Chlorpyrifos (HB229/SB300). This bill prohibits aerial application of chlorpyrifos and establishes a Pesticide Transition Fund to support Maryland farmers transitioning away from chlorpyrifos. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that chlorpyrifos is the fourth most common pesticide found in human foods!

I was proud to be part of a movement this session to focus on resiliency as our coastal towns and cities in Maryland prepare for rising water levels and hotter temperatures. Flooding already causes around $2 million in damages each year in Baltimore and the urban heat island effect causes public health issues throughout District 46. It’s time that we start putting time and resources into planning for these inevitable emergencies. I co-sponsored HB539/SB457 to allow the City and other counties to create their own Resilience Authorities to give more leeway to funding initiatives to mitigate flooding and rising temperatures.

My plastic bag ban legislation was part of the “Pathway to Zero Waste” legislative package this year. This package included many of the bills that I discussed above, plus legislation focused on incentivizing composting, recycling transparency, and more. I will be supporting and co-sponsoring many of these bills again next year to help them gain more traction and help move our state to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

TRANSPORTATION

One of my most important bills this session was legislation to provide dedicated funding to the Maryland Transit Administration. The Transit Safety and Investment Act (HB368/SB424) sought to ensure that the State is providing the proper investment into MTA’s capital resources. MDOT’s Capital Needs Inventory in 2019 revealed that they needed $2 billion additional dollars simply to maintain a state of good repair over the next 10 years! Although we were successful in the House, the Senate did not pass this legislation prior to Sine Die. With the rapid decrease in travel because of COVID-19, I suspect that our MTA will be in even more dire straits next year. I also helped usher through a bill to work toward expanded MARC service. HB1236 will start the process of negotiating with Virginia and Delaware to expand commuter service and will require a plan for a spur between the Penn and Camden line in downtown Baltimore. Unfortunately, the study to restart creation of the Baltimore Bayview station was cut from the bill at the last moment – I will continue championing that as well.

Late last year I helped create the first Maryland Transit Caucus and this year it saw huge growth – we now count over 75 members! I am thrilled to help lead this Caucus and was proud of the package of bipartisan legislation we prioritized this year.

The Transit Caucus prioritized six bills this year – four of which passed through the House! They included: (1) the MTA funding bill; (2) the P3 Oversight and Reform Act (HB1424), to strengthen Maryland’s public-private partnership laws to ensure oversight and predictability to protect the financial and environmental health of the state; (3) the Pedestrian Safety Act (HB973/SB815), to dedicate fines for traffic offenses related to pedestrians to the Pedestrian Safety Fund; (4) the Electric Bus Transition Act (HB432/SB423), to require MTA to transition its approximately 800 bus fleet to all electric over time, as the agency procures replacement buses; (5) the Southern Maryland Transit Project (HB205/SB105), which requires the state to pay over the course of several years for the final environmental planning phase of the Southern MD Rapid Transit Project; and (6) the Western Maryland Transit Study (HB1367), which requires the MDOT to study the feasibility of expanding commuter rail service to Western Maryland via the MARC Train line and/or currently inactive rail lines. Most of these bills passed in their own chamber, but none of them made it all the way to the Governor’s desk. We will remain committed to and continue to push these issues as the caucus grows stronger! I look forward to working with my fellow members in the House and Senate to pass these important bills and create a more vibrant and better connected state.

ARTS

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. Every year that I have been in office, the Governor has reduced funding for arts organizations. This year, he allocated zero capital dollars for arts organizations in the capital budget, including museums, theaters, and more. Therefore, this session, I sponsored two bills to support our arts communities in Maryland – one bill to support capital funding for arts organizations and create the Maryland Arts Capital Grant Program (HB127/SB287), and another to support operating funding (HB135/SB465). Combined, these bills sought to 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. Both of these bills came very close to passing, and I will continue to support the arts next session and beyond!

PROMOTING STRONG FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

Baltimore – and Maryland – are only as strong as our communities and families. I am passionate about supporting families, workers, and small businesses and every year I sponsor and support legislation to promote our communities.

Housing & Neighborhoods

This year, after 23 years of introductions, the Maryland General Assembly took a critical step towards ending housing discrimination by passing the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act (HB231/SB530). The HOME Act ensures that individuals using a voucher cannot be turned down for housing simply because of the type of income they have to spend on housing – it prohibits “source of income” discrimination. I was incredibly proud to be the lead sponsor of this legislation and carry on the work of former Delegates John Hurson, Tom Hucker, Salima Marriott, Liz Bobo, Doyle Niemann, and Steve Lafferty.

I also sponsored the Community Development Program Act (HB472/SB387), that, if passed would have provided additional resources to the dormant Community Development Fund, that is dedicated to supporting neighborhood revitalization, community organizing, community services, small business development and main street district revitalization across our state. We failed to pass the bill this year but I will continue to champion this cause in the future because I firmly believe in investing in community-based organizations because of the key role that they play in the neighborhood revitalization.

Supporting Workers & Families

I was a proud co-sponsor of the Time to Care Act (HB839/SB539) again this year which would give Marylanders more support when they need time off work to care for loved ones at the beginning of life, the end of life, or during an emergency. I believe that the government has a role to play in ensuring stability for families at a time when personal life has to come first. Unfortunately, due to the shortened legislative session, this bill did not make it through the legislative process. I look forward to enthusiastically supporting it again next year.

Too many Maryland employees and businesses are being harmed by an unfair and unnecessary employment practice that remains all too common: relying on applicants’ salary history to set pay. I co-sponsored the “wage history bill” (HB123/SB217) that requires an employer, on request, to provide a job applicant the wage range for the position to which they are applying, rather than allowing the employer to rely on an applicant’s wage history to determine their future pay. The latter approach has a tendency to perpetuate wage discrimination from one job to the next. Eliminating salary history from the decision of what to pay someone is long overdue; enacting this legislation will make Maryland employment policy more equitable for all. This bill passed and will become law.

I was also an enthusiastic supporter of Maryland’s CROWN Act (HB1444/SB 531) which will add hair texture and style to the definition of race and prohibit employers from discriminating against employees for their hairstyles. This bill was passed with bipartisan and overwhelming support and was sent to the Governor.

Protecting Marylanders’ Access to Healthcare

We worked on a number of important health care bills this session to ensure that all Marylanders have access to quality, affordable health care services and medications, including:

HB959/SB872: 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.

HB1120/SB738: 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. It is critical that we try to remove bias from the health care system and ensure equitable access to care for all.

HB448/SB402: Telehealth Practices – This bill authorizes health care providers to provide telehealth services for their patients so long as the level of care remains consistent. Telehealth makes it easier for Marylanders with geographic, time, and mobility restrictions to receive primary and behavioral health services. Telehealth is also vital in a time of public health emergency, such as COVID-19.

HB1100: 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 prescription drugs for Marylanders.

HB1420/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.

All of these bills passed and are pending the Governor’s signature to become law!

I will continue to work with my colleagues next year to pass HB1081/SB873: the Medical Debt Protection Act. This 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.

Protecting Consumers – Retail Energy Suppliers

In the past two years, the number of calls I receive from constituents complaining about doorknocks from retail energy salesmen continues to increase. This year, I was proud to sponsor HB1224/SB685 to ensure that low-income Marylanders who receive energy assistance from the state are not being taken advantage of by these third-party retail supply companies. This legislation would follow the lead of several other states that have created a way to ensure that only third party suppliers with electricity/gas products that cost less than standard offer service can take energy assistance funds…another way to ensure that we are using taxpayer dollars (via energy assistance programs) most efficiently and responsibly! This bill passed the Senate but we ran out of time to consider it in the House. I will work hard to pass this bill next year.

SUPPORTING MARYLAND BUSINESSES

Baltimore is special because of our people and because of our small businesses – they add character and a draw to so many of our neighborhoods! Whether it’s an urban pirate ship docked in Fell’s Point, an independent bookstore, cheese shop, restaurant, tech or architecture or law firm – the economy of our District and our City relies on these businesses to thrive and to create jobs. I try hard to be an advocate for our business sector, including brick and mortar stores and our entrepreneurial community. This year, I supported our small businesses by co-sponsoring several pieces of legislation, including HB492/SB493, a bipartisan bill that increases the minimum amount of funding that the Governor must appropriate each year to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network Fund to over $1 million. The SBDC offers free business consulting services to new and existing small businesses. The counseling provided ranges from best practices to financing to bringing all appropriate or applicable resources to the table. I also co-sponsored a bill to establish the Maryland Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Incentive Program (HB514/SB398), which aims to foster job creation and economic development in the state through a grant and investment program administered by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO).

I also enthusiastically supported a bill to create greater opportunities for minority business enterprises (HB313/SB442) and was a proud sponsor of HB521/SB583 to establish the Maryland Small Business Innovation Research Technical Assistance Program. This program provides technical assistance to eligible small businesses to encourage and facilitate the receipt of grants under the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs. I am thrilled that all four of these bills passed both chambers and are awaiting the Governor’s signature to become law. Unfortunately, we were not able to pass HB930/SB977 which was a bill that Delegate Lewis and I proposed with Senator Hester to establish a small business health insurance subsidy program to help defray costs for small businesses to access affordable health insurance coverage through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

I heard from many of you this year about HB1219/SB817 which would take politics out of the parole process by increasing the number of years an individual with a life sentence must serve in prison before being able to be paroled, and removing the requirement for the Governor to review and approve parole. Unfortunately, this bill did not have time to make its way through the Senate in the shortened session. Fortunately, we were able to pass HB801/SB684 to create the state’s first pre-release unit *for women* – who have never had one before! Pre-release centers are critical resources for successful re-entry and it puts women inmates at a huge disadvantage not to have access to one.

Too often, individuals land in jail simply for being poor and unable to afford paying a fine or fee. Following the lead of D.C. and Virginia, I worked with Attorney General Brian Frosh this session to pass legislation prohibiting the MVA from suspending a driver’s license merely because an individual cannot afford to pay a fine or fee (civil suit is still an option for the state). HB280/SB234 will also enable more people to take advantage of payment plans offered by the court system which can apply retroactively.

I also worked with the Maryland Parent-Teacher Association, the Office of the Public Defender, and many churches to propose legislation designed to ensure that our young people are not falsely confessing to charges and their parents are notified when they are detained by police. Children under 18 provide false confessions at three times the rate of adults. This past year, two young students (with disabilities) were questioned by police in school for having play money and their parents were not notified. As a parent, I find that unacceptable. I worked on HB624/SB593, the Juvenile Interrogation Protection Act to ensure parental notification, Miranda rights that are understandable for kids, and to ensure that a lawyer is available for children prior to questioning. The bill did not pass this session, but I will continue to work to ensure due process exists for all Marylanders.

OPEN & ETHICAL GOVERNMENT

I believe that the government should be open and transparent to all residents as a key component of Democracy. In order to move us closer towards this goal, this session I sponsored the Equitable Access to Records Act (HB502/SB590) which streamlines and simplifies the process for residents making requests under the Public Information Act. In this same vein, I co-sponsored a bill (HB140/SB56) which requires petitions and ballot questions to be written in plain language – at a 6th grade reading level or below – so that more Marylanders can truly understand what they are voting on when issues come to the public for a vote. These bills did not pass this session – we simply ran out of time – but I will continue working on open government issues next session. As the new ethics subcommittee chair, I also oversaw a number of ethics bills and I was happy to help pass HB315, a bill that ensures that there is no ‘revolving door’ in government so that in addition to legislators, that also no secretaries can leave their positions and immediately begin lobbying. We also increased penalties for bribery. We did not have time to pass other legislation, but I look forward to continuing to strengthen our ethics laws – send me your ideas!

THANK YOU!

It is the honor of my life to serve as a State Delegate in the Maryland House and to represent the people of District 46. In the limited amount of time that we had, I worked day in and day out to pass legislation to create opportunities, reduce barriers, create a safe, thriving, and prosperous Maryland for all.

I look forward to continuing serving as your representative and hope you will keep in touch with me during this challenging time. Never hesitate to reach out to me or my legislative director, Dani DiPietro, with concerns, questions, or ideas. Our office phone number is (410) 841-3319 and we can be reached by email at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us. Take care!

My best,

Brooke



Update from Annapolis

Special Update

Friends and Neighbors,

As you may have heard, the Legislative Session will be ending early tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, due to the emergency public health protocol in place to address the Coronavirus.  The World Health Organization has declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic that has infected nearly 200,000 people worldwide, and a national emergency has been declared. 

As of today, March 17 2020, Maryland has reported 57 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. 

Updates from the Governor and our State Government
Maryland will operate under a state of emergency and will take additional precautionary measures to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. For a complete list of actions the state is taking in response to the coronavirus outbreak, visit: https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/03/12/governor-hogan-announces-major-actions-to-protect-public-health-limit-spread-of-covid-19-pandemic/

The Governor has postponed the state’s April 28 primary until June 2, 2020 (except for the 7th Congressional District race, which will be held by mail).The State Board of Elections will develop a plan to conduct the primary in a safe way. More information will be forthcoming at the State Board of Elections website in the next few days: 
https://www.elections.maryland.gov/.

Small Business Support: Visit the Maryland Dept of Commerce website – https://businessexpress.maryland.gov/coronavirus

The Governor has also announced the following Executive Orders regarding COVID-19:
All restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms are closed, except for drive-thru, carryout, and food delivery services. (Support our small businesses by doing carrying or delivery and buying gift cards to use later!)
Grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, gas stations and other essential services will remain open. Drive-thru, carryout and food delivery service will be allowed to continue.
Any social, community, religious, recreational sports, gatherings or events of more than 50 people in close proximity are PROHIBITED in all locations, establishments and venues all across Maryland.
250 Maryland state troopers have been activated and are ready for deployment.
5,000 medically trained volunteers in the Maryland Medical Reserve Corp have been activated to assist with public health emergencies.
Medical professionals with out of state or expired Maryland licenses will be permitted to practice during the state of emergency.
Hospital facilities across the state that had been previously closed may be reopened by the Maryland Department of Health. Other actions may be necessary to increase the state’s capacity  to care for patients and increase hospital beds by 6,000.
Residential customers are protected from gas, water, electric, sewer, phone, cable, and internet services being shut off during state of emergency. Providers will not charge late fees.
For the duration of the state of emergency, residents will not be evicted​

The legislature, 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. At the behest of Governor Hogan, the General Assembly took immediate legislative action and introduced two COVID-19 bills to provide the Governor with the necessary tools to respond to this public health emergency: 

HB 1661: State Budget Today the House approved the FY21 budget. This year’s budget bill provides the Governor with up to $50 million from the State’s Rainy Day Fund to help respond to the public health threat and ensures all state agencies will continue functioning throughout this crisis and grant funding continues to be available for our non-profits and small businesses.  

HB 1663: State Government – State of Emergency and Catastrophic Health Emergency – Authority of Governor and Unemployment Insurance Benefits: This bill allows the Governor to take specific actions to expand healthcare benefits and protect workers in response to the public health threat: 
Changes the definition of a work week to allow state hospital nurses to care for COVID identified patients and still be eligible for full-time benefits;
Eliminates co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for COVID–19 testing;
Requires the Maryland Department of Health to cover the cost of COVID–19 testing and any associated costs not paid for by insurance or another third party;
Covers the cost of COVID–19 immunization should it become available;
Waives certain telehealth protocols for COVID–19 to allow more patients to be diagnosed and treated over the phone and online;Requires the Maryland Department of Health to reimburse patients for telehealth services related to COVID–19;
Allows the state, in partnership with federal government, to provide unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are temporarily out of work or quarantined due to COVID–19;
Prevents retailers from price gouging necessary goods and services such as food, water, fuel and medicine; Prohibits employers from firing employees who are isolated or quarantined for COVID-19.

The General Assembly may reconvene in May for a special session to finalize any outstanding legislative work. By adjourning the legislative session early, we hope to serve as a model for our local governments and neighboring states. Practicing social distancing now can save lives later.  

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. 

I urge you to follow the Maryland Health Department’s COVID-19 website as the best resource to track the virus in Maryland: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/.   

Baltimore Information
Food sites for students and seniors are being updated daily. The list can be found at this map, and more information for Baltimore City School students can be found here.
Please also visit the Baltimore City COVID-19 website for up-to-date information on the response to the virus and emergency resources https://health.baltimorecity.gov/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov
DPW and BGE are suspending all service disconnections.
AARP is conducting tele-town halls to discuss the coronavirus as well – click here.
Many neighborhoods are organizing volunteer opportunities. Click here for more information. 

We are just beginning what will be a very difficult time period in our communities and state. It is my great hope that we will all rise to the circumstances, look out for our neighbors, and take care of one another. Stay safe, be kind, and take care.

My best,
Brooke

Websites to bookmark
Maryland Department of Health
Baltimore City Department of Health
Baltimore City Public Schools  
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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.

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: 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!

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.

2019 Session: Back in Annapolis

Greetings! Welcome to the fifth edition of my biweekly newsletter from Annapolis! Every other Monday, I’ll send news and updates on what we are working on. You can also follow me on Facebook to see additional information between newsletters!

On Wednesday, the first day of the General Assembly Session, I was sworn in for my Second Term in the Maryland House of Delegates. It was an exciting day, and I loved having my husband and kids with me. Thank you to all of you who have supported me and continue to support me – entering the House Chamber and doing this work is the honor of my life. I am also very excited to be joined by so many great new legislators this year, including many women and America’s very first Nepali-American legislator. Our House of Delegates is diverse in so many ways – age, gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation – and we are continuing to become more and more reflective of the Marylanders we serve. I am so proud to be a part of it!

In Annapolis

This term, I will continue to serve on the Appropriations Committee and have been named the Vice Chair of the Transportation & Environment Subcommittee and Pensions Subcommittee.  I’m excited to continue my work on transportation and environmental issues in a leadership role!

Our full Committee has already held a hearing – on the status of the Hogan Administration’s proposed public-private partnership (P3) to add privately-managed toll lanes around 495 and 270. Although the traffic around the Beltway and 270 is incredible (truly awful), I am not convinced that adding toll lanes like those in Northern Virginia will actually solve the problem. In addition to being unaffordable for many people, adding more lanes does not solve traffic congestion (just as in baseball, if you build it, they will come…). Like any transportation project, the Executive Branch has the authority to move ahead with a P3 without the Legislature’s approval, but I am very concerned about the long-term costs about this idea and project (not just to our state taxpayers but also to our environment).

The Appropriations Committee and/or Subcommittees meet every day of the week – our schedule can be found HERE. If you’d ever like to come visit and see a budget hearing, please let me know – we’d love to have you! Every single Maryland resident has the right to come down and share their thoughts at our budget briefings.

Brooke’s Bills

I am going to have a robust plate of legislation this session – from #RankedChoiceVoting to the Styrofoam ban to community development and Opportunity Zones to ensuring civil representation for victims of violence. Every week I will highlight just a couple bills I am working on. The first two bills I have filed this session are my two local initiatives (meaning they only affect Baltimore City) –

Ranked Choice Voting/Open Primaries: The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board declared last week that they “love love love” my bill to allow Baltimore City to change how elections are held by allowing either Ranked Choice Voting or Open Primaries (in which the top-two people advance from one primary election to the general). Our system of voting in America is largely broken, but many cities and even two states – California and Maine – now use different ways of voting that allow for citizens to express their true preferences and for our elected officials to be more representative of the people they serve. Learn more about Ranked Choice Voting here.

Stopping Dangerous Truck Traffic: With the completion of the Panama Canal upgrade in 2016, Baltimore City’s containerized truck traffic increased nearly 10%. Although the work at our Port is vital to our area and economy, there is not need for this truck traffic to impede quality of life and safety on neighborhood streets. The deployment of the City’s height monitoring cameras is useful, but for those truck drivers who insist on flouting the law and drive from out of state, state law makes it difficult to enforce the penalty they receive. My bill allows for additional enforcement when truck drivers get tickets, which would ensure that rogue drivers are not endangering residents, pedestrians, bikers, and more.

In Baltimore

Although I drive back and forth to Annapolis, my days are long during the legislative session and I’m largely unavailable for evening events in the district. However, on Friday night I made sure to leave early enough for the kickoff of the Harbor West Collaborative, a new community development organization partnership among the neighborhoods of Westport, Lakeland, Mt. Winans, and St. Paul. It is exciting to see this new collaboration take shape and I look forward to partnering with them to create safe, green, and thriving communities!

Yard 56 in Bayview has achieved the status of first development project in Baltimore to receive investment from an Opportunity Zone Fund. Yard 56 will transform an old he East Baltimore manufacturing site by alleviating pre-existing environmental concerns while bringing fresh food and health care services to the area. The revitalization will also benefit Baltimoreans without displacing any residents.

In the News

In addition to the editorial support for the Ranked Choice Voting bill linked above, you can see the full story about it here.

Take a look at the Baltimore Sun’s analysis of the opening of the 2019 Legislative Session here and WYPR’s coverage here.

In case you missed some of the coverage about Mayor Pugh’s pick to lead the BPD, this piece has good information about Michael Harrison and his time in New Orleans. Although the process was unnecessarily long and nontransparent, I am looking forward to meeting Superintendent Harrison and am optimistic about him and his dedication to implementing the consent decree while also supporting our public safety needs.

The Afro recently highlighted one of the two brand new schools in Cherry Hill, and published an excellent article by my Senate colleague, Cory McCray about legislation that the state must pass to help make changes at BPD.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

There are so many ways to honor Dr. King and the work he did, and one way is to participate in a service project. To find one near you, visit this link: https://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service. The Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in Baltimore will be next Monday! For more information, visit here. https://mlkday.baltimorecity.gov/mlk

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 and my legislative aide, Kim Shiloh, at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.

2018 End of Session Report

 2018 End of Session Report

After a demanding 90 days, the General Assembly’s 2018 legislative session has ended. From January 10th – April 9th, the General Assembly met to debate and pass bills that affect residents across the State, including the FY19 operating and capital budgets. In addition to my work on our state budget, I championed causes to support our public schools, create more reliable public transit, protect our environment, support working families, and increase public safety. I am so pleased to share this final report of this term with you. To read more about my work, please sign up for my email updates and visit my blog at www.brookelierman.com, or email or call me.  

To download this End of Session Report in a PDF format, click here.

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2018 Annapolis Dispatch #6: FY19 Budget

The weeks and weekends are packed these days! It was a beautiful weekend in Baltimore (although we did get about 10 minutes of snow on Sunday), and I was thrilled to join my colleagues, thousands of Baltimoreans, and many great student speakers at the March for Our Lives in Baltimore on Saturday. We are less than 2 weeks away from the end of session on April 9 and every day is more full of hearings, voting, and floor speeches than the last. Yesterday we passed the FY19 operating budget of the State of Maryland, and I’m going to share a few highlights of that below, as well as an update on some gun and gun violence prevention bills working their way through the Assembly.

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