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Rest in Peace, Elijah Cummings

It was a particularly dark morning in Baltimore today, as we woke to the news that Congressman Elijah Cummings had passed away. He was the voice of moral clarity for our City, our state, and our country, and he was a truly kind and caring leader.  

My heart and prayers are with his wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, his children and grandchildren, and his incredible team of staff, who were truly part of his extended family. He was everything a public servant should be – his was the example we should all follow. Congressman Cummings believed in the power of government to improve people’s lives – and he did that, each and every day. 

I will always remember and be grateful for the ways and the times that Congressman Cummings touched my life, helped our communities, and fought for justice and opportunity. I will also remember the powerful example he set for all of us and for our children to do what is right and just, no matter what the cost… even if it means standing up to the President of the United States.  

As we move forward, we will work with him in our hearts as we endeavor to make the world a better place – a more just place – than we found it, for our children and future generations. Rest in Peace, Congressman. And thank you.  

“When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”

– Elijah Cummings

Fall Update: Join me at a hearing or event!

Friends & Neighbors- 

September was full of advocacy, travel, and milestones – and the rest of the fall will be full of legislative hearings and events around the district! 

Earlier this month I was excited to announce that the Speaker has appointed me to a leadership position on the Environment & Transportation Committee! After Delegate Steve Lafferty, a longtime Baltimore County Delegate, retired to work for County Executive Olszewski, there was room for a new Subcommittee Chair – and Speaker Jones asked me to fill it. I am excited for my new role in leading the Committee and championing bills related to the environment, environmental justice, transportation, housing, land use, ethics, and more! I will also continue in my other joint committee roles and continue as the Education Subcommittee Chair for the Baltimore City Delegation.

Today is October 1 – and that means new laws go into effect! In Maryland, most of the laws we pass go into effect on October 1 every year. Although the statewide styrofoam ban I championed this year does not go into effect until July 1, 2020, many other important laws do go into effect today, including the Maryland Bumpstock Ban and Same Day Voter Registration. Check out more of the bills going into effect here.

One bill that will not be going into effect is HB 1281 – the Bikeways Funding bill that I passed last year to ensure that the state continues (like every other state in the country) to provide help to local jurisdictions to fund bike and pedestrian projects. Unfortunately, Governor Hogan vetoed that bill. It’s my hope that we will override that veto early next year! 

It’s only because of your generosity and support that I am here to do this work – if you’d like to support me, you can contribute online here. Thank you!

Although we are not in session this fall, my weeks are full of hearings and meetings to prepare for session and keep up with the work of our state government! I am on several Joint Committees that meet throughout the interim including:

The Joint Oversight Committee on Pensions: Every year we have a series of hearings on pension legislation that is needed. This year, we will also have a review of SB 946 from 2019, the bill addressing prescription drug benefits for state retirees. I look forward to hearing more about what the Administration is doing to carry out this program – so far, the information has been confusing and inadequate. 

Upcoming hearing dates: 

  • Tuesday, October 29th (2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.),
  • Wednesday, November 20th (2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, December 4th (2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.)

The Joint Committee to End Homelessness: Our first hearing addressed topics including on a range of issues, including a presentation from Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake, who addressed the idea of zero-interest mortgages to help additional families achieve home ownership.

Upcoming hearing dates

  • Tuesday, October 15th (10:00 a.m.)
  • Wednesday, October 30th (1:00 p.m.)

The Joint Committee on Chesapeake & Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Areas: At our briefing this fall, we received a general overview of the Critical Areas Program, presented by the Commission for the Chesapeake Bay, including a discussion of how we balance efforts to expand solar panels while protecting the Chesapeake’s critical areas.  

Mobility Hearing: I will also be participating in a hearing on MTA’s MobilityLink Service. After constituents complained to my office about the worsening service provided by MTA MobilityLink, I worked with the Appropriations Committee Chair to organize a hearing on the service. The hearing will take place in Annapolis on November 13 at 1:00 p.m.

Baltimore City Delegation: I chair the Education Subcommittee of our City Delegation and we will be holding an information session about the Education Blueprint for Maryland (legislation based on the Kirwan Commission) in November. I’ll post more information when we have it on my Facebook page!

Come meet Speaker Adrienne A. Jones & Democratic Party Chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings! 

Join me at my annual Women’s Breakfast! Every year I host a Women’s Breakfast at a great woman-owned restaurant in District 46. Generally we have over 100 women from all over Baltimore (and Central Maryland!) join or support this event to bring women together to hear from and learn from other women. I hope you will join me this year – or support the event if you can’t make it! 

You can RSVP here  

September was full of visits with advocacy groups, non-profit organizations, and meetings with Baltimoreans. I joined hundreds of city students to take part in the worldwide climate strike day. I was so inspired by the passion, focus and determination shown by these young people, and was proud to let them know that they are leaders in this movement. We must act on climate change now, and these young students are ready to help lead the charge. 

Earlier this month, I was honored to be a part of an Enoch Pratt Panel Discussion about being a woman in public office. I was joined by Councilwoman Shannon Sneed, Councilwoman Danielle McCray, Delegate Stephanie Smith and Kate Black, the author of Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office & and Changing the World. You can check out the full podcast of our discussion by clicking here.

In South Baltimore, I convened a meeting with MTA representatives and Brooklyn and Curtis Bay residents to discuss modifications to bus routes so residents can access a senior center and grocery store more easily. Adequate funding for transit matters: we may need additional busses and drivers to make this route work and when the Governor cuts MTA’s budget, real people – and businesses – lose out. Last Friday, I joined other City Delegates, Senators, and Councilmembers to attend the MDOT “Road Show” – the visit when Secretary Pete Rahn and the MDOT Agency heads come discuss the latest six-year capital budget with CIty officials. You can read here about how that went… 

Other great visits include a visit to the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (amazing research!), the Junior League of Baltimore, the Greater Baltimore Committee Transportation Committee, a meeting with workers at Spring Grove Hospital, and a meeting with ROCA to learn more about its work with young men in Baltimore. See a few photos from these events below. If you’d like me to visit with you or an organization you know, just reach out to schedule it! 

s always, I am here to serve the residents of District 46! If there is something that my legislative director, Dani DiPietro, or I can do to help, please email me at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us. If you’d like me to attend your neighborhood meeting or any other event, please send us the information so we can add it to the calendar!

Keep in touch!

My best,

Brooke

PS: Keep an eye on my Facebook page or check out my website for two Breakfast with Brooke events this fall – one at Broadway Market and one at Cross Street Market.

Back to School 2019!

I took an email break for the month of August, but I did not take a break from work – read below to see all I have been up to.

Greetings on this first day of classes for our public school students! I dropped off my son Teddy this morning for his first day of first grade – I’m excited to see all he will learn this year and so grateful for the teachers and school leaders who will work with him!  

First things first: Public Schools. Today is the first day of school for most Maryland public school students, and you may have seen some of the back and forth between the General Assembly and Governor Hogan over the past month about education policy. I want to be clear here: passing a strong education reform and funding bill in 2020 is absolutely critical to the future success of Maryland. Multiple states – including Oregon and Texas – have passed massive new reform and funding bills. It’s our turn to act now. I hope the Governor will stop playing partisan politics and will work with the General Assembly to pass a strong bill next session. 

You may or may not be familiar with the Kirwan Commission, a state-level commission of Marylanders appointed by the Governor and Legislative Leaders, that has been meeting for the past few years and released this Interim Report last year. The Legislature passed the Education Blueprint based on this report last year, a bill to start implementing the Kirwan Commission reforms – it was a bipartisan bill that I was proud to vote for. But there is much more work to be done. 

As is so ably stated by a former State Superintendent in the Sun, Maryland’s school system is failing our state and failing our children. The Kirwan Commission asked the critical question, “what do we need to do to provide our kids a world-class education?” Their report is the answer. It is now up to all of us to ensure that we take the important step of passing once-in-a-generation legislation to create a school system that will empower our children and our grandchildren to succeed.

What do you think? Let me know why taking this survey on education! 

Back to school survey link 

My summer was full of visits with community associations, non-profit organizations and events, where I’ve discussed the work we did last session as well as listening to my constituents to help guide my 2020 legislative agenda.  Additionally, I have had the opportunity to attend several conferences and events to learn about best practices from across the country related to transportation, education, healthcare and much more! 

Last month, I spent a weekend in Nashville for the annual conference of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators and the National Conference of State Legislators. Over 5000 legislators were in attendance at NCSL this year. We spent several days strategizing, comparing notes, and discussing how to build a healthier future for our constituents. With the Environmental Legislators, I also discussed eliminating single-use plastics, moving to a cleaner energy economy, creating cleaner transportation options, and ensuring our diverse and low-income communities that have traditionally felt the brunt of pollution, are not only greened-up but also that they have equitable access to new clean technology like solar.

Here in Baltimore, I was proud to host the House of Delegates Economic Mobility Workgroup’s first listening session (along with Delegates Tony Bridges, Shelly Laskin Hettleman, Charles Sydnor & Steve Lafferty). We had many service providers and their clients meet us at the Center for Urban Families to discuss the barriers they encounter and strategies and successes they have had in overcoming barriers – in addition to challenges that still exist. I then attended additional listening sessions in Cambridge and in Cumberland. The bottom line: we have to change how we do things to empower Marylanders to thrive in today’s economy. Many Marylanders have been left behind and we must do more to ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

A few other highlights from around Baltimore include the following-

  • I attended the Transportation & Climate Initiative forum at the University of Maryland to discuss challenges and opportunities for building a greener and cleaner transportation system that meets the needs of all communities 
  • I attended a community celebration at Riverside Pool to celebrate Splash City and the volunteers who worked so hard to remake this pool into a more vibrant & welcoming space! 
  • The new community organizers for the Cherry Hill CDC and the Greater Baybrook Alliance and I met to discuss how I can help support the efforts of these great groups! Later that week, I also met with faith leaders in Brooklyn to discuss the important work they are doing and what I can do to help. 
  • In responding to attacks on our immigrant brothers and sisters, I attended the Lights for Liberty event but also organized two “Know Your Rights” trainings – in Brooklyn and Lakeland – for our residents. Thanks to CASA for leading the trainings and to two schools for hosting the events! 
  • I had a great time speaking with students at the first ever Summer Institute organized by the John Hopkins Center on Gun Policy & Research. 
  • Last week, the Appropriations Committee toured several Baltimore City schools, including the Stadium School and Baltimore City College to see up close the damage that underfunding capital needs can do – including doors that don’t lock, schools with inadequate AC and heat, mold and damaged walls, and more. This is unacceptable and I am glad that the Speaker has agreed to make HB 1 in 2020 a bill to increase capital funding to schools around the state. 

September 4th @6:00 PM- Fells Point Al Fresco Night

September 4th @8:30PM- Fells Point Move Night (Films on the Pier)

September 5th @5PM- Trash Free at Monument City

September 6th-8th @9AM-10PM- Little Italy Madonnari Arts Festival

September 7th @12PM- 5th Annual Vino in Vouge at Harbor East

September 7th @1AM-6PM- Locust Point Festival 2019

September 11th @8:30PM- Fells Point Move Night (Films on the Pier)

September 14th @10AM- District 7 & 11 Clean-Up (co-hosted by Volunteering Untapped, Councilman Costello, and Councilman Pinkett)

September 16th @6:30 PM- Canton Canopy Public Meeting

September 21st @11AM- Pride of Baltimore II Welcome Home Celebration

September 28th @1PM-7PM- 3rd Annual Patterson Park Brew Fest

As always, I am here to serve the residents of District 46! If there is something that my legislative director, Dani DiPietro, or I can do to help, please email me at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us. If you’d like me to attend your neighborhood meeting or any other event, please send us the information so we can add it to the calendar!

And please, take a moment to fill out the survey here to let me know your thoughts on education! 

Keep in touch!

My best,

Brooke

District 46 National Night Out Locations

August 6th, 2019 is National Night Out in Baltimore! This is a chance to for community members to meet with local law enforcement and partners. District 46 is part of the Baltimore Police Department’s Southeast and Southern Districts. Check out the locations and times for both districts below.

Southeast District Locations

  • Fells Point: 812 S Ann St 5:00pm-8:00pm
  • Patterson Park: 2301 E. Baltimore 6:30pm-8:30pm
  • Fells Prospect Community: 400 S Durham Street 6pm
  • St. Helena Ave: 6509 Colgate Ave 6pm-9pm
  • Upper Fellls Point Improvement: 300 South Chapel St 5pm-8pm
  • Upper Fells Point Improvement: 1804 Gough- 5pm-8pm
  • Upper Fells Point Improvement: 1901 E Pratt; and the 400 block of S Durham- 5pm-8pm
  • Hatton Senior Center: 2825 Fait Ave 12pm-2pm
  • John Booth Senior Center: 2801 East Baltimore St 12:15pm-1pm
  • Washington Hill: 1739 East Pratt Street 6pm-9pm
  • Douglas Homes: 1500 E. Lexington 6pm- 8pm
  • Bayview Community: 5900 E. Pratt St 6pm-8:30pm

Southern District

  • Lakeland Community: 2900 Wegworth Lane. 6pm-8pm
  • City of Refuge: 901 Pontiac Ave. 6pm-8pm
  • Ridgelys Delight: Conway Park. 6pm-9pm
  • Violetville: 1095 Josh Ave. 6pm-9pm
  • Cherry Hill: 600 Cherry Hill Road. 5pm-8pm

Baltimore Crime Reduction & Departmental Transformation Plan

Although we cannot police ourselves to a safe city, it is imperative that our police commissioner, the mayor’s office of criminal justice, and the state’s attorney all be working together to create a safer city.

After calling for a comprehensive plan for several years with no success, my colleagues and I on the General Assembly Budget Committees last session restricted some funding to these agencies contingent upon creation and adoption of a public safety plan.

The due date is today, and I am pleased that the plan was announced last week by the commissioner and we received a certified copies of the plan signed off on by all the relevant parties yesterday.

You can access the new public safety plan and the letter by all the officials be accessing the files below.

2019 Summer Newsletter

Friends & Neighbors,

It’s hard for me to believe it has been this long, but five years ago yesterday I was thrilled to win my first election in the Democratic Primary to be a member of the House of Delegates.  Thank you for your support then – and now! I feel honored to have the chance to do the important work of championing policies to breakdown barriers, create opportunity, and make government work for all our residents. As we enter the first days of summer, I wanted to let you know what I’ve been doing since the end of session and share some fun events happening in our communities! Keep in touch!

Building community, breaking down invisible barriers between neighborhoods and connecting people to resources are important parts of my job, and that is what I try to do at my annual Free Community Picnic every year.  Residents from around the district, City, and state, come join me and other elected leaders and non-profit partners to enjoy a beautiful park and enjoy a late spring day!

This year’s picnic was a huge success! Over 400 adults and children joined me, Congressman Cummings, Senator Cardin, Mayor Young, Council President Scott, Senator Bill Ferguson, Delegate Luke Clippinger, and Councilmembers Sneed and Cohen for some delicious bbq, ice cream and to meet great partners like RetroFit Baltimore, Waterfront Partnership, City Schools, and more! 

Check out the Picnic pictures here

Plan to join me for the Picnic next year on Sunday, May 31, 2020!

When I ran for office, I didn’t run just to hold the job – I ran to do a job. Although session is over, the work certainly is not. My nights have been filled since session ended in April with visits to community association meetings and events, where I’ve discussed the work we did and the continuing work we have to do. I’ve shared my End of Session Report as well – which you can find on my website here.

I passed and supported many bills during session that will help make Maryland a leader in housing, environmental stewardship, criminal justice reform, economic development, and reducing prescription drug costs. I was pleased that the Governor allowed most of my bills to pass into law. Unfortunately, when it comes to implementing equitable mobility solutions, Governor Hogan is continuing to hold our state and city back by vetoing HB 1281, Bikeways Funding & Transit Planning. I was proud to sponsor this bill and pass it with bipartisan support and will be working with my partners to try to override the veto next January!  You can read my full response to Governor Hogan’s veto here. 

I am also happy to have been appointed to the AELR Committee so I can review regulations prior to their implementation – if you have any concerns about new or pending regulations, please let me know!

And, as I continue to advocate for solutions to our state’s mobility & traffic problems, please continue to speak up! Thanks to all those advocating for transit and bike and pedestrian options. Share your thoughts on the Central Maryland Transit Plan here.

In addition to attending community meetings all around District 46, I have also been busy going to community and advocacy events!

  • We’ve had two successful playground builds in District 46 with KaBoom – one in Westport and one in Brooklyn! I am looking forward to doing more of this work. #PlayMatters
  • I joined the Maryland Municipal League to speak with fellow legislators about our districts and how we can support municipalities around Maryland. 
  • I walked with residents from Otterbein/Sharp Leadenhall & Washington Hill/Upper Fells/Perkins Homes on two separate public safety walks – we are working to plan more walks this summer and fall! 
  • Loved speaking with eighth graders from Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School about state government earlier this month. 
  • I gave opening remarks at the first conference of the Maryland Counselors for Social Justice 
  • Shared the honor of being recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by the Maryland Daily Record. 
  • I’m working with Disability Rights Maryland and joined them at the League for People with Disabilities for a discussion on MTA mobility services
  • I’ve also been working on plans relating to the Middle Branch Park competition – three internationally-recognized firms are competing for the right to design and reimagine the entire Middle Branch waterfront – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime possibility and I’m committed to seeing the design happen and be implemented! Check out the potential plans here

Sign up for Baltimore’s Planning Academy! Applications are now open: https://planning.baltimorecity.gov/planning-academy

June 29thHistoric Fort Henry’s 4th Annual 1-mile Walk/Run -Admission is FREE for 10 year olds and younger and $15 for 16 and older. Fort McHenry opens at 9 a.m.

Baltimore Greenway Trails Network is offering outdoor tours:

July 4th – Waterfront Concert at Middle Branch Park

July 9th- Pedestrian Safety and Bus Service Design- Join us at Impact Hub for a technical presentation on Pedestrian Safety and Bus Service Design with Tom Hewitt, Director of Service Development at the Maryland Transit Administration.

July 10th @ 8:45- Films on the Pier, located at the very end of the Broadway Pier. Movie showing- The Princess Bride (classic!!)

July 11th- Canton Waterfront Park First Thursday Festival– It’s Free Music on the Waterfront! Music Starts at 5:30 pm, and admission is free.

July 11th – Flicks on the Hill Premier and Party – Sound of Music!

July 12th- Baltimore Data Day- Baltimore Data Day is an annual workshop to help communities expand their capacity to use technology and data to advance their goals

July 14thBike and Brunch Tour – 11-mile ride along the southern portion of the trail network

July 16th- Charm City Circulator Quarterly Meeting– Please join us at our quarterly meetings as we inform the community on the Charm City Circulator’s service updates.

July 18th @ 8:30 pm – Bayview Community Association Movie Night @ Joseph Lee Recreation Center, 5900 E. Pratt Street, 21224 showing- Captain Marvel

July 20thKayak and Canoe Tour of the Middle Branch River with Baltimore Rec & Parks- The tour will explore the Middle Branch waterfront beginning at the RecNParks Boathouse circling around to South Point – Port Covington.

July 20th- Inaugural Highlandtown Crab Feast-1st ever Highlandtown Crab Feast benefiting the Highlandtown Community Association

And make sure to check out the concert series at Riverside Park and Patterson Park!

At the end of the day, I am here to serve the residents of District 46! That means, if you live in District 46 and you have a problem – I’d like to do all I can to help. You can email me at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us and my legislative director, Kimberly Shiloh, and I will help figure out how to solve the issues you’re confronting. Also, the 2020 legislative session will be here before we know it! Get in touch with me if you have ideas for legislation next year that can help move our communities, city and state forward. 

Five years after one of the most exciting days I my life – June 24, 2014 – I am eternally grateful to all of you for placing your trust in me in this important role. I continue to try to do my best each and every day to build a better Baltimore and a better Maryland.

Have a great summer and keep in touch!

My best,

Brooke

LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE TO HOGAN VETO OF HB 1281: BIKEWAYS FUNDING & TRANSIT PLANNING

LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE TO HOGAN VETO OF HB 1281: BIKEWAYS FUNDING & TRANSIT PLANNING

Both the greater Washington area and the Baltimore region regularly make the country’s list for most-congested areas. Forty percent of trips that Americans take, however, are within two miles – a 30-minute walk, 10-minute bike ride, or short trip on transit. This year, the Maryland General Assembly acted to pass legislation that would codify and fund our state’s Bikeways Program and ensure that the new MTA Regional Transit Plan will create a system that will meet the needs of all residents who live or work in Central Maryland. Championed by Delegate Brooke Lierman and Senator Jim Rosapepe, this bill passed with bipartisan support in both chambers. Today, Governor Hogan vetoed the bill.

Maryland’s bikeways infrastructure is vital to the growth and long-term success of our state. The Great Allegheny Trail, the Capital Crescent Trail, the Oxford Loop and more provide tourist attractions and economic development options for counties and municipalities. Our urban bikeways programs ensure alternatives for commuters and take cars off the road, in addition to providing public health benefits to riders and walkers.

The MTA Regional Transit Plan, due in October 2020 and originally mandated in legislation in 2018, will be the first new transit plan for Central Maryland in decades.  HB 1281 requires that a goal of the plan is for MTA to provide “reliable and safe public transportation service to enable residents … to access job opportunities.” By vetoing HB 1281, the Governor demonstrates that his Administration does not take the Regional Transit Plan seriously and is not interested in finding transit solutions for companies, workers and residents in Central Maryland.

“I guess the Governor just never saw a gridlocked highway he didn’t like. Otherwise, why would he propose billions of dollars for more gridlocked roads — and veto peanuts for bike paths and regional transit planning? Marylanders are tired of traffic jams. We need to override his veto,” said Senator Jim Rosapepe, sponsor of the cross-filed bill and of many bike and transit bills.

 “HB 1281 was unique in that it signaled the General Assembly’s understanding of and investment in multi-modal transportation options – bikes and transit. The Governor’s veto indicates that he and Secretary Rahn are not interested in anything but building more paved highways. Marylanders need and deserve more than that – we must have transportation options,” House sponsor Delegate Brooke Lierman said.

Because Maryland has no mandated funding for bikeways, the lack of certainty regarding whether and how much funding MDOT will provide for bikeways discourages counties from pursuing important projects. This bill remedied that problem by creating a steady funding stream for the Bikeways Network Program. In addition, rejecting amendments that would have clarified and strengthened elements of the new Regional Transit Plan indicates that Governor Hogan and MDOT are not seriously interested in creating a robust transit plan that would allow for an expansion of the light rail, MARC, and bus service that is needed throughout Central Maryland. 

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.