Legislation Authored and Sponsored by LORIG
for the 2021 Legislative Session

Accuracy in Recycling – Removing Incineration Ash (HB 280)(SB 304)

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Currently Maryland law allows incineration to count toward counties’ waste diversion goals and incineration ash to count toward recycling. This creates an inaccurate measure of real recycling, and gives credit to technologies which, along with landfills, need to be minimized and replaced with real reduction and recycling. This bill is designed to achieve a more accurate accounting and measurement of waste reduction and recycling. It will remove incineration ash from being considered a recyclable material towards a county’s recycling goal and it removes the 5% waste diversion credit for an incinerator built before 1988.

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Community Choice Energy

Community Choice Energy (CCE) allows communities to take control of their electricity purchases, enjoy lower rates, and promote a more rapid transition to renewable energy. CCE is a group purchasing of electricity that allows local governments to buy on behalf of residents, businesses, and municipal accounts. CCE works in partnership with the region’s existing utility, which continues to deliver electricity, and maintain the grid. So far, nine other states allow CCE – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, and California. This bill would enable a pilot program for Montgomery County to establish a CCE. The County declared a Climate Emergency in 2017 and has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035. A CCE is an important tool to decarbonize the Montgomery County grid and help the county meet these commitments

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Effective Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Act (HB 330)

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Maryland currently has a corporate income tax rate of 8.25% however, few large companies actually pay this rate and in some cases, pay no state income tax at all. According to data collected by the Comptroller’s office, in 2015 at least 51 of the 150 largest corporations in Maryland paid no corporate income taxes. This bill would require publicly traded corporations to calculate and report their effective tax rate to the Comptroller’s Office each year. The Comptroller would issue an annual study reporting the results of these calculations on an aggregate, anonymous basis with a size and industry breakdowns and a discussion of the major explanatory factors. This information will allow lawmakers to make changes to our tax structure for greater equity.

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Energy Efficiency for Low Income Households (HB 379)

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This bill will increase weatherization of low income housing–adding greater equity to the State’s energy efficiency investments, and coordinating investments of health and safety funding sources. These changes will improve indoor air quality and decrease the energy burden for low income families, while contributing to an overall reduction in energy use and carbon impact in the state.

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Flower Branch Gas Service Regulator Safety Act (HB 345)

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On August 10, 2016 a natural gas explosion at the Flower Branch Apartments killed 7 people, injured 65 people, displaced over 100 people, and traumatized the community. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the explosion and made several safety recommendations, including requiring new service regulators be installed outside the structure and existing regulators be relocated outside when work is being done on the line, meter or regulator. This bill will require new regulators to be installed outside and requires gas companies to relocate regulators to an outside location in multi-family buildings.

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Food System Resiliency Council

We must respond to increasingly dire levels of food insecurity in a way which leverages and coordinates all available resources and builds a just and equitable food system in the long term. The food council will be based in the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and will include a range of stakeholders. They will coordinate the state efforts in partnership with local-level initiatives to address food insecurity in Maryland during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, in order to ensure every Marylander has access to nutritious food, and coordinate services statewide to support more residents. In addition, they will create a long-term strategic plan and policy recommendations to address racial inequities in the food system and increase quality and quantity of production, as well as aggregation, marketing, and distribution, of local food in urban, suburban, and rural settings.

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Geothermal Energy Development (HB 40)

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Accessing geothermal energy through ground source heat pumps is the most efficient way to heat and cool buildings, saving energy, and providing a path away from natural gas. Ground source heat pumps significantly decrease peak time energy usage, hastening the timeline to retire our dirtiest fossil fuel peaker plants. This bill will develop incentives to increase deployment of geothermal energy across Maryland, also supporting the development of good green jobs.

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Heat and Eat – SNAP Benefits (HB 101)

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This bill provides a fix to ensure we are bringing in as much federal funds as possible to support food-insecure Marylanders. It will require the Maryland Department of Human Services to implement the “Heat and Eat” program in Maryland. This federal program allows individuals who pay utilities through their rent, but are eligible for utility assistance, to claim the Standard Utility Allowance on their SNAP application, thus increasing their SNAP benefits. Maryland has not implemented this program, and my bill will require that we do.

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Medical Debt Protection

For far too many Marylanders, getting sick can lead to economic ruin. For others, the fear of incurring crippling medical debt keeps them from seeking much needed care. This bill establishes guidelines to ensure those who are eligible for financial assistance have sufficient time and access to apply, and it establishes guardrails on debt collection procedures that can be used by hospitals and debt collectors.

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Mobile Crisis Units (HB 108)(SB 286)

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This bill will improve local governments’ ability to respond to behavioral health crises with mental health professionals, rather than law enforcement. The bill proposes mobile crisis teams to prioritize limiting interactions between law enforcement and people in crisis, establishes expectations for cultural competency and language access, and incorporates the authority for 911 to dispatch mobile crisis teams. Additionally, this bill establishes increased funding over the next several years.

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Organic Waste Ban – Large Generators (HB 264)

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Food waste is a persistent problem. Disposing of our organic material in landfills and incinerators contributes to climate change. Composting turns this discarded organic material into a nutrient-rich product that helps sequester carbon while improving soil health and resiliency. This bill requires large-scale food waste generators to source-separate food residuals if an organics recycling facility that has the capacity and is willing to accept food residuals exists within a 30 mile radius. The bill also allows food donation as a waste reduction strategy. When similar legislation passed in Vermont, food donation increased by at least 30%.

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Public Service Commission – Consideration of Climate and Labor (HB 298)(SB 83)

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The Public Service Commission is the regulatory agency that oversees Maryland’s utilities and approves energy generation facilities. This bill will require the PSC to consider climate impacts and labor standards in all of their decision making. Including these considerations in the regulatory process is crucial as we work toward building a new, just, green economy.

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Purple Line Tree Replacement (HB 80)

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Construction of the Purple Line required the removal of large mature trees. While the overall plan required replacement of these trees, they were replaced in areas far from the communities which lost them. Many of the areas which lost trees were areas already suffering from heat island effects and poor air quality. Walking and biking along these corridors for transit dependent individuals is even hotter and more unpleasant without these trees. While these trees cannot be replaced in the exact locations from which they were removed, they can be replaced in the same neighborhoods on a combination of state, county, and private land. This legislation requires the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Department of the Environment to coordinate this effort across multiple state and local agencies to replant trees in these communities, with a priority on replanting in communities suffering multiple environmental health harms.

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Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance is crucial, both as a safety net and as a countercyclical stimulus to prevent a deeper recession. This year, in the depths of the COVID induced recession, too many people struggled with accessing unemployment assistance. This bill makes a number of fixes to the system including requiring greater staffing so that people who need assistance can speak to a human being; timelines for completion of claims and resolution of appeals; improved language access; and greater transparency. This bill also develops a seamless connection from the UI process to allow applicants to connect to health benefits, in a process I outlined in this Op-Ed. The bill also adjusts the benefits calculation so that people who work multiple jobs and lose one, don’t lose out on unemployment income their family needs. The bill also protects our small businesses, by freezing the rates they paid from before COVID, so they do not pay higher rates for having to lay off workers due to the emergency. Finally, this bill requires the state to study several other structural issues and to recommend changes for future legislative Sessions.

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WSSC – Video Streaming and Archiving

This bill requires that the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission meetings are streamed live on line and archived on their website. This will create greater transparency and allow the public access to the important decision-making process of the WSSC.

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