End of Session Update – April 18, 2021

 

 

The 2021 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly has adjourned!  Our work took place amidst tumultuous change—as we continue to grapple with the pandemic, an economy in turmoil, shocking police brutality, growing racial and social justice movements, the disruption around the Presidential election, and shameful assaults on our democracy.

My colleagues and I took decisive action on several fronts.  We swiftly approved vital COVID-19 emergency relief legislation, made a historic investment in education, took long overdue steps on police reform, and passed legislation to protect the planet.  Below you will find a summary of some of the legislation we considered this Session. All legislation listed passed and has been sent to the Governor, unless otherwise indicated.

I believe these changes put our state on a more positive and progressive path moving forward.  It was truly an honor to sponsor and support legislative efforts that begin to address and dismantle systemic racism and work towards a more just and equitable economic system.

While I remain hopeful for a better future, I know for many this continues to be a challenging time.   More than 8,300 Marylanders have lost their lives to COVID 19 and others who survived still suffer from its long-term effects. Thousands of people are still out of work. The inequities in our systems revealed many people in our community live far too close to the edge.

We now have an incredible opportunity to build a better future—one that is more racially and socially just, grounded in equity, and ensures a livable planet. I ran for office promising to work toward those goals and we have made progress.  Thank you for putting your trust in me. I am so hopeful for the changes we can continue to make together.

Use these links to jump to a particular topic:

COVID-19 Emergency Legislation:

SB 218/HB 143 – Income Tax – Child Tax Credit and Expansion of the Earned Income Credit. This bill provides relief to taxpayers who file with an Individual Tax Identification Number who were not included in the RELIEF Act. Nearly 86,000 immigrant taxpayers would not have received an EITC refund, if not for this bill. The pandemic has hit low-income families the hardest and all Marylanders, regardless of their status, should have access to these critical relief benefits.

SB 496 – Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families (RELIEF) Act. This bill provides over $1.5 billion in pandemic relief and infuses the State’s economy with $509 million in spending and provides over $1 billion in tax relief and credits.

HB 581/SB 486 – Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act: Many workers in Maryland have continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, at potential risk to themselves and the people with whom they live. This bill established certain safeguards to protect essential workers. While I am pleased with some of the protections in the final bill, I am disappointed we were not able to put in even stronger protections.  I will continue to work with my colleagues to promote greater worker protections in future sessions.

Education:

HB 1/SB 1 – Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities: This legislation provides $577 million to resolve the program duplication issues in Maryland’s four HBCUs and level the playing field for all students, regardless of background, race, or college they attend.

HB 1372/SB 965 – Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – Revisions: After a year of distance learning, a growing number of students are falling further behind. I proudly voted for this legislation that revises the Blueprint in response to the current state of education. The Blueprint 2.0 bill includes needed fixes to education funding that were exposed by the pandemic. It also provides more support to address learning loss, expands behavioral and mental health resources, closes the digital divide and requires greater accountability.

Climate & Environment:

HB 80/SB 359 – Urban Tree Program – Establishment (Purple Line Trees): My bill requires the Department of Transportation to develop an urban tree program to replace trees removed during transportation projects, including the Purple Line Corridor.

HB 264/SB 483 – Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion: My bill requires large-scale food waste generators within a 30 mile radius of an organics recycling facility to recycle their organics waste. This will increase compost infrastructure and food recovery.

HB 280/SB 304 – Maryland Recycling Act – Alterations: My bill requires Maryland to stop counting incineration toward the state’s recycling goals. Currently, Maryland allows incineration to count toward counties’ waste diversion goals and incineration ash to count toward recycling.

HB 298/SB 83 – Utility Regulation – Consideration of Climate and Labor: My legislation requires the Public Service Commission to consider climate and labor in their decision-making. This will ensure that in large and small decisions about our energy system, the climate and workers will be considered.

HB 314/SB 223 – Plastic Bag Ban: This bill prohibits retail businesses from offering “single-use plastic carryout bags” in Maryland after July 2022. I was proud to cast my vote in support of this bill in the House, however the bill failed to progress in the Senate.

HB 583/SB 414 – Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021: The bill strengthened Maryland’s commitment to and implementation of greenhouse gas reduction. I am disappointed that a strong comprehensive climate solution bill did not pass the legislature this year. Fortunately some pieces of this bill, such as the planting of 5 million trees, and purchasing more zero-emission buses, were included in HB991 and SB137, which did pass. I will continue working with my colleagues on even stronger climate policies next session.

HB 768 – Community Choice Energy: My bill establishes a pilot program authorizing Montgomery County to form a Community Choice Aggregator. Community Choice Energy empowers local governments to aggregate electricity loads of residents, small businesses, and government, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing rates.

HB 875/SB 65 – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Qualifying Biomass (Black Liquor): This bill removes black liquor from the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Black liquor is a by-product of paper mills and a caustic polluter that makes its way into our air and waters.

HB 1007/SB 810 – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems: My bill will increase the installation of geothermal systems, ensure good-paying jobs, and includes a carve-out to make sure 25% of the incentives support geothermal installation that benefits low and moderate income individuals. Geothermal heating and cooling is an important tool to decarbonize building energy use.

HB 1207/SB674 – Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities – Reform: This bill reforms and strengthens the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to better identify the needs of environmental justice communities in order to guide state agency decisions on permitting and regulations.

Criminal Justice Reform:

SB 71 – Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 – Body-Worn Cameras, Employee Programs, and Use of Force: Senate Bill 71 requires for the first time ever that all local and state law enforcement officers to wear body cameras by 2025. The legislation also significantly limits the use of force by law enforcement and requires officers to intervene when excessive force is used. This legislation was vetoed by the Governor but the veto was overridden by the General Assembly.

SB 178 – Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 – Search Warrants and Inspection of Records Relating to Police Misconduct (Anton’s Law): This bill provides the public with access to police disciplinary records, increasing transparency in the law enforcement investigation process. The bill also puts greater restrictions on how and when no-knock warrants can be served. This legislation was vetoed by the Governor but the veto was overridden by the General Assembly.

HB 409/SB 494: Juvenile Restoration Act: Senate Bill 494 ends juvenile life sentences without parole; individuals who were convicted as adults for an offense committed as a minor can be considered for parole after being imprisoned for at least 20 years for the offense. This legislation was vetoed by the Governor but the veto was overridden by the General Assembly.

HB 670 – The Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021: Based on the strong, transformational recommendations of the House Police Reform and Accountability Workgroup, the General Assembly passed legislation and overrode the gubernatorial veto to bring greater transparency and accountability to policing across Maryland. Maryland is the first state in the nation to fully repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. It replaces it with a civilian-driven, public-facing approach to police discipline, with swift and uniform penalties for misconduct. The bill also requires increased training and assessments for officers.

HB 742/SB 14 – The Walter Lomax Act: This legislation provides appropriate compensation for individuals who are erroneously convicted, sentenced and incarcerated.

Equity and Inclusion:

HB 448 – Juneteenth National Freedom Day: Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 – the day the last enslaved Americans learned they were free – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This bill designates Juneteenth as a state holiday to reflect our values of inclusivity and celebrates the freedom of all Americans. I was proud to cast my vote in support of this bill in the House, however the bill failed to progress in the Senate.

HB 667/SB 8 – State Song Repeal: This bill repeals the state song so we can better reflect our current values of unity, diversity and inclusion. The language of the song sympathized with Confederate motivations and is not representative of who we are as a State.

HB 1210 – Corporate Diversity – Board, Executive Leadership, and Mission: This bill requires Maryland companies to report on the racial diversity of their boards and demonstrate racial diversity in practice in order to qualify for certain State contracts and incentives.

HB 1211 – Pre–Seed Capital for Minority Entrepreneurs: This bill adds $10 million to provide meaningful venture opportunities for minority entrepreneurs who may not have the same access to capital.

Food Security:

HB 101/SB 913 – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Heat and Eat: My bill requires implementation of the federal “Heat and Eat” program to ensure we are bringing in as many federal funds as possible to support food-insecure Marylanders.

HB 831/SB 723 – Maryland Food System Resiliency Council: My bill will establish the Maryland Food System Resiliency Council. This food council will address food insecurity in a way that leverages and coordinates all available resources and builds a just and equitable food system in the long term.

Immigration:

HB 16/SB 478 – Dignity Not Detention Act: This bill bans private immigration prisons in Maryland. Maryland should not profit off the unnecessary incarceration of immigrants or be complicit in ICE’s inhumane treatment of immigrants held in its detention centers.

HB 23/SB 234 – Maryland Driver Privacy Act: This bill requires an officer, an employee, an agent, or a contractor of the State or a political subdivision to deny inspection by any federal agency seeking access for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration law unless provided with a valid warrant.

HB 304/SB 88 – Maryland Trust Act: This bill provides that an official of State or local government is immune from criminal and civil liability for refusing to provide information to the federal government or another state for immigration enforcement. Unfortunately, this bill did not progress this Session.

Budget:

HB 588/SB 491 and HB 589/SB 493 – FY22 State Budget: After facing a billion dollar deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the House Appropriations Committee passed the FY22 budget that eliminates the structural deficit for the next two years, restores the Rainy Day Fund, and leaves a cash balance to account for unforeseen impacts from COVID. The budget fully funds healthcare and education while putting $1.5 billion into construction projects to get people back to work.

Election Reform:

This session the Maryland General Assembly has passed several bills to make our voting system more equitable and accessible for all Marylanders. HB 745 modernizes early voting centers and will add over a dozen new centers across the state for the 2022 election while taking equity and participation into account in terms of location. HB 1048 will create a permanent mail-in ballot list, meaning those who want to vote by mail will not need to request a mail-in ballot every election cycle.

HB 222 improves voter education and equity by providing all incarcerated individuals upon release a voter registration application and documents informing them of their right to vote. For campaign transparency, HB 1350 requires campaigns to produce bank statements if they are assessed a civil fine by the State Board of Elections.

Unemployment Insurance Reform:

The pandemic has shown us that Maryland’s unemployment system was unprepared for a statewide emergency and needs to be reformed. The Unemployment Insurance (UI) Reform Package will get relief to Marylanders who need it most, when they need it the most.

My unemployment insurance bill, HB 1002, improves efficiency, speeds up the timelines to resolution, improves language access and transparency, ensures appeals rights, improves customer service, and connects people filing for unemployment insurance with affordable health insurance. In addition to my bill, the General Assembly has passed the following unemployment insurance bills; HB 907 requires the Department of Labor and the Department of Legislative Services to study unemployment insurance reforms and report its findings to the General Assembly. HB 908 requires the Department of Labor to implement flexible payment plans for employers to pay their unemployment taxes. HB 1138 requires the Department of Labor to have a disaster plan in place whenever a drastic increase in unemployment claims occurs. HB 1139 raises the amount of weekly income an unemployment insurance claimant can earn from $50 to $200 throughout the duration of an emergency. HB 1143 improves the state’s ability to take advantage of workshare options allowed under federal law.

Health Equity:

Studies have linked health disparities to racial bias, healthcare access and lack of economic resources. The data consistently show growing health disparities in minority communities, and implicit bias perpetuates these disparities. Racial and economic justice cannot be achieved without health equity. HB 28/SB 5, HB 78/SB 52 and HB 463/SB 172  put a greater focus on health equity and work to address underlying health conditions that stem from systemic health and social inequities.

HB 108/SB 286 – Behavioral Health Crisis Response Services – Modifications (Mobile Crisis Units): My bill will improve local governments’ ability to respond to behavioral health crises with mental health professionals, ensuring cultural competency, language access, and connections to ongoing services.

HB 565/SB 514 – Medical Debt Protection: My bill creates guardrails in hospital debt collection practices to make sure no one faces financial ruin because they get sick.

Housing Relief:

The General Assembly passed bills this session to aid tenants and provide relief. HB 18/SB 154 makes Maryland the first state in the country to grant tenants access to counsel in specific eviction cases. Ninety-six percent of landlords come to court with a lawyer as opposed to only 1% of tenants.

I was proud to cast my vote in favor of the following bills that passed the House, but failed to progress in the Senate. HB 52/SB 454 would have required landlords to provide two forms of notice to tenants seven days before a landlord can file for an eviction, including information for rental assistance programs and court services. HB 1312/SB 910 would have allowed for the failure to pay rent defense regarding the pandemic to continue 6 months after the state of emergency ends. HB 31 would have increased eviction filing fees in order to reduce frivolous claims and incentivize resolution outside of court, as well as funding rental assistance and legal aid programs. HB 31 passed both the House and Senate but did not complete the full legislative process in time.

HB 345/SB 503 – Gas Service Regulator Safety (Flower Branch Act): My bill requires gas companies to relocate regulators to an outside location in multi-family buildings. 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. We need to take these steps to prevent such tragedies.

Transportation:

HB 114/SB 199 – Transit Safety and Investment Act of 2021: This bill mandates an increase in spending from the Transportation Trust Fund for six years to address the repair needs outlined by the Maryland Transportation Authority, to increase transit usability and accessibility. The bill also performs a study on Western Maryland MARC Extension and adds $1 million to support small businesses negatively impacted by the Purple Line construction.

HB 67/SB 843 – Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act of 2021: This bill puts into law the promises MDOT made regarding the 495/270 project including sharing transportation data with local planners, setting aside 10% or more of toll revenues left after construction costs are paid for a local transit fund, and requiring construction workers to receive union scale wages. I was proud to cast my vote in support of this bill in the House, however the bill failed to progress in the Senate.

HB 485/SB 361 – Public-Private Partnerships (P3) and the Collection of Video Tolls: This bill creates the Public-Private Partnership Oversight Review Board to add much needed oversight when working with a private contractor on public infrastructure and requires a traffic analysis before submitting a P3 agreement for the I-495/I-270 expansion. I was proud to cast my vote in support of this bill in the House, however the bill failed to progress in the Senate.

Awarded Bond Initiatives/Grants for D20 Capital Projects:

Long Branch Stream Valley Signature Bridge: $200,000 to replace the bridge crossing the Long Branch Trail at Domer Avenue.

Silver Spring Artspace: $285,000 to rehabilitate the former 3rd Precinct Police Station in Silver Spring into affordable housing and working studios for artists within the region.

YMCA of Metropolitan Washington: $435,000 to renovate the HVAC mechanical system of YMCA Silver Spring, to improve drainage for the outdoor pool deck, and to make other capital improvements throughout the facility.

Progress Place Gazebo: $30,000 to build a gazebo outside of Progress Place to allow individuals to connect with other community members, receive services, and reflect.

Delegate Scholarship:

As a Member of the House of Delegates, I am able to provide my constituents with academic scholarships. This scholarship is available to students who are planning to attend a Maryland community college, four-year university, or graduate school during the 2021-2022 school year. Applications must be completed and submitted by May 10th, 2021. Awardees will be informed by June 14th, 2021. Applications can be completed here.

Thank You:

In closing, let me express wild appreciation for those who have served us so well over this past year—healthcare workers and first responders on the frontlines, teachers who rapidly adapted to extraordinary circumstances, school staff ensuring all children are fed, National Guard members called to protect both our democracy and our health, nonprofits daily responding to food insecurity, grocery and pharmacy workers who kept us fed and supplied with medicine, small businesses finding ways to survive and keep people employed, mental health providers bringing healing and comfort, state employees diligently processing a mountain of unemployment claims, and everyone who continues to check on friends and neighbors.  The list could go on and on because our communities are constantly being lifted up by so many unsung heroes.

I appreciate every call you made, every email you sent and every virtual visit to my office. Your activism kept me informed about District 20 priorities and helped me formulate my position on certain pieces of legislation. I am extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication of my Chief of Staff, Victoria Tajzai, Session Secretary, Tino Fragale, and wonderful interns, Sherri McGee, Michael Spence, Ryan Strennen, and Rose Stutz. This work wouldn’t have been possible without them.

I hope to have many opportunities to engage with you as I plan for the next Session. I will continue to spend time in different parts of the District and encourage you to reach out. Please note my office will not be staffed five days per week during the interim. The best form of contact is via email at lorig.charkoudian@house.state.md.us. You can also leave a message at (410)-841-3423, as we will be checking our voicemail. Thank you for putting your trust in me.  It has truly been an honor to represent you in Annapolis.

Onward,

 

 

Lorig Charkoudian

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