Lorig’s Letter – June 11, 2021

As the deadline for the Governor to sign, veto, or allow bills to go into law without his signing them has passed, I want to update you on the final outcome of my legislative work. I am so proud of the work my colleagues and I did to craft progressive policies.  We took on some of the most vital issues of the day—the economy, climate change, education, justice—and found ways to make meaningful and positive improvements.

Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed several important bills, including those that would protect our immigrant neighbors, fund transit, support local progressive taxation, allow for collective bargaining, ensure prevailing wages, and grow clean energy. You can read more about the vetoes in this article. While I am confident my colleagues and I will override these vetoes, there will be months of unnecessary suffering between now and when we are back in Session next January.

Many bills will become law without the Governor’s signature, including 11 of the 12 bills I introduced and passed; my other bill (HB 1007) was actually signed by the Governor.  I am pleased with the success of so many of my legislative priorities.

Environment and Climate Action:

  • Community Choice Energy (HB 768):  This pilot program will allow Montgomery County to cut its greenhouse gas emissions significantly.  It allows us to both rapidly transition to renewable energy and decrease energy costs for consumers.
  • Geothermal Systems (HB 1007):  Installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems, which provide good-paying jobs, has been incentivized statewide.  A carve-out makes sure low and moderate income individuals also have access to this important tool to decarbonize building energy use.
  • Purple Line/Urban Tree Replacement (HB 80): MDOT (Maryland Department of Transportation) must now develop an urban tree program to replace trees removed during ALL transportation projects, including the Purple Line Corridor.
  • Recycling Goals (HB 280):  Maryland can no longer count incineration ash, which increases carbon dioxide and air pollution, towards its recycling goals.
  • Public Service Corporation (HB 298):  Much of our energy policy is set by this agency, which regulates gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewer companies.  PSC is now required to consider climate and labor in its decision-making.

Economy:

  • Unemployment Insurance (HB 1002):  Our state’s Unemployment Insurance system will be strengthened so the problems far too many Marylanders faced during the pandemic won’t be repeated.
  • I remain deeply troubled, however, by our Governor’s decision to decrease unemployment benefits next month.  This short-sighted and partisan move throws away $1.5 billion dollars that could otherwise be circulating in Maryland’s economy and hurts our most vulnerable citizens. You can read about some of my efforts to push back on this decision in this Maryland Matters piece.

Food System:

  • Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion (HB 264):  Large-scale food waste generators near an organics recycling facility must now recycle their organic waste. This will increase compost infrastructure and food recovery.
  • Heat & Eat Program (HB 101): Maryland SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps) can now provide more money to beneficiaries by participating in this federal program.
  • Food System Resiliency Council (HB 831):  This food council will address food insecurity by leveraging and coordinating all available resources to create a just and equitable food system.

Mental Health:

  • Mobile Crisis Units (HB 108):  Local governments can now respond to individuals experiencing mental health crises with better funded and trained mobile units.

Public Safety:

  • Flower Branch Act – Gas Regulator Safety (HB 345):  This law seeks to avoid preventable tragedies like the explosion at the Flower Branch apartments.  I pledge to continue to hold utility companies accountable as they make the legally required and potentially life-saving repairs.

Consumer Protection:

  • Medical Debt Protection (HB 565):  Changes have been made to hospital debt collection practices to make sure no one faces financial ruin because they get sick.

As important as these laws are, serving as your elected official means more to me than just passing legislation. I continue to work in the community with grassroots organizations and government agencies at the state and local levels to make sure constituents’ needs are being met—and everyone gets vaccinated! Please reach out if you or someone you know needs assistance: lorig.charkoudian@house.state.md.us

Much work remains to be done, and I am inspired and honored to serve this amazing and diverse community.

Onward,

Lorig Charkoudian

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Update from Lorig -April 29, 2021
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