Session Update -March 15, 2021

 

With just one week before “Crossover”, on March 22nd, things are moving fast!  That’s the date when a bill needs to be passed out of at least one chamber in order to be considered in the other chamber and ultimately voted on by Sine Die (Adjournment). My District 20 colleagues and I will be holding a Crossover Update Zoom Town Hall, on Thursday, March 25 at 6:30pm. Please join us and have your questions answered by registering here.

The House has passed several significant pieces of legislation in the last two weeks, including:

SB1: Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU): While the State has increased operating and capital funding to HBCUs over the past decade, additional investment is needed to increase the availability of new and distinct programming. SB1 also provides $577M to resolve program duplication issues in Maryland’s four HBCUs and level the playing field for all students.

HB 670: Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021: This important legislation makes many long overdue changes to policing in Maryland and represents a significant step in improving our justice system and public safety. There are several important components to the bill, which can be found here. The House bill will now go to Conference Committee with the Senate, whose bill differs in several key areas. I will urge my colleagues in the conference committee to negotiate as strong a bill as possible.

The House bill:

  • Repeals the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and blocks counties from creating replacements.
  • Requires police to use force only when necessary and lethal force as a last resort to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury. This standard is higher than the prevailing constitutional standard.
  • Effectively bans no-knock warrants unless someone’s life is in danger, multiple people have reviewed the request, and all other options have been exhausted.
  • Strengthens the process by which a complaint can be filed and establishes a standard matrix for discipline.
  • Allows police misconduct and disciplinary records to be publicly accessed under the Public Information Act, regardless of the outcome or when the record was made, instead of held in secret.
  • Incorporates civilian oversight within a standardized state-wide system, including a Local Police Accountability Board, a Civilian Charging Committee, and a Trial Board with one civilian, one administrative law judge, and one police officer.

HB 314: The Plastic Bag Reduction Act: eliminates single use plastic bags in Maryland beginning July 1, 2022.

House Bill 78: The Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Health Equity Act of 2021 establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity to create a health equity framework that works to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequities in the State.

HB667: State Song Repeal: The language of the state song sympathizes with Confederate zealotry, is offensive, and does not represent who we are as a State. House Bill 667 repeals the state song so we can better reflect our current values of unity, diversity and inclusion, rather than continue to embrace symbols of hate and division.

HB 3: Parole Reform: This bill takes the Governor out of parole decisions for individuals who are sentenced to life in prison. Politics should not have any place in our parole system.
 
Update on some of my bills:

My comprehensive unemployment insurance (UI) bill moved through committee and passed second reader on the House Floor. Too many residents’ struggles were compounded over the last year, when the UI system failed them. HB1002 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. You can see some coverage about the issue here.

HB 298, which requires the Public Service Commission to consider climate and labor in their decision-making, passed the House and has already passed the Senate. This will ensure that in large and small decisions about our energy system, the climate and workers will be considered. You can read more about it in our Op-Ed here.

HB 280 requires that the state stop counting incineration toward recycling goals.  It has now been passed in both the House and Senate.

, authorizing Montgomery County to establish Community Choice Energy as a pilot, passed the House last week and now moves on to the Senate.

OTHER IMPORTANT ISSUES

Even with everything happening in Session, I am continuing to keep an eye on larger regional issues, including the need to reform how our electrical grid operator, PJM, manages our energy supply so we can bring on more renewable energy across the region. Check out my Op Ed in the Baltimore Business Journal:

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

Stay Tuned! My other bills continue to make their way through the legislative process. You can follow them here.

My office continues to be available throughout the Session to support constituents who need assistance with state agencies or accessing local social supports. Please do not hesitate to contact us at lorig.charkoudian@house.state.md.us, if you or anyone you know needs assistance.

Onward,

Lorig Charkoudian

 

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