Session Update -March 29, 2021

 

This year’s legislative session is rapidly coming to a close.  While we have already made tremendous progress—$1.5 billion in COVID-19 relief, a transformative blueprint and funding for educational reform—the final shape of several major pieces of progressive legislation will be determined in the next two weeks.  I will be closely tracking and championing several bills, including ones to improve our Unemployment Insurance program, address police reform, and respond to climate change.

If you missed the D20 Team’s Crossover Update detailing the bills that made the cut-off for guaranteed consideration in the current session, you can watch the video here.

I remain steadfast in my belief that our collective efforts in this year’s General Assembly will help create a more just and inclusive Maryland.

As hopeful as I feel about our future, however, I also know our work must be ongoing.  How could I feel otherwise in a year so full of heartbreak and loss?  The horrific murders in Atlanta targeting Asian women underscore the reckoning we must continue to engage in by calling out and addressing racism, misogyny, and gun violence. By standing together we have the power to make meaningful changes.

PROGRESS ON SIGNIFICANT LEGISLATION

  • HB 1002 – Unemployment Insurance: My comprehensive bill to make the Maryland UI system more transparent, efficient, accessible, and consumer friendly passed the House and is making its way through the Senate. Check out this article on one aspect it addresses.
  • HB 1007 – Geothermal Renewable Energy Credit Carve-Out: Geothermal heating and cooling is an important tool to decarbonize building energy use. This bill will increase the installation of geothermal systems, ensures 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. This bill passed the House and awaits action in the Senate Finance Committee.
  • HB 264 – Organics Recycling: My organics waste ban bill will increase the infrastructure for organics recycling and increase food rescue. My bill passed the House and the crossfile passed the Senate.
  • HB 565 – Medical Debt Protection Act: This bill will create guardrails in hospital debt collection practices to make sure no one faces financial ruin because they get sick. The bill has passed the House and Senate. Here are some of the articles on this bill, here and here.

OTHER KEY LEGISLATION PASSED BY THE HOUSE
My colleagues and I passed a number of other important bills in the last two weeks.

  • HB 16 – Dignity Not Detention Act bans private immigration prisons in Maryland and stops new detention center contracts. Maryland should not profit off the unnecessary incarceration of immigrants or be complicit in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) often inhumane treatment of immigrants held in its detention centers.
  • HB 67 – I-495 and I-270 Public-Private Partnership Agreement – Requirements (Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act of 2021) 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.
  • HB 448 – Juneteenth National Freedom Day commemorates June 19, 1865—the day that the last enslaved Americans learned they were free—two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. House Bill 448 designates Juneteenth as a state holiday and celebrates the freedom of all Americans.
  • HB 463 – Maryland Health Equity Resource Act creates a process to designate Health Equity Resource Communities to receive targeted support to reduce health disparities; improve health outcomes and access to primary care; promote primary and secondary prevention services: and reduce health care costs and hospital admissions/readmissions.
  • HB 485 – Public-Private Partnerships (P3) and the Collection of Video Tolls reform bill adds much needed oversight and taxpayer protections in the wake of the Purple Line public-private partnership challenges and multiple concerns about the impending 495/270 public private partnership.
  • HB 1210 – Corporate Diversity – Board, Executive Leadership, and Mission requires Maryland companies to report on the racial diversity of their boards and requires companies to demonstrate racial diversity in board membership and executive leadership in order to qualify for State capital funding, tax credits or contracts over one million dollars by fiscal year 2023.

The House also passed a number of bills as part of a HOUSING RELIEF PACKAGE, including:

  • HB 18 – The House took a historic step by passing legislation for Maryland to become the first state in the county to grant tenants a right to counsel in specific eviction cases. Under this legislation, individuals who make 50% or less of the state median income will be eligible for a lawyer to defend their eviction cases.
  • HB 52 – requires landlords to provide two forms of notice to tenants seven days before a landlord files for an eviction, including information about rental assistance programs and court services.
  • HB 104 – requires landlords to give tenants additional notice if the landlord decides not to renew a lease agreement. This bill will give more security to families who find themselves at the end of their lease.
  • HB 1312 – strengthens the Governor’s executive order that created an affirmative defense for failure to pay rent by allowing tenants to use that defense up to six months after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended.

ACTIONS IN THE COMMUNITY
While much of my attention is on Annapolis right now, I am still engaged in non-legislative activities in District 20. My work with various hubs and groups doing food distribution continues. I was pleased to work with Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart and Silver Spring Regional Director Reemberto Rodriguez to secure the Takoma Park Adventist Hospital space as a temporary storage and staging location for many of the grassroots groups serving our community with emergency food and other needs. We are grateful to the Hospital for donating this space and thrilled that Small Things Matter, Audelia Community Response Team, and Clifton Park Baptist Church will be able to use this space as they continue to respond to crucial needs in our community.  Additionally, the City of Takoma Park Library will be able to use space at the hospital while the current library is renovated.

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.

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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