Last week was the half way mark of our legislative session, so I wanted to update you on the bills I've introduced and the major issues we're addressing at the moment.
Shelly's 2019 bills
1) Elder Justice (HB1270) I'm working on this bill with CHANA, which hosts the SAFE program, dedicated to helping survivors of elder abuse. This bill will create a statewide stakeholder group of organizations and entities that respond to different facets of elder abuse, enabling them to communicate and coordinate their efforts.
2) Rape Kits (HB1096 and HB1268) I’ve been working closely with the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee the legislature established in 2017 on a variety of issues related to the handling of rape kits. HB 1096 creates a presumption that we will test all rape kits and HB 1268 creates a grant fund that will provide resources to law enforcement for testing. I'm hopeful these bills will enable sexual assault survivors to be treated with the respect and dignity they desperately deserve.
3) Protecting Students (HB0464 and HB0461) These bills protect students from the predatory practices of certain for-profit schools. There is a nationwide trend of for-profit higher educational institutions associating themselves with non-profits in order to better market themselves. HB 461 will ensure that any for-profit school operating in Maryland is doing it in the best interest of the students and NOT their investors. HB 464 will expand on what we require for-profits to disclose to students as well as to diversify their financial base.
4) Representation of Women on Boards of Directors (HB1116) We want to be sure that Maryland companies are making meaningful progress towards ensuring gender diversity on their boards and will be asking them and select non-profits to (voluntarily) adopt 30% goal and share the number of women on their boards when they file tax reports. We know that when women are represented at board or top levels, organizational performance increases substantially. Equitable representation on boards, commissions, decision-making bodies, and leadership roles is essential to the economic and social mobility of women.
5) Protecting University Employees HB0822 Traditionally, State law protects career public employees from arbitrary termination. Such protection allows employees to serve and make a career without threat of unjust termination. Such protection means that public employers must – as the public expects – make a fair, fact-based decision before terminating an employee. Current policies directed at certain University System of Maryland employees allow termination for no reason. This bill makes it clear that these public higher education employees can only be terminated for cause.
6) Supporting Residents at Community Care Retirement Communities (CCRC's) (HB0588) Current law prevents residents of CCRC's from hiring an attorney during the grievance process if there is a dispute between the community and the resident. This bill would allow both parties access to counsel during a mediation process.
7) Protecting Student Athletes HB0876 It is not unusual to hear about the toxic culture of student athletics. While certainly not unique here in Maryland, the media has highlighted the behavior of a few team staff and the experiences of some students. This bill requires that higher educational institutions in MD develop a process to allow student athletes to express concerns about their team’s culture or environment to a college/university representative, outside of the athletic department and report how many times the process has been used.
8) Repealing Mandatory Minimum Sentences HB0877 would remove mandatory minimums on certain crimes and give discretion to judges in deciding what a sentence should be for non-violent, controlled substance violations.
9) The Government Accountability and Maryland Program Evaluation Act HB1113 will create an Office of Performance Evaluation and Government Accountability to examine the efficacy and efficiency of our state agencies and programs. Providing more transparency to taxpayers and policy makers by enabling public policy experts in the Department of Legislative Services to conduct and report on performance evaluations will help make government programs more accountable. Here's a photo from the committee hearing:
10) Support for State Contractual Employees HB0491 will enable state contractual workers to be compensated for a lost a day of pay when state government is closed unexpectedly. This bill brings a measure of fairness to these workers who do not have many benefits and have not planned or budgeted for this kind of closure.
I've been working with my colleagues on a few other bills:
11) Overdose Prevention Site Bill HB0139 will help combat the epidemic of drug overdoses by establishing an Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Site Program by a community-based organization. This temporary, pilot program will provide a safe place for the consumption of pre-obtained drugs, provide sterile needles, administer first aid, and provide other services and resources for recovery opportunities. In other cities where there are overdose prevention sites, there has been success connecting the hardest-to-reach substance abusers with treatment, preventing opioid deaths and driving down crime in the neighborhood surrounding the sites.
12) Minimum Wage HB 166 raises the minimum wage to $15/hour by the year 2025. It includes a training wage of 85% of the minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds, does not alter the tip credit, includes certain exceptions for seasonal workers, does not index rate increases, and includes an increase in rates for Medicaid reimbursements to home health care, behavioral health care workers, and direct service providers to the developmentally disabled. The bill has just passed the House and will now be considered by the Senate. More changes to come, I'm sure....
13) End of Life Options HB 399 will enable individuals who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness to self-administer prescription medicine to end their life. This bill will be considered on the House floor this week. (I am a cosponsor.)
Should you want more information on these or any other bills, please don't hesitate to let us know.
We've had lots of visitors in the office -- here are constituents from Jews United for Justice and the Sierra Club:
You may have also heard about our unanimous vote to censure a House colleague this past week because of her use of the "n-word" to describe a predominantly African-American community in Prince George's County. You can read the simple resolution here. There is no place in our public discourse for hateful and hurtful language, and I support my colleagues in the Legislative Black Caucus and Latino Caucus who have called for her resignation. She has said she will stay in office and work to rebuild her relationships with her constituents and the House. While her chairmanship of a subcommittee and position on a House committee have been stripped, she still maintains her right to vote on the House floor. This was a very difficult week, for a racially motivated attack on certain members of our community is an affront to us all.
Please let us know if you're going to be in Annapolis -- we'd love to see you!
And join us next Sunday, March 10th for another Shelly@the deli, 2:00 pm at Wegman's in Foundry Row, 10100 Reisterstown Road, on the 1st floor -- if you'd like to discuss what's happening in Annapolis. I hope to see you there!
Paid for by Friends of Shelly Hettleman. Jodi Schwartz, Treasurer Lainy LeBow-Sachs, Chair
P.O. Box 32677, Baltimore, MD 21282
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