Dispatch #5: Bills and Budgets

Monday, March 13, 4:36pm

March 12, 2017

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

As the Appropriations Committee was voting out the budget from our Committee on Friday evening after a long day of floor debate, I realized that Friday marked one-month until sine die (the last day of session)! Because this year has been so busy, it has gone by much faster than past sessions. Below I’ll provide a quick review of a few changes our Committee made to the FY18 Operating Budget, and provide an update on some other key legislation. Follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter (BELBaltimore) for more information in between newsletters!

In Annapolis

March 8 marked International Women’s Day, and many women legislators marked the occasion by wearing red in solidarity. We started the day with a women’s caucus meeting (the Maryland Women’s Caucus is the oldest in the nation), and then held a press conference to support HB 1083/SB 1281 to ensure that if the federal government ceases providing family planning support through Planned Parenthood or other reproductive health centers that the state will increase its allocation of funding to ensure that family planning services are available to all women in Maryland, regardless of income.

The FY18 Operating Budget: Appropriations Committee's Version

On Friday evening, the House Appropriations Committee votyed out our version of the state’s FY18 operating budget. Each subcommittee reported their changes to the Governor’s proposed budget in a public hearing, and we went through the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act to amend provisions in that bill as well (as a reminder, the BRFA is a bill that accompanies the budgets in years when the Governor changes formulas that are in law). To follow the calendar of budget decisions, click here. Some quick highlighted changes we made include:

  • Cut enough funds to ensure a fund balance of $137.5 million - $37.5 more than the recommended goal. We left this additional funding to ensure that the Governor could offer a supplemental budget to fund bills that we also passed to provide some bridge funding to Baltimore City Public Schools until the Legislature is able to amend the funding formula for all the state’s public schools, according to recommendations from the Kirwan Commission. (More on that below)

  • Restored the increase in salaries to care providers of many of our state’s residents with disabilities. Several years ago a deal was struck to ensure that the Developmental Disabilities Administration community providers would receive a 3.5% increase in salary to ensure that they did not become minimum wage employees. This year the Governor cut that back to am2% increase. Through savings elsewhere, we were able to restore it to 3.5%.

  • Rejected the Governor's BRFA provisions that would have defunded much of the Baltimore Package we passed last year (funding for Next Generation Scholars, Enoch Pratt, BRNI, etc.)

  • Instead of increasing funding for school vouchers like the Governor had done in his budget, we reduced the amount of money allocated for vouchers. We ensured, however, that any child who had moved from a public school to a private school using the BOOST voucher money would continue to have access to the money. I expect this to be an issue debated in a conference committee.

  • Capital Budget: The capital budget will be voted out from the Appropriations Committee this Friday. On Saturday, Team 46 presented bond bills for some of the amazing non-profits in our district, including Meals on Wheels, Port Discovery, the Creative Alliance, Waterfront Partnership (to help fund the new rash field), Ben Franklin HS (to put in lighting at Baybrook park football field), CASA’s new workforce center in Library Square, the Helping Up Mission, and money to provide support to the Cross Street Market merchants if the developer moves forward. While we do not expect that we will be able to fund the full amount for every project request, we are working hard to lobby our colleagues on the importance of all these projects!

My initiatives on the House Floor: Last Thursday, the House of Delegates debated my bill (HB224) that expands eligibility for in-state tuition to AmeriCorps service alums who have served in Maryland. The issue was more contentious than I expected because the bill passed with bipartisan support in Committee, but I took to the floor to champion the cause and it ultimately passed 86-50.

HB 425 - a bill to restrict the suspension and expulsion of children in preK to second grade - passed out of the Ways & Means Committee on Friday evening with some amendments. It will be on the House floor this week for debate. WUSA did a great report on the bill that can be found here: http://www.wusa9.com/news/education/maryland-bill-limits-school-suspensions-for-its-youngest-students/420202405.

I have several other bills that have passed out of Committee that will be on the House floor this week as well, including HB 271 (to end the farebox recovery mandate), HB 860 (to end the ban against allowing individuals with past drug convictions to access food stamps - an unhelpful relic of the failed war on drugs), and HB 991 (a bill to ensure that Legal Aid staff at District Court self-help centers continue to receive their health insurance). I am in communications with other Committees about the fate of several of my other bills, including the Paystub Transparency Act of 2017, the Jill Wrigley Memorial Scholarship Expansion Act, and the Expanded Polystyrene Ban.

Earned Sick Leave & Fracking: On March 3, I proudly joined my colleagues Luke Clippinger (lead sponsor!) and Robbyn Lewis in voting for HB 1 - the Healthy Working Families Act. This bill will allow over 500,000 Marylanders access to earned paid sick days. As a mom, an attorney, and the elected voice of so many working people, I was proud to vote green for earned sick leave! Onto the Senate.

After an extended debate on Friday, the House of Delegates also voted to ban fracking in the State of Maryland. The awful effects to the groundwater and drinking water in our northern neighbor Pennsylvania convinced many delegates that any benefit that fracking could bring would not come close to equaling or outweighing the cost to our environment, tourism industry, and drinking water. Now the fate of the bill is in the Senate’s hands!

Police & Oversight for Baltimore City Police reform: All of Team 46 have received emails and calls from many residents about the problems of increasing crime in our neighborhoods. We regularly communicate with the Baltimore Police Department and we are extremely concerned about the crime in Baltimore. As many of you know, the BPD replaced command of the Southern District leadership last week. We are hopeful that the new Major and Captain will hit the ground running. We are also focused on passing some state legislation to ensure that the police have the tools they need to do the work they are doing. For instance, although the population in the City has moved around, the Police have not had the opportunity to change the boundaries of their districts. HB 9 calls on the Baltimore City Police Commissioner to prepare a plan for redistricting the City’s police districts and reallocating resources and personnel among each district and then present that plan for City government approval. HB 226 calls for a report on community policing to be presented the General Assembly and the City government, and expands current reporting requirements to include the number of instances of use of force that resulted in transport of a civilian to a hospital. All three of these bills passed unanimously.  And finally, HB 1396 will prohibit the suspension of a sentence for a handgun conviction. The Commissioner has discussed the ongoing problem of the quick release by courts of individuals for carrying/possession of an illegal handgun. He supports this bill, which will ensure that carrying an illegal gun is taken seriously.

An ongoing problem around the state has also been the uneven prosecution of sexual assault and rape. A national article exposed problems in several counties last year. The Attorney General has weighed in on the issue and made many recommendations. HB 255, which I co-sponsored, will prohibit destruction of a rape kit or other crime scene evidence relating to a sexual assault within 20 years after the evidence is collected, and require victim notification prior to destruction of evidence. In addition, HB 428 authorizes a court to terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist in cases where a child is conceived in the attack. Both bills passed with unanimous support.

To see the handful of laws that have officially been enacted by the 2017 General Assembly and are ready for signature, visit this list.

School Funding: On Friday morning in the Baltimore City Delegation meeting, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh joined Appropriations Chair Maggie McIntosh to announce a three-year $180 million funding plan for Baltimore City Public Schools to address the structural deficit (you can watch Sen. Ferguson’s video of announcement here). This funding will be split half/half between the City and State. The plan makes two changes to Maryland’s current education funding formula: (1) it allows jurisdictions with declining enrollment to use a three-year rolling average enrollment for purpose of the formula, and (2) provides a supplemental grant to any jurisdiction that offers full day pre-k services to all eligible four year olds (currently, the State only funds half day pre-k for income eligible families). With the legislative change, the State would help support Baltimore, but we will also benefit the other counties in Maryland who are facing similar enrollment issues (Carroll, Somerset, Garrett, Kent). Del. McIntosh and Mayor Pugh also announced that we are continue to review state and City budgets to find additional cost savings to the school system that we can provide to help them close the gap.

We now need Gov. Hogan to act, as noted above, by introducing a supplemental budget funding the bill for FY18 (next year’s school year). Without Governor Hogan's action, the City Schools’ full deficit remains. We have had very productive conversations with the Governor's office, and I am hopeful that he will make this important investment.

Finally, read about the Digital Harbor art project my staff and I initiated this year that brought these two young Digital Harbor students and their families and art teacher to Annapolis this year! Check out my blog post here: http://www.brookelierman.com/blog/2017/03/06/baltimore-city-student-artwork-now-display-room-311 

In the District

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance is now accepting applications for its Transportation 101 workshops! Candidates may apply through April 5 ere.  

The Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City is now accepting application for the 2017 Junior State’s Attorney Program. All Junior SA’s will also be paid through the Youth Works Program, so submit an application by March 17, 2017. Apply online at: http://www.stattorney.org/images/jr-states-attorney-2017-summer-application.pdf, or contact Shalik Fulton at (443)984-6176.

On March 14, the American Red Cross is hosting a Blood Drive at Digital Harbor High School from 9am – 3pm. Donate if you can!

Masonville Cove will host a Public Access Study Community Meeting will be held on March 16, from 5:30-7:30pm at Benjamin Franklin High School in Brooklyn. MDOT’s Port Administration has been studying ways to improve access to Masonville in light of the fact that transportation emerged as a critical issue during the Greater Baybrook Visioning and Planning Process. RVSP on Facebook here.

On February 28, Baltimore Bike Share announced a planned expansion of this thriving transit program. In May, the City will go from having 20 stations to 50 stations, and the number of bikes will increase to 465. But no need to wait -  check it out now!

As always, please reach out to my office with questions or feedback at 410-841-3319 or brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us. Keep in touch and keep up your advocacy.

My best,