This will be my final Annapolis Dispatch before I send my End of Session Report after Sine Die (April 10) - hard to believe session is almost over. We’ve had a very busy few weeks and I know that things will become even more fast-paced over the next, final two weeks. (The picture to the right was taken when my four-year old son Teddy joined me for a few hours during our Saturday session last weekend - he comes every year at least once to see why his mom is so busy for 90 days each year!)
For those who may have missed it, I think it’s important to know that a historically and culturally important institution in our community was vandalized recently when someone drew a swastika on the sign outside the Jewish Museum and B’nai Israel Synagogue. Team 46 responded with a statement (on my website) and I was pleased to join the Rabbi and others for a few moments to reflect on the event last weekend and to show love and solidarity in the face of hate.
Monday, March 20th, marked the first day of Spring and the crossover deadline. Crossover is the process in which the House version of a bill is transmitted to the Senate (or vice versa) for consideration by the other chamber. A bill has to pass both houses of the General Assembly before it can be signed into law by the Governor (or vetoed), and those bills that do not crossover by the deadline generally have little chance of passage. Below are a few big bills that moved this week:
The Home Act bans discrimination in housing based on the renter’s source-of-income, ending practices that keep low-income people from being boxed out of housing options. The House of Delegates passed HB 172 last Monday night. It does not apply to all landlords, but it is a significant start. I hope the Senate will similarly vote to ensure that the promises of the Fair Housing Act are realized and to help deconcentrate poverty, and enable veterans, people with disabilities, and voucher holders to locate housing.
The Trust Act ensures that Maryland law enforcement are not doing the job of federal agents. It is important that our immigrant communities can trust the local police so that when they are victims of crimes or they know something about a crime, they speak out - to ensure the entire area is safer. When local police take over the job of federal agents, though, they are not concentrating on their local duties and alienate local immigrant communities. In the past few weeks, two undocumented but law abiding immigrant adults have been detained by ICE agents in Southeast Baltimore - one was a community leader in Highlandtown and the other was the only parent to his 10-year-old son who attends Hampstead Hill. It’s simply devastating - and a waste of limited government resources. This bill generated a lot of debate and I have received many emails about it. I believe this legislation will make our communities safer by ensuring that all residents can trust local police. The bill passed the House 83-55 and now awaits Senate approval.
Heroin Death Prevention and Treatment Efforts - On Friday, members of the General Assembly held a press conference regarding two bills that will help battle the rising rate of heroin overdose deaths in Maryland. These two bills, HB 1329, the HOPE and Treatment Act and HB 1082, the Heroin and Opioid Education and Community Action Act of 2017, will bring new resources to the fight against opioid addiction and death, and will including funding to educate people about the dangers of heroin and other opioids. This treatment and education approach was called one of the most comprehensive efforts in the country by the American Medical Association. You can find more information about the measures here.
My Bills are moving! As of today, here is the status of my bills….
six have crossed over. In one whirlwind week, the House of Delegates passed five of my bills, bringing the total number of Lierman bills awaiting a Senate hearing to six! For more details, see my short blog post here. I have a lot of work to do to make sure they all get out of the Senate, and it will be a busy two weeks.
three are not likely to pass this year. My bill to phase out styrofoam food packaging is still in the Environment and Transportation Committee. Likewise, the Jill Wrigley Memorial Scholarship Expansion Act and Healthy Out of School Time Heroes Recognition Program are stuck in the Ways and Committee. If a bill has not been voted out of committee by this stage, it is unlikely to make it to the House floor. I have spoken with the Chair of the Environment & Transportation Committee and he plans to conduct a more thorough review of the idea of banning styrofoam during the interim. In addition, the scholarship bill generated a lot of support, and I am hopeful about its chances next session.
We have not yet finalized either the Operating or Capital Budgets, but both budgets will be passed out of both chambers this week. They do not require the Governor's signature, and so as soon as they are passed by both chambers in identical form, they will become law. In the preliminary FY18 capital budget, we are fortunate that the following projects were included for funding (and we will work hard to protect this funding during the final phase of the budget):
$250,000 for Baybrook Park Athletic Field Lights
$125,000 for Meals on Wheels to upgrade their kitchen
$1 m to complete the funding for the renovations at Rash Field
$1 m for the Ronald McDonald House, soon to be constructed in Jonestown
$200,000 for Cross Street Market merchants
$125,000 for the Creative Alliance to help with completing fundraising for its new Education Center
Additional money for the Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative (BRNI), additional money for strategic demolition, funding for Enoch Pratt libraries, $300,000 in FY18 for Patterson Park from legislation passed last year, and more...
City Schools Funding
As you may have read, the Governor will release a supplemental budget today that includes funding for FY18 for HB 684. Because we cannot fund legislation in the year in which it is passed, in order for HB 684 to take effect for this coming fiscal year to help our schools, we cut money from the Governor-proposed budget to give the Governor room to fund this legislation starting in FY18. Of the total amount allocated, over $20 million will go to Baltimore City Public Schools. The gap that City Schools is facing is much larger than this and we have identified some additional funding that we can use at the state level to help close the gap in some additional ways. In addition, the state funding is contingent on the City also increasing its allocation by $20 m. Because he did not include this aid in his first supplemental budget, the Appropriations Committee on which I sit and the House of Delegates took quick action on Friday to pass a bill that would relieve pension payments to some jurisdictions that would then allow that money to go to schools. I am glad that the Governor is acting, but frustrated it has taken until the very last moment. We are in daily communication with the team from City Schools and have also spoken with the City and City Council as well so that we can all focus on finding funding to ensure that important positions are not cut and class sizes do not increase.
In the District
Cross Street Market: Last Thursday, Team 46 released an update on the progress of the negotiations with the developer of Cross Street Market and other stakeholders. Please check it out here.
Light City: From March 31 - April 8, the City will host a large scale festival of lights, music and innovation. See our beautiful neighborhood and countless new attractions illuminated, connect with other change agents, and enjoy the best art and food the City has to offer. Learn more here.
Let’s Go O’s! Oriole Park at Camden Yards will open for the Orioles first home game against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 3rd. On Opening Day, prepare for the streets to be flooded with orange and check here for traffic advisories.
Community Meetings on School Zones: Baltimore City Schools will have 8 meetings around the City to get input on school zoning and boundaries. Times and locations are listed in this flyer.
Tough Talk/Parent Talk: Talking to Kids About Racial Bias: Starting on March 27, the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance is hosting a series of “Tough Talks” at the University of Maryland BioPark from 6-8pm. The talks are free and childcare is provided. The register for the first talk - the topic is racial bias - visit here.
12th Annual Money Power Day 2017: The nonprofit Baltimore Cash Campaign’s annual Money Power Day will take place on Saturday, April 1 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Baltimore Poly-Western, 1400 West Cold Spring Lane. This FREE financial fair will feature financial workshops, a credit café, a small business zone, a kids zone, free tax prep for those who made less than $54,000 in 2016, and more!
Please standby for my final detailed report coming after the session ends. I look forward to resuming work at my law firm and being back in the City full-time in a few weeks!