2020 General Assembly Session: Back in Session

Jan 10, 2020

January 10, 2020 | Volume VI 
Friends & Neighbors,  

Greetings! For my sixth session in Annapolis, I am pleased to continue sending emails every other week with details about what we are working on and how you can stay updated and involved.  If you have any questions or concerns, please email or call me! My legislative director, Dani DiPietro, and I can be reached at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3319. And please know you are always welcome to visit! I love seeing constituents, friends, and Marylanders who care about issues come to Annapolis to talk with me about their concerns or ideas.

For the second year, the Baltimore City Delegation is working with Visit Baltimore to sponsor “Charm City Creates,” a night celebrating Baltimore’s makers and chefs and artists in Annapolis. I have also been working with my colleagues on the Women’s Caucus to organize a commemorative event on the 100th Anniversary of Suffrage! All are welcome to this special event on January 29, but please make sure to register.
The 441st session of the Maryland General Assembly convened on Wednesday, January 8. Over the next 90 days, I will be working hard to pass legislation to help ensure Baltimore (and all of Maryland) is safe, healthy, green and thriving.

I have a comprehensive package of bills this session which primarily focus on public transit, the environment, civil rights, and public safety. You can read more about the bills I am sponsoring in my more recent blog post here

This Session, the Speaker appointed me to serve on the Environment and Transportation Committee, and will be the chair of the Land Use and Ethics Subcommittee. The “ENT” Committee as it’s called, has jurisdiction over many issues, including environment, transportation, ethics, housing, real property, land use, and local government issues. I’m excited to continue my work on transportation and environmental issues in a new leadership role! The Environment and Transportation Committee has not had any hearings yet.

We are all busy preparing and polishing our legislation so that it can be assigned to committee and. Please keep in mind that the public is invited to attend all committee hearings! You can view the Committee Schedule, which will be regularly updated, here. The general schedule is available here. You can look up my legislation and track its progress here.  

Keeping up with the Maryland General AssemblyThe Maryland General Assembly website has many great resources if you are interested in following our work over the next 90 days.  I will highlight just a few:The general schedule is available here.You can look up legislation and track its progress here.  Every bill introduced by the bill introduction deadline is guaranteed a hearing and before the hearing, a fiscal and policy note about the bill will be published.You can view the Committee Schedule, which will be regularly updated, here.
This year, I am excited to work on bills that will improve public transportation, fund programs to prevent violence, reduce plastic waste, increase access to affordable housing, and enhance the transparency of government agencies. And of course, although this list does not include the the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, I will be strongly supporting that legislation – and many other pieces of legislation that my colleagues are bringing! Although by no means a complete list, here are some of the major bills I will be introducing this year… 

Transit Safety & Investment ActA recently-released Capital Needs Inventory revealed that the Maryland Transit Administration is under-funded by $2bn over the next ten years – just to maintain current levels of operation.  This bill will provide additional annual capital funding to ensure that MTA is able to maintain its assets in a state of good repair and allow the agency to implement basic modernization to its outdated fleet of buses, trains, etc. This funding is imperative to sustain our public transit infrastructure and ensure safe transit for all riders.  

Violence Intervention and Prevention ProgramTwo years ago, I championed and passed the first program to prevent gun violence using evidence-based efforts. Although the Governor funded the program during its first year, he zeroed it out in FY20. This bill will require annual funding for the Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (VIPP) to fund local efforts around the state. Many of these programs are non-profit organizations with limited resources, but that do incredibly important work. This bill will provide the resources that these programs need to double down on the highest-crime neighborhoods, and expand into new neighborhoods. 

Plastics and Packaging Reduction ActPlastic waste litters our streets and waterways in Baltimore. It’s an eyesore and it also contributes to climate change. Despite popular belief, plastic bags can not go in your recycling bin and they are not biodegradable. This bill aims to reduce plastic trash by prohibiting stores from distributing plastic bags to consumers. It also encourages residents to use reusable shopping bags by requiring stores to charge .10 for paper bags. Finally, it establishes a “Single-Use Products Working Group” to study and make holistic recommendations on reducing plastic trash and single use containers in Maryland.  

The Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act (HOME Act)Housing discrimination is far too common, including discrimination based on source-of-income. Source of income can refer to income from veterans or disability payments or a public assistance program. Seventy percent of housing voucher recipients in Maryland are seniors, people with disabilities, or children. Currently, finding rental housing is challenging for voucher holders. Based on recent studies across the East Coast, up to 67% of landlords refused renters with housing vouchers. This bill prohibits discrimination based on a renter’s source of income, just as it is illegal to discriminate against a renter’s race, sex, religion, etc. Although many local jurisdictions have already passed their own version of this bill, it is important to ensure minimum standards are the same across the state.

 Strengthening Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA)Maryland’s Public Information Act needs an update. Agencies can be overwhelmed with repetitive requests and members of the press and public are often denied information in a timely or cost-effective manner. And yet, there is no way to enforce the PIA provisions without resorting to the courts. The State’s PIA Ombudsman is issuing a report this month that will recommend changes to the law to strengthen it so that members of the public can have confidence that our government is being transparent in its decision-making. This bill is based on those recommendations and on the need for more proactive disclosure of information by our agencies.    If you have requested government records in the past, I want to hear from you! Please consider taking this short survey by clicking here.  Your input will help me craft legislation for an accountable and transparent PIA request process. 

The Jordan MacNair Safe & Fair Sports ActOur college student athletes are working hard to be champions for us – now it’s time for us to be champions for them. This year, I will be introducing a bill to allow college student athletes to retain the rights to their own name, image, and likeness. We cannot stop there though, because many of our students are facing true health and well-being challenges as well, including of course, the tragic loss of Jordan MacNair in 2018. This bill will also set up a permanent commission to oversee college student athlete well-being that will have the power to investigate any alleged wrongdoing. 

Supporting Maryland Arts InstitutionsI will be introducing two bills to support Maryland arts institutions, one focusing on capital funding and one on operating dollars. Both of these bills will provide important and ongoing sources of funds to ensure that our Maryland arts community can continue to thrive and grow!
DELEGATE SCHOLARSHIPSEach year, I am excited to award scholarships to students from the 46th District who are heading to college or graduate school in Maryland. (If you’re not sure if you reside in the 46th district, you can go to www.mdelect.net to check.) I’m pleased to say that my scholarship application is now open! Please find instructions and detailed information about applying for a scholarship through my office here, and the application to apply here. The scholarship application must be filled out completely and returned with all the required documentation (e.g. transcripts, letters of recommendation, a short essay, etc.) to my office by May 1, 2020. Funds will be applied to the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.
There are a few local news sources that are handy to visit during the legislative session. In addition to coverage by some great reporters in the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, these online publications offer news:
Maryland Matters: https://www.marylandmatters.org/
Maryland Reporter: https://marylandreporter.com/
Capital News Service: https://cnsmaryland.org/
Center Maryland: http://www.centermaryland.org/

I was briefly mentioned as a “Top Ten Legislator to Watch” this week in Maryland Matters, and I’m pleased that the Washington Post published a story today about efforts in Virginia and Maryland to allow student athletes to retain control of their name, image, and likeness.  

Thank you for reading! Please keep in touch during session – and consider coming to visit. My phone number is 410-841-3319 and you can reach me and my legislative director, Dani DiPietro, at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.  

My best, Brooke 

PS: Know someone who isn’t getting my Annapolis newsletters? Encourage them to sign up at my website or to email me and I’ll add them to my list!