End of Session Letter

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Dear Neighbor,

Thank you for the privilege of representing you as your District 16 Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly. I am proud of the progress we made to advance a strong economy, secure families, and a safe and healthy environment. Here is an overview of the recently concluded 2015 legislative session:

Montgomery County House Delegation
This year I was elected by my colleagues to chair the 24 member Montgomery County House Democratic Caucus. I worked very closely with Delegation Chair Shane Robinson (D39) to advocate for Montgomery County’s priorities in Annapolis. Our top priority was increasing the amount of school construction funding the state provides Montgomery County. This will allow us to build additions to our overcrowded schools. Currently, in Montgomery County 16 of the 25 high school clusters are already above 105% capacity.

We successfully passed HB 923/SB 490, sponsored by Delegate Sheila Hixson and Senator Nancy King, which establishes a new permanent fund for allocating school construction money to overcrowded school districts. Montgomery County will be the largest beneficiary of this funding for at least the next four years. Although final numbers for FY16 will not be available until May, the Montgomery County Delegation anticipates at least $46 million to help address overcapacity in the school system.

Economic Development Committee
In my first year as Chair of the Economic Development Committee of the Montgomery County Delegation, we passed ten pieces of legislation to improve the business climate in the county. This legislation includes bills to allow a Silver Spring winery to sell its wine directly to the public, allowing for the sale of refillable wine containers (wine growlers), and aligning Takoma Park liquor licenses with the rest of the county. We also passed a bill that will allow more pinball machines in bars and restaurants, and legislation that allows schools, places of worship and youth centers to get one day liquor licenses for fundraisers and special events. Another law allows for wine auction permits so PTAs and other nonprofits can auction off wine baskets at their fundraisers.

The State Budget
The General Assembly worked to pass a fiscally responsible budget which will meet the priorities of Marylanders without raising taxes, raiding funds, or expanding the structural deficit. Maryland again maintains its Triple A bond rating, one of only 10 states to hold this coveted rating. In addition, it closes 69% of the structural deficit without raising any taxes. The state pension system will achieve 80% funding on schedule by 2023 and full funding before 2040. As passed, the budget restores cuts made to schools, services to pregnant women, and the mentally ill. This funding is earmarked -- cannot be reallocated for other purposes -- for state employee pay raises and the largest school systems, including Montgomery County. However, the General Assembly cannot force Governor Hogan to use this money, so funding is still up to the discretion of the Governor.

Local Bond Bills
In our district, $150,000 is going towards the demolition and reconstruction of the Graceful Growing Together Community Center on Woodmont Triangle in Bethesda in order to significantly expand community services, including child and senior care services, and homeless lunch programs.On Old Georgetown Road the Josiah Henson Park, where the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is located, will receive $100,000 for the renovation and reconstruction of this historic site.

Family Economic Security
This year, I sponsored and passed HB 564 which expands family medical leave and parental leave for state employees.The measure eliminates discriminatory limits put in place on access to maternity/paternity leave and medical leave for married couples. It ensures that if both parents work for the state, they both have the same access to parental leave all other employees have. It also protects married state employees who need to utilize family and medical leave to care for themselves or a sick family member. 

I was proud to be lead co-sponsor on Delegate Craig Zucker’s important legislation for children with disabilities. HB 1105 - Disabled Individuals - ABLE Program, creates a task force to study the issues related to the Maryland Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) and identify how best to implement the program. The ABLE program is a tax advantaged savings plan for individuals with disabilities similar to 529 college savings plans to pay for future expenses such as medical care, education, and housing.

While there was a lot of momentum behind the paid sick days bill, HB 385 sponsored by Delegate Luke Clippinger did not make out of the House Economic Matters. Unfortunately, Delegate Kriselda Valderrama and Senator Susan Lee’s, HB 1051/SB 424 - Equal Pay for Equal Work, which prevent employers from banning the discussion of wages by employees, did not pass.

Civil Rights
In an effort to reduce campus sexual assaults,Delegate Shelly Hettleman sponsored and passed HB 571 - Institutions of Higher Education - Sexual Assault - Policy and Survey, which mandates compliance with sexual assault surveys and reporting requirements. 

In an effort to correct last year’s marijuana decriminalization bill, the General Assembly passed Delegate Curt Anderson’s HB 105 - Drug Paraphernalia and Marijuana - Penalties, which makes the possession of marijuana paraphernalia a civil instead of criminal offense.

Public Health
With the help of a broad coalition of support in the healthcare industry, I was able to pass HB 327 - Ambulatory Surgical Facility, which expands the capacity of Ambulatory Surgical Centers to care for patients. This bill ensures that facilities, like the Massachusetts Avenue Surgical Center, that exclusively provide surgical services can serve patients for a full 24 hours, in line with federal CMS regulations. Now more options will be provided for surgical patients, and keep Maryland a leader in health care access. 

After four years of advocacy, I passed HB 9 Licensure of Direct-Entry Midwives Act, making Maryland the 30th state to license Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) under the Board of Nursing. CPMs specialize in birth center and home births and their licensure enables effective collaboration and continuity of care between midwives, nurses, physicians and hospitals. Moreover, the licensure and regulation of CPMs reduces unnecessary risk for Maryland women and babies.  

I am happy to report my bill, HB 739 Task Force to Study Maternal Mental Health, will be signed by the Governor into law. Up to 20% of women experience clinical depression associated with pregnancy or childbirth. It is estimated that as many as 80% of mothers with depression are not receiving treatment. HB 739 will create a task force to identify at-risk populations, study measures taken in other states, and make recommendations for evidence-based law and policy changes to ensure the health of mothers in Maryland.

Environment & Energy
Among the environmental bills, I am most pleased to support HB 449 - Hydraulic Fracturing - Protect Our Health and Communities, sponsored by Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo. This measure, which passed, prohibits the Maryland Department of the Environment from approving fracking until 2017. 

In order to predict, track, and adapt to the consequences of climate change, Delegate Dana Stein introduced HB 514 - Maryland Commission on Climate Change. The commission will convene working groups to study and recommend policy changes regarding the scientific basis of climate change, methods of mitigating greenhouse gases, appropriate response actions, and public education.

In a win for renewable energy, Delegate Clippinger’s community solar House Bill 1087 passed this year. This legislation establishes a Community Solar Energy Generating System Pilot Program which would provide a solar energy system connected to the electrical grid.

Unfortunately, we were not able to pass HB 377 - Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. This legislation, sponsored by Delegate Bill Frick, would have increased the percentage of Maryland’s energy produced by renewable sources.

Transportation
My D16 colleague, Delegate Marc Korman sponsored and I was a proud cosponsor of HB 300 - Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Services - Utilization Study, which passed. This bill aims to optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of public transportation services by requiring the Department of Transportation to study service utilization every five years in order to adapt to changes in Marylanders’ travel patterns. 

While there is still work to be done, this has been very productive session. I want to thank you again for trusting me to be your voice in Annapolis. You can find more information on any of these pieces of legislation at: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (301) 858-3642 or Ariana.Kelly@house.state.md.us.

Best wishes for a beautiful spring and summer.

Sincerely,


Delegate Ariana Kelly

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