2016 End of Session Letter

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April 11, 2016

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you for the privilege of representing you in the Maryland General Assembly as your District 16 Delegate. I am pleased and proud to report that we made significant progress this legislative session that will help strengthen our economy, our schools, and our families, as well as foster a safer and healthier environment. In addition to passing eleven of my own bills this session, I was also appointed to serve on the Public Health Sub-Committee, appointed to Co-Chair the Joint Committee on Children Youth and Families, elected President-elect of the Women Legislators of Maryland, and appointed by the Speaker of the House to serve as Deputy Majority Whip. Here is an overview of the recently concluded 2016 legislative session:

The State Budget

The General Assembly passed a $42 billion budget that is fiscally responsible and balanced, meeting the priorities of Marylanders without raising taxes. The operating budget fully funds all of Maryland’s spending formulas for healthcare, public safety, and transportation programs, as well as, the state pension system.

Strengthening Our Families

During this session, I sponsored and worked with a broad coalition of support, including Planned Parenthood, Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Reform and the National Association of Social Workers to pass HB 1005 - Contraceptive Equity Act, which expands contraception coverage in insurance plans and ensures that all Marylanders have access to the contraception method that works best for them. It requires Medicaid and private insurers to fill birth control prescriptions for six months at a time, requires vasectomy coverage, and requires insurance coverage for over-the-counter pharmaceutical access. 

I have long advocated for measures to keep families intact and secure, especially in times of great need. During this session, joined by 73 co-sponsors from across the state, I passed HB 740 - Task Force to Study Establishment of a Family and Medical Leave Program which will bring together national and local experts to develop an implementation plan for a state-run, employee-funded insurance plan that will provide limited salary replacement for workers for up to 12 weeks of leave due to a serious medical condition; a family member’s military deployment; or, to care for a new child or a family member with a serious health condition. The U.S. is still the only industrialized country in the world without paid family leave! In Maryland, we hope to soon join California, New Jersey, Rhode Island (and soon New York!) in making sure our workforce has these protections.

A related bill, the paid sick days bill, HB 580 - Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, sponsored by Delegate Luke Clippinger would have required employees statewide to earn accrued sick leave. (This law has already passed in Montgomery County). While the legislation passed in the House, it did not pass in the Senate. However, I am pleased that Senator Lee's SB 481 - Equal Pay for Equal Work, did pass and prevents employers from banning the discussion of salary among their employees.

The cost of a college education has risen dramatically in recent years and much of the burden has fallen on our young professionals in the form of serious debt. This is a national problem and in an effort to ease some of this financial burden, on the students and their families, we passed Delegate Adrienne Jones’ HB 1014- College Affordability Act of 2016 which provides a matching state contribution to eligible college savings accounts and a tax credit of up to $5,000 for undergraduate student loan debt.

Supporting Local Businesses

I sponsored HB 1291 - Limited License - Hair Services - Blow Drying which establishes a new license for blow drying which will help blow-out only salons like our Bethesda’s Dry Bar ensure they have access to a professional workforce. I am pleased to report that HB 639 - Payment by Credit Card or Electronic Funds Transfer Payment also passed to help ensure that physicians receive full payment for services provided when “virtual credit cards” are used by insurance companies. And I passed local legislation to ensure True Respite Brewing Company can open its doors in downtown Bethesda. 

Public Health

I was proud to serve as the lead sponsor and work with the Women’s Coalition for Heath Care Reform, the Mental Health Association of Maryland, and Maryland Occupational Therapy Association on a very important bill for Maryland families HB 1318 - Network Access Standards and Provider Network Directories, which requires the Maryland Insurance Administration to work with interested stakeholders to develop network adequacy regulations, and enables them to hold insurers accountable for meeting quantitative standards and maintaining accurate provider directories. Insurers will be required to periodically audit their directories and feature new information in the listings, including participating health facilities, provider gender and languages spoken, and whether new patients are beings accepted. They will have 45 days to correct any provider directory errors identified by members through a new electronic link on the directory, and they must provide information on how members may seek an out-of-network referral at in-network cost-sharing when the network is inadequate. I was also pleased to sponsor and passed SB 297 (HB 539) - Habilitative Services ensuring that all children in Maryland with a developmental disability have access to vital services by establishing a standardized definition of habilitative services.

I was a proud co-sponsor of HB 431- Maryland Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program which requires that the College Savings Plans of Maryland establish the Maryland Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE). 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 a medical care, education, and housing. In order to help fund these accounts, I sponsored and passed HB 960- Authority to Fund Certain Trusts and Accounts that authorizes court appointed guardians and custodians to move assets for public benefit purposes such as for Special Needs Trusts and ABLE accounts, without specific court authorization.  In addition, in order to fix inconsistencies with state guardianship services, I also sponsored and we passed HB 981 -Maryland Medical Assistance Program - Guardianship Fees - Income Deduction.

I was a proud co-sponsor of Delegate Shane Pendergrass’s HB 404 End-of-Life Option Act (Death with Dignity); unfortunately, the bill did not pass this year but I will continue to support this legislation that provides a terminally ill adult, with no hope for a cure, to voluntarily request medication from their doctor to end their life in peace, without pain but with dignity at home and with their loved ones.

Environment and Energy

This session, I supported a number of renewable energy initiatives, I was pleased to co-sponsor Delegate Bill Frick’s HB 1106 - Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Revisions. This legislation increases the state’s renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (the amount of energy drawn from renewable sources). We also passed HB 610 - Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act which increases the state’s goal for greenhouse gas emission reduction.

In addition, I co-sponsored HB 399 - Lyme Disease - Required Notice. This bill requires that the health care provider who draws a patient's blood for the testing of Lyme disease provide written notice at the time the blood is drawn that includes disclaimers about the accuracy of the test. I also supported HB 211 - The Pollinator Protection Act of 2016, an effort to help reverse the decline of the bee population by prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which harm bees and other pollinators.

Civil Rights & Justice

With the help of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, Speaker Michael Busch sponsored and we passed SB 1005 (HB 1312)- The Justice Reinvestment Act that provides alternatives and treatment options for non-violent offenders, directing more to supervision and treatment options rather than incarceration. This legislation will reduce incarceration mandates for nonviolent offenders, allow offenders options that are intended to help them become productive members of society, and saving the state incarceration and related costs. I was also pleased to support SB 945 (HB 1342) - Noah’s Law, which passed and requires mandatory participation in the Ignition Interlock Program to help reduce drunk driving in our state.

We successfully passed the police reform bill, HB 1016 - Public Safety and Policing Workgroup which requires training and evaluation methods for law enforcement, police review boards, periodic psychological evaluations of officers, and annual reporting of police-involved shootings among other requirements.

Transportation

The General Assembly passed, overriding the Governor’s veto, HB 1013 - The Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act, which requires greater transparency in how the Maryland Department of Transportation ranks projects for state funding. The system that will be implemented, would be useful in measuring and prioritizing each transportation project in Maryland and increase highway capacities.

Montgomery County House Delegation

As the chair of the Montgomery County House Democratic Caucus I worked closely with Delegation Chair Shane Robinson to advocate for Montgomery County priorities in Annapolis. We made important progress on school construction by doubling the amount of state grant funds that will be available for school construction in high growth jurisdictions. The grant funds will increase to $40 million and I’m pleased to report that Montgomery County will receive 25% of these funds, the largest beneficiary of all jurisdictions.  

As the sponsor of a local bond bill HB 1275, and in close collaboration with my D16 colleague, Delegate Marc Korman, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, I am pleased that the Friendship Heights Village Center--an important focal point in our community--will receive $100,000 in funding that will go toward much needed renovations.

Let me conclude by saying that while there is much work to be done, we have made some important strides in this very productive session. I want to thank you again for trusting me to be your voice in Annapolis. You can find more information on the legislation I’ve mentioned 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,


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Delegate Ariana Brannigan Kelly


A Big Thank you to my staff Holly Vandegrift, Jenna Williams, & Whitney Duck! 

And, not pictured here but still awesome Olivia Chung, Julia Kline and Mutale Matambo!

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