2022 Legislative Session Week 3 Newsletter

What a week! We met for votes on the House floor this Wednesday and Thursday, and I was in Health & Government Operations Committee meetings almost every day. I was also proud to file two more bills and a request for a legislative bond initiative. We still have a couple of weeks before our final filing deadline, so stay tuned!

Health & Government Operations Committee

We had a busy slate of HGO Committee meetings this week, but I was particularly engaged by our discussion of cybersecurity.

In a previous briefing on January 13, Chief Information Security Officer Chip Stewart confirmed that the state experienced a ransomware attack leading up to the holidays which disrupted many key state services. While an investigation into the attack is ongoing, Stewart informed us that the state did not pay into the demands of the threat actor. According to Stewart, the state took immediate containment action to isolate websites and online systems. Critically, he said there is no evidence that the incident resulted in unauthorized access to or acquisition of any data.

This week, I was pleased to receive a follow-up briefing on our state’s cybersecurity operations by the Maryland Cybersecurity Council. Among many points raised, the Council recommends that we develop a statewide strategic plan informed by a ‘whole of state’ approach. I am very much intrigued to investigate what more we can do to bolster our pipeline for creating career professionals specializing in cybersecurity. The structure of an academic program can facilitate this development, and improve our state’s ability to meet these challenges in the modern era.

Click here to view the briefing.

Some of the bills we considered this week included:

Open Meetings Act – Notices, Closed Sessions, and Minutes – Retention Periods, Online Posting, and Public Inspection

This bill increases, from one to three years, the length of time a public body must keep a copy of a specified meeting notice or written statement about the closing of a public meeting under Maryland’s Open Meetings Act (OMA).

Behavioral Health Crisis Response Services and Public Safety Answering Points – Modifications

This bill requires the Maryland Department of Health to require that proposals requesting Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program funding contain response standards that minimize law enforcement interaction for individuals in crisis.

Interstate Medical Licensure Compact – Sunset Extension and Reporting

This bill would extend from September 30, 2022, to September 30, 2027, the termination date of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and other provisions of law related to the Compact.

2022 Bill Spotlight
Harford Park Community Center Legislative Bond Initiative

I was so proud to file a legislative bond initiative request for much-needed improvements at the Harford Park Community Center. This funding, which should be confirmed in the state capital spending budget, will provide for key facility upgrades at the community center on Linwood Road, including a critical roof replacement and measures to make the building ADA-compliant.

I can’t wait to see this funding implemented so that the Harford Park Community Center will be on a stronger footing to meet the needs of community members. My thanks to the wonderful community leaders in Harford Park for their hard work and dedication, and to Delegate Carl Jackson and Senator Kathy Klausmeier for co-sponsoring and cross-filing this request.

Baltimore County Delegation

I always find our Baltimore County Delegation meetings to be productive and informative, with a focus on the issues that affect my communities. It was a pleasure to join my colleagues from Baltimore County this morning for a presentation from the County Executive, as well as hearings on a few county-specific bills. My thanks to everyone who joined us for a wonderful discussion.

I’d like to thank County Executive John Olszewski, Jr. for his dedication to our county and communities, evident in many initiatives such as:

  • Bolstering school construction. I don’t want to see our students fighting for seats in overcrowded classrooms. I appreciate our county’s commitment to improving our school facilities, including planning to spend $2.5 billion over the next 15 years, with a hefty infusion of $40 million over 10 years from the state’s Built To Learn Act, which we in the General Assembly passed in 2020.
  • Expanding early childhood education. A plan to expand pre-k in the county will bring early education to an additional 3,000 young learners, with additional investments in enhanced security and amenities at our early childhood education facilities.
  • Investing in parks and open space. We are looking forward to record funding of $75 million from our state and local budget. I asked our County Executive to bring renewed focus to the issue of soil erosion, which has impacts on our local environmental stability, water quality, and the accessibility of our parks.
  • Striving for sustainability. This requires a holistic approach, including upping our recycling programs and increasing electric vehicle use. I am proud to see our county work toward an ambitious goal of shifting to 100 percent renewable energy by 2026.
  • Re-upping solid waste collection. We all have trash, and we all want it to be collected easily and with no fuss. With a new bulk collection program and other changes, we are fine-tuning our solid waste collection to better meet residents’ needs.
  • Implementing new public transit options. The Towson Loop bus service will better connect our communities in District 8 with the wider Towson metro, helping commuters, businesses, and families.
  • Improving behavioral health resources. Our county will work to expand mobile crisis teams, working with law enforcement to improve our responses to mental health crises.

In addition to all this, I want to thank the County Executive and his team for their transparent and diligent efforts to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We seem to have weathered the worst of the latest Omicron wave, but we must all continue to do our part – this includes masking up, rethinking risky behavior, and above all getting vaccinated. Twenty percent of Baltimore County’s population remains unvaccinated, but unvaccinated patients make up 84 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Please protect yourself, your family, and your community by making the smart choice and prioritizing good health over anger and division.

Questions, Comments, or Concerns

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns throughout the legislative session, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at harry.bhandari@house.state.md.us. I am always happy to hear from constituents, and in the meantime, I’m sending you all my best wishes.

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