2022 Legislative Session Week 5 Newsletter

Things are heating up! Today was our filing deadline, so I took this week to finalize my slate of legislative priorities. I am sponsoring seven bills this session, and have signed on to co-sponsor a few others. These, along with four Legislative Bond Initiative requests to fund local projects, should keep me busy over the next couple of months!

2022 Bill Spotlight

HB534: Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Self-Measured Blood Pressure Monitoring

This bill would extend Medicaid coverage to include self-measured blood pressure monitoring devices, helping 1.5 million Marylanders with high blood pressure (hypertension) take control of their own health and significantly reduce their risk of heart disease or stroke. My committee, Health & Government Operations, heard this bill on Wednesday, with no opposition. My thanks to everyone who joined to testify favorably.

Click here to watch the hearing.

General Assembly Childcare Package

This week, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson announced a legislative package aimed to increase childcare capacity and enrollment throughout the state.

Strong, reliable childcare is a critical piece in addressing the workforce shortage, but financial hardship and under enrollment resulted in Maryland losing nearly 800 licensed childcare facilities during the height of the pandemic. Nationally, the cost of childcare has risen nearly 41 percent. In Maryland, from March of 2020 to December 2021, childcare costs have ranged from an increase of 12 percent to as much as 33 percent depending on the setting and type of care.

The childcare legislative package aims to rebuild Maryland’s childcare capacity by helping to make it more affordable and open more childcare centers so more parents can get back to work and more children can get the high-quality care they deserve. The package includes legislation that removes barriers to access in childcare, provides greater financial assistance for special education childcare providers and providers most in need and will help providers expand their facilities, make critical renovations, hire new employees and retain existing employees. 

The childcare package includes 5 bills that: 

  • Improve the childcare scholarship program so students on the edge of eligibility will be automatically enrolled and allow childcare providers participating in the scholarship program to receive their payments faster.
  • Create a $35 million revolving loan fund available to childcare providers participating in the scholarship program. The loans will be at no interest and can be used for expansion, new construction/acquisition, and renovations of childcare facilities. 
  • Provide $16 million in retention and new hire bonuses. 
  • Provide a grant program for childcare providers who support students with developmental disabilities. 
  • Prioritize family childcare and allows providers most in need a better opportunity to take advantage of the State’s $50 million stabilization grant this fiscal year. 

HGO Committee Update

Bills passed by the Health & Government Operations Committee include:

HB0166: Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia – Council, and Coordination of Services (Dementia Services Act of 2022) (Delegate Sample-Hughes)

This bill makes changes to the Virginia I. Jones Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Council by establishing three-year terms for appointed members, requiring the Council to issue and publish an update to the State Plan on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders every five years beginning September 1, 2022, establishing the position of Director of Dementia Services Coordination to facilitate communication relating to dementia services in the State, and repealing the termination date for the Council. I was delighted to co-sponsor this bill, which passed unanimously.

HB0055: Health Occupations – Nurse Anesthetists – Drug Authority and Collaboration (Delegate Cullison)

This bill authorizes a nurse anesthetist to prescribe, order, and administer drugs, including controlled dangerous substances, without obtaining approval from a practitioner with whom the nurse anesthetist collaborates, subject to certain limitations. This bill passed unanimously.

HB0287: Secretary of Health – Professional Qualification Requirement (Delegate Peña-Melnyk, et al)

This bill requires the Secretary of Health to be professionally qualified through certain experience or education in at least one health-related field, health or law policy, health care facilities administration, health economics or financial management, government operations related to health care, or as a healthcare provider. This bill passed unanimously.

Baltimore County Delegation

My thanks to Senator Chris Van Hollen for joining the Baltimore County Delegation to give us the view from Capitol Hill. We touched on a number of topics, including past and pending legislation before the U.S. Senate. Senator Van Hollen shared the exciting news that funding from President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is already flowing into our state, and we will see these impacts in our communities this year.

We also touched on Postal Service issues. In our meeting with Senator Ben Cardin last week, we touched on the problems with mail service in Baltimore and across the country. Last year, I spoke with the manager at the Parkville branch of the USPS, as well as a representative for the Baltimore district. My District 8 colleagues and I sent a formal letter to Senators Van Hollen and Cardin requesting their assistance addressing issues with mail service.

With the recent passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bipartisan $57 billion Postal Service overhaul, I asked Senator Van Hollen about the prospects of getting this through the Senate. The Senator indicated that believes they have the votes to move on this legislation, and affirmed his commitment to getting these issues resolved.

Click here to watch my exchange with Senator Van Hollen.

My thanks also to Chief Joanne Rund for joining us to discuss the status of the Baltimore City Fire Department after the recent tragic death of three firefighters on the job. Our discussion centered on what we as state legislators can do to support the needs of the department, and I stand firm in a commitment to work with local law enforcement and emergency response agencies to ensure our communities are safe and protected. My thanks and respect to Chief Rund and all our state’s frontline officers.

Introducing Our Intern: Shrutee

I’m so excited to introduce Shrutee, who is interning with my office for this year’s legislative session. She has been a wonderful addition to the team, and I know she has a bright future!

Shrutee is a high school senior at The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. She plans to major in political science in college and hopes to make an effective change in her community. As a resident of northeast Baltimore County and an advocate for the South Asian community, she hopes to build on her experience interning in the Maryland General Assembly to continue supporting her community in the future.

A warm welcome to Shrutee, and my thanks to her for what I know will be great work throughout this year’s legislative session.

Scholarship Applications

My office will be accepting applications for 2022-2023 scholarships until March 31, 2022, along with my fellow District 8 Delegates. Read on for more information. You can click the link below or scan the QR code to find our application form.

A few things to note before you apply:

  • Applicants must be residents of Maryland’s Legislative District 8. You can double-check your address at mdelect.net, and if you live in any other district, we encourage you to apply for a scholarship with your district’s representatives.
  • Applicants must be accepted or enrolled as full- or part-time students at a college or university in Maryland. We are not able to offer scholarships to students attending schools outside of Maryland (unless they have Unique Major status).
  • Applicants should only apply once. All three District 8 Delegates (Bhandari, Boteler, and Jackson) share a single scholarship fund and use the same system to accept and adjudicate applications. All three offices will be able to review your application after you submit this form once, so there’s no need to apply three times.

Find our application form at this link: https://forms.gle/UvbvxSe8wgVsBqz9A

Also worth noting: legislative scholarships are non-renewable, meaning you must reapply each year. Filing for FAFSA is encouraged but not required; however, if you don’t file for FAFSA, you must create a Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) account for the scholarship award to be processed. Visit this page for more details.

Please don’t hesitate to follow up with any questions. And good luck!

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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