Annapolis Insights: Legislative Newsletter – Week 10

Annapolis Insights: Legislative Newsletter – Week 10

Dear constituents,

This week marks a pivotal moment in the 2024 legislative session as we approach the end of the crossover period—the last chance for bills to pass in their originating chamber and move to the other for consideration. Bills not passed by crossover day face slim chances of enactment this session.

Several of my proposed bills have successfully made it to the Senate, while others are awaiting approval in the House’s third reader phase. In Annapolis, our commitment doesn’t waver, extending into the weekends, to maximize our efforts before this crucial deadline. The pace of legislative work has significantly increased, with both floor and committee sessions demanding early mornings and late nights. However, my dedication to the constituents of District 8 and the wider Maryland community is unwavering. I am here, fully committed to listening and advocating on your behalf.Serving my constituents effectively remains my utmost priority amidst this bustling period.

Chamber Highlights

House & Senate Each Pass Their Version of Juvenile Justice Reform: The successful passage of Senate Bill 744 and House Bill 814 represents a significant milestone in our ongoing commitment to reform juvenile justice in a manner that is both holistic and empathetic. As we work through the differences between the Senate and House iterations of these bills, our focus remains steadfast on developing legislation that embodies our principles of fairness, rehabilitative support, and ensuring the safety of our communities.

Central to both bills are forward-thinking measures aimed at addressing juvenile justice proactively. This includes the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) implementing essential programs for young individuals most susceptible to gun violence, alongside a more efficient intake process by juvenile service officers. This efficiency aims to expedite the assessment for judicial intervention, illustrating our dedication to providing timely support and intervention for our youth.

A significant highlight of both legislative versions is the establishment of a Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform. This body is charged with the critical task of examining and improving DJS’s educational and diversion programs, a key step in fostering a juvenile justice system that is both adaptive and effective, with a clear focus on nurturing the potential of our young population.

Notable distinctions between the Senate and House proposals include tailored strategies for managing young offenders and facilitating access to support services. The Senate version prioritizes immediate access to community and behavioral health services, whereas the House bill concentrates on offering educational alternatives and diversionary programs for juveniles encountering the justice system for the first time. These differences highlight a unified approach to ensuring accountability while also creating pathways for rehabilitation and successful community reintegration.

Advancing juvenile justice reform mirrors our broader aspiration for a Maryland that champions safety, equity, and opportunities for every citizen, with a particular focus on our youth. The culmination of this legislative process, resulting in a harmonized bill, will significantly contribute to fulfilling our vision, encapsulating our commitment to empathy, justice, and communal well-being.

Legislative Victory:

HB0959: Health Occupations – Certified Dialysis Technicians – Continuing Education Requirement: This Tuesday marked a significant milestone as my bill, HB0959, successfully navigated through its third reading and made its way into the Senate. At its core, this bill represents a thoughtful adjustment to the continuing education requirements for our valued certified dialysis technicians (CDTs). Instead of rigidly mandating a single three-hour course approved by the Maryland Board of Nursing (MBON), HB0959 introduces a more flexible approach. It allows CDTs to fulfill their continuing education obligations through three cumulative hours of MBON-approved coursework. Under current law, CDTs renew their certification by fulfilling various requirements including completing 16 hours of practice as a dialysis technician, a three-hour MBON-approved continuing education course, or an MBON-approved dialysis technician training program. While this change is technical, its impact is significant. It grants our CDTs the freedom to tailor their educational pursuits to their specific needs and interests, ultimately providing greater flexibility. I’m excited about the possibilities that HB0959 opens up, and I’m grateful for the support it has received thus far on its legislative journey. 

HB1143: Emergency Medical Services – Maryland Emergency Department Wait Time Reduction Commission – Establishment: It is exciting to announce that my bill, HB1143, moved to the third reading on Thursday, representing a noteworthy step forward in its progress. This legislation couldn’t come at a more critical time, especially with Maryland’s average emergency room wait times creeping close to four hours, demanding immediate action. By establishing a commission that brings together medical professionals, patient advocacy groups, and the Maryland Hospital Association, among others, we’re taking a vital step towards tackling this pressing issue head-on. Beyond just addressing the need for prompt emergency care, this bill recognizes the strain placed on both patients and our hardworking emergency department staff. It’s a compassionate and proactive approach aimed at ensuring everyone receives the timely care they deserve.

Advancing Inclusivity: Advocating for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing 

I am glad to announce that my bill HB0426, Places of Public Accommodation – Motion Picture Houses – Captioning has passed to the third reading. This bill would make motion picture houses a more accessible place for deaf and hard-of-hearing people by implementing weekly screenings of films with closed captioning. It’s all about ensuring that every citizen feels welcome and valued, empowering our deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to engage in the magic of movies. I’ve dedicated years to advocating for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, particularly through the bill HB0426: Places of Public Accommodation – Motion Picture Houses – Captioning. 

The support for this bill has been overwhelming, with hundreds of advocates rallying and testifying for its necessity. I extend my deepest gratitude to Jacob Lefler and all involved for their relentless advocacy. This bill represents our shared commitment to inclusivity and the well-being of every community member. This legislation, which I’m proud to champion, aims to enhance accessibility in cinemas by requiring weekly film screenings with closed captioning, ensuring that everyone can experience the joy of movies.

Exploring the Past, Shaping the Future: A Vision for Maryland’s Natural History in District 8

On Thursday, I had the distinct pleasure of engaging with members from the Natural History Society of Maryland, a true gem within District 8. It  was wonderful to meet many constituents from the district, further enriching the experience with their presence and participation. They brought along some incredible fossils, including a megalodon tooth, sparking lively discussions about the importance of preserving these treasures and the rich history they have in our state. It’s truly fascinating to consider the profound impact these ancient creatures had right here in our region. The society shared their passion for igniting curiosity, especially among young students, and I couldn’t agree more with the lasting impression such encounters can make. That’s why I’m thrilled to be cosponsoring HB0958, with my district 8 colleagues,  a bill that would officially designate the Natural History Society of Maryland as our State Natural History Museum in the district. The society’s commitment to fostering curiosity, particularly among young students, resonates deeply with me, understanding the profound impact such discoveries can have.

Air Force Retires Maryland’s A-10 Fleet: A Legacy Concludes

The Air Force’s decision to retire the A-10 fleet, ending the Maryland Air National Guard’s 103-year flying legacy, is met with deep disappointment. Since World War I, when it became the first post-war National Guard unit to fly, the Maryland Air National Guard has served with distinction from Logan Field in Baltimore to Martin State Airport. Transitioning through iconic aircraft like the P-51 Mustangs and A-10 Thunderbolt, the 175th Wing’s men and women have exemplified excellence, achieving notable victories such as the “Gunsmoke” competition and pioneering the C-130J’s operational tests.

Despite extensive advocacy by state, local officials, and our Congressional delegation for a successor mission, the Defense Department’s longstanding plan to retire the A-10 proceeds. It is our sincere hope that Congress, the White House, and future Pentagon leadership will acknowledge Maryland’s significant contributions and capabilities, ensuring the Maryland Air National Guard’s distinguished legacy endures with a new flying mission. Click here to read more.

Standing in Solidarity: A Rally for Labor Rights in Annapolis

This week, as we approach Crossover Day in the Maryland Legislature, I had the honor of speaking at a vibrant rally on Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis. With the deadline looming for bills to move between chambers, labor unions across the state are amplifying their voices to ensure they are heard. The rally, organized by the Maryland/DC AFL-CIO, was a powerful display of solidarity, attracting hundreds of members from a diverse array of unions, including those representing construction workers, educators, and private sector employees. Standing alongside our labor unions, advocating for the rights and well-being of Maryland’s workforce, was a profoundly rewarding experience.

CASA Maryland Advocacy Day

What an inspiring day we had on Thursday with CASA Maryland’s Advocacy Day! The energy they brought to Annapolis was truly contagious as they passionately championed for legislative measures aimed at enhancing healthcare access, ensuring stable housing, and advancing environmental justice for immigrant communities across our state. Witnessing their dedication firsthand reaffirmed my commitment to supporting initiatives that promote inclusivity and equity. As chair of the Maryland Legislative Asian-American & Pacific-Islander (AAPI) Caucus, I proudly stand in solidarity with CASA and the immigrant community. It’s initiatives like the Access to Care Act, which I’ve co-sponsored, that embody our shared values and aspirations for a more just society. Together, we’re making strides towards a brighter future for all.

Visit Annapolis 

The weather is starting to warm up, and spring is around the corner. The streets are getting more packed with pedestrians wanting to take in the vibrance and ambiance of the state’s capital. I encourage all my readers to come down and visit us to take in the beauty of our state’s capital. There is a rich history and culture to be explored, with several museums and restaurants to visit. 

Baltimore Orioles 

As the Orioles gear up for the upcoming baseball season, anticipation is building during their spring training sessions. This week, they clinched a victory against the Blue Jays with a score of 11-6. As a devoted fan, I’m eagerly anticipating the upcoming season, brimming with potential. Spring training games offer insights into the team’s readiness and strategies, fueling optimism for the months ahead. With each win, our hopes soar for a successful season. As the team hones their skills and bonds during preseason matchups, fans like me eagerly await opening day, hopeful for a memorable season ahead.

How to follow Maryland General Assembly’s 2024 session

To follow the Maryland General Assembly’s 2023 session, you can visit the Maryland General Assembly’s website. The website provides the following resources:

  1. The Schedule for the 2024 Session
  2. The Committee Schedule (which will be updated regularly to reflect any changes)
  3. The Legislation Charts allow you to look up and track proposed bills.

It’s important to note that every bill introduced before the deadline will be granted a hearing. In addition, before the hearing takes place, a fiscal and policy note will be published regarding the bill. By utilizing these resources, you can stay up-to-date with the Maryland General Assembly’s 2024 session and track the progress of proposed bills.

Apply Now for the Delegate Scholarship Program

To be eligible for the academic scholarship, you will need to reside in the 8th Legislative District and attend or plan to attend a Maryland college, university, or trade school (unless you have acquired a “unique major” designation from the Maryland Higher Education Commission). The application and detailed instructions can be accessed by clicking on the following link: https://delegatebhandari.com/scholarship/ QUESTIONS: Please call Sadiksha Basnet, Scholarship Coordinator, in my office with any questions PRIOR to filling out the form; harry.bhandari@house.state.md.us or (410) 841-3526.

Your Voice Matters

I extend my gratitude to all those who have contributed their perspectives on the legislation. Your advocacy is not only acknowledged, but also deeply valued. A knowledgeable and involved constituency enhances the effectiveness of our government, whether at the federal, state, or local level. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any inquiries, feedback, worries, or requests for support. Look for my weekly session updates each week through session. As always, if you have any feedback on how I can serve you better, or issues you’d like to know more about, I’d love to hear from you at harry.bhandari@house.state.md.us

Please click here to download the PDF version of this newsletter.

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