Annapolis Insights: Legislative Newsletter – Week 13

Dear constituents,

As we approach the final days of this session, I’m filled with gratitude for the journey we’ve shared. It’s been a remarkable session, filled with hard-fought legislative victories and moments of collaboration. This Wednesday marked a significant milestone with the successful negotiation of our budget compromise, bringing clarity and stability to our fiscal planning. With the looming possibility of an extended General Assembly session now behind us, we can look ahead with confidence. I want to express my deepest appreciation to our legislative leaders, our dedicated stakeholders, and, above all, to you, the constituents whom we are all tirelessly working to serve. Your support and engagement make our efforts worthwhile, and I am honored to represent your voices in Annapolis. Let’s continue our journey together, making positive strides for the betterment of our community.

Legislative Progress

HB1143: Emergency Medical Services – Maryland Emergency Department Wait Time Reduction Commission – Establishment

I’m thrilled to share the recent progress on HB1143, a pivotal piece of healthcare legislation aimed at addressing Maryland’s prolonged emergency department wait times. Last Thursday, I had the privilege of testifying before the Senate Finance Committee regarding this bill, which holds significant promise in tackling one of our state’s most pressing challenges. Now, the bill has passed through the Senate and is on the governor’s desk, ready to be signed.

Last year, spurred by the alarming revelation of Maryland’s longest wait times in the nation, a collaborative effort was initiated. Thanks to the leadership of influential figures like Senator Melony G. Griffith and Chair Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk, along with the pivotal support of the Maryland Hospital Association, an informal workgroup was formed. This led to the development of HB1143, which will establish the Maryland Emergency Department Wait Time Reduction Commission.

The proposed bill signifies a stride forward in our collective mission to combat prolonged wait times. By implementing standardized operational protocols, leveraging advanced technology solutions, and fostering collaborative healthcare practices, HB1143 aims to revolutionize emergency care delivery.

 

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders committed to this noble cause, including the Maryland Health Department, the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, and the Maryland Hospital Association. Together, let’s continue our efforts to ensure timely access to exceptional emergency care for all Marylanders. Thank you for your unwavering dedication to improving healthcare outcomes in our state.

HB0755: State Board of Social Work Examiners – Board Membership and Certified Social Worker Licenses

I’m also excited to announce that HB0755, alongside its crossfile SB0106 sponsored by the esteemed Senator Kelly, has successfully passed through both chambers and is now awaiting the governor’s signature. This bill marks a significant step forward, enhancing the State Board of Social Work Examiners by ensuring representation from licensed certified social workers or licensed master social workers approved for independent practice. Additionally, the bill streamlines processes by making clarifications and removing outdated references to certified social worker licenses.

Health and Government Operations 

This week, the Health and Government Operations (HGO) committee diligently voted on several Senate bills aimed at addressing critical issues impacting Marylanders’ health and well-being. Demonstrating a dedication to enacting laws for the betterment of all residents, HGO members thoroughly evaluated each proposal, weighing its implications on public health, healthcare accessibility, and governmental operations. Here are some notable bills that have successfully advanced out of HGO for this week:

SB0718: Maryland Pathway to Nursing Pilot Program and Advisory Committee – Establishment: The creation of the Maryland Pathway to Nursing Pilot Program and Advisory Committee within the Maryland Higher Education Commission signifies a crucial step in tackling nursing shortages and fostering diversity in healthcare. By mandating grants to designated pilot sites, the initiative aims to create accessible pathways for aspiring nurses, especially from underrepresented communities. 

SB0059: Safe Sleep for Infants – Awareness and Certification: This bill champions the safety and well-being of infants by mandating hospitals to take proactive steps in promoting safe sleep practices before discharge. This includes providing parents or legal guardians with comprehensive oral and written educational materials, coupled with a directory of available support resources. By requiring that hospitals establish a process for providing and confirming receipt of these materials by January 1, 2025, the bill underscores the paramount importance of safe sleep practices in curbing infant mortality rates. Senate Bill 59, recognizes the crucial role safe sleep practices play in safeguarding infant health and preventing tragedies. With Maryland’s birthing hospitals collectively delivering over 67,000 babies annually, ensuring a safe transition home is crucial.

SB1099: Emergency Services – Automated External Defibrillator and Naloxone Co-Location Initiative – Requirements for Public Building: This bill proposes an exciting partnership between the State Emergency Medical Services Board and the Maryland Department of Health to make naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, more accessible in public buildings. By colocating it with automated external defibrillators, we’re ensuring swift response to opioid overdoses, potentially saving lives. Additionally, the bill offers protection from liability to those administering naloxone, encouraging community involvement in emergency situations. It’s a compassionate initiative that prioritizes both accessibility and safety for all.

Celebrating our Excellent Intern

I’d like to give a special thanks to our remarkable intern, Anderson Lemus-Del Cid, who has joined us this legislative session. Anderson brings a unique perspective to the office as a first-generation college student of Salvadoran parents studying at the University of Maryland, College Park. A junior majoring in International Relations with a double major in Philosophy, Anderson’s passion for climate policy shines brightly, guiding his aspirations for the future. Throughout the hustle and bustle of Annapolis during this 2024 session, Anderson has proven himself as a determined and dedicated individual. His invaluable contributions to our office and the legislative process in Maryland have not gone unnoticed. Anderson’s brilliance, coupled with his unwavering work ethic, has left a lasting mark. I offer my sincerest wishes for his continued success and fulfillment in all his endeavors and career pursuits. Cheers to Anderson and his bright future!

Navigating Alternative Routes:

With the closure of 1-695 Outer Loop at MD 173 (exit 1) and Inner Loop at MD 157/Peninsula Exp (exit 43), anticipate delays and plan accordingly. For Harbor Crossing users, consider alternative routes such as Fort McHenry (I-95) or Baltimore Harbor (I-895) tunnels, but note restrictions on hazardous materials. Utilize the western section of Baltimore Beltway/I-695 around tunnels for prohibited vehicles. Your safety remains our priority during these disruptions.

Monetary Assistance:

If you’re a Baltimore Port worker affected by the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, you may qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI). UI offers partial wage replacement to help cover your essential expenses during this difficult period if you’ve lost work through no fault of your own. Applying for UI is simple and can be done in two ways:

  • Online: Visit the Maryland Department of Labor website (https://www.labor.maryland.gov/employment/new-filers.shtml) for step-by-step instructions on starting and filing a claim. 
  • Phone: You can speak directly with the Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance by calling (667) 930-5989, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, to apply and receive assistance with any questions you may have regarding filing a UI claim.


Your well-being is our priority, and we’re here to support you through these challenging times.

Mental Health Support:

If you’re facing mental health challenges, you’re not alone. Baltimore County’s Department of Health provides a comprehensive resource directory for outpatient mental health services for both children and adults. This directory also includes information on mobile treatment and case management services. Find the support you need by visiting their website here (https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/departments/health/health-services/mental/outpatient). 

Help the Families of Those Affected:

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MIMA) has set up an online donation program to help the families of the bridge workers. If you can, please donate: 

https://www.baltimorecivicfund.org/key-bridge-response-fund?fbclid=PAAaacR9UYd93Rx5A32n16jgbDHsdi3JlR08kjCVfS3x5f3Slr00qUE-6VNzM_aem_ASSog-Xxlmw4n01YBz640_bVtcmn9xar4Auf81v_ZPm9rgMjbuOzjFYsaiV5sAqrTUo 

Your Voice Matters

Amidst this tragedy, I want to express my sincere appreciation to all who have shared their perspectives and concerns regarding the recent events. Your input is not only acknowledged but deeply valued. In times like these, an engaged community strengthens the fabric of our society and government. Please know that your feedback, worries, and requests for support are important to me. Stay informed through my weekly session updates, and feel free to reach out with any inquiries or issues you’d like to discuss further. I’m here to serve you and our community. You can reach me at harry.bhandari@house.state.md.us.

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