Annapolis Insights: Legislative Newsletter – Week 6

Opening Statement

As the sixth week of the 2024 Maryland Legislative Session wraps up, the focus in the House of Delegates has been intense, with committees voting on more than 75 bills and 26 of those not advancing. This activity underscores the proactive role the House plays in shaping Maryland’s legislative agenda. Meanwhile, across the Maryland General Assembly, over 3,500 bills have been introduced, reflecting a broad spectrum of policy areas under consideration. In the senate, the pace is similarly brisk, with over 171 bills voted on by committees and 22 failing to progress. Each committee, both in the House and Senate, is diligently working through a substantial workload, conducting bill hearings for 200 to 300 referred bills and moving the legislative process forward with heightened debate on the chamber floors.2024 Legislative Highlights

This week, two bills that I am sponsoring  had  hearings in their respective committees. Those bills are HB0755, State Board of Social Work Examiners – Board Membership and Certified Social Worker Licenses, and HB0795, Education – Curriculum Content Standards – Peace and Conflict Studies (Peace and Conflict Studies Education Act).

HB0755 seeks to alter the membership of the State Board of Social Work Examiners; and repeal obsolete references to certified social worker licenses. The bill  was heard in the Health and Government Operations Committee on Thursday .

HB0795 seeks to require the State Board of Education to develop curriculum content standards for a high school course on peace and conflict studies; requiring each county board of education to implement a course on peace and conflict studies in each public high school in the county beginning in the 2025-2026 school year; and requiring each public high school to hire a mediator to provide education and support to students and school personnel relating to conflict resolution and peaceful communications in resolving disputes.

Health and Government Operation Committee

This week, the Health and Governments Committee took up several pivotal bills that I am co-sponsoring, aimed at significantly improving Maryland’s legislative framework. Among the highlights are HB0240, designed to protect insurance policyholders from cancellation over minor dues; HB0642, which streamlines licensure for those completing apprenticeships in licensed professions; and HB0034 & HB0153, facilitating the practice of social work across state lines. Additionally, HB0189 focuses on enhancing transparency in wage reporting for personal care aides, while HB0292 through HB0425 tackle a broad range of issues from procurement reforms to the establishment of the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact. Other notable measures include HB0461, which seeks to rename the State Advisory Council on End of Life Care, and HB0728, introducing a streamlined health plan enrollment process through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. As a co-sponsor of many of these bills, I am deeply invested in their progression, underscoring our collective commitment to advancing healthcare, education, and workers’ rights in Maryland, with the hope of moving forward with robust support.

Coverage for Orthoses and Prostheses 

I  had the privilege of meeting with John Edward Heath, an Annapolis marine vet and Paralympic athlete, along with other fellow amputees, to discuss access to prosthetics. Our focus was on advocating for HB0865, a bill aimed at ensuring Maryland Medical Assistance and specific insurers cover orthotic and prosthetic devices, guarantee fair coverage decisions, and establish clear guidelines for healthcare providers. United in our cause, we are dedicated to securing essential care and support for our community.

Alzheimers Associaiton 

This Thursday, my office engaged with the Alzheimer’s Association to discuss pivotal legislation and budget plans for this session, focusing on HB614 for Long Term Care and Dementia Care Navigation Programs, and a $2.4 million FY25 Budget appropriation to support these initiatives. These measures are critical for Marylanders, especially as the population aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is expected to rise by 18% by 2025. With significant progress in treatment and research, these resources are essential to assist Marylanders in accessing and navigating available support.

MedStar Health 

This week, I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Stuart M. Levine, the President of MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, at my district office. MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center is a cornerstone of healthcare in District 8 and the wider Baltimore region. It’s essential our  state continue the  partnership to ensure our residents have access to the best medical care available. We are proud to have such an exceptional medical center in our district and appreciate its commitment to quality healthcare services.

Maryland’s Biking Improvements Initiative

This week, Bike Maryland discussed key legislation aimed at enhancing biking in Maryland. Highlights include the Great Maryland Trails Act (HB 530/SB 645) for a comprehensive trails network, Bicycle Safety Yield legislation (HB 511/SB 826) allowing cyclists to yield at Stop signs, and a proposal for bikes on sidewalks (HB 111/SB 77) to permit riding while allowing local restrictions. Other initiatives include establishing a Vision Zero Advisory Commission (HB 344/SB 345), creating an Electric Bicycle Rebate Program (HB 156) with annual funding, and revising maintenance responsibilities for sidewalks and bicycle pathways (HB 389/SB 514). These bills are crucial for improving biking accessibility and safety across the state.

BALTIMORE COUNTY:

Baltimore County Speed Cameras 

Proposed legislation aims to allow the implementation of speed cameras in specific neighborhoods across Baltimore County, with approval from the Baltimore County Council. This expansion beyond the current limitation to school zones would require both local and state legislative approval. The effectiveness of speed cameras in enhancing road safety has been a topic of discussion, with concerns noted about the delay in issuing citations potentially affecting drivers’ ability to contest the incidents. The proposals suggest a broader approach to road safety, beyond the existing focus.

SB 450 and HB 58, related to this proposal, are scheduled for hearings with the Baltimore County Senate Delegation and the House Environment and Transportation Committee on on March 7th.

Free Chromebook Giveaway for Eligible Baltimore County Residents

Best Chromebooks 2024: Best overall, best battery life, and more | PCWorldBaltimore County Department of Health and Human Services is offering free Chromebooks to residents receiving Survivor Benefits, Veteran’s Pension, or those in qualifying programs. The giveaway events are scheduled for February 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at CCBC Catonsville, and March 1, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at CCBC Essex. Check the flyer for eligibility details and required documents:

 

Maryland Community Colleges Face Proposed $22 Million Budget Cut: A Call for Consideration and Action

In Maryland, a united front of over 200 community college students, faculty, and administrators recently rallied at the State House, advocating against a proposed $22 million budget cut for 2025. These cuts could lead to increased tuition, scholarship losses, and hiring freezes, significantly impacting access and equity in higher education.

During discussions with students from these colleges, the essential role of community colleges in providing accessible, affordable education and fostering social mobility was highlighted. These institutions offer a diverse range of academic programs and practical skills training within a supportive community environment, crucial for empowering students from varied backgrounds to achieve their academic and professional aspirations.

As an educator and dedicated advocate for accessible and equitable higher education in Maryland, I commit to work with my colleagues  doing everything within our power to restore the proposed $22 million funding cut to our community colleges for the 2025 fiscal year.

Library Advocates in Annapolis

We had visitors from the  Rosedale, Parkdale, Loch Raven, and Perry Hall library branches. They were in Annapolis this week to meet with the District 8 delegation in order to discuss why we should support HB0785. This bill would establish:

  • Rules for libraries that get money from the state. It changes the jobs of the State Library Board, State Library Agency, and regional resource centers to follow these rules. If libraries want funding, they need to have a policy that matches the state rules. The State Comptroller can stop funding for libraries in specific situations.

This bill is an important piece of legislation that will protect the librarians and the facilities they work in to be able to freely display books that serve the purpose of educating our citizens without further repercussions. 

 

Prayer

I had the great honor of saying the prayer at the opening of the session on Tuesday. In the prayer, I wanted to express a reverent invocation of the divine, mentioning gratitude for the blessings bestowed upon the beautiful state of Maryland and its diverse landscapes. The prayer seeks divine guidance and blessings for unity, harmony, and continued service to the community, drawing inspiration from the historical significance of the Maryland State House. It extends the blessings to families, communities, the state, the country, and the world, emphasizing a desire to help and support those in need.

Tax Season -Easy Enrollment

Tax season is upon us. You can sign up for health coverage through the Easy Enrollment program this tax season.

Check a box on your tax return if you would like the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to estimate your eligibility for coverage.

For the particular enrollment period, file your taxes before April 15, 2024.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

Valentines Day

From our office, we wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. We hope you have the opportunity to share a special time with your dear loved ones. Valentine’s Day is a time of profound emotional connection, where individuals express their love and appreciation for one another. It serves as a dedicated moment to celebrate the bonds that enrich our lives, whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or familial connections. During this special occasion, people exchange gestures of affection, reinforcing the importance of compassion and unity in our daily lives.

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 Sadikcha 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 use the link below to download the pdf version of the newsletter:

Newsletter Week 6 PDF

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