2017 Legislative Session Report
Actions in the Maryland General Assembly
At the close of the 2017 session of the Maryland General Assembly at midnight on Monday, April 10, we can report that all of our priority issues have been acted upon by the Legislature, and those that passed received Executive action. Most of these actions have been positive and reflect well on our elected officials.
- Economic Justice
- The Assembly passed the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 1) which requires an employer with more than 14 employees to have a sick and safe leave policy under which an employee earns at least 1 hour of paid sick and safe leave, at the same rate as the employee normally earns, for every 30 hours an employee works. An employer with 14 or fewer employees, based on the average monthly number of employees during the preceding year, must have a sick and safe leave policy that provides an employee with at least 1 hour of unpaid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill, and we will need to seek an override by the Legislature in 2018.
- Environment/Climate Change
- Early in the session, the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto of HB 1106 passed in 2016, the Clean Energy--Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Revision Bill. As it is now effective, the law increases Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 25% by 2020 and created funding for workforce development and minority and women-owned businesses in the clean energy sector.
- After years of work by grassroots supporters, the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed HB 1325, imposing a complete ban on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas production in the State.
- Criminal Justice Reform
- Pre-Trial Release – While UULM-MD supported HB 1157/SB 879 which would have formed the pretrial release system which was based on money bails, the Legislature took no action on this legislation. However, the Maryland Court of Appeals adopted new rules on February 13 that revised pre-trial procedures and required judges to consider all other forms of release before setting a requirement for money bail. Since this would disadvantage the existing bail bond industry which preys on poor defendants, they prevailed on the Senate to pass SB 983 which would have removed the court-imposed preference for non-money conditions of release. Fortunately, a flood of calls from UUs and others helped convince House Speaker Michael Busch not to allow the bill to go any further in the House, thereby preserving the Court of Appeal’s reforms.
- Police Accountability – UULM-MD supported SB 362/ HB 698 which would have declared that a record related to a formal complaint of job-related misconduct against a “law enforcement officer,” including an investigation record or record of any discipline imposed, is not a personnel record under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA), making such a record subject to disclosure, except under specified conditions. The House Bill was voted down, and the Senate Bill did not receive a vote.
- Death with Dignity
- For the second year in a row, the Richard E. Israel and Roger "Pip" Moyer End-of-Life Option Act failed to get enough votes to be approved by either a House or a Senate committee and was not brought to a vote in either chamber.
In addition to our original approved priorities, the General Assembly also took action that UULM-MD supported aimed at mitigating the possible negative effects of national actions.
- SJ 5 and HB 913/SB 665 Granted the Maryland Attorney General the authority to investigate, commence, and prosecute or defend any civil or criminal suit or action that is based on the federal government’s action or inaction that threatens the public interest and welfare of the State’s residents. Before he files suit or action, he must notify the Governor, but the Governor’s approval is not required. An additional $1 million was added to the budget to fund such actions.
- SJ 2 effectively repealed all prior Joint Resolutions passed by the General Assembly calling for a constitutional convention for specific purposes, including (1) a House Resolution in 1939 calling for limitations on the federal taxing power; (2) Senate Joint Resolution 1, (1965) calling for legislative autonomy concerning the apportionment of State legislative bodies; (3) House Joint Resolution 61 (1973) calling for the allowance of school prayer in public schools; and (4) Senate Joint Resolution 4 (1975) calling for a balanced federal budget.
- SB 571, the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act was passed by both houses and allowed to be enacted by the Governor without his signature. This bill establishes the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission to (1) monitor potential and actual federal changes to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHP), Medicare, and the Maryland All-Payer Model; (2) assess the impact of such changes; and (3) provide recommendations for State and local action to protect access to affordable health coverage. By December 31 each year, the commission must submit a report on its findings and recommendations.
- HB 1362, as passed by the House of Delegates would have expressed the intent of the General Assembly to maintain community trust in Maryland governmental operations and law enforcement by clarifying the parameters of State and local participation in federal immigration enforcement efforts. It would have limited state and local police activity in support of federal immigration efforts and prohibited questions about immigration status during police stops. The bill failed in the Senate and, the Governor promised to veto it if it had passed.
Our efforts this session were supported by an unprecedented level of activism by UUs throughout the State. We experienced a large increase in the number of people who responded to calls for action with testimony, petitions and calls to lawmakers on multiple issues. We thank you all for your willingness to speak truth to power and advocate for our shared values.