Effective October 1, 2016 new laws have taken effect!
As usual, the General Assembly's Health & Government Operations Committee (my committee) had quite a busy 2016 session vetting important legislation for the state. For more information, please find a summary of our work here: HGO 2016 Highlights. This past session I also spend a lot of time working with colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and you may find a good summary wrap up of that committee's work here: Jud 2016 Highlights. Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
"Sine Die" - 2016 End of Session Letter
April 12, 2016
The Maryland General Assembly 2016 Legislative Session has come to an end. This year’s session was especially busy – more bills were proposed than in any other session in recent history. Just like last year, I was extremely proud to represent you and Prince George’s County. My colleagues and I in the House and Senate passed legislation to improve our government and its efficacy in serving you and all Marylanders. The following are some highlights of what we accomplished in the 2016 session (you may download a copy here):
The most important responsibility of the Maryland General Assembly during each year’s legislative session is to pass a state budget for the next fiscal year. We passed the Governor’s $42 billion budget.
THE CAPITAL BUDGET
The capital budget that we passed this year stayed within Governor Hogan’s requested limit of $995 million. Governor Hogan included $280 million for school construction in his budget. The House added an additional $4.7 million for QZAB; $6.1 million for aging schools; and $40 million for construction programs for schools with growing enrollment.
The budget provides the state with an additional $330.8 million for school construction projects. The Governor also added $420 million for higher education, including $75.4 million for historically black colleges. The House added $5 million more for Shady Grove; $4.7 million in additional funding for Morgan State University Student Services; and provided preauthorized funding for the Coppin State University School of Business. The budget provides $60 million for community colleges and $80 million in funding in future years.
The capital budget also includes $442 million for environmental initiatives and $68 million for health and human services projects, including $27.5 million for the Prince George’s hospital. It also includes $120 million for housing programs and $15 for House and Senate legislative initiatives.
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY FUNDING
EDUCATION: Prince George’s County will receive $1.094 billion in education aid, up almost 5 percent over last year’s funding.
TRANSPORTATION: Local Highway User Revenues (HUR) for all local jurisdictions are funded at $177.4 million, according to the current distribution formula. Prince George’s County will receive $4,487,929 for county and $1,506,452 for municipalities. Funding for capital transportation grants for all local jurisdictions has been reduced from $53.6 million to $25 million – $19 million for municipalities, $4 million for counties and $2 million for Baltimore City. Prince George’s will receive $430,215 out of the $4 million county grant funds. Prince George’s municipalities will receive $3,871,992 out of the $19 million municipal grant.
PUBLIC LIBRARIES: Aid increases by $273,283 to $7,238,702 for FY 2017.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE FUNDING: Prince George’s Community College funding increases by $2,427,759 to $28,500,296.
POLICE: Increases by $1,005,471 to $14,822,262.
TARGETED CRIME GRANTS: Funding for drug enforcement drops by $250,000 to $1.2 million; funding for violent crime investigations drops by $3,803 to $2,292489; funding for the State’s Attorney’s Office is reduced by $227,111 to $1,272,889.
~$19.6 million for renovation of Lanham Hall and Queen Anne Academic Center – Prince George’s Community College
~$2.5 million for renovation and expansion of Prince George’s Detention Center’s medical unit
~$24.7 million for school construction projects
~$31.5 million for the Bowie State University Natural Sciences Center
Through my work on the Health and Government Operations Committee, I had the honor of working on two major initiatives that will have long-term effects on the county and state. Both passed on the last day of session.
My bill, HB 437, will strengthen Maryland’s computerized Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and empower physicians and pharmacists to more closely monitor prescriptions for highly-addictive opioid medications whose use can lead to addiction to heroin or death. I helped lead the introduction and passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act, HB1312/ SB1005, legislation that resulted from recommendations by the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, on which I served. This sweeping justice reform will improve public safety in Maryland while reducing the number of people who are incarcerated by focusing on treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.
I am proud to have sponsored, co-sponsored or been closely involved with the following measures:
Justice Reinvestment Act (HB1312/SB1005): This legislation is a comprehensive, criminal justice reform package that will safely reduce Maryland’s prison population by altering criminal penalties and provisions relating to sentencing, corrections, parole and the supervision of offenders. I applaud all of the stakeholders involved for leading the charge to get this bill approved and taking steps to restore the balance in our criminal justice system. I am very proud to see Maryland continuing to move in the right direction of criminal justice reform. Passed.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program–Modifications (HB437/SB537): The Centers for Disease Control report that more than 40 Americans die every day for prescription drug overdoses. It is also a significant problem in Maryland, where our most effective tool to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of such highly-addictive drugs lacked the teeth needed to make it truly effective. This legislation increases the responsibilities of physicians and pharmacists to monitor and report people suspected of abusing and misusing these drugs. Passed.
The Arc of Prince George’s County County (HB207/SB255): This measure authorized the issuance of general obligation bonds to provide a $175,000 grant to The Arc of Prince George’s County for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, expansion, repair, restoration, renovation, reconstruction, or capital equipping of the facility. Passed.
Prince George's County Regional Medical Center Act of 2016 (HB309/SB324): This measure mandates funding for the University of Maryland Medical System Corporation to support the transition of the Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center to operation as a participating institution of the University of Maryland Medical Corporation. Passed.
Next General Scholars of Maryland (HB1404/SB1170): This legislation improves access to college for middle-school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds by expanding the Guaranteed Access Grant. The program guarantees college scholarships to students who meet rigorous academic and social criteria through middle and high school. Passed.
Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB580/SB472): This measure requires employers with more than 14 employees to offer sick leave. Unfortunately this measure failed but we will continue the fight on behalf of working families. Not passed.
The following legislation also drew a lot of inquiries in my office:
Freedom to Vote Act – (HB1007/SB0350): This bill would have allowed for the automatic registration of individuals to vote. Passed.
Public Safety and Policing Workgroup – Recommendations (HB1016/SB1026): This measure made changes to public safety and policing consistent with the recommendations of the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup and would establish a Community Law Enforcement Program Fund within the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) to fund local “community law enforcement programs.” Passed.
“Noah’s Law” - Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 (HB1342/SB0945): This would require convicted drunk drivers’ cars to be equipped with an ignition interlock device. Passed.
End-of-Life Option Act – (HB0404/SB0418): This bill would have allowed an individual to receive assistance in ending his or her life from their attending physician. Failed.
UPDATE: Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center
A major priority for Prince George’s lawmakers was securing funding for the Prince George's County Regional Medical Center, which will be constructed and operated by the University of Maryland Medical System and the Dimensions Healthcare System. The House and Senate voted to approve funding. The $655 million facility – to include a 231-bed hospital, along with outpatient and emergency services at the Largo Town Center – would be a tremendous economic boon for the county.
Thank you for affording me the opportunity to serve you in Annapolis. I appreciate you reaching out to my office with your phone calls, emails and letters to let me know how you feel about state policy and legislation. I will continue to solicit your opinions as we look forward to the 2017 legislative session. Last year, most of the communications I received urged criminal justice reform, solutions to the opioid and heroin problem and improved access to healthcare. So, I dug in and worked hard to push concrete solutions in the Justice Reinvestment Act, a strengthened Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and guaranteed funding for the Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center.
There were some things that you wanted that we didn’t deliver, such as earned sick leave for small companies and automatic voter registration. There are times when even very good legislation fails but, if the sponsor is committed or others feel the bill was worthy, it will be reintroduced. Let us know what you want!
Now that session is over, I look forward to getting out into the community to hear from you directly. Stay in touch.
Delegate Erek L. Barron
Recent news clips and quotes regarding potential criminal justice reform in Maryland:
September 2, 2015 – Baltimore Sun Editorial: The cost of unequal justice: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-sentencing-20150902-story.html
August 30, 2015 – Washington Post: Panel may look at how pretrial practices affect disparities in justice: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/panel-may-look-at-how-pretrial-practices-affect-disparities-in-justice/2015/08/30/d8ee575c-4d87-11e5-bfb9-9736d04fc8e4_story.html
Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s), who is a member of the council, said he is hoping that when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, it will consider a comprehensive reform package based on the work of the council and legislative panels that are looking at best practices for police body cameras and examining police accountability.
August 20, 2015 – Washington Post: The man who shut the troubled men’s jail in Baltimore has a lot more on his agenda: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/this-is-the-person-who-closed-down-the-troubled-baltimore-mens-jail/2015/08/20/2a90702e-4066-11e5-bfe3-ff1d8549bfd2_story.html
Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s), a lawyer and member of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, which is tasked with finding ways to reduce Maryland’s prison population, said that Moyer’s focus on human resources is warranted, given the lack of professionalism and “a culture that promotes corruption.”
August 19, 2015 – The Daily Record: Decline in Baltimore city incarceration rate drives statewide drop: http://thedailyrecord.com/2015/08/19/decline-in-baltimore-city-incarceration-rates-drive-statewide-drop/
“Out of all of the data that we’ve seen the most stunning numbers concern race,” said Del. Erek L. Barron, D-Prince George’s County. “What we saw today is that we, black males, are having significantly longer sentences. A major driver of racial disparities is pre-trial, pre-trial detention. So, if we are serious about addressing those numbers, and I think we are, then I think we have to look at pre-trial detention.”
August 18, 2015 – Baltimore Sun: Fewer from Baltimore go to prison, driving down number of Md. Inmates: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-corrections-data-hearing-20150818-story.html
Del. Erek L. Barron, a Prince George's County Democrat, called those figures the “most stunning” presented at the hearing.