Hot Issues for the 2017 Session
The 2017 session started on January 11 with members facing a budget deficit for fiscal 2018 and predictions of partisan politics. In addition to addressing the budget shortfall, lawmakers plan to tackle a number of issues over the next 90 days – requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave, addressing the opioid epidemic, and tackling inequity in the criminal justice system. Members will also discuss diversity among licensed medical marijuana business owners and a possible ban on fracking. Other legislation, supported by Attorney General Brian Frosh, will prohibit drug companies from “price gouging” and require drug pricing transparency. Transportation is another issue area of contention as the Administration plans to push for a repeal of legislation that passed last session establishing a scoring process for transportation projects. Democratic leaders say the bill provides for transparency in the project selection process and gives the Governor flexibility to fund necessary projects. The Administration’s interpretation is that the bill would direct funding towards transit projects in densely populated areas and prohibit funding of projects in rural areas. An article in the Washington Post further summarizes these issues and the battles ahead.
Interviews with Governor Hogan, President Miller, and Speaker Busch conducted by Bryan Sears of the Daily Record provide further insights into the 90 day Session. A subscription to The Daily Record may be required to view the interviews.
Governor Hogan Announces 2017 Legislative Priorities
Over the past week, Governor Hogan has announced several priorities for the 2017 session. These priorities are briefly summarized below with links to the press releases.
- Environmental Agenda – Invests almost $65 million in targeted investments and market-based solutions to protect and preserve Maryland’s environment and natural resources; grows jobs in green industries; promotes the use of electric vehicles; invests in renewable energy innovations; and promotes clean water commerce.
- Jobs Initiative – Creates a new tax credit to grow jobs in the manufacturing sector and provides funding to expand STEM education, workforce development, and cyber initiatives.
- Student Debt and Tuition Relief, Investments in Higher Education – proposes legislation to make student debt interest payments tax-deductible for all Marylanders earning less than $200,000 per year, caps tuition growth at Maryland colleges and universities at a maximum of two percent, and targets investments in priority projects at Maryland’s higher education institutions.
- Justice for Victims Initiatives – proposes legislation that will help prevent repeat sexual predators, protects victims of human trafficking, provides transitional housing for victims of crime, and toughens penalties for repeat drunk drivers.
Legislative Black Caucus Announces 2017 Priority Agenda
The Legislative Black Caucus announced its 2017 priorities this week. The organization’s five priorities include: 1. seeking resolution to unequal funding of historically black colleges; 2. ensuring African-American ownership in the medical cannabis industry; 3. limiting school suspensions for pre-kindergartners and students under 7 years old and returning control of Baltimore City schools to the City; 4. eliminating cash bail; and 5. supporting the Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative.
New Members and Changes to Committee Assignments in the General Assembly
As the 2017 Session begins, there are a number of new members and changes to committee assignments. These changes are summarized below.
Changes in the Senate
- Delegate Barbara Robinson has been appointed to the District 40 Senate seat formerly held by Mayor Catherine Pugh. Senator Robinson will serve on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.
- Delegate Will Smith has been appointed to the District 20 seat formerly held by Congressman Jamie Raskin. Senator Smith will serve on the Judicial Proceedings Committee.
- Senator Lisa Gladden (District 41) announced her retirement as her multiple sclerosis has worsened. Delegate Nathaniel Oaks is the leading candidate to replace her.
- Senator Jim Rosapepe (District 21), who formerly served on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee,will now serve on the Senate Finance Committee.
- Leadership changes were announced in December and included in the December Newsletter. They are also summarized in this Baltimore Sun article.
Committee Changes in the House of Delegates
- Numerous changes have occurred in the House Health and Government Operations Committee – Delegate Shane Pendergrass (District 13) has been named Chair of the Committee replacing former Delegate Pete Hammen who resigned from the House to join Mayor Pugh’s administration. Delegate Eric Bromwell (District 8) has been named Vice Chair and will continue as Chair of the Health Facilities and Occupations Subcommittee. Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg (District 41) will move to the Health and Government Operations Committee to chair the Government Operations and Long Term Care Subcommittee. Delegate Bonnie Cullison (District 19) has been named chair of the Insurance Subcommittee
- In the House Judiciary Committee, Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary (District 12) will chair the Family Law Subcommittee and Delegate Charles Sydnor (District 44B) will chair the Civil Law Subcommittee.
- Other committee changes are summarized in a press-release from the Speaker’s Legislative Office.
- Additional changes are forthcoming as there are 4 vacant seats in the House of Delegates – Districts 20, 24, 40, and 41.
Member Changes in the House of Delegates
- Delegate Jill Carter (District 41) resigned from the House of Delegates to become director of Baltimore City’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement.
- Robbyn Lewis, a health policy specialist and community leader, has been appointed as a Delegate to District 46 to fill the seat vacated by Pete Hammen.
- Delegate Michael Vaughn (District 24) announced his resignation to deal with unspecified health issues.
New House Members Nominated
- Jheanelle Wilkins was nominated by the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee to fill a vacant delegate seat in District 20 formerly held by Delegate Will Smith. As mentioned above, Delegate Smith has been appointed to the Senate to fill the seat formerly held by Congressman Jamie Raskin.
- Former City Councilman Nick J. Mosby has been nominated by the Democratic Central Committee in District 40 to fill the House of Delegates seat vacated by Delegate Barbara Robinson. As mentioned above, Delegate Robinson was appointed to the Senate to fill the seat formerly held by Mayor Catherine Pugh.
Governor Hogan Announces Cabinet Secretary/Leadership Changes
Governor Hogan has announced the following changes to his cabinet and senior staff appointments. Lourdes R. Padilla will serve as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) replacing current Acting Secretary Gregory S. James, who will return to his prior role as Deputy Secretary for Programs. He also announced the departure of Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) Secretary David A. Garcia, who resigned to attend to family and personal issues. In December, the Governor announced the appointment of Roy McGrath as the director of Maryland Environmental Service. Mr. McGrath formerly served as Deputy Chief of Staff.
Other Important Information and Websites
Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education – Meeting dates, meeting minutes, and other details can be found on the Commission website.
21st Century School Facilities Commission – Meeting dates and agenda topics can be found on the Commission page of the General Assembly’s website.
To access press releases, executive orders, and other information from the Office of Governor Larry Hogan, visit the Governor’s website.
To access information on members of the General Assembly, committees, committee meetings, legislation, and other publications, visit the General Assembly’s Website.