February 10, 2015

Senate Leadership Announces Legislative Priorities

Agenda focuses on solutions to help a diverse array of Marylanders

Annapolis, Maryland – This morning, Senators and leadership of both parties joined together for a press conference on a number of legislative priorities for the session. This agenda is focused on helping Marylanders from around the state with proposals on the heroin epidemic, environmental priorities, criminal justice priorities, and other issues.

“The Senate is committed to continue to work together on these important priorities” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. “While politicians in Washington DC are unable to find common ground on even the simplest of issues, we are moving forward together on issues that are important to all Marylanders.”

The Senate policy agenda includes the following bills:

  • Addressing the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic (Senator Klausmeier & Delegate Bromwell (SB607)/Senator Pugh & Delegate Young (SB606) ) – Throughout this state and country the plague of heroin and opioid addiction continues to grow. Legislation in this package will create the start of a long-term strategy in the state by creating an Opioid Use Disorder Consortium. This consortium would rely on expert opinions to create a long-term strategy and timeline to dealing with this crisis. Additionally, legislation will be introduced to remove key barriers to “abuse deterrent” drugs to ensure that patients who are trying to escape their addiction, have a method in which to do so.
  • Investing in our environmental and economic future – (Senators Astle & Klausmeier – SB 600) – Five years ago, the legislature created the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. This program has been providing an extremely positive and effective environmental and green jobs skills training program for young adults, and has been hailed as a resounding success. The bill expands the existing program by increasing funding from $250,000 to $500,000 within a DNR Special Fund and asks the Trust and the Maryland Transportation Authority to examine the feasibility of a voluntary EZ pass transponder donation program to continue the job training among young people.
  • Looking to our Environmental Future (Senator Pinsky & Delegate Stein – SB 258) – In 2007, an Executive Order established the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. Legislation will codify this commission, which will continue to be charged with addressing the causes and results of climate change in Maryland and developing annual action plans with benchmarks and timetables for its implementation. The Commission will also provide the Governor and the General Assembly with advice and expertise on issues relating to climate change
  • Preserving our History (Senator McFadden (SB 601) & Delegate Jones (HB 130) – In 2010, the legislature created the African American Heritage Preservation Program to provide small grants to preserve sites and places of importance to the African American cultural experience in Maryland. Legislation this session will increase the programs efficiency and removes the sunset, making this a permanent program.
  • Creating a smarter approach to criminal justice (Senator Miller (SB 602) & Delegate Dumais (HB 388) – Policymakers across the aisle agree that reducing recidivism and creating tools for reentry are critical to long-term success in criminal justice. Legislation will be introduced to create a Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council for the development of a data-driven justice reinvestment approach to develop a statewide policy framework to reduce spending on corrections and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.
  • Creating a more compassionate justice system (Senator Raskin & Delegate Moon – SB 603) – Of the people in the prison system, some have served decades for crimes, and are literally serving their last days in prison. While some hardened criminals need to remain in prison, others deserve the right to make a case that they are no longer a threat to society and deserve to be released. This legislation provides for a process under which the State Parole Commission would review the status of individuals still in prison at age 65. Further, this legislation authorizes the Commission to make a determination that conditional release is appropriate due to medical or mental disability such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease if the individual no longer poses a threat to public safety and it no longer in the public interest to continue confinement.
  • Protecting the next generation of leaders from harassment (Senator King (SB 604) & Delegate Dumais – (HB 229) – Recent decisions by federal courts and the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission have held that civil rights protections do not extend to unpaid interns, although it was generally believed that interns had legal protection from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This legislation provides processes for interns to seek an end to employment discrimination or harassment without creating new causes of action against employers.
  • Punishing Drunk Drivers, and providing proper restitution for their victims (Senator Raskin – SB 605) – Drunk drivers in Maryland are subjected to reduced penalties then if they did the same crime in Pennsylvania or Virginia. Under this legislation, a drunk driver who causes injury or death could be subject to punitive fines if proven by clear and convincing evidence that the individual was driving drunk: 1) With a blood alcohol of twice the legal limit; 2) While driving on a suspended or revoked license; or 3) With a prior arrest resulting in a conviction, plea, or sentence of probation before judgment within the last 5 years