May 1, 2019

2019 Senate Session Highlights – Senator Katie Fry Hester

The 2019 General Assembly Session ended at midnight on April 9th, capping an eventful legislative session for Senator Katie Fry Hester (District 9 – Carroll and Howard Counties). In her first session in the Senate, Hester would be directly involved with some sixty-five pieces of legislation and serve as the lead sponsor of ten important bills (you can find a link to each of these bills by clicking here). Of the ten bills that she carried as the lead sponsor, five passed both Chambers of the General Assembly and are now poised to become Maryland law.

Senate Bill 269 – Comprehensive Flood Management Grant Program – Awards for Flood Damage and Funding

This bill expands the policy and purposes of provisions of State law regarding flood control and watershed management to include infrastructure repairs, debris removal, and emergency protection work associated with a flood event. The bill authorizes the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), under its existing comprehensive flood management grant program, to award grants to subdivisions that have incurred at least $1 million in infrastructure damage by a flood event that occurred on or after January 1, 2009, as specified. Finally, the bill explicitly authorizes the Governor, for each fiscal year, to include in the annual State budget an appropriation for the comprehensive flood management grant program.

Senate Bill 607 – Homeowner’s Insurance – Discrimination in Underwriting and Rating – Status as Surviving Spouse

This bill prohibits an insurer from increasing the homeowner’s insurance premium for an insured who becomes a surviving spouse based solely on the insured’s change in marital status.

Senate Bill 653 – County Boards of Education – Establishing Innovative Regional Schools – Authority (Cross-County Attendance to Achieve Efficiency Act of 2019)

This bill authorizes local boards of education to establish innovative regional schools, which are schools that (1) offer special courses or curricula for an innovative education program and (2) admit students from one or more local school systems that are party to a binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining each local school board’s responsibilities in governing and financing the schools. The parties to the MOU must identify one local board to govern the innovative regional school. The MOU may establish required payments of each county served by an innovative school. Innovative regional schools are eligible for funding under the public school construction program and the Interagency Commission on School Construction (IAC) must adopt regulations for funding school construction at an innovative regional school. Innovative regional schools may be established without the approval of the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent of Schools.

Senate Bill 654 – Property Tax Credit – Elderly Individuals – Eligibility

This bill alters one of the eligibility criteria of a local option property tax credit for elderly individuals by removing the requirement that the individual must have lived in the same dwelling for at least the preceding 40 years. In lieu of this existing requirement, the bill authorizes local governments to provide for the minimum number of years, not to exceed 40 years, that the individual must have resided in the same dwelling.

Senate Bill 741 – Secretary of Planning – Adaptive Reuse of Historic Properties – Study

This bill requires the Secretary of Planning to contract with a consultant to conduct a study on the adaptive reuse of historic properties located within the State that are or were owned by the State or the federal government. The work of the consultant is guided by a steering committee. A final report is due by October 31, 2019, and must provide recommendations for an historic resource package to be considered by the Secretary of Planning and the General Assembly for the 2020 legislative session.

In recognition of her legislative work, the Maryland Matters publication called her a “Winner” of the 2019 Maryland General Assembly Session. The publication stated: “She fulfilled her No. 1 campaign pledge, to win help for flood-ravaged Ellicott City, and navigated the liberal legislative agenda with great skill for someone who represents a fairly conservative district. Launching a small business work group was a politically smart idea.”

Now after a successful 2019 legislative session, Senator Hester looks ahead to the 2020 session when she’ll bring with her the experience of a productive and effective first year in the Maryland Senate.