Councilman Marks invites comments on selection of interim Baltimore County Executive

Councilman Marks invites comments on selection of interim Baltimore County Executive

(Updated 5/16/18)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -


The death of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was a stunning and tragic event. The county executive was a strong, smart leader who contributed much to the region over the past 24 years.

It was inappropriate to speculate on the choosing of a successor until the conclusion of religious ceremonies. Now, the County Council should turn its attention to filling the vacancy.

According to the county charter, the replacement must be of the same political party, a Democrat. The successor must meet the requirements spelled out in the charter, such as age and residency.

In my discussions with my colleagues, I have also discussed two other criteria. First, the candidate must have unquestioned integrity. Second, the interim County Executive must have the ability to work with all stakeholders to get things done.

A Baltimore County Executive has never died in office. The last time Baltimore County had to replace a County Executive was in 1974, when the County Administrative Officer was selected to take over from Dale Anderson, who was criminally charged. In 2013, the Anne Arundel County Council filled a vacancy in the office of County Executive after an exhaustive interview process.

Unlike Anne Arundel County, there is only about six months remaining in this term. The council should move efficiently, but I want residents of the Fifth County Council district to know they can always contact me to pass along their thoughts. What qualities and qualifications do you want in the interim county executive?

I look forward to hearing input at dmarks@baltimorecountymd.gov.

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Governor Hogan signs Education Transparency Act into law

Governor Hogan signs Education Transparency Act into law
HB 76 was sponsored by Del. Robin Grammer, a Republican who represents the Sixth legislative district (Dundalk, Essex and parts of Rosedale).

(Updated 5/14/18)

- By Del. Robin Grammer (R-6) -

The current Board of Education has a reputation for working in secrecy by shielding the votes of its members. The policies adopted by the Board of Education have a direct and significant impact on the everyday lives of students, parents, school staff and communities. The board has voted on school boundary changes, funding, schedule adjustments and weather policies without the public knowing how each member voted.

This year I sponsored HB 76, the Education Transparency Act, which requires the board of education to take roll call votes on policy votes and post those votes online for consumption of the public. The goal of this bill was to reform the current Board of Education process and enforce transparency. Although there were attempts to kill the bill in the legislature, we were able to rally public support behind the issue.

I am happy to report that Governor Larry Hogan has signed the bill into law. It is a shame that we have to micro-manage local authoritative bodies to enforce transparency. Thanks to everyone who helped make this bill a reality. I look forward to working with all of you toward better education policy and a more accountable Board of Education!

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A “Sign” of The Times

A “Sign” of The Times

(Updated 5/14/18)

- By Allen Robertson, candidate for County Council (R-6) -


The proliferation of signs tells us that the election season is upon us!

As we approach the primary election, we can’t avoid the deluge of signs that seem to be staring at us from every direction. Signs are important to announce the candidacy of those people seeking our votes. However, these signs have taken on a life beyond the role of notification of who wants our votes.

People have provided me with informal verbal surveys of who is going to win based upon the number of signs that they see during their travels. Others have pointed out who is ahead by being the first to a location. Neither conclusion is valid. At many locations, the owner of the business property allows the display but they do not live in the voting area and they are either providing a public service to provide information to the people, or perhaps they are interested in creating attention for their location. Some locations have become a city of signs which include opposing candidates which should make it clear that the owner's endorsement of the candidate is not implied. Other people have simply said yes to the first request to have a name displayed, whereas others simply support their party or someone who a friend knows and they may be creating access for a future request.

The public should not just vote for a familiar name but look at the candidate’s platform and qualifications. This can be found at the candidate’s website, newspaper articles or through personal interactions with the candidate. Be cautious of those with just a familiar name which would provide incumbents with a distinct advantage. The incumbent has the experience of being in office, however, that experience could be a history of doing things wrong or only really doing what any person in that position would do. With the problems that we have with government, evaluate if the candidate is part of the problem or participating in cronyism which is the source of many other concerns.

To improve government, voters need to evaluate whether or not the new candidates have the ability to do a better job than the incumbent or the other candidates. The election should not be a popularity contest or who can afford the largest and the greatest number of signs. The funding of these expenses brings up other issues beyond the scope of this article.

It is not just important to vote, but to vote intelligently. If we keep voting as we have in the past, we will end up with the same results. If we want the same results, why even go through the process? It is your right, your privilege and your responsibility to voice your opinion and to do that at the polls in the upcoming election.

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Councilman Marks, volunteers celebrate renovated Kingsville Park

Councilman Marks, volunteers celebrate renovated Kingsville Park

(Updated 5/13/18)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -


On Saturday, May 12, I joined the Kingsville Recreation Council in celebrating the completion of Phase 1 of improvements to Kingsville Park.

Funding for the project was secured after meeting with Kingsville leaders such as Bill Paulshock, Joe Salvo and Joe Mills, president of the council.

Under the leadership of Joe Mills and his outstanding volunteers, the Kingsville Recreation Council has become one of the most active programs in northeastern Baltimore County. The park improvements, along with the new fire station and elementary school renovations, add to the terrific quality of life here in Kingsville.

The funding improved drainage at the 22-acre site, renovated the upper fields and increased accessibility for disabled patrons. Phase 2 will involve improvements to the lower fields.

"As a longtime recreation council volunteer, I know these improvements are critical for the growing and active program in Kingsville," commented Bill Paulshock, who alerted Marks to the problem in 2014.

"I would like to thank Councilman Marks for constantly communicating with me and with other leaders of the Kingsville Recreation Council,"  added Scott Cantner, softball commissioner and vice president. "The improvements definitely help with our activities and add to the enjoyment and utility of these fields."

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Rumor control regarding Franklin Square

Rumor control regarding Franklin Square

(Updated 5/10/18)

- By Del. Ric Metzgar (R-6) -

The children of our community are important to our future. The recent protest of Franklin Square Medical Center’s decision questions the hospital’s commitment to pediatrics. I have had the opportunity to speak to representatives at Franklin Square and they assure me that they remain committed to providing emergency care to children and that the Department of Pediatrics will remain open.

Although they no longer have a pediatric inpatient unit, they will continue to provide other pediatric services including the new NICU, the behavioral health program for adolescents and community pediatric primary care practices. I realize that our healthcare system is undergoing great change. We must work together to find solutions so that we have accessible and affordable healthcare.

I, Delegate Ric Metzgar, will continue to work with Medstar Franklin Square to resolve this issue.

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'Free' community college tuition: Not a good idea

'Free' community college tuition: Not a good idea

(Updated 5/9/18)

- By Del. Rick Impallaria (R-7) -

Just this past week, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law legislation granting "free" community college tuition to qualifying residents. The term "qualifying" means students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year and single adults earning less than $90,000 a year. It requires that students enroll in a Maryland community college within two years of finishing high school or obtaining a GED. Students will have to take 12 credit hours and have a high school GPA of at least 2.3 to meet the criteria. While I understand the desire to help our children succeed, there are numerous reasons why I didn’t support this bill and think it is unnecessary and a bad idea.

First, the bill says "residents," not "citizens." Marylanders are already financing a heavy burden for illegal aliens to exploit our tax dollars, make a mockery of our laws and violate our sovereignty. Just last month, six members of the deadly MS-13 illegal alien street gang were arrested and charged in Anne Arundel County with murder, conspiracy and racketeering. Baltimore County is also in effect already a sanctuary place, despite my staunch opposition. This legislation does not distinguish between "residents" and "citizens." Maryland now runs the risk of becoming an even bigger magnet for illegal aliens seeking something for nothing.

Second, the bill is something of an indictment of our public education system. Instead of having 12 grades, it basically makes 14 because community college will be available free of charge to the vast majority of students. This degrades the value of all degrees. It also treats college as something meant for everyone. We shouldn’t be spending more money we don’t have for higher education when we’re not even providing vocational programs in our high schools. The whole notion that college is for everyone is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with working with your hands and getting dirty. Those jobs aren’t going away and they pay well. That’s how I’ve put food on the table for my family for the past 37 years.

Third, this bill basically makes it so that no one will ever be able to pay off their student loans. Just think about it - you study, work hard and you graduate from college. You now have student loan debt that you need to pay back. In an effort to do so you get a job and work hard. You pay it back... but now you’re also paying for almost everyone else’s student loans in the form of your tax dollars. Also, what is to stop people from moving to the state just to abuse the free tuition benefit? It’s likely to create chaos and the biggest loser will once again be the Maryland taxpayer.

Finally, we already have a free higher education system in this country. It’s called the GI Bill. My legislative aide earned his education benefits by serving a stint in the U.S. Army. Giving out free college tuition to everyone under the sun takes away from our military's efforts to entice possible recruits into service. It also gives people something for nothing. That in and of itself makes an associate’s degree even less valuable. I’m not against helping our kids lead successful lives. But college isn’t the answer for everyone, and every taxpayer shouldn’t pay for college. That’s what this bill does and this is why I still don’t support it.

Contact Delegate Rick Impallaria at Rick.Impallaria@house.state.md.us.

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Periodic Update: Major legislation passed in the Health and Government Operations Commitee during the 2018 session

Periodic Update: Major legislation passed in the Health and Government Operations Commitee during the 2018 session

(Updated 5/8/18)

- By Del. Eric Bromwell (D-8) 
-

When the legislature meets in Annapolis every year, we spend the majority of our time in our standing committees. There are six such committees in the House of Delegates. When a bill is introduced, it gets assigned to a committee based on subject matter. The committees are: Appropriations (budget committee), Economic Matters, Environment and Transportation, Health and Government Operations (HGO), Judiciary, and Ways and Means (revenue committee).

I am honored to serve as Vice Chairman of the Health and Government Operations Committee, where I have spent my entire career in the House of Delegates.
A few weeks ago, I sent out a brief wrap-up of some of the major legislation we passed as an entire legislature. I wanted to follow up to show you the work that the HGO Committee completed in 2018.

Individual Health Insurance Market Stabilization

Chapter 17 of 2017 established the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission to (1) monitor potential and actual federal changes to the ACA, Medicaid, the Maryland Children’s Health Program, 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. In its 2017 report, the Commission expressed concern that the repeal of the federal penalty for not having qualifying coverage under the ACA could cause premium rates to increase to unaffordable levels, result in adverse selection as healthier individuals drop coverage and jeopardize the viability of the individual market in 2019 if stabilization measures were not adopted in 2018. Some of the stabilization options would require approval of a Section 1332 waiver by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), such as the adoption of a reinsurance program. Approval of a Section 1332 waiver will need to be obtained from CMS by October 2018 for carriers to have time to upload insurance rates for 2019. Because the process for approval of a Section 1332 waiver requires an opportunity for public comment and public hearings, the Commission recommended that the state take prompt action to analyze and approve measures to stabilize the individual market, including enactment of legislation providing for implementation of the measures that would be included under a Section 1332 waiver.

HB 1795/SB 1267 (Chs. 6 and 7): Maryland Health Benefit Exchange - Establishment of a Reinsurance Program: These are emergency acts requiring the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, in consultation with the Insurance Commissioner and as approved by the Exchange Board, to submit a State Innovation Waiver application for a federal Section 1332 waiver to establish a program for reinsurance and seek specified federal pass-through funding. The acts also require the exchange to establish and implement the program. Implementation of the program is contingent on approval of the waiver application. The program must provide reinsurance to carriers that offer individual health benefit plans in the state and meet the requirements of an approved Section 1332 waiver. The program must be designed to mitigate the impact of high-risk individuals on rates in the individual insurance market. Based on available funds, the exchange must establish reinsurance payment parameters for calendar year 2019 and each subsequent calendar year that include an attachment point, a coinsurance rate and a coinsurance cap. Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, funding for reinsurance through the program may be made by using any pass-through funds received from the federal government under an approved Section 1332 waiver; any funds designated by the federal government to provide reinsurance; and any funds designated by the state to provide reinsurance to carriers that offer individual health benefit plans in the state.

HB 1782/SB 387Chs. 37 and 38): Health Insurance - Individual Market Stabilization (Maryland Health Care Access Act of 2018): These are emergency acts that adopt measures to stabilize the individual insurance market in the state. The acts establish a 2.75 percent premium assessment on health insurers, nonprofit health service plans, health maintenance organizations and managed care organizations. The purpose of the assessment is to recoup the health insurance provider fee that otherwise would have been assessed under the federal Affordable Care Act for calendar year 2019 as a bridge to stability in the individual market. The assessment must be distributed to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange fund for the State reinsurance program.the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange fund for the State reinsurance program.
In addition, the Acts establish that certain health benefit plans offered by an association, a professional employer organization, or other entity – including plans issued under the laws of another state – must comply with State small group market requirements if the plans cover employees of one or more small employers in the State. The Acts also establish that a policy or contract, to meet the definition of short–term limited duration insurance, must have a policy term that is less than 3 months, meet other specified requirements, and have coverage that may not be extended or renewed.
The Acts also add a member to the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission and require the Commission to study and make recommendations for individual and group health insurance market stability, including whether to merge the individual and small group markets, pursue a basic health program, pursue a Medicaid buy–in program, provide subsidies that supplement premium tax credits or cost–sharing reductions, and adopt a State–based individual mandate.

Opioid Use Prevention
 
HB359: Health – Reporting of Overdose Information: authorizes an emergency medical services provider or law enforcement officer who treats and releases, or transports to a medical facility, an individual experiencing a suspected or actual overdose to report the incident using an appropriate information technology platform, including the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area overdose detection mapping application program. The bill also provides that it is the intent of General Assembly that overdose information reported through the information technology platform be used for the purpose of making decisions regarding the allocation of public health and educational resources.

HB653/SB522: Health Care Providers – Opioid and Benzodiazepine Prescriptions – Discussion of Benefits and Risks: provides that when a patient is prescribed an opioid or is co–prescribed an opioid and benzodiazepine, the patient shall be advised of the benefits and risks of the opioid and benzodiazepine.
 
HB 922: Maryland Department of Health – “Pill Mill” Tip Line and Overdose Report: requires the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to identify a method for establishing a tip line for a person to report a licensed prescriber who the person suspects is prescribing medication or overprescribing medication in violation of any provision of the Health Occupations Article. The bill also requires MDH to examine the prescription and treatment history of individuals in the State who suffered fatal overdoses. The examination would result in the publication of findings and be used to identify factors that may have led to the overdose in an effort to devote resources or develop policies related to those contributing factors.  The bill also requires a study of implementing a “Hub and Spoke” model in Maryland which is a structure for opioid treatment that has been successful in Vermont.

HB 1092/SB 703: Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program – Establishment: establishes a Behavioral Health Crisis Response Grant Program in which local behavioral health authorities submit proposals to MDH to provide behavioral health services in their localities based on their specific needs.  The bill requires a mandated appropriation to the Program of $3 million in fiscal 2020, $4 million in fiscal 2021, and $5 million in fiscal 2022. The program must award competitive grants to local behavioral health authorities to establish and expand behavioral health crisis response programs and services that (1) serve local behavioral health needs for children, adults, and older adults; (2) meet national standards; (3) integrate the delivery of mental health and substance use treatment; and (4) connect individuals to appropriate community based care in a timely manner on discharge.
 
HB 1452/SB 1223: Controlled Dangerous Substances Registration – Authorized Providers – Continuing Education: require an authorized provider of controlled dangerous substances (CDS) to attest that the authorized provider has completed two hours of specified continuing education to MDH as a qualification for initial or renewal registration to dispense CDS, as specified. The attestation must be made before the initial registration for newly authorized providers. However, if already registered before October 1, 2018, authorized providers must make the attestation before their first registration renewal that occurs on or after that date. The required continuing education must be related to the prescribing or dispensing of CDS and must be recognized by the authorized provider’s licensing or certification board or accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

HB 1480/SB 982: Controlled Dangerous Substances - Distributors - Reporting Suspicious Orders: require a registrant distributor of CDS to report any suspicious order of CDS to MDH and the Office of the Attorney General. Such orders include an order (1) of unusual size; (2) of unusual frequency; or (3) that deviates substantially from a normal pattern. A registrant distributor may satisfy the bills’ reporting requirement by providing copies of reports made under specified federal regulations. Reports made under the bills must be maintained confidentially, unless disclosed in the course of an administrative, civil, or criminal investigation or proceeding initiated to enforce local, State, or federal law or to protect public health.


Medical Cannabis Licenses
 
HB2 – Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission Reform Act: an emergency bill, requires outreach to encourage participation in the medical cannabis industry by small, minority, and women business owners. The bill requires the commission to promulgate emergency remedial regulations based on the results of a disparity study, and provides that the commission may not review, rank, or evaluate an application for a license until the regulations are adopted. The bill also establishes a new license cap for growers, raising the current statutory cap from 15 to 22 grower licenses. The bill requires the commission to issue Stage One preapproval for two medical cannabis growers from the license applications that were initially ranked by the Regional Economic Studies Institute in accordance with the numerical selection sequence for additional licenses adopted by the Commission in August 2016. The bill also establishes a license cap of 28 processors.   Beginning December 1, 2024, the commission may report to the General Assembly on the number of grower, processor, and dispensary licenses necessary to meet demand for medical cannabis by qualifying patients and caregivers, but the commission must provide the Legislative Policy Committee with at least 30 days to submit comments to the commission before submitting the report. The bill also establishes a new “compassionate use” fund to provide free or discounted medical cannabis to individuals enrolled in Medicaid or in the Veterans Administration Health Care System. The bill also alters and reconstitutes the membership of the commission, effective October 1, 2019.


Health Insurance for Male Sterilization
 
Effective January 1, 2018, Chapters 436 and 437 of 2016 required health insurance carriers to provide coverage for male sterilization with no copayment, coinsurance, or deductible requirement. In 2017, carriers, employers, and financial advisors expressed concerns that Chapters 436 and 437 might violate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules for Health Savings Account – compatible high deductible health plans (HDHPs) which provide that only preventive care benefits can be provided without a deductible. On March 5, 2018, the IRS issued a notice which stated that a health plan that provides benefits for male sterilization before satisfying the minimum deductible for an HDHP does not constitute an HDHP, regardless of whether such coverage is required by state law. However, the notice provides transitional relief until calendar year 2020.

House Bill 135/Senate Bill 137: Health Insurance – Coverage for Male Sterilization – High–Deductible Health Plans: are emergency Acts that authorize a HDHP to apply a deductible to coverage for male sterilization. The Acts apply to all policies, contracts, and health benefit plans issued, delivered, amended, or renewed in the State on or after the effective date of the Acts. The Acts remain in effect until the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury or other U.S. Treasury official determines that an HDHP that meets the male sterilization coverage requirements meets the qualifications for health savings accountqualified HDHPs under the safe harbor provisions for “preventive care” under the Internal Revenue Code.until the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury or other U.S. Treasury official determines that an HDHP that meets the male sterilization coverage requirements meets the qualifications for health savings account?qualified HDHPs under the safe harbor provisions for “preventive care” under the Internal Revenue Code.


Pharmacy Benefits Managers

House Bill 736/Senate Bill 576 Pharmacies and Pharmacists – Information on and Sales of Prescription Drugs: establish that a Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) may not prohibit a pharmacy or pharmacist from (1) providing a beneficiary with information regarding the retail price for a prescription drug or the amount of the beneficiary’s cost share for the drug; (2) discussing the retail price or cost share with the beneficiary; or (3) if the requirements for a therapeutic interchange are met, selling the more affordable alternative to the beneficiary. The bills may not be construed to alter statutory requirements for a therapeutic interchange.s may not be construed to alter statutory requirements for a therapeutic interchange.

House Bill 1349/Senate Bill 1079– Revisions: the Maryland Insurance Administration to require a PBM to provide additional information or submissions during the registration and renewal process. The bills also impose specified requirements and prohibitions related to reimbursement for pharmacy services and maximum allowable cost lists. In addition, the bills provide the Insurance Commissioner with additional oversight of pharmacy benefit managers, including the authority to adopt regulations to establish a complaint process to address grievances and appeals. ommissioner with additional oversight of pharmacy benefit managers, including the authority to adopt regulations to establish a complaint process to address grievances and appeals. 


Medicaid
 
SB284: Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Dental Coverage for Adults – Pilot Program: requires MDH, by September 1, 2018, to apply to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for an amendment to the State’s § 1115 HealthChoice Demonstration Waiver to implement a pilot program to provide limited dental coverage for adult Medicaid recipients. If approved, the Department is required to administer the pilot program and may limit the pilot program. By December 1, 2018, MDH must report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the status of the waiver application.
 
HB994/SB774: Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Family Planning Services: require MDH to apply for a State Plan Amendment to expand the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver Program. By October 1, 2020, MDH, in collaboration with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, must establish a presumptive eligibility process for the program and integrate the eligibility and enrollment process into Maryland Health Connection. Medicaid and the Maryland Children’s Health Program must provide coverage for a single dispensing to an enrollee of a 12-month supply of prescription contraceptives.
 
HB1682/SB835: Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Collaborative Care Pilot Program: establishes a Collaborative Care Pilot Program for a collaborative care model in primary care settings in which health care services are provided to HealthChoice Medicaid recipients. MDH must apply for an amendment to the State’s § 1115 HealthChoice Demonstration Waiver if necessary to implement the pilot program.
 
 
Rural Health
 
SB1056: Rural Health Collaborative Pilot: establishes a Rural Health Collaborative Pilot as an independent unit within MDH. By December 1, 2020, the collaborative is required to report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the standards and criteria that a community must meet to establish a “rural health complex.” By December 1, 2021, and annually thereafter, the collaborative is required to report to the Governor and General Assembly on its activities regarding health care delivery in the mid-shore region.
 
 
Health Occupations

HB 490/SB 163: Public Health - Community Health Workers - Advisory Committee and Certification: establish the State Community Health Worker (CHW) Advisory Committee within MDH and requires MDH to adopt specified regulations related to the training and certification of community health workers in the State. The advisory committee must meet at least twice annually to make recommendations, in consultation with stakeholders, regarding.

MDH, working in collaboration with the advisory committee, must adopt initial regulations for the certification of CHWs. MDH may certify an individual to practice as a CHW in the State. However, certification is not required to work as a CHW. MDH must establish a deadline after which an individual must be certified to make representations to the public that the individual is a certified CHW. After the deadline, unless certified as a CHW, an individual may not represent to the public that the individual is certified as a CHW. An individual who violates this prohibition is subject to a penalty determined and collected by MDH.

The bills also establish the State Community Health Workers Fund. Uncodified language specifies that it is the intent of the General Assembly that general funds be used to support MDH and the advisory committee in fiscal 2019. When special funds become available, the general fund must be reimbursed for start-up costs.

HB 596/SB 234: Physicians - Licensure - Grounds for Discipline and Interstate Medical Licensure Compact: enter Maryland into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact for physicians and establish (1) specified procedures and requirements for physicians to obtain and maintain an expedited license to practice medicine in a member state and (2) the composition, powers, and responsibilities of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission. (HB 596 did not pass – ended session in Senate Rules.)
 
HB 902/SB 1028: Health Occupations – Conversion Therapy for Minors – Prohibition (Youth Mental Health Protection Act): prohibit specified mental health or child care practitioners from engaging in “conversion therapy” with a minor. A violation of this prohibition is considered unprofessional conduct and must be subject to discipline by the appropriate licensing or certifying board. Additionally, the bills prohibit the use of State funds to (1) conduct or refer an individual to receive conversion therapy; (2) provide health coverage for conversion therapy; or (3) provide a grant to, or contract with, any entity that conducts or refers an individual to receive conversion therapy. MDH must adopt implementing regulations.


Procurement

HB 1088/SB 286: State Procurement – Information Technology – Nonvisual Access:  require (1) the Secretary of Information Technology or the Secretary’s designee to adopt new nonvisual access procurement standards consistent with federal standards; (2) requires the nonvisual access clause to include specified information; and (3) alters the percentage by which the cost of modifying an information technology procurement must increase for the procurement to be exempt from the nonvisual access clause provisions. The nonvisual access clause must include a statement that:

  • within 18 months after the procurement the Secretary will make a determination as to whether the information technology (IT) meets the nonvisual access standards;
  • if the IT does not meet the standards, the vendor will have 12 months to modify the IT to meet the standards; and
  • if the vendor does not modify the IT to meet the standards, the vendor may be subject to civil penalties and be required to indemnify the State for liability resulting from the use of IT that does not meet the standards.


Government Operations

HB 677/SB 477 (Chs. 39 and 40): Public Information Act - Required Denials - Physical Addresses, E-Mail Addresses, and Telephone Numbers: are emergency measures that require a custodian to deny, under the Maryland Public Information Act, any request for inspection of a distribution list and a request to be added to a distribution list, if that list identifies a physical or email address or a telephone number of an individual that is used by a governmental entity or an elected official for the sole purpose of (1) periodically sending news about the official activities of the governmental entity or elected official or (2) sending informational notices or emergency alerts.

As always, please let me know if you have any concerns with this or any other legislation, or if I can ever be of assistance to you in any way.

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Pat McDonough: I was right about Verletta White!

Pat McDonough: I was right about Verletta White!

(Updated 5/7/18)

- By Del. Pat McDonough (R-7), candidate for Baltimore County Executive -


All of the other candidates for Baltimore County Executive, including Al Redmer, said they would try and work with Verletta White as the permanent Baltimore County Public Schools superintendent. I was the only candidate who refused to work with White because of her ethics problems, close association to former Superintendent Dallas Dance and support of common core and the STAT program.

It appears my courage to stand up to the business as usual attitude of other politicians has prevailed once again! The State Superintendent of Education has refused to validate Verletta White as Baltimore County Superintendent. I, as Baltimore County Executive, may not need to work with a clone of Dallas Dance.

I proclaimed loudly that the newly elected school board should choose the next school superintendent in December, after a professional search. It looks like I was right again! Standing alone, working for the people, as I did when I convicted Dallas Dance of an ethics charge three years ago that led to his eventual prosecution and incarceration.

Pat McDonough for Baltimore County Executive, Put People First, Change Now Or Never! For more information call us at 410-238-0025.

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Message from the councilwoman: School safety update

Message from the councilwoman: School safety update

(Updated 5/4/18)

- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -


In light of recent events that have occurred across the country and here in Baltimore County involving school safety, I want to take this opportunity to update you on the county’s efforts to address this issue and prevent future incidents.

There is no denying that the issue of school safety has become an issue here in Baltimore County and around the nation. Recent episodes of violence have led to a national conversation, student walk outs and marches on the nation’s capital. When I visit schools and meet with principals, students, parents and teachers, they all express a concern for safety. While this debate may be new to some, here in Baltimore County the County Council has taken action to improve school safety.

In 2012 following the shooting at Perry Hall High School, the County Council approved $13.6 million for school safety and technology. These funds went toward reinforcing all school doors and windows and installing security cameras and card reader door locks in all Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). These measures have allowed schools to control and monitor visitors as well as allow the Baltimore County Police Department to monitor school security camera footage in real time.

The county began budgeting for School Resource Officers (SRO) in 1998. This was accomplished under former County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger who was persuaded to take action by then-community leader, now-Councilwoman Vicki Almond. SROs are essential to school safety. Every high school and middle school in the county has at least one SRO. They not only protect students, teachers and staff but they are also involved with the student population. SROs participate in extracurricular activities, conduct classes on gang resistance and preventing drug use, and work closely with school counselors in assisting students with their problems.

The proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget currently under council consideration provides 109 positions for additional school counselors, social workers, psychologists and 19 additional SROs. This will increase the total number of SROs from 65 to 84. Of the new Resource Officers, 12 will be added to each police precinct and assigned to work with elementary schools in the area on school safety issues. The remaining seven officers will be added to schools based on a review conducted by the Police Chief and BCPS Superintendent.

Of course these officers are not the only personnel that assist students and keep them safe. Social workers, counselors and school psychologists play a vital role in school safety by addressing issues and problems before they grow into something bigger and more dangerous. These additional 63 social workers, counselors and psychologists provided in the county budget will go a long way in helping students deal with their problems and preventing future incidents.

The state has recently taken action to address school safety as well. The General Assembly passed a law sponsored by Senator Kathy Klausmeier that makes great strides in addressing school safety statewide. Senate Bill 1265 which is now law, requires that beginning in the 2018 school year every public school has an SRO assigned or if no SROs are assigned that there is adequate law enforcement coverage provided to the school. This bill will provide a $12.5 million grant to local school systems to fund the necessary SRO positions to ensure all schools are covered with adequate law enforcement protection.

No parent, student, teacher or principal should ever have to worry about school safety. Schools should be environments for learning and making friends. It is the responsibility of the government to keep its citizens safe. In Baltimore County we have made great strides toward that effort over the past 20 years and will continue to work to ensure every school in a safe learning environment for all students.

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The Average Joes

The Average Joes

(Updated 4/30/18)

- By Joe Norman, candidate for delegate (R-8) -

This past weekend Delegate Eric Bromwell, a lifelong politician, dismissed myself and some of the other candidates running against him as "just a bunch of Average Joes." This kind of elitist attitude is reprehensible and unacceptable. It is even more outrageous when it comes from an elected official.

I am running for a seat in the House of Delegates because I am sick and tired of politics as usual in the State of Maryland. I am running because we need more Average Joes in Annapolis who will champion common-sense legislation instead of making politically motivated backroom deals. I am running because we need public servants who will look out for the "average" families of Baltimore County, not ones who belittle us.

Delegate Bromwell thinks that Average Joes have no business in Annapolis; I think that he is dead wrong. I am proud to be an Average Joe, and I hope to earn the right to serve the thousands of other hardworking, “average” families of Parkville, Perry Hall, White Marsh, Rosedale, Overlea, Carney, Fullerton and Nottingham as a delegate in Annapolis.

Joe Norman is a husband, father, small business owner and community volunteer. He is also a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates, District 8.

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Annapolis: “Taxpayers’ Hell”

Annapolis: “Taxpayers’ Hell”

(Updated 4/30/18)

- By Del. Pat McDonough (R-7), candidate for Baltimore County Executive -


The big spin coming out of the 2018 Maryland General Assembly is that the session was bi-partisan and cooperative. That description is supposed to mean it was a good session. The media and, in particular, the Baltimore Sun, bought that narrative 100 percent.

Sometimes bi-partisanship and cooperation can create problems and victims. Bi-partisanship, for the sake of this article, means collaboration between Larry Hogan, Mike Miller and Mike Busch.

Let me present some examples. The federal tax cut has been a big success except in some high-tax states like Maryland. The federal cut caused higher taxes for a number of Maryland citizens. At the same time the state received a windfall of about $400 million new dollars that it could return to the people or spend. At the beginning of the session in January, Hogan, Miller and Busch promised they would compensate the taxpayers' loses with changes in the Maryland system. By the end of the session, they had cooperated and produced changes, but only for about $100 million of losses. That means we all suffered a $300 million dollar tax hike. Not such a good compromise.

The most onerous tax hike was a $386 million dollar rip-off on health insurance. The President and Congress know the only way we can rid ourselves of Obamacare is to have it implode upon itself. To help the implosions along, politicians in Washington, D.C., abolished the 2.5-percent surcharge tax on health insurance. That benefit provided Maryland taxpayers with a $386 million dollar windfall. The bi-partisan group of Hogan, Miller, Busch decided that Marylanders did not deserve the windfall. They created a new 2.5-percent state tax to replace the federal obligation. We will all pay that $386 million.

Why did they impose this burden on us? Here it gets really nasty. The first reason was to keep Obamacare alive in Maryland. The second reason was to subsidize two major insurance companies so they would not fail. The failure of Obamacare in an election year would be a disaster for the unholy alliance of Hogan, Miller and Busch.

Yes, this is an election-year tax, a one-year band-aid to save political jobs at the expense of taxpayers. All but two of the Republican members of the House of Delegates voted against this bad deal for the people. Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer was a key architect behind the scenes of this scheme.

The President and Congress abolished the federal independent mandate imposed upon people who refused to purchase Obamacare. Politicians in Annapolis came close to creating an independent mandate at the state level to inflict upon the people of Maryland. At the last minute, even this onerous action appeared to be too risky in an election year.

The bottom line is the fact that Maryland taxpayers will be paying out about $750 million in new money to the state government. All of the bluster by Hogan, Miller and Busch, other Annapolis politicians and the media that the General Assembly was a bi-partisan, cooperative success story leaves a great deal to be desired.

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Reaction to demolition of abandoned properties in Baltimore City

Reaction to demolition of abandoned properties in Baltimore City

(Updated 4/30/18)

- By Del. Rick Impallaria (R-7) -

Unfortunately, Baltimore is a failing city. The murder rate is astronomical, crime is out of control and the city is blighted beyond recognition. I read an article in Sunday’s edition of the Baltimore Sun entitled “Demolition Effort is Never-Ending Battle”. It describes the challenges Baltimore City is facing concerning the demolition of vacant and dilapidated buildings. In 2010 officials counted 16,800 vacant buildings in Baltimore. After eight years and tens of millions of dollars, there are still 16,500 vacant buildings in the city.

Excuses can be made for anything. Eventually, however, personal responsibility needs to be taken. The facts are simple: people are fleeing Baltimore City for safety, good schools and opportunity. Additionally, the number of Section Eight vouchers in Baltimore City has decreased while the number of vouchers in Baltimore County has increased. Individuals living off Section Eight can’t be blamed for moving out of the city and into the county. You couldn’t pay me to live in Baltimore City. But their migration is affecting the fabric of the county. Many are bringing drugs, crime and violence to our otherwise safe communities.

While the narrative continues to focus on Baltimore City, it is long overdue that we consider Baltimore County. We should place taxpayers ahead of tax-takers. Baltimore is already a lost cause. It is insane to continually do the same thing over and over, time and time again expecting a different outcome. Baltimore has been under Democratic control for as long as I can remember and look at where it has gotten them. The worst part is, the city continues to look to state aid as a way of bettering itself. That’s a nice way of saying the rest of the state needs to subsidize Baltimore City’s shortcomings and failures. To that I say, enough is enough.

Baltimore County needs to focus on protecting itself from Baltimore City. The drugs and violence which Baltimore City has failed to control have made their way into Baltimore County. Instead of standing idly by, we need to speak out and actively work to fight the city’s numerous negative influences. Baltimore City’s failures belong to them and them alone. We need to prevent Baltimore County from following in their footsteps. People moved out of the city and into the county for noble reasons. They wanted safe neighborhoods, good schools and a sense of community. They chose to build their lives and live in an area that espouses their family values. Now, those values and that sense of community are under assault, placing us at a crossroads.

With that said, I am committed to protecting the people of Baltimore and Harford counties from the ravages of Baltimore City. There comes a point in time when the gates of charity have to close. The hardworking men and women of our counties should not continue to see their tax dollars exploited by reckless city management. Baltimore City’s failures and shortcomings belong to Baltimore City. They got what they voted for. We need to stop subsidizing bad behavior. We need to focus on bettering and saving ourselves, not on fixing the unfixable. Additionally, we need to follow other states' leads by drug testing individuals receiving Section Eight vouchers and welfare dollars.

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Councilman David Marks endorsed by Teachers Association of Baltimore County

Councilman David Marks endorsed by Teachers Association of Baltimore County

(Updated 4/16/18)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -


The Teachers Association of Baltimore County, which represents more than 8,000 educators, has announced their endorsement of me for County Council. It is the second consecutive election in which I have been endorsed this by this organization.

I am proud to accept the endorsement of this organization, and I thank them for their support. As a graduate of Baltimore County Public Schools and a parent of kids in our public schools, I value the hard work of our educators and will always work to strengthen our schools.

Since elected to the County Council, I have worked with parents and other education stakeholders to have every public school air conditioned in the Fifth District. Three Towson schools have been renovated, and three new schools are under construction or budgeted for the northeast.

During the next term, my goal is to address the high school overcrowding issue and work with the new Board of Education to deal with issues such as school safety and discipline. It is paramount that we continue to improve academic excellence and ensure our parents have trust in their school system.

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Periodic Update: The 2018 General Assembly session

Periodic Update: The 2018 General Assembly session

(Updated 4/16/18)

- By Del. Eric Bromwell (D-8) 
-

The 438th session of the Maryland General Assembly could rightly be labeled the most bipartisan session in memory.

The Senate President and the Speaker of the House promised passage of a bill to allow rape victims who become pregnant to legally strip their attacker of his parental rights. It is downright cruel to make rape victims negotiate with their attackers on matters of adoption, custody and visiting rights. Nationwide, an estimated 17,000 to 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year.

The legislature approved legislation to prevent Marylanders from paying higher taxes as a result of the federal tax bill. One bill raises the state's standard deduction from $2,000 to $2,250 for single filers and from $4,000 to $4,500 for joint filers. Another bill expands Maryland's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to all low-income people who qualify and erases the under-age-25 barrier. Qualifying adults of any age can claim the tax benefit.

The Budget: The budget was balanced and contained no new tax or fee increases. The $44.5 billion spending plan included $6.5 billion for public schools K - 12, a 2.9-percent increase - $41 million to pay for school safety initiatives - a 4.1-percent increase for public colleges and universities, which makes it possible for them to keep tuition increases to 2 percent - $178.1 million in Highway User Revenue for local roads and transportation facilities - and $1.2 billion toward Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

The "Lockbox" bill will be on referendum this November. It asks Marylanders to decide whether all the state's casino revenue should be used to help fund K-12 public school education. When constitutional amendments were okayed by Maryland voters in 2008 to allow slot machines and in 2012 to allow table games, voters were promised that the revenue would be spent on education. In 2009, the Education Trust Fund was created, but other than that, the promise was not kept. According to the Maryland State Education Association, since 2009, $1.9 billion in casino revenue has been taken out of the Trust Fund and spent on other things, such as balancing the budget. The Lockbox bill backs up the promise in the law. It's about time. The promise made 10 years ago will now be kept. I strongly support a lock box for education.

School safety was a big issue this session. The governor committed $10 million annually for grants to local school systems and local law enforcement agencies to accelerate and enhance school safety improvements, such as secure doors and windows, metal detectors, security cameras, panic buttons and other capital improvements. The legislature identified another $30 million. Starting in 2020 and every year thereafter, not less than $2 million will be given to the Maryland Center for School Safety. Each school will develop plans for identifying and reporting students whose behavior poses a threat to individuals attending or working in the school. The new law requires service resource officers or adequate local law enforcement coverage for every public school.

I was pleased with the passage of a bill to reduce the state tax on military retirement benefits by exempting from taxes the first $15,000 of these benefits. I was also pleased that correctional personnel were added to such protection under the Hometown Heroes Act. The first $15,000 of their retirement benefits will also be exempt from state taxes. Police, fire, rescue and emergency services personnel are already covered under the Hometown Heroes Act.

Legislation was approved, which I strongly supported, to allow judges to admit as evidence other similar sex offenses committed by a suspect accused of rape. Today, 37 states and the federal government allow admission of evidence of a pattern of behavior in sexual assault cases.

The Assembly approved a one-year remedy to stop health care insurance premiums from a huge increase. By putting a $380 million surcharge on insurance companies, the state will establish a reinsurance fund, which will be used to lower premiums. Currently, the insurance companies pay $380 million in federal taxes, but next year, they were exempted from making that payment. This bill remedies that exemption. A second part of the agreement requires Maryland's health care exchange to apply for a federal waiver that will provide long-term funding for the reinsurance program.

Also approved was legislation that allows Marylanders to automatically register to vote whenever they interact with the MVA, Social Services or the Board of Elections, unless they object. Another approved bill is headed for referendum in November. It asks voters to amend the state constitution to allow people to register to vote at polling places on election day.

It was a pleasure to again work with Governor Hogan to pass bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic. Together, we took several steps to combat the opioid epidemic that plagues our nation and our state. In the state, between 2015 and 2016, heroin-related deaths increased 62 percent, from 748 to 1,212; fentanyl-related deaths increased 229 percent from 340 to 1,119. The budget contains nearly $500 million for programs and initiatives to fight the epidemic.

The legislature also approved a bill patterned after a 2015 Massachusetts law which permits analysis of opioid deaths in order to answer complex questions about the best way to handle the epidemic. The legislation requires the Secretary of Health to examine all the pertinent factors in individual overdose deaths in the preceding four calendar years and report findings to the governor and the General Assembly. The legislation also requires the Maryland Department of Health to establish a tip line for a person to report a licensed prescriber who the person suspects is prescribing medication or overprescribing medication in violation of the law.

Also approved was a bill to require EMS providers or law enforcement officers who treat or transport to a medical facility a person experiencing a suspected or actual overdose to report, within 24 hours, the incident to the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS). In turn, MIEMSS must report the incident to an appropriate information technology platform. Reported incidents cannot be used for criminal investigations or prosecutions. The more information we have about opioid deaths or near-deaths, the better equipped we will be to understand and take appropriate action to combat the epidemic.

A bill to make prison sentences tougher for repeat violent offenders, such as eliminating parole eligibility for second-time violent offenders and increasing penalties for witness intimidation from five to 10 years, was passed. The measure also adds fentanyl and its analogs to the current volume dealer law, making it possible to apprehend and prosecute those who deal fentanyl. In addition, the use of a firearm in drug trafficking draws a mandatory five-year sentence.

Of 3,101 bills introduced in both Houses of the General Assembly, 889 bills, along with 17 Joint Resolutions, were approved.

Please do not hesitate to contact me on these or any other issue of concern to you. As always, I encourage and welcome your input.

Contact Del. Bromwell at 410-841-3766 or delegate.eric.bromwell@gmail.com

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In summary: The 2018 General Assembly session

In summary: The 2018 General Assembly session

(Updated 4/12/18)

- By Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) -

Another long and hard-fought session in Annapolis has ended. There were several winners during this session, and I wanted to share a few with you.

Budget:
Among the winners was Governor Larry Hogan's budget. This was the governor’s fourth budget with no tax increases. The $44.5 billion spending plan included $6.5 billion for public schools K-12 which was a 2.9-percent increase. Another important factor was the $41 million that was included to pay for school safety initiatives. Given the recent school shootings, I believe this is money well spent. Safety for our children is a top priority. In the budget there was also money dedicated to help our infrastructure and environment. There was $178.1 million included in Highway User Revenue to help improve local roads and transportation facilities, as well as $1.2 billion invested toward Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

Criminal Law:
In the area of criminal law there were several wins. There was unanimous support for the bill to allow raped women who become pregnant to legally take away the rapist's parental rights. I was glad to see this pass early in the session. It is beyond cruelty to force a woman to have to deal with the rapist and his custody and visitation rights in this situation. Maryland was one of only six states that allowed the rapist parental rights. I am glad that is now in the past.

Another great law for which I joined with Gov. Hogan to support strongly was a bill that allows judges to admit as evidence other similar sex offenses committed by a suspect accused of rape. Today, 37 states and the federal government allow admission of evidence of a pattern of behavior in sexual assault cases. Past behavior is part of the truth, and it should be allowed to be offered as evidence in court.

We also worked hard to make sure that those who are repeat offenders are given appropriate sentences when they are convicted. We made prison sentences tougher for repeat violent offenders, such as eliminating parole eligibility for second-time violent offenders. We increased penalties for witness intimidation from five to 10 years and added fentanyl and its analogs to the current volume dealer law making it possible to apprehend and prosecute those who deal fentanyl. In addition, use of a firearm in drug trafficking draws a mandatory five-year sentence. We want the message to be loud and clear that crime does not pay.

Taxes:
To prevent Marylanders from paying higher taxes as a result of Maryland’s high tax status, the governor spearheaded a bipartisan fix. One bill raised the state's standard deduction from $2,000 to $2,250 for single filers and from $4,000 to $4,500 for joint filers. Another bill expanded Maryland's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to all low-income people who qualify and erases the under-25 age barrier. Qualifying adults of any age can claim the tax benefit.

Education:
I am happy to report that legislation I sponsored passed to expand the opportunities for students to receive a Senate and House scholarship. My bill allowed those who were enrolled in a certificate or license program course or sequence of courses at a community college that leads to a certification or licensure to be able to apply for and receive the Senate and House scholarships. A four-year college degree is not for everyone and I realize that. This bill helps those who are taking a different path to success.

Another winner was the passage of the "lockbox" bill which directs all the state's gambling revenue to be used for K-12 public education. When the constitutional amendments were approved by Marylanders in 2008 to allow slot machines and in 2012 to allow table games in gambling, lawmakers promised that the revenue would be spent on education. Well, that promise was not kept. This lockbox bill backs up the promise in the law to keep education money for education. At long last, Maryland public schools will get the revenue they were promised 10 years ago.

Veterans:
I was very pleased about the passage of the bill to reduce the state tax on military retirement benefits to exempt the first $15,000 from taxes. Veterans have earned and deserve our generosity. On another positive note, Department of Corrections employees were added to the Hometown Heroes Act. The first $15,000 of their retirement benefits will also be exempt from state taxes. Police, fire, rescue and emergency services personnel are already covered under the act.

School Safety:
The governor emphasized the importance of school safety. He committed $10 million annually for grants to local school systems and local law enforcement agencies to accelerate and enhance safety improvements in schools, including secure doors and windows, metal detectors, security cameras, panic buttons and other capital improvements. Beginning in fiscal 2020 and each year thereafter, not less than $2 million will be given to the Maryland Center for School Safety. Each school will develop plans for identifying and reporting students whose behavior poses a threat to individuals attending or working in the school. The approved legislation requires that service resource officers or adequate local law enforcement coverage be in each public school.

It was another long and hard-fought session. But there were a lot of wins that came out of it. I want to thank you again for allowing me to represent you in Annapolis. We fought hard to protect, help and promote your interests during this session. As always, your input is important to me. It helps me bring your voice to Annapolis.

Contact Sen. Salling at 410-841-3587 or JohnnyRay.Salling@senate.state.md.us.

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The Annapolis machine scams our schools

The Annapolis machine scams our schools
HB 76 was sponsored by Del. Robin Grammer, a Republican who represents the Sixth legislative district (Dundalk, Essex and parts of Rosedale).

(Updated 4/9/18)

- By Del. Robin Grammer (R-6) -

Over the last few days, the Annapolis political machine executed one of the most egregious acts that I have witnessed in my time in the legislature.

This year, the House of Delegates took up a bill that was the work product of a two-year, bipartisan commission that aimed to reform school construction policy. Minutes before the Appropriations Committee was to vote on the bill, House leadership amended the bill to strip the oversight authority of school construction funding from Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot and give it to political appointees.

After being rammed through the House of Delegates, the Senate voted on the bill the next day in a backroom without ever having a public hearing. House Bill 1783 quickly became known as “The Backroom Bill.”

This action is nothing more than political retribution aimed at the governor and comptroller for advocating for schools that were being sidelined. Of the 13 schools that didn’t have air conditioning in Baltimore County, six of them are in our district. Now, all of our schools are scheduled to have air conditioning installed or to have new schools built.

The people of southeastern Baltimore County found a voice in the governor and comptroller. For their efforts, the political bosses in Annapolis stole their school construction authority and gave it to political cronies. Now, instead of your elected officials making decisions, political appointees and lobbyists will be making them.

I hope the people of Maryland remember this at the ballot box!

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Message from the Councilwoman

Message from the Councilwoman

(Updated 4/5/18)

- By Councilwoman Cathy Bevins (D-6) -


The County Council recently considered a number of bills that would make changes to the Baltimore County Charter. The bills covered a wide variety of topics including legislative procedure, executive appointments and technical changes. The council considered the legislation at the March 27 council work session and voted to approve the bills at the April 2 council meeting.

The County Charter is the equivalent to the constitution of Baltimore County. It provides and describes the powers and responsibilities of county government. The original charter was adopted in 1956 and was updated three times prior to this year, the last being in 1990. In November 2016 Baltimore County voters approved of the creation of the decennial Charter Review Commission to periodically study and review the county’s charter. The commission was made up of 11 members, two appointed by the county executive, one appointment by each council member and one appointment by the Chair of the County Council, and the County Attorney serves as an ex-officio member. All commission members were subject to approval by the County Council.

The commission held 13 meetings from Feb. 22, 2017, to Nov. 6, 2017. During the meetings, members went over the various sections of the charter, held hearings throughout the county, heard testimony from the public and discussed what changes and updates would be most appropriate for the effective running of local government. All commission meetings were open to the public.

Following its public meetings, the commission presented its findings and issued a report to the County Council on Nov. 6, 2017. The commission recommended a number of changes to the charter. The council reviewed the report and considered the recommendations in the months afterwards. As a result of the commission’s recommendations and the council’s review, a series of bills were introduced on March 5, sponsored by all council members. These pieces of legislation make technical changes to the charter such as updating the modern names of departments, providing gender-neutral language and repealing obsolete duties of the county attorney. Two bills make changes to the executive branch by requiring the county executive to reappoint department directors at the beginning of each term and allowing the county executive to remove the director of planning without council approval. Another bill amends the council’s legislative procedure by extending a bill’s life cycle from the current 40 days to 65 days. These changes to the charter will be placed on the ballot in November for final approval by the voters. If approved, the changes will be added to the charter.

The Charter Review Commission will now meet every 10 years to review and recommend changes to the charter.

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The Long Story Short: Tough decisions

The Long Story Short: Tough decisions

(Updated 4/5/18)

- By Del. Bob Long (R-6) -


As we come to the end of the 2018 Legislative Session, the hardest legislative decisions have been saved for last. That doesn’t make them any easier!

As a leader and elected official, it’s my job to make those tough decisions. We have to try work across the aisle to accomplish anything, and we have to do what’s right, regardless of party. That’s why I was elected, of course, for the confidence people have placed in my judgment. But it hasn’t been easy these last weeks, and it’s only going to get harder as the Session winds up.

In the Ways and Means Committee - of which I am a member - we have been fighting hard to make sure that Marylanders are made whole and don’t lose over $500 million that will otherwise go to the State of Maryland because of the federal tax reform/jobs act. We’re fighting to give it all back to the Marylanders it belongs to. It’s your money; you need it now! (Remembering the J.G. Wenthworth ad campaign).

Yes, there are many other worthy things your money could be spent on by the state, but as a matter of my own conscience, I think you should get to keep your own money. You’ve worked hard for it. You should get to make your own decision about what that surplus should be spent on.

My own background, raised by a struggling single mom, has taught me to have respect for the struggles many of us in the Sixth District are going through. We’re not looking for a hand-out.

I’ll keep you informed as to our progress in giving back all of the surplus the federal tax reform/jobs act would put in Maryland tax coffers, unless we do something. I will continue fighting for my district on this issue.

There are often more than two sides to any question, which makes these bill decisions so difficult. For example, I stood up and fought against a bill that, while trying to protect the wages of casual workers, might end up hurting homeowners who are acting as their own general contractor. They might be sued for triple damages - or face a mechanics lien - if the painter or plumber they bring in doesn’t pay his employees.

That was a hard vote. We want everyone to be paid their wages. In the end, I think the bill really only helps attorneys and I’m afraid it will lead to fraudulent and frivolous lawsuits. I voted against it, not because I don’t want to protect workers, but because I don’t want to promote fraudulent lawsuits that hurt homeowners and we already have a procedure through the Department of Labor to protect casual workers.

There are many other bills I’ve heard in committee and voted on on the House floor. I have kept the best interests of you, my constituents, close to my heart. Many of you have written, emailed or called my office to let me know how you felt about certain issues. Thank you!

Many of those votes represented really tough decisions, many of which had hidden issues you might not know about. In this last week, I doubt that any of the votes will be easy. It is an honor to represent you in Annapolis, and a responsibility that I take very seriously.

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Country Club Estates project fits with revitalization vision

Country Club Estates project fits with revitalization vision

(Updated 3/29/18)

- By Councilman Todd Crandell (R-7) -

Nowhere else in Baltimore County will you see the damage caused by massive job losses except in the Seventh District. Over the last 30 years, we have been devastated by the demise of our industrial and manufacturing job base and we saw what most of us have never seen - blighted neighborhoods, vacant commercial property, a decline in property values and, subsequently, a lack of community involvement and pride.

I believe I was elected in 2014 because I was the candidate who not only expressed what had led to our painful situation, but also offered a practical vision on how to reverse the downward spiral and revitalize a community of over 100,000 people. If you have heard me speak, you know that our vision has three components: re-create the job base, increase the quality of the housing stock and re-energize the commercial corridors.

We take every opportunity to execute on that vision. We are very proud of passing Bill 86-15 which spurred job creation at Tradepoint Atlantic. We are equally as proud of recently passed Resolution 23-18, which approved the review by county agencies of the proposed development at Sparrows Point Country Club, to be known as Country Club Estates.

The opportunity for a one-of-a-kind, high-end waterfront/golf course/marina/country club community in Dundalk is one we, as a district, simply cannot pass up. Once built, there will be nothing like it in Baltimore County, or even the State of Maryland. The project completely fits within our revitalization vision.

Discussed for more than 10 years, the project at Sparrows Point Country Club came about through a partnership between the privately owned club and a successful developer. The council resolution approving the review of the project was necessary only to include the construction of upscale single-family homes, priced around $500,000 or more, in the project. All other zoning was in place for the proposed townhomes and waterfront villas.

As Resolution 23-18 is a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, we could, by statute, derive a community benefit. The adjacent communities, both by shared boundaries and by school district, were consulted and a list of capital projects, some for new community amenities and some to pay homage to our rich history, were negotiated.

We are clearly a district on the rise. Both public and private investment in the Seventh District are occurring at unprecedented levels and opportunities like Tradepoint Atlantic and Sparrows Point Country Club are being captured. We all share a vision for a prosperous, dynamic community and it is happening right before our eyes.

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Redmer seeks to address infrastructure, indifference as county executive

Redmer seeks to address infrastructure, indifference as county executive

(Updated 3/26/18)

- By Al Redmer, candidate for Baltimore County Executive -

As I drive to work in the morning from my home in Middle River through eastern Baltimore County, I’m struck daily by the conditions of some neighborhoods that simply wouldn’t be tolerated in other zip codes. Similarly, when I travel the county speaking with teachers, firefighters, police officers and other government employees, I hear a common complaint. These employees don’t feel that their concerns are being heard or that they have the resources they need to do their jobs well. Both of these observations smack of indifference and are among the many reasons I decided to run for Baltimore County Executive.

I’ve often said that if you know the right person or can sign the right check, you can get things done - and get them done quickly - in Baltimore County. And while well-connected folks have no difficulty getting their own nests feathered, if you don’t know the right person or you can’t sign the right check, you go to the back of a very long and very unresponsive line.

For years, county government has failed to make appropriate investments in infrastructure, maintenance, technology and more. Schools are crumbling before our eyes while students contend with freezing classrooms in winter and sweltering ones in summer. Some neighborhoods are being overtaken by enormous long-tailed rats, others by swarms of pesky midge insects. Violent crime is climbing at an alarming rate. Roadsides become trash repositories, calls go unanswered, residents’ concerns ignored.

Despite these failures and other, equally serious issues in Baltimore County, there is no long-term plan to address them or to hold county leadership accountable for getting these problems solved.

Every year, the county budget process is a scramble for discretionary dollars. Remarkably, there is no multi-year budget and, therefore, no hope that if your priority can’t be addressed in this year’s budget, it surely will be in the next. This has led to a feeling across the county, both by employees and residents, that no one is listening and no one cares.

That is where I depart from the status-quo as I seek the county’s top elected office. Throughout my career in both the public and private sectors, I have built a reputation as a guy who can bring people together, set a tone and create a productive culture focused on accountability and results. I have been involved in my community since I was 15 years old, as a volunteer firefighter, an umpire for the Perry Hall and White Marsh recreation councils, a member of my church council and a representative on countless boards and committees. I served eight years as president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association, 13 years in the House of Delegates - including two years as Republican Leader - and two terms as Maryland Insurance Commissioner. I have run private businesses, both large and small, and built two of my own companies from scratch. In fact, I have been told that I have more executive-level leadership experience in both the public and private sectors than any current candidate or recent Baltimore County Executive.

As your next county executive, I want to set a new vision for what our county can truly achieve. I’ve lived in Baltimore County my entire life, was educated in our public school system, raised my family here and built my career here. There are so many wonderful things to love about Baltimore County; no one could ever claim that it is not a wonderful place in which to live, work and raise a family. But the status-quo we’ve come to accept from our county leadership is no longer good enough. We can - and we must - do better.

Under a Redmer administration, there will be a new culture in Baltimore County government, one where all communities have equal access to government and can expect prompt, responsive service. We will put an end to the cronyism, the good-old-boy, sweetheart deals and the neglect. We are going to clean up our schools and neighborhoods; clean up the crime, the rats and the midges. And we are going to set a new culture in county government - one in which we measure ourselves not by our rhetoric, but by our actions and our results.

Alfred Redmer, Jr., is commissioner of the Maryland Insurance Administration and former Minority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates. He is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Baltimore County Executive.

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Councilman Marks to introduce legislation providing more review of county executive’s legal settlements

Councilman Marks to introduce legislation providing more review of county executive’s legal settlements

(Updated 2/14/18)

- By Councilman David Marks (R-5) -


I have decided to introduce legislation that provides greater scrutiny to settlements negotiated by the Baltimore County Executive.

Over the past several years, the Kamenetz administration has negotiated legal agreements that bind taxpayers to millions of dollars. These include settlements from employee lawsuits, as well as a $30 million agreement that advances affordable housing goals.

The county charter gives the county executive broad power over many governmental decisions; as an example, the County Council can only cut from - not add to - the proposed budget. I believe, however, that we need more scrutiny of these legal agreements that commit the county to hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars in future obligations.

For that reason, I will introduce legislation that would require the county attorney to provide periodic reports of significant litigation to the County Council. It would also require notification to the council of a proposed settlement of any significant litigation, and would allow a council member to object to a proposed settlement and have the matter placed on a council agenda for a vote.

The bill also provides a definition of the terms “significant litigation” and “settlement” and provides for a notification process.

I believe this is simple "good government" - taxpayers and their elected representatives should have far greater scrutiny of the settlements negotiated by the county executive and his senior staff.​

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