Senator Addie C. Eckardt’s End of Session Wrap-Up

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ANNAPOLIS — Senator Adelaide C. (Addie) Eckardt (R), District 37, representing Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot and Wicomico counties, sends this dispatch from her Annapolis office:

Fiscal Year 2017 Capital Budget

• Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
$250,000 will be provided to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum that will be dedicated to preserving and exploring the history, environment and people of the Chesapeake Bay and will address significant infrastructure needs.

• Chesapeake Grove Senior Housing and Intergenerational Center
$150,000 will be provided to the Board of Directors of the Delmarva Community Services, Inc. as the first phase of construction of a 50,000 square foot intergenerational community center.

• Dorchester County Family YMCA
$100,000 will be provided to the Board of Directors of the Dorchester County Family YMCA, Inc. to repair the building’s roof and internal drains.

• Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County
$100,000 will be provided to the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County for the purchase and rehabilitation of 10 low-income homes.

• Patriot Point
$250,000 will be provided to the Patriot Point, LLC. Patriot Point provides a relaxing recovery retreat for our military and veterans, dedicated to recovery, joy, and relaxation. This grant will furnish Patriot Point with some of the funds needed to construct this facility.

• University of Maryland Eastern Shore
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions was granted $3.5 million in FY17’s Capital Budget. Preparation of our health workforce is essential as health care delivery is focused in the community and the UMES School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions is necessary for the preparation of these critical caregivers. The Physicians’ Assistant program will also benefit from this facility.

Mandates:
This year there was $3.7 billion in proposed mandated spending from the General Assembly; averaging $80 million in newly proposed spending per day, over the first the first half of the 90 day session. Although they were all proposed for good reasons and they all do good things they would increase our state’s structural deficit by 350 percent. I stood with the Governor this session to provide a common sense mandate reform, reduce mandated spending increases in years when revenues don’t keep pace, and ensure that future budgets continue to prioritize key expenditures like education and health care.

Legislation of Concern This Session:
• SB 496 Poultry Litter Management Act
This bill requires a poultry company to place poultry only at an operation that maintains a nutrient management plan, requires a poultry company to be responsible for the removal and delivery of manure, and requires a poultry company or manure transporter working under a poultry company to deliver manure only to ‘specified facilities’. After major concerns and opposition from the Eastern Shore Delegation this bill has died.

• SB 908 Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016
This bill changes the way projects are determined and identifies different criteria, directing the Secretary to establish scoring and ranking of projects that will become the projects to be funded. Currently, the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation and his team determine projects based on importance of local priorities and other factors that include safety, economic impact, commerce and structure, integrity of the various project. The bill did not consider importance to the local jurisdictions as a factor for rating and clearly tilted the scoring to the larger districts. The bill was amended and is better than the original initiative but still micromanages the Department of Transportation. This bill was vetoed by Governor Hogan and the veto was overridden by the House and the Senate.

• SB 937 Sustainable Oyster Harvest act of 2016
This bill came in and requires the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) to (1) conduct a specified study regarding the sustainability of harvesting of the public oyster fishery in the State and (2) report to the Governor, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Oyster Advisory Commission, and the General Assembly on the results of the study, by Oct. 1, 2017. After intense opposition this bill was amended to authorize DNR to lead the study. Unfortunately, this bill has passed and will take effect Oct. 1, 2017.

• SB 418 Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End-of-Life Option Act
This bill creates a process by which an individual may request and receive “aid in dying” from the individual’s attending physician. This bill was withdrawn early in the session after concerns of the liability and responsibility of doctors.

• SB 921 Clean Energy Jobs Act
This bill increases the annual percentage requirements for Tier 1 Nonsolar and Tier 1 Solar sources to meet the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). Total RPS percentage requirements increase from 20 percent by 2022 to 25 percent by 2020. Generally, alternative compliance payments (ACPs) for Nonsolar and Solar are reduced slightly. I support the inclusion of renewables and I prefer a diversified energy portfolio. While I know the state is progressing nicely to reduce our regional gas emissions and the increases in percentages may be achievable, I am concerned about the increasing cost of energy for our small businesses and for our low income citizens. Currently many constituents are unable to pay their electric bills for a variety of reasons and the number of folks is growing. Many cannot afford to move and are stuck being unable to afford the increasing costs. This bill has passed and will take effect Oct. 1, 2016.
Important Legislation This Session:

• SB 497 Keep the Door Open Act of 2016
This legislation requires the budget to include rate adjustments for community providers based on funding provided in the prior year’s legislative appropriation if we are going to do justice reform and investment and if we are going to be reducing we need to have resources in the community necessary for early diagnosis treatment and rehab in the community if we continue to downsize inpatient facilities and there has to be a corresponding money. I believe it is an essential mandate to address the rising cost of health care. If you get people in treated and back in the workplace/ community it costs less.

• SB 425 Maryland Income Tax Refunds – Warrant Intercept Program – Statewide
This bill has passed and expands the Warrant Intercept Program statewide. Currently, the Warrant Intercept Program authorizes an official of the federal, State, or local government charged with serving a criminal arrest warrant to certify to the Comptroller that an individual who is either a Maryland resident or who receives income from Maryland has an outstanding warrant and to request that the Comptroller withhold the individual’s income tax refund. For any individual for which a certification of an outstanding warrant is received, the Comptroller is required to withhold the individual’s income tax refund. This bill is a priority of the Eastern Shore Delegation as it is supported by all counties and their Sheriffs. The program has been successful in getting folks to resolve their warrants without confrontation.

• SB 1005 Justice Reinvestment Act
This Senate Bill implements recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council (JRCC) by altering provisions relating to sentencing, corrections, parole, and the supervision of offenders. Among other things, it modifies criminal penalties; requires the use of a validated screening tool and a risk and needs assessment, as specified; modifies provisions regarding drug treatment; specifies graduated sanctions for certain violations; establishes an administrative release process; expands expungement provisions; and provides for the reinvestment of savings. These recommendations were formulated based on data from other states – particularly red states – and would further reduce our state’s prison population, reduce spending on corrections, and reinvest in strategies to increase public strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism. This is the largest reform of our criminal justice system in a generation and as we all compromise, we seek to restore broken lives and broken families.

• SB 323 the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act
This bill requires Maryland to reduce statewide gas emissions by 40 percent from 2006 levels by 2030. This bill was supported by the Maryland Departments of the Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources. Is based on a recommendation of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and enhances the 2009 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Act. Governor Hogan has signed this bill into law.

• SB 383 Program Open Space – Transfer Tax Repayment – Use of Funds
This bill returns $60 million over the next two fiscal years to this nationally renowned preservation program. The bill also strengthens the program by increasing the annual Program Open Space funding for Baltimore City to $6 million, and creates a repayment plan to restore funds that had been transferred into the general fund by previous administrations. Funding to local programs and rural legacy remain as presented in the Governor’s Budget. Governor Hogan has signed this bill into law.

• SB 945 Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 (Noah’s Law)
This bill requires mandatory participation in the Ignition Interlock System Program (IISP) for a person convicted for the first time of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and convicted of homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I support this initiative to keep our roads and citizens safe.

• HB 1007 Freedom to Vote Act of 2016
This bill is designed to increase voter registration, in part by expanding requirements for state agencies and public colleges to provide opportunities to join the rolls. Lawmakers stripped out language requiring the state to do a one-time automatic registration of eligible voters who are not already enrolled.

• SB 537 Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program – Modifications
The Senate gave final legislative approval Monday morning to a bill that would require doctors and pharmacists to use a statewide database to help identify abuse and over-prescribing of painkiller medications. The approved measure aligns with a recommendation made by Hogan’s heroin and opioid task force.

REDISTRICTING REFORM
I would like to thank everyone who has contacted me regarding redistricting in Maryland. Fair elections with checks and balances make for a more responsive citizen republic and I stand with Governor Hogan as he addresses this issue. For more information on redistricting reform in Maryland please visit http://governor.maryland.gov/redistricting-reform/.

Editor’s note: You may write to Senator Eckardt at: James Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen St., Room 322, Annapolis, MD 21401 – 1991; or e-mail: adelaide.eckardt@senate.state.md.us

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