Much progress was made during the 2019 General Assembly Regular Session. This newsletter is a brief summary of legislation affecting District 9B, as well as a recap of selected statewide bills. Please contact my office with questions about any of the more than 2000 bills that were introduced and the more than 800 bills that were passed this session.
A Note About Our Speaker
The 2019 Legislative Session ended on a sad note Monday, April 8th with the passing the previous day of our Speaker of the House, The Honorable Michael Erin Busch. Speaker Busch leaves a legacy as the most effective legislative leader in Maryland history. He was a master of stitching together consensus and a genuine collaborator. It was an honor to serve with him as Speaker in my inaugural session. He was a mentor and coach not just to me, but to all who served in the House of Delegates. Read more about Speaker Busch and his profound impact on the State of Maryland here.
Mark Your Calendar
Please join us on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 p.m. at Miller Library, 9421 Frederick Road, Ellicott City for a 2019 District 9B Session Wrap-Up. Senator Katie Hester will be our special guest and we will provide highlights of the legislative session and answer questions.
Thursday, May 2nd is the public meeting for County Executive Calvin Ball’s Phase Two of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Howard High School, 8700 Old Annapolis Road, Ellicott City.
Thursday, April 25th is the State Highway Administration’s Informational Open House regarding the Route 103 Roadway Widening Project. The open house will be held at Veterans Elementary School, 4355 Montgomery Road, Ellicott City from 6 to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, April 17th is the deadline to apply for a District 9B higher education scholarship. We have extended the deadline two days to make sure our students have a chance to complete the application which can be found here. Please spread the word to young adults you know who reside in District 9B and are attending a Maryland institution of higher learning.
District 9B Legislative Recap - Results for Ellicott City
Capital Budget: Support for Ellicott City in Fiscal Year 2020
Working with the Speaker’s office, I gained an allocation of $3 million in the FY 2020 State Capital Budget in the House for flood mitigation projects in Ellicott City. Many thanks to Senator Hester who was able to add $400,000 and guard the original $3 million when the budget went through the Senate. This $3.4 million in funding will be available in July 2019 and will help fast track parts of County Executive Ball’s Safe and Sound Plan for Ellicott City.
Defending the Comprehensive Flood Mitigation Bill on the floor.
Flood Mitigation Grant Fund HB 428 - Support for Ellicott City in Fiscal Years 2021,2022,2023
In January, I filed a bill that I spoke about often on the campaign trail, Comprehensive Flood Mitigation Grant Fund – Awards for Flood Damage and Mandatory Funding (HB 428). I am pleased that the bill passed both chambers and, with the Governor’s support, will become law. Senator Hester cross-filed the bill in the Senate (SB269) and worked hard to convince her colleagues to keep the funding in the bill. The bill passed with a bipartisan majority in both chambers and does the following:
Expands the uses of the dormant Flood Mitigation Grant Program to include not just flood mitigation projects, but also infrastructure repairs, streambed restoration, and other consequences from flooding such as emergency alert systems and property acquisitions.
Prioritizes Historic Districts that have experienced more than one flood in the past five years, putting Ellicott City at the top of the list.
Requires the Governor to place at least $3 million in 2021, $3 million in 2022, and $2 million in 2023 into the fund.
Makes the fund a nonlapsing fund, so that it can be financed each year through the budget process and protects any unused funds for future use.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Councilmember Liz Walsh, and Howard County officials the day we testified on the Comprehensive Flood Mitigation bill in the House.
Bond Bill: Barnard Fort House, 3713 Fels Lane, Ellicott City $50,000
This grant is for the design, construction, restoration/rehabilitation, and equipping of the 4,226 square-foot Barnard Fort House, located within the historic district of Ellicott City and the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area. This property was acquired by Howard County in 2013, and rehabilitation of this vacant structure is necessary to enable adaptive reuse of the property. This property will support educational programming, entertainment, and tourism benefiting the local economy and post-flood recovery of Ellicott City.
Bond Bill: Linwood School, 3421 Martha Bush Drive, Ellicott City $100,000
This $100,000 grant for Linwood School is for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, reconstruction, site improvement, and capital equipping of the Linwood School. All Linwood School students have significant learning needs, and a number of them have behavioral challenges. They have been referred to Linwood because their needs preclude the ability of their neighborhood schools to achieve the goals in their Individual Education Plans.
Bond Bill: Carrollton Hall Restoration, 12280 Folly Quarter Road, Ellicott City $50,000
This grant continues the renovation work of Carrollton Hall and the surrounding grounds. The full restoration of Carrollton Hall will include permanent exhibits on the life and legacy of Charles Carroll as well as the contributions of enslaved persons on his property; it will also include conference space. In addition to presenting permanent and special exhibits on the life and legacy of Charles Carroll, including his involvement in the Revolutionary War and Maryland's Declaration of Rights, Carrollton Hall will host talks, lectures, and conferences on the issues of liberty, justice, and the common good to which Charles Carroll devoted his life.
Legislative Recap - Selected Statewide Bills
County Boards of Education – School Year Start and End Dates - HB 437
This legislation allows county boards of education to choose the start and end dates for the school year. It was vetoed by the Governor, but overridden by the General Assembly. The local impact of this bill is that the Howard County Board of Education will have the ability to determine school start and end dates each year, and the Board may adjust those dates as necessary to meet the needs of our students.
Department of Aging – Grants for Aging-in-Place Programs - HB 251
This bill authorizes the Maryland Department of Aging to make grants to nonprofit organizations, and allows area agencies on aging to expand and establish aging-in-place programs for seniors.
Water Pollution Control Notification of Sewer Overflows & Treatment Plant Bypasses - HB 417 This bill enacts wider notice requirements that are intended to ensure that sewer overflow events are reported to the public in a timely manner. Timely notification protects the public from inadvertent contact with contaminated tributaries in the event of an overflow.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities – Mediation – Representation by Counsel - HB 588 This bill corrects an imbalance in representation that allowed Continuing Care Retirement Communities to have legal counsel present during mediation with a member, but denied the presence of the member’s legal counsel. The law will now provide that both the CCRC and member will be allowed to have counsel present during mediation.
Clean Energy Jobs Act - HB 1158
This bill increases the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from 25% by 2020 to 50% by 2030. The legislation will help preserve and create jobs in the clean energy sector, while also reducing Maryland’s reliance on fossil fuels. The bill was heard in my committee, Economic Matters, and I was able to work with other committee members to get the bill moved out of the committee and to the House floor on the last day.
Safe Schools Maryland - HB 148/SB 165
This bill establishes the Safe Schools Maryland Program, an anonymous tip line within the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS). The program will establish procedures for anonymous reporting of behaviors of concern and other dangerous, violent, or unlawful activities (or the threat of these activities) involving one or more students. Participation in the program is voluntary for local school systems, public schools, and nonpublic schools.
Testifying with Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Martirano, on the bill to allow Howard County Board of Education to set the school calendar.
Childcare Tax Expansion - HB 810
This bill will expand the childcare tax credit to help working parents by expanding the income eligibility. Now, single filers making up to $92,000 per year, and married filers making $143,000 per year, are eligible. The tax credit is equal to up to 32% of the federal child and dependent care credit. If the single filer makes less than $50,000 or the married filers make less than $75,000, this credit is refundable.
Minimum Wage - HB 166
This bill establishes that the state minimum wage will be $15 in 2025 through a phased in schedule starting in January 2020. It establishes an 18-month delayed implementation schedule for employers with 14 or fewer employees. There are currently 573,000 Maryland workers being paid minimum wage (the majority are single female heads of households), and five other states have already passed a $15 minimum wage. The restaurant tip wage remains unchanged, and all tipped employees must make at least the current minimum wage.
Health Care Pre-existing Conditions – HB 697
This legislation protects Marylanders with pre-existing conditions in the event that the Supreme Court overturns protections provided in the Affordable Care Act. This bill passed in the house with a bipartisan majority.
Opioid Restitution Fund – HB 1274
This bill creates a special state fund for any money received from legal judgements or settlements against an opioid manufacturer. This dedicated fund ensures money recovered from this crisis is used to fund treatment and recovery programs.
Tobacco 21 – HB 1169
This bill will ban retailers from selling tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices (ESDs), to anyone under the age of 21, and requires retailers to post this age restriction in their stores. The goal is to keep these addictive products out of high schools and reduce teen smoking, vaping, and addiction. At current smoking rates, roughly 92,000 kids now under the age of 18 in Maryland will die prematurely from smoking. Further, Maryland shoulders about $2.71 billion annually in tobacco-related health care costs. By reducing teens’ access to smoking, we reduce addiction rates, premature deaths, and associated healthcare costs.
Ready to Read Act - HB 690
Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, this bill requires each local school board to ensure that Kindergarten students are screened for reading difficulties. If the screening results indicate that the student is at risk, the local board must provide a notification letter to the student’s parent, and provide appropriate supplemental reading instruction. Early intervention affords the student the best chance of success and greatly reduces school system remediation costs in the future. Thank you to the many Howard County parents who advocated for the passage of this bill.
On the floor of the House Chamber.
In the Interim
Please feel free to contact me throughout the year if I can assist you. Chief of Staff for the District 9B office is Terry Chaconas. You can reach either of us at the office number or email address below. Now is the time to talk with us about anything you would like to see addressed in future legislation. I appreciate your input throughout the legislative session, and encourage all feedback and suggestions. I look forward to seeing you around Howard County
Delegate Courtney Watson
Howard County District 9B
Member, Economic Matters Committee
Maryland House of Delegates
6 Bladen Street, Room 209
Annapolis, MD 21401