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How Video Chat Helped Maryland Lawmakers Get Work Done

Delegates have worked on the floor in two separate chambers in the Statehouse and House office buildings, with committees communicating via Zoom meetings to do the work of the state Legislature.

by Steve Bohnel, The Frederick News-Post / April 6, 2021
Annapolis, Maryland Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

(TNS) — The Maryland House of Delegates has spent the last two-plus months in an environment unlike any other since it first convened in 1776.

Delegates have worked on the floor in two separate chambers in the statehouse and House office buildings. Committees have communicated via Zoom meetings, with computer screens many times resembling the opening credits of the Brady Brunch.

Still, Frederick County's six delegates are at work trying to get bills to Gov.  Larry Hogan's  desk. Here's where some of them stand.

Del.  Karen Lewis Young

Lewis Young  (D- Frederick), who has chaired the delegation this session, filed multiple bills centered around medical and health laws in the state.

One bill that has made it through the House and Senate would allow patients to receive more types of injectable medications to treat chronic pain and conditions via pharmacists.  Lewis Young  said during a hearing it would help patients with mental illness and those dependent on opioids.

Many patients may feel more comfortable working with their pharmacists to access the medication, she said.

The bill has been amended by the House and Senate to require state entities to report use of medications for sexually transmitted diseases, among other changes.

It is currently being reviewed in the House, and barring any challenges, should head to Hogan's desk.

Another  Lewis Young  bill that is already headed to the governor's desk is House Bill 10, which increases a tax deduction for living organ donors from $7,500 to $10,000 and increases the scope of the credit to include expenses related to child or elder care and medications.

Del.  Jesse Pippy

Pippy (R- Frederick and Carroll), chair of the delegation last year, filed a bill that has made it through the House that increases the number of ways someone can file an application to a judge requesting an order for getting information from an electronic device of interest.

That legislation, which Pippy said would streamline the process for applying for a court order via fax or email and reduce in-person interaction during a pandemic, has been referred to the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Pippy is also attempting to amend the state's indecent exposure law. He said in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year the intent is not to be overly broad, like criminalizing someone who moons another at a football game.

Currently, the bill states someone may not expose their private parts in public "with lascivious or prurient intent" in a public setting, which means in a sexual manner. It is currently still in the House committee, meaning it is unlikely to pass this session.

Del.  Ken Kerr

Kerr (D- Frederick) has one bill that modifies the expiration dates for some prescriptions in certain circumstances, whether set by the manufacturer or the prescriber. That has reached Hogan's desk.

He also has gotten a proposal through that would allow Frederick County, the city of Frederick or other municipalities to set and offer property tax credits for businesses impacted by Hogan's state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. If signed by Hogan, it would take effect June 1 and apply to taxes after June 30.

Kerr said in a hearing earlier this session the bill was important because 15 percent or more of the county's businesses might not make it through the pandemic, according to the county's Chamber of Commerce.

Del.  Dan Cox

Cox has been outspoken against several actions taken by the governor during the pandemic and filed House Bill 17, which calls on the governor to get permission from the General Assembly to continue the state of emergency.

That measure has not been voted on in the House's Health and Government Operations Committee, and it's unlikely it will pass in either chamber given the most recent hearing was in late January.

Cox has also submitted House Bill 874, which would set up a state trust fund to assist veterans impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression or other conditions. It's named for  David Perez , an Army veteran from Frederick who died last year in Florida.

The cross-file by Sen.  Johnny Ray Salling  (R- Baltimore)—for whom Perez used to work—has made it through the Senate but still awaits action in the House.

Del.  Carol Krimm

Krimm (D- Frederick) filed legislation ranging from teleworking polices to the state's Healthy Soils program to cybersecurity training.

One bill she filed last year that has passed through the House this session would require homeowners to disclose if their properties are in "zones of dewatering influence," meaning they are prone to sinkholes or similar issues. House Bill 399 still awaits action in the Senate.

Another bill sponsored by Krimm, House Bill 756, would permit the state Office of Legislative Audits to investigate claims of waste, fraud and abuse, while increasing the resources dedicated to those investigations. It has passed in the House.

Del.  Barrie Ciliberti

Ciliberti (R- Frederick and Carroll) has been relatively quiet this session, filing just two bills. One of them is legislation he introduced last year, which would make an assault on an emergency room nurse a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.

He said last session the legislation is tricky to craft because patients have certain rights, but there should be a mechanism for those who assault nurses and social workers to face more than a misdemeanor, which is currently state law.

Ciliberti said in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee there should be "zero tolerance" for assaults on ER workers. Multiple nurses testified in favor of the bill at the hearing, but as of Monday, there was no movement in the House, meaning it is unlikely to pass.

The Maryland General Assembly considers thousands of bills each year, so many of them do not pass both chambers in a uniform fashion in order to reach the governor's desk before Sine Die, the end of session. This year, Sine Die is April 12.

(c)2021 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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