Session Wrap Up

What follows are some of my legislative highlights, policies that I sponsored or helped sponsor, though it is not comprehensive:

BILLS I SPONSORED

Workgroup on Health in All Policies — HB1225

Health, wellness, equity and sustainability: these are my priorities. They are the drivers of my professional work and community-based volunteer efforts. So it makes sense that the first bill I sponsored as a brand new Delegate centers on health.

The Health in All Policies bill (HB 1225) establishes a workgroup that will make recommendations for putting health first. Our state makes lots of decisions regarding housing, transportation education, public safety, food access, criminal justice and economic development. Resources are limited. If our decisions put health at the center, then we will use our limited resources to achieve health for all.

For example, if health is our priority, then we will make transportation investments that contribute to cleaner air. We will invest our limited transportation dollars in transit, such as light rail or streetcars – which encourage active living, reduce obesity, and increase access to jobs and opportunity for the greatest number of people. We would be less likely, then, to squander our limited resources on more highways, which only increase traffic congestion and encourage more driving, which ultimately makes us overweight, sick and alienated, and increases air pollution. The workgroup will be convened by the University Of Maryland School Of Public Health, and will include participants from a broad range of sectors. The group will be busy from June to around the end of this year. Then, during the 2018 session, I hope to use the workgroup’s recommendations to develop health-promoting legislation. So stay tuned!

BILLS I CO-SPONSORED

Prohibition on Hydraulic Fracturing — HB 1325

I proudly co-sponsored the “fracking ban”. Maryland is the first state with shale reserves in the U.S. to impose a permanent, state-wide ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. By reducing dependence on fossil fuel, we’ll encourage greater use of renewable energy and protect the health of all Marylanders.

Maryland Healthy Working Families Act — HB1

One of the most important votes I cast during session was in support of the “earned sick leave” bill, which I also co-sponsored. This bill requires Maryland companies with 15 or more workers to provide the opportunity to earn up to five days of leave. Under certain conditions, paid leave can be arranged. Around 700,000 hardworking Marylanders will benefit from this humane new law. The Governor has so far refused to sign this bill, but it passed with a veto-proof majority and will automatically become law later this month.

Continuity of Care for Family Planning Services — HB 1083

While the White House continues its attacks on women’s access to health care, I persist just as diligently doing all that I can to defend and protect women’s rights. One way I did this was to co-sponsor a bill ensuring funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Maryland. Around 25,000 Marylanders receive their essential primary health services from Planned Parenthood, and thanks to this bill, no matter what happens at the federal level, those services will not be interrupted. We are the first state in this country to pass such legislation – many other states see us as a model.

Prohibition on Generic Drug Price Gouging — HB 631

Another example of protecting Marylanders health, I co-sponsored a bill to prohibit price gouging of prescription generic drugs. This bill, the first of its kind in the US, empowers our State Attorney General to take legal action to stop pharmaceutical companies from ripping off consumers with outrageously high drug prices. Maryland has a powerful tool to fight unjustified pricing on medications — including commonly used products like insulin — that are essential to health and survival of so many people. Remember “PharmaBro” Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who hiked prices on previously low-priced medications for patients with life threatening conditions? Although the US Congress has not acted to stop this kind of abuse, here in Maryland, we’ve made it clear:  don’t even think about it, bro.

OTHER BILLS

I also co-sponsored a bill entitled protecting the Federal Affordable Care Act (HJ9). The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) provides affordable private health insurance, and expands eligibility for Medicaid coverage for hard working folks who earn less. Before President Obama signed the ACA into law, a total of 745,000 Marylanders lacked health insurance. We’ve reduced our uninsured rate by half! This is especially important for African American and Latino Marylanders, who have historically been more likely to suffer without health insurance coverage. Today, about 400,000 Marylanders are now covered — 150,000 in private insurance plans through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange; and of those, around 66% of those receive subsidies. In addition, another 278,000 Marylanders who never received insurance are now protected by expanded Medicaid coverage. If the current federal leadership actually succeeds in repealing this vitally important and humane law, we here in Maryland are ready to defend it.

If you’d like to read my whole end of session report, click here.