By Delegate Mary Washington, 43rd District, House of Delegates, Maryland
(ANNAPOLIS – February 15, 2016) – Last Thursday was the deadline for submitting bills which are guaranteed a bill number, committee assignment and a hearing. Now that I have submitted all my Session’s bills by that deadline (in General Assembly language, that means they are all “in the hopper”), I wanted to update you on my bills that had hearings this past week. In broad terms, this year I’m focusing on legislation that addresses issues in improving quality of life, fairness and opportunity for all, and am pleased that many of my bills this year will touch on these issues for many different Marylanders. See the information below for two of the bills that were heard in committee this week and highlights of next week’s hearings.
HB 262 Senior Citizen Activities Center Operating Fund – Funding and Distribution
This bill aims to improve the way our state’s senior citizen centers are funded by doing the following: 1) increase the Senior Citizen Activities Center Operating fund in the annual state budget from $500,000 to $1,000,000; 2) remove the “competitive grant” feature of the Fund, in order to provide predictability and stability for annual senior center budgeting; 3) remove “distressed communities” criteria so that all 23 counties and Baltimore City qualify for funding; and 4) create a new formula that distributes across two factors: population and federal poverty guidelines.
According to the Maryland Department of Aging, adults between the ages of 80 and 84 are the fastest growing segment of Maryland’s population. Additionally, there has not been an increase in this Fund since it was established in 2000. Since the number of senior citizens in Maryland is increasing, we need to increase the funding of these centers, which provide countless opportunities and enrichment for our aging population. Further, the current funding formulas for senior citizen centers result in unstable and unpredictable funding, which severely limit how centers can manage their budgets. Toward that end, this bill removes a requirement that counties must compete annually for their funding and that they must prove certain economic development plans to qualify for funding. Instead, HB 262 provides funding for all 23 counties and Baltimore City, and creates a new funding formula in which 30% of the Fund is to be distributed based on each county’s share of the state’s senior citizen population and 70% is to be distributed based on each county’s share of the state’s population of senior citizens with income below 150% of the federal poverty level. An adjustment will be made for the following counties to ensure they receive no less than what they received in FY 2014 and 2015: Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Washington, and Worcester.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to members of United Seniors of Maryland and other senior advocates about this bill, which they support. To read more about that meeting and this bill, read this article in Maryland Reporter.
This bill was heard in Appropriations on February 9th. Watch here.
HB 146 Baltimore City – Property Tax Credit – Public Safety Officers
This bill would authorize Baltimore City to provide a tax credit of no more than $2500 per taxable year to Baltimore City public safety officers (Baltimore City Fire Department, Emergency Medical, Police Department and Sheriff’s Office) who purchase a primary dwelling in Baltimore City, and who are also eligible for the Homestead Property Tax Credit.
For example, currently only 21% of Baltimore City police officers live in the city, while 68% live in other parts of Maryland, and 10% live out of state. In fact, compared to other cities our size, Baltimore has one of the lowest rates of police officers living in the cities they serve. When so many officers are residing outside of the city, there is a substantial disconnect between the people serving our communities and the communities themselves.
This incentive provides a well-documented strategy to improve community relations with first responders. As the September 2012 Abell Report stipulates, city housing incentives have proven to improve citizens’ abilities to build trust with the police who live in their communities, and those trust relationships significantly improve those relations overall. In partnership with Baltimore City, we hope this bill improves relations between the people of Baltimore City and those sworn to protect them.
This bill was covered in the Baltimore Sun when I presented the bill to the Baltimore City Delegation on January 29th. The Delegation unanimously voted to endorse the bill.
This bill was heard in Ways and Means on February 10th. Watch here.
HB 411 Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness – Membership
In years past, I have put forward legislation toward ending homelessness, some of which was to create both the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness (which I now co-chair with Senator Rich Madaleno) and the Maryland Interagency Council on Homelessness. HB 411 aims to increase the number of members on the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness from ten to sixteen. These additional members will be chosen based on regional diversity to adequately represent homelessness issues from all areas across the State of Maryland. This increase will ensure that we understand homelessness and strategies for homeless advocacy throughout our entire state.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT UPCOMING HEARINGS:
HB 593 Human Services – Interagency Council on Homelessness
Appropriations Committee, February 16th at 1:00pm.
This bill will increase the number of members from six to nine, and ensure the Department designees have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the Department. This bill also adds the Department of Disabilities to the Council.
HB 742 Environment – Water Service Shut Off Protection Act
Appropriations Committee, February 24th at 1:00pm.
This bill will ensure a fair process for consumers before providers of water and sewer services in the State cut off and discontinue the supply of water for nonpayment or overdue bills. It requires adequate notifications before the service is cut off, and prohibits the disconnection to those who have documented serious medical conditions, are senior citizens, are legally blind or to households that contain children under the age of 6. It also requires the restoration of service within one working day after the cause for the cut-off has been resolved or payment arrangements have been made.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
There are many more bills I am sponsoring or have co-sponsored this session! For a complete list, click here.
Keep in Touch
I will continue to do my best to provide detailed updates and alerts via email, and you can follow my daily activities and breaking news by liking my Facebook fan page facebook.com/delmarywashington43 or following me at twitter.com/DelMaryW.
In addition, I encourage you to contact me with the issues that matter most to you at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Annapolis office at (410) 841-3476.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Delegate Mary Washington