Friends & Neighbors,
Maryland's 2016 legislative session is nearly halfway done, and I have much to report. Below you can read a few updates on some of my colleagues' high profile legislation, as well as a number of bills I've introduced.
I'll report back later, when the fate of these issues has been decided. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with any thoughts.
Thanks for paying attention to Maryland politics!
Delegate David Moon
ECONOMIC JUSTICE & THE WEALTH GAP - If you've read the news in the last few years, you've likely encountered articles discussing America's historic wealth and income gap. Maryland Democrats have been paying attention too, and I've co-sponsored a few of my colleagues' bills to address these problems. Here are some of the highlights:
- EARNED SICK LEAVE (HB 580) - This bill allows Maryland workers to earn time off when they are sick, so they don't have to choose between their health & their paycheck.
- WOMEN'S PAY EQUITY (HB 343, HB 401 & HB 1004) - These bills will help ensure equal pay for equal work in Maryland.
- AFFORDABLE COLLEGE TUITION (HB 1014 & HB 1015) - This pair of bills would help create refinancing options and matching funds to lower the cost of college for Maryland residents.
- PAID PARENTAL LEAVE (HB 740) - This legislation would create a system, similar to social security, to provide paid time off for new parents in Maryland.
STOPPING THE GOP'S FISCAL & MORAL IRRESPONSIBILITY - I'll let you know what happens to these bills, as they move through the legislative process. Meanwhile, we are hard at work trying to stop things from getting worse. Here are some examples:
- FUNDING SCHOOLS NOT JAILS IN MARYLAND - A few weeks ago, Governor Larry Hogan proposed shifting millions of dollars away from Maryland colleges to build a new jail. After an outcry from legislators, he has now backed away from that plan. Bethesda Magazine reported on the incident: "Montgomery County state representatives are railing against a decision by Gov. Larry Hogan to delay $72 million in funds that were supposed to enable The Universities at Shady Grove to begin constructing a new biomedical sciences building at its Rockville campus this year.... 'It is a sad, unfortunate and startling fact that Maryland spends more on corrections than it does on higher education,' the legislators wrote. 'This is exacerbated by your decision to fund the Baltimore City jail over higher education.'"
- STOPPING THE CREATION OF A $400 MILLION DEFICIT - Governor Larry Hogan has proposed a series of tax cuts that will create a $400 million annual deficit for Maryland. If his plan is approved, we will be forced to cut or freeze spending on critical services ranging from schools to transportation. I've been trying to raise alarm bells over these budget shenanigans, and I recently spoke out on WMAL radio about this fiscally irresponsible plan (listen here). Below you can see the projected impact of Hogan's tax cut proposals:
MY AGENDA: FROM MASS INCARCERATION & ELECTION REFORM TO FOSTER YOUTH & THE HOMELESS - I introduced 20 bills this year and co-sponsored 180 more. This package of legislation tackles a range of topics I am passionate about, including ending police brutality, reducing the incarceration of nonviolent offenders, protecting our most vulnerable residents, and increasing transparency & good government principles. Here's a sample of my 2016 legislation:
- PROTECTING FOSTER YOUTH (HB 683 & HB 772) - When Maryland's foster youth turn 21, they "age out" of eligibility for many services. This can be a dramatic shift that leads to homelessness or unemployment for some of our most vulnerable youths. I introduced bills with Senators Jamie Raskin & Delores Kelley to create savings accounts for these youths and provide a few things to help them transition into their own lives (eg: security deposits for housing, a computer, and other basics). For severely disabled foster youths, my bills would make sure we continue providing high quality care as they age. In my opinion, lawmakers should take care of foster youth (aka "wards of the state") as if they were our own children.
- ENDING OUR FAILED "WAR ON DRUGS" (HB 254, HB 268, HB 269, HB 307, HB 665) - This year I introduced numerous bills to end our state's addiction to incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders. My legislation would reduce prison sentences for simple drug possession and stop those released from prison from being sent back for petty marijuana offenses. Lastly, I introduced a constitutional amendment to let voters decide on marijuana legalization at the ballot. Should voters approve this measure, we would use the millions of dollars raised from marijuana to finance substance abuse treatment, mental health programs, services for those leaving prison, and education.
- FREE BIRTH CERTIFICATES FOR THE HOMELESS (HB 280) - I introduced a bill with Senator Craig Zucker to give homeless residents free birth certificate copies. Normally, these documents cost $24, but homeless Marylanders use birth certificates to apply for housing benefits, enroll their children in school, obtain identification cards, and much more.
- PROTECTING YOUR CELLPHONE PRIVACY (HB 257) - I'm working with the ACLU and Senator Susan Lee on a bill to restrict police access to your cellphone's "historical location data." What happens is, your phone emits a signal to cell phone towers, thereby creating a data trail tracking where you go. Maryland police claim that you have NO EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY in this location information. As a result, police can order your cellphone company to turn over databases of all of your past locations, and they don't need a search warrant to do it or even suspect that you've committed a crime. My bill would require cops to get a warrant if they want databases exposing everywhere you've been.
- PROVIDING LIVE VIDEOSTREAMS OF MARYLAND HOUSE & SENATE MEETINGS (HB 316) - I'm working with Republican House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga on a bill to provide live video streams of the legislature's floor debates. Maryland Reporter covered our transparency legislation: "A conservative Republican leader and one of the most liberal Democrats in the House of Delegates are co-sponsoring legislation that would require video streaming of all sessions of the House and Senate and their committees, including voting sessions.... Audio has been available for floor sessions in the House and Senate chambers for many years. But rules in both houses forbid the use of personal names, so if you don't recognize the voice of 'the senator from Montgomery County,' or 'the floor leader' or 'the sponsor of the amendment,'or any other of hundreds of euphemisms, you cannot tell who is speaking."
- ENDING JAIL TIME AS A PENALTY FOR GAMBLING (HB 242) - It's hard to imagine, but convictions for petty gambling offenses (including playing poker or dice games) can come with a prison sentence in our state. This year I'm attempting to eliminate criminal penalties on a range of nonviolent offenses like this, and to replace them with tickets & fines that don't leave our residents with criminal records. While I'd personally prefer Marylanders spend their money on more productive activities, it seems hypocritical to criminalize gambling for residents when we've legalized it for big casinos who make millions of dollars for the same thing.
- LETTING VOTERS CHOOSE THEIR REPRESENTATIVES (HB 260 & HB 288) - Right now, if Maryland has a vacancy for the elected offices of Attorney General or Comptroller, voters have NO SAY in who replaces the outgoing official. The Governor gets to decide who will fill these important statewide offices. I'm working with Senator Paul Pinsky on a pair of bills to reform these undemocratic practices. Our legislation would allow the Governor to make a temporary appointment from the same party as the outgoing official, but would then call for a special election to be held during the next regularly scheduled Congressional election. That way we get to fill the office quickly, but voters get to weigh in the next time we are already paying for an election. There is no reason why an appointed official should get to serve a 4-year term in office, when we are already paying for an election during that period.
- MODERNIZING HOW WE FILE TAX RETURNS (HB 648) - It's the year 2016, but Maryland still requires some tax returns to be filed on complicated paper forms every month. I'm working with Denizens Brewery, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and Senator Rich Madaleno on a bill to allow our state's numerous beer & wine makers and distributors to file their taxes online. It's a small step toward modernizing state government, but hopefully it'll be a relief to numerous small businesses.
- BANNING DIRECT CORPORATE DONATIONS IN MARYLAND (HB 297) - In the era of Citizens United, Maryland is one of the few states that allow businesses to make campaign contributions directly from their corporate treasuries. That means Walmart (a publicly traded company) can cut checks from its bank account, straight to Maryland candidates. Even Congress has banned this practice. It's time to make Maryland's campaign finance laws at least as strong as those for federal elections.
I've co-sponsored a number of other bills that may be of interest to Silver Spring and Takoma Park voters. Here are a few of my favorites:
- PROMOTING RENEWABLE ENERGY IN MARYLAND (HB 1106 & HB 1287) - These bills would increase the share of renewable sources in Maryland's energy portfolio and would make certain dirty fuels ineligible for subsidies from the state.
- PREVENTING DRUNK DRIVING (HB 1342) - The Maryland House Judiciary Committee (where I serve) unanimously approved a bill to strengthen our drunk driving laws. The Washington Post reported on the progress: "Under the bill, motorists convicted of driving at or above the state’s legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent would be required to breathe into a tube before they can try to start their vehicles. Under current law, ignition interlocks are placed on the cars of people convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher."
- AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION (HB 1007) - This bill would move the state towards universal voter registration by having government agencies proactively register all eligible residents they encounter. Oregon & California have recently adopted this groundbreaking reform, and I'm hopeful Maryland will soon join these states in leading on voter registration.
- STOPPING ANIMAL ABUSE & DOG FIGHTING (HB 583) - This legislation would criminalize the possession of tools used to abuse dogs in dogfighting operations.
- FREEDOM TO YELP (HB 131) - This year I helped one of my colleagues pass a bill to stop companies from retaliating against customers for posting reviews online at sites like Yelp.com. Bethesda Magazine reported on the effort: "District 18 Del. Jeff Waldstreicher introduced a bill that would prohibit businesses from using non-disparagement clauses to keep customers from posting negative reviews on sites.... Waldstreicher worked on a Maryland version with District 20 Del. David Moon."
Talking to Northwood High students about mass incarceration
FREE EXPUNGEMENT LEGAL CLINIC - SATURDAY 4/23 - Get help from volunteer attorneys to clean your record at Montgomery County's 1st expungement & shielding legal clinic. Take advantage of Maryland's new laws regarding expungement and shielding of criminal records. More info at www.SilverSpringExpungement.com.
Saturday, April 23 - 10 am to 2pm
Free Expungement & Shielding Legal Clinic
Silver Spring Civic Buildging
1 Veterans Pl, Downtown Silver Spring
SAVE THE DATE: DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
TUESDAY, APRIL 26
CASA in Action
Clean Water Action
NARAL Pro-Choice MD
National Organization for Women (MoCo PAC)
Public Schools Retirees Association
Maryland Votes for Animals
Hispanic Democratic Club
Coalition of Asian Pacific Democrats of Maryland
Jamie Raskin &
Valerie Ervin &
Delegates Sheila Hixson,
Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutierrez, Jeff Waldstreicher,
Susan Lee & Aruna Miller
Takoma Park Mayor
Takoma Park Councilmembers
Seth Grimes &