The Maryland General Assembly pushed hundreds of bills across the finish line during its 437th legislative session. AARP MD is reflecting on the progress we made on our legislative priorities for 50+ Marylanders and their families. Under the guidance of state director, Hank Greenberg and advocacy director, Tammy Bresnahan, along with our dedicated volunteers, AARP MD has been working diligently on issues that would affect the health, happiness and financial security of Maryland’s 50+ residents.
During the 90-day session we rallied, sent e-mails, made phone calls, packed committee rooms with branded members and volunteers, and shared our volunteers’ experience on important pieces of legislation. AARP Maryland was successful this session because of state planning that included the involvement of many: our volunteers, executive council and partners (both in the AARP national office and key state stakeholders). We generated grassroots emails and placed phone calls to the governor; urging them to support our priorities. These efforts, combined with our presence in Annapolis every Friday to meet with legislatures, underscore that we have grown into a force that legislative leaders cannot ignore.
A huge part of our success was cultivated and built with a grassroots strategy with a focus on the dashboard. We strategically lay the groundwork for the passage important legislation that positively affect Maryland’s 50+. So, how did we grade each of the priorities this Session, and what happens next? Here’s where all our legislative priorities stand:
Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability
AARP Maryland and a large coalition (including Kaiser Permanente, Med Chi, unions, nurse groups and others) supported SB 415/HB 631, a prohibition on generic drug price gouging, which now heads to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk for signature. The House concurred on the last day of session with Senate amendments. A bipartisan bill, the House voted 137-2 for the bill and the Senate approved it 38-7 with a handful of Republicans joining the Democratic majority. All but a few GOP delegates supported the measure.
The legislation will be the first of its kind in the country to hold drug makers accountable for drastic spikes in prices that can’t be justified. Under the new law, the state Medicaid program will notify the attorney general of increases in drug prices. The Attorney General then can seek civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.
Session Grade: A+
Maryland is the first state in the nation to pass these bills!
What’s next: We will continue to advocate with our state and national partners for affordable pharmaceuticals—especially for the 50+ and those on Medicare.
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Earned Sick and Safe Leave
Five years in the making, the Maryland General Assembly passed a widely supported but controversial paid sick leave bill, HB 1 – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which Gov. Hogan has vowed to veto. The sick leave bill requires companies with 15 or more workers to offer 40 hours of annual paid sick leave – it allows employees to use sick leave for elder care. Part-time employees working only twelve hours a week would accrue paid sick leave under the mandate. The bill originally had offered seven sick days. Any business that currently offers five days of flexible paid leave, whether vacation or sick, complies with the bill. The sick leave bill requires companies with 15 or more workers to offer 40 hours of annual paid sick leave – it allows employees to use sick leave for elder care. Part-time employees working only twelve hours a week would accrue paid sick leave under the mandate. The bill originally had offered seven sick days. Any business that currently offers five days of flexible paid leave, whether vacation or sick, complies with the bill.
As of the conclusion of the 2017 Session, it is still unclear whether the governor will sign or veto the paid sick leave bill (he has up to 90 days after the session to decide).
If the governor does veto, however, democratic lawmakers are promising an override at the start of the 2018 session, saying they will defend the rights of 700,000 Marylanders to take paid sick leave without fear of losing their jobs. The bill cleared the House of Delegates by a veto proof majority, 87-53, concurring with Senate amendments and avoiding the need for a conference committee so close to the end of session. The governor had previously called the measure “dead on arrival,” but would not say during the final day of the session whether he definitely planned to veto it, telling reporters at a press conference that he would consider it when it reached his desk. As of this moment, AARP Maryland and its volunteers are continuing to work to convince Governor Hogan not to veto this bill.
Session Grade: A+
AARP MD in a broad coalition of support has worked to pass this bill for the last five sessions. While we urge the Governor to sign the bill, if he does veto it will be overridden next year and take effect.
What’s next: AARP MD continues to drive calls and letters to encourage the Governor not to veto this bill. We will also raise awareness and provide information on resources for those needing help as caregivers. If you would like to help, dial 844-284-6884 right now and press “1” on your keypad to be connected to the governor’s office and ask him to please sign—not veto—the paid sick leave bill!
Nurse Licensure Compact
Bill SB 41 – State Board of Nursing – Nurse Licensure Compact – Revisions amends statute to conform the existing Nurse Multistate Licensure Compact to the new and enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact. The bill clarifies the authority of party state licensing boards. Specifically, the rules governing a state taking action against a compact privilege to practice are clarified. Other states have used this approach to increase the ability of nurses to practice in multiple states. Many states that passed the original compact language including Maryland are now amending their laws to implement new language that was created earlier.
Session Grade: A
This bill grants more opportunities for nurses to offer their services and help Marylanders and family caregivers.
What’s next: AARP Maryland will continue to work with nurses and nurse associations so they may practice to the highest level of their education and experience. Additionally, allowing nurses these options helps to provide care in local areas where there is lack of physicians and specialty doctors.
Maryland Teachers and State Employee Pension Sustainability
AARP has supported measures calling for the state of Maryland to meet its required contribution of $300 million over a 25-year period of sustainability to the Maryland Teachers and State Employee Pension Fund. Total pension costs are expected to increase from $1.6 billion in fiscal 2017 to $1.9 billion in fiscal 2022. This is an annual increase of 3.6%. Maryland general fund costs for pensions are approximately 8% of general fund revenues in the out-years. Increases in pension costs have slowed, in part due to pension reforms since 2011. The actuarial contribution rate for teachers’ pensions declines in fiscal 2018. This is largely attributable to the higher turnover rate in the school systems, which has resulted in a higher percentage of less costly new teachers more quickly than the State employee system. Since fiscal 2016 ended with an unappropriated fund balance, the Administration is required to include an additional $50 million appropriation for State pension contributions. This is the maximum.
Session Grade: D
Legislators used the $50 million maximum that is due to the pension fund in fiscal 2018 in efforts to balance the budget.
What’s next: We will continue to monitor what the House and Senate do to sustain the teachers and state employee pension.
Maryland Caregiver Support Coordinating Council – Renaming and Altering Membership and Duties
After our big CARE Act win in 2016, AARP fought for another caregiving related bill again in 2017: HB 769/SB 0216 – Maryland Caregivers Support Coordinating Council – Renaming and Altering Membership and Duties. This act was supported passionately by AARP Maryland throughout the session and passed both houses…and will become a law! This act asks legislators to make the Caregivers Coordinator Council a commission, adds a representative from the House and Senate , and requires a full-time staff person. This commission will make recommendations for resources and services for caregivers.
Session Grade: A
This new law will increase the number of resources for Maryland’s 770,000+ family caregivers!
What’s next: AARP will continue to advocate for legislation that supports family caregivers and those who offer them appropriate resources and services.
Utilities – Water
Water Shut off Moratorium – This bill was heard in Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Tammy prepared testimony and testified in support of the moratorium. Individuals will not have their water turned off for at least one year. This bill was tacked on to another tax bill and will be studied during the interim. AARP MD has two volunteers increasingly interested in working on this issue.
Session Grade: C
This was a hard fight throughout the session, and we had hoped to pass this rather than it be turned into a study for the coming year.
What’s next: Volunteers will participate in the study as we decide to move forward.
Utilities – Telecom Bills
Two telecom bills in particular were our focus during this Session:
HB 1221 Replacement – Moratorium and Study prohibits a telephone company that provides local exchange access with its own equipment from replacing a copper landline with optical fiber or Voice over Internet Protocol (also known as VoIP) unless a customer or group of customers submits written approval of the replacement. The prohibition only applies to residential customers. AARP Maryland’s Advocacy Director, Tammy, worked with the delegate and the Office of the People’s Counsel and prepared testimony in favor of the bill.
House Bill 1313 Public Utilities – Telephone Companies – Wired Broadband (Wire Broadband Act of 2017) This bill requires a telephone company that provides intrastate local or long distance exchange services to provide and maintain wired broadband service throughout its network; provide and maintain wired broadband service through a service agreement with a third party contractor or pay the cost of providing wired broadband service to the Rural Broadband Assistance Fund.
Unfortunately, both telecom bills received unfavorable votes from the Economic Matters Committee.
Session Grade: D
What’s next: AARP continues to work on protections so residents can stay connected with reliable access to broadband. We have vowed to work with both bill sponsors and advocates so that individuals have access to communication networks—especially in rural areas of Maryland.
THANK YOU. A huge part of our success is due to the team of AARP staff and volunteer advocates who provided support and testimony on important legislation such as the telecom bill, property tax credits, and earned sick leave. AARP’s presence at every delegate Friday showed Maryland’s legislators our passion and persistence. Thank you to all, including our members, who helped to make this year’s General Assembly in Maryland an overall win for 50+ Marylanders and their families!
For questions or additional information about AARP Maryland’s legislative agenda, please contact Associate State Director for Advocacy, Tammy Bresnahan, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you are signed up to receive advocacy alerts from AARP Maryland.
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