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MoCo delegation satisfied with legislative session

Three members of Montgomery County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly say they are satisfied with their achievements of the 2017 legislative session.

"The 2017 session was quite productive in terms of getting some progressive legislation passed that had been stalled for years," said Del. David Moon (D-20) who represents Takoma Park.

"It was a really busy session, we got a lot done," said Del. Kirill Reznik (D-39) who represents Germantown and Montgomery Village. "From a progressive point of view, from a productive point of view, I think it was a very good session," he added.

The legislation which passed into law included paid sick leave, a fracking ban, and changes to the crime of rape.

"This was an interesting year because we can't really rely on the federal sector to protect the gains that we've made over the decades," said Sen. Susan Lee (D-16) who represents Bethesda.

Lee, Moon, and Reznik described anxiety and uncertainty in both chambers after the Trump administration took office.

"It's clear that Donald Trump's election cast a huge shadow over everything we were doing in the session," Moon said. "In many ways, we had to derail plans that we may have had in order to start reacting to some of the fallout from Trump's decisions."

"Based on the rhetoric of the campaign, if the federal government follows through on many of their promises, the state of Maryland will be very severely impacted," Reznik said.

"In order to proactively respond to possible adverse federal action, we passed a measure to allow the attorney general to sue the federal government to protect things like the Chesapeake Bay, the environment, affordable healthcare, and constitutional rights," Lee added.

Moon said protection of Planned Parenthood funding (HB 1083) passed to ensure access to contraceptives and cancer screening for the state's residents.

When the U.S. House of Representatives debated the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Lee said she observed a heightened state of alarm among her colleagues.

"There was a huge concern about how we were going to deal with this, we have a lot of people affected by it," she said. "It was frightening."

The General Assembly passed several bills for which Lee, Moon, and Reznik were primary sponsors. Twelve of Lee's bills, eight of Moon's bills, and six of Reznik's bills are set to become state law.

The bills that remain unsigned will go into effect unless Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoes them.

All three legislators co-sponsored the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (HB 0001) which requires businesses with 15 or more employees to pay wages to employees absent from work due to sick leave.

"They don't have to choose between losing their jobs or having to take care of themselves of their families and potentially getting other people sick," said Lee.

One of Lee's co-sponsored legislation, (SB 0781) requires hospitals to provide rape victims with Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) if the rape victim was potentially exposed to HIV.

“We’re hoping that will save lives,” Lee said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PEPs are a series of medications designed to suppress the spread of HIV with 72 hours of infection.

Moon passed bills on improving the state's various welfare care systems, decriminalizing non-violent behavior, and reforming police actions.

One of Moon's bills (HB 0279) ensured the availability of continued care for developmentally-disabled youth as they transferred to the adult care system.

"It's pretty important to care for our most vulnerable," said Moon.

Two bills (HB 0844 and HB 1047), reform the state’s enforcement of child support payments.

Moon explained that under current law, late or failed payments are punishable by suspension of a work or drivers' license. Violating a suspension of a license is currently punishable by jail time.

"You're not going to get people their child support money, if you're making it impossible for people to work," Moon said. "We really tried to clean out some of those practices," he added.

The use of SWAT teams was a concern across in the state, particularly after numerous controversial raids.

"It's a pretty aggressive way of serving a warrant," Moon said. "We've had some high-profile instances of SWAT teams coming into the wrong house, killing pets, and potentially endangering the safety of people," he added.

Moon referred to a July 2008 incident in which Prince George's County Sherriff's Department SWAT teams mistakenly raided the residence of then Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo for suspected drug activity.

Calvo, whose two dogs were killed during the raid, was later cleared of any involvement after additional investigations uncovered unrelated individuals residing at a different address.

Moon's bill (HB 0739), established statewide standards and practices for the use of SWAT teams and replaced what he called a "patchwork system where every county does something totally different from the other."

Reznik highlighted two of his bills, which are set to become law later this year.

The first (HB 0647), included broadening the definition of rape to include other forms of penetration.

"It gives the victims of rape the dignity of being able to call their assailant a rapist," Reznik said.

He also pioneered a tax credit (HB 0490) to encourage individuals and businesses to purchase energy storage equipment.

"It's an incredibly fast-growing industry, there are many companies that do it, and we want to welcome more of them into the state," Reznik said. "It's the first tax credit of its kind in the country."

The House failed to pass the bill. However, Gov. Hogan signed the senate version allowing it to become law.

In their respective chambers, Moon, Reznik, and Lee co-sponsored a bill (HB 0217) that would no longer require victims to prove they physically resisted an assailant during a rape incident.

"There wasn't as good a prosecution because of this obstacle," Lee said. "Maryland was one few states with that on their books."

Moon said Maryland previously led the nation in the number of rape allegations being declared as "unfounded."

"In many of those unfounded cases, the victim had not sufficiently resisted according to law enforcement officials," Moon added.

Looking to the following session, all three legislators said they would like to continue with legislation that did not pass in 2017.

For Lee, she hopes to reintroduce bills on cybersecurity designed to enhance protections for Maryland residents.

Moon said he would work on a bill to terminate the parental rights of rape convicts.

Reznik added he hoped to introduce same-day voter registration allowing eligible voters to register on Election Day prior to immediately voting.

“This is a system that works well in two dozen states, it really opens up access to the voting booth,” he said.

Summarizing the unfinished legislation, Lee simply said, "Some things take more than a year, maybe two, to get through."

@NickolaiSS

 

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