Blog

2019 Session Roundup

By Emily Scarr
State Director

As the Maryland General Assembly wraps up their 2019 session we’re reflecting on the past 90 days, celebrating successes and highlighting disappointments.

We’ve got a lot to be proud of and a lot of work ahead of us. As a small donor funded, grassroots organization, we’re up against tough odds, but by combining citizen action and tough minded advocacy we can make progress on our most pressing issues, and we have.

Below is a full roundup of the session, and here is snapshot of Maryland PIRG’s top 3 priority bills. In the upcoming months we will also release our annual scorecard so you can see how your legislator voted on top public interest issues. ONWARD!

KEEP ANTIBIOTICS WORKING (SB471/HB652)

Antibiotic overuse on farms is causing our most life-saving medicines to become less effective and, in some cases, entirely ineffective. An estimated 160,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the Centers for Disease Control warns that “much of the antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.”

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN
Maryland PIRG leads the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign. We worked with Senator Paul Pinsky, Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (RN), and Delegate Sara Love to ensure we stop the overuse of antibiotics on Maryland farms to stop the rise of antibiotics resistance. The Maryland General Assembly has passed a new bill to ensure that Maryland is restricting antibiotic use on farm animals that are not sick and collecting important data regarding antibiotic use on farms. Our testimony.

HEALTHY KIDS, HEALTHY MARYLAND

Companies are allowed to put nearly any chemical they want into the products we use every day, despite the fact that the government doesn’t test most chemicals for safety or require any pre-market approval. Maryland PIRG supports policies to reduce our exposure to chemicals linked to harmful health and environmental impacts.

FAMILY AND FIRE FIGHTER PROTECTION (SB902/HB1264)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Senator Hayes and Delegate Cullison, this bill would have restricted toxic flame retardant chemicals from furniture and children’s products to protect families and fire fighters. These chemicals are not effective for fire safety and commonly used chemical flame retardants are linked to cancer, lower IQ and poor attention in children, hormone disruption, thyroid effects, and obesity. There are safer, more effective alternatives to these chemicals. The bill did not receive a vote in Committee. Our testimony.

LEAD IN SCHOOL DRINKING WATER (SB481/HB1253)

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN
Introduced by Senator McCray and Delegate Solomon, this bill expands gives schools access to grant programs to help remediate for lead, and lays out stronger intent for lowering the action level for lead in school drinking water. The bill passed in a weakened form, so we'll be back next year to continue our work to get the lead out of school drinking water. Our testimony.

BAN DEADLY PAINTSTRIPPERS (SB82/HB299)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Senator Lam and Delegate Hill, this bill would have banned methylene chloride (DCM) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in paint and coating removal for commercial and consumer use. DCM and NMP are linked to negative health impacts and can cause immediate death, including 3 known deaths in Maryland. Safer alternatives are readily available. A severly weakened version of this bill passed through the Senate, but the bill was not voted on in the House. Our testimony.

BAN CHLORPYRIFOS (SB270/HB275)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Senator Nathan-Pulliam and Delegate Stein, this bill would have banned the use of the toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, and other insecticides containing chlorpyrifos. This bill failed to pass both chambers. It passed through the House but did not receive a vote on the Senate floor. Our testimony.

DEMOCRACY FOR THE PEOPLE

The influence of wealthy special interests in elections has eroded public trust in our political system and helped depress civic participation. We should ensure all eligible voters are able to have their voice is heard on Election Day. 

ELECTION DAY REGISTRATION (SB449/HB286)

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN
Introduced by Senator Pinsky and Delegate Reznik, this bill allows eligible voters to register to vote, update their registration, and vote on Election Day. In November, the vast majority of Marylanders voted in favor of Election Day Registration on the ballot. Our testimony.

MARYLAND SMALL DONOR INCENTIVE ACT (HB1016)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Delegate Mosby, this bill would have created a campaign finance program for statewide legislative offices that enable candidates to run for office without large or corporate campaign contributions by providing limited matching funds for small donations. The bill did not receive a vote in committee. Our testimony.

PROHIBITING CORPORATE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS (HB1130)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Delegate Ivey, this bill would have prohibited business entities from making contributions to candidates for office. The bill did not receive a hearing or vote in committee. Our testimony from 2018.

DON’T TRASH MARYLAND

Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our environment for hundreds of years. The waste we produce means more leaky landfills, dirty air from incinerators, and more litter and litter cleanup costs. Maryland PIRG supports policies that are dedicated to the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle and put us on a path to zero waste.

FOAM FREE MARYLAND (SB285/HB109)

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN
Introduced by Senator Kagan and Delegate Lierman, this bill bans single use foam food packaging like cups, plates and clamshell containers from food service businesses and selling these produces in retail. Our testimony.

No Cash for Trash 

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Senator Hough and Delegate Mosby (SB548/HB961), this bill would have removed subsidies for trash incineration as part of Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard. The bills failed, and the House and Senate also voted to increase the subsidies as part of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB516).

SMART ENERGY SOLUTIONS

By making smart investments in energy efficiency and clean local sources of energy, we can lower bills, create local clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on expensive and unsafe sources of energy, and improve the reliability of our electric grid.

No Subsidies for Nuclear Power

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Delegate Fisher, this bill was originally drafted to add nuclear power as a tier-1 renewable energy source in Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), but was amended to study doing so. The amended version of the bill did not pass on its own, but was added to the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB516) as an amendment and passed. Read more.

TRANSIT NOT TRAFFIC

Our transportation system accounts for 36% of the greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland, more than any other source. Maryland has some of the worst traffic in the nation. Our roads, bridges and transit infrastructure are all lagging. If we want safe, modern and equitable transportation that meets our needs, we need to take action to invest in, reform, and modernize our transportation systems. 

TRANSPORTATION & CLIMATE ACCOUNTABILITY ACT (SB788/HB695)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Senator Rosapepe and Delegate Stewart, this bill would have required the Maryland Department of Environment to conduct thorough environmental reviews of major public-private partnership transportation projects. The review would measure the greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and stormwater impacts of such projects, and also evaluate impacts to vulnerable communities. This bill did not receive a vote in committee. Our testimony.

EVALUATION OF PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS (P3) (HB1091)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduced by Del. Jared Solomon, this bill would have ensured that we understand the environmental impacts and financial risks of large P3 highway expansion projects before entering into expensive, long-term contracts. This bill passed through the House but did not receive a vote in the Senate. Our testimony.

ZERO-EMISSION SCHOOL BUSES (HB1255)

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN
Introduced by Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo, this bill would have required all new school bus purchases be zero-emissions by October 2025, it was amended to create a grant program to support schools shifting to electric buses. The vast majority of school buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming. It’s time to switch to all-electric buses. Our testimony.

CONSUMER PROTECTION

Maryland should be able to participate in the marketplace without concern about hidden fees, scams, safety risks, or privacy violations. Massive data breaches at Equifax and Marriott underscored how vulnerable our data is to hackers, and the Cambridge Analytica debacle demonstrated that the collection and use of our personal data online can easily be misused. 

ONLINE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT (SB613/HB901)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS
Introduce by Senator Lee and Delegate Carey, this bill would have given consumers control over their own data to keep it secure from identity thieves. It gives people the right to control the sale and disclosures of their data, and allows them to request companies delete the information they have. The bill did not receive a vote in commitee.

STUDENT LOAN SERVICING (SB670/HB594)

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN
Introduced by the Senate President and Speaker of the House by request of the Office of the Attorney General. This bill protects student borrowers from unfair, abusive, and deceptive trade practices by setting clear rules for student loan servicers. It prohibits student loan servicers from employing any scheme, device, or artifice to mislead borrowers. We would also support a further step of requiring licensing for student loan borrowers.

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