Blog

Our 2018 Legislative Priorities

By Emily Scarr
State Director

We are halfway through Maryland's 90-day legislative session. There's a lot of work to be done. Here are our top priorities.

Maryland PIRG’s mission is to deliver persistent, result-oriented public interest activism that protects consumers, encourages a fair, sustainable economy, and fosters democratic government.

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 those 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, including:

Restrict Toxic Flame Retardants (HB84)
Delegate Angela Angel
Expands existing law by restricting three toxic flame retardant chemicals from children’s products to protect families and fire fighters. 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.

Ban Chlorpyrifos (SB500/HB116)
Senator Nathan-Pulliam and Delegate Stein
Bans the use of the toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, and other insecticides containing chlorpyrifos.

Ban Foam (SB651/HB538)
Senator Kagan and Delegate Lierman
Bans foam food packaging like cups, plates and clamshell containers from food service businesses and selling these produces in retail. Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our environment for hundreds of years.

Reducing Lead Poisoning (SB801/HB304)
Senator Oaks and Delegate R. Lewis
Lead is a potent neurotoxin that affects how our children learn, grow, and behave, and there is no safe level of exposure. This bill lowers the intervention level to an elevated blood lead level in children of 5 micrograms per deciliter.

Reclaiming our Democracy

The influence of wealthy special interests in the funding of elections has eroded public trust in our political system and helped to depress civic participation. We should do everything we can to ensure all eligible voters are able to have their voice heard on Election Day. Maryland PIRG supports legislative policies that strengthen our democracy, including:

Secure and Accessible Registration Act (SB1048/HB152)
Senator Smith and Delegate Luedtke
Streamlines the voter registration process, seamlessly registering eligible voters and updating voter registrations through an opt-out process when Marylanders interact with certain agencies. This will make our voter rolls more accurate and secure, increase efficiency, and expand voter participation.

Election Day Registration (SB594/HB532)
Senator Pinsky and Delegate Reznik
Allows eligible voters to register to vote, update their registration, and vote on Election Day.

Small Donor Campaign Finance Reform
Delegate Mosby (HB785)
Senator Pinsky (SB374)
These bills create campaign finance programs 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.

Prohibiting Corporate Contributions (HB1287)
Delegate Moon
Prohibits business entities from making contributions to campaign finance entities.

Consumer Protection

Marylanders should be able to buy products on the marketplace without concern about hidden fees, scams, safety risks, privacy violations, or rip-offs. Maryland PIRG is working to protect consumer by passing policies, including:

Free Security Freezes for Marylanders (SB202/HB710)
Senator Lee and Delegate Carey
Gives Marylanders more control of their financial information and helps prevent identity theft by providing free access to security freezes and thaws.

Financial Consumer Protection Act of 2018 (SB1068/HB1634)
Senator Rosapepe and Delegate Frick
Codifies recommendations from the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission to expand protections from fraud and abuse, establish office of student loan ombudsmen, and strengthen the ability of the Attorney General to enforce consumer protection laws.

High-Quality, Affordable Health Care

Health care costs continue to rise, and more insurance plans are requiring significant deductibles and cost-sharing plans that burden consumers with high costs. Maryland PIRG is working to reduce health care costs and increase the quality and efficiency of care, including:

Prescription Drugs Cost Commission (SB1023/HB1194)
Senator Conway and Delegate Pena-Melnyk
Creating the Drug Cost Review Commission to establish payment rates for expensive drugs that create significant affordability problems.

Prohibiting Pharmacist Gag Rule (SB576/HB736)
Senator Klausmeier and Delegate Bromwell
Enables pharmacists to provide information to consumers about lower cost drug options.

Clean, Efficient Energy Use

Maryland’s reliance on polluting fossil fuels puts our health and safety at risk. The growth of cleaner technologies in Maryland benefits both our environment and our economy. Maryland PIRG is working to increase clean, efficient energy use, including:

100% Clean Renewable Energy Equity Act  (HB878)
Delegate Shane Robinson

Requires Maryland to generate 100% of electricity from clean, renewable energy sources by 2035.

Transit Not Traffic

Efficient public transit makes our transportation system better for everyone by reducing traffic congestion and pollution, and increasing our options for getting around.

Maryland Metro Funding Act (SB277/HB372)
Senator Feldman and Delegate Korman
This bill would provide long-term, dedicated funding to the DC metropolitan-area Metro transit system to support important upgrades and improvements for Metro rail. 

Sound Budget & Tax Policy

Marylanders have the right to know how our money is spent, and no company should be able to game the tax system to avoid paying what it legitimately owes. Maryland PIRG supports tax policies that encourages actions that are good for society while discouraging bad behavior, including:

Disclosure of Settlement Payments (HB449)
Delegate Lafferty
Requires that corporations that are filing income tax returns in Maryland disclose any deductions they are taking for out of court settlements to ensure they are correctly filing their state taxes and to increase tax transparency.

Business Relief and Tax Fairness Act (SB195/HB566)
Senator Pinsky and Delegate Healey
Stops companies from shifting profits made in Maryland onto the books of other state subsidiaries to avoid paying Maryland taxes. Reforming the system would help local businesses compete, and make sure big multi-state firms pay their share. 

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