Proven Leadership & a Strong Voice for the People

Issues & Legislation


MAGLEV Proposal Update I have great concerns over proposed routes through heavily populated areas which would greatly disrupt long established neighborhoods for a train which I feel would be of little use to the average citizen due to the expense involved. The MAGLEV project has proposed alignments which travel through Baltimore City, Howard County, Anne Arundel, and Prince George’s, however the train will have only scheduled stops in Baltimore, BWI and the District of Columbia. For the rest of us, we may have disrupted communities, destroyed neighborhoods and years of construction for an expensive commuter train to serve wealthy clients from DC to Baltimore with no benefits to the local communities. Please read the letter that Senator Douglas J. Peters and I recently sent to our colleagues concerning this issue. More information regarding the MAGLEV proposed alignment routes may be found here. Additional information can be located in the BWRR proposal and in the September 5th MDOT presentation to the City of Bowie. am also sharing with you an email I recently sent to the County Legislative Director. I have been trying to bring public awareness to this project by publicizing the meetings and announcements of the Maryland Department of Transportation. The state of Maryland has put no money into this project, thus, I have had no opportunity to weigh in on this project at the legislative level. The funding is coming from the federal government, private industry and the government of Japan. I will continue to facilitate spreading the word regarding these public meetings. I have requested a list of all public officials along the proposed routes so that the Senator and I can coordinate meetings between MDOT and these officials, as well as a separate meeting between the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the officials. I will work with these other public officials to present a united front.


2018 Maryland General Assembly Session

Please click here to see the Delegate's current legislation schedule, including today's schedule.


2018 Legislation Update

This is my second term on the Appropriation Committee, where I sit on the Health and Human Services Subcommittee. I have enjoyed getting to know our budget process in greater detail and I will continue to have budget hearings for much of the remainder of this session.  Working on the budget provides an opportunity for me to advocate for funding for our County including education, healthcare, public safety and the needs of the most vulnerable in our District.


This year I am spearheading these issues by sponsoring the following legislation:


In continuing my fight against impaired driving:  I am reintroducing my bill to make smoking or consuming marijuana by the driver of a vehicle a misdemeanor the same as our open alcohol in a vehicle law. This bill passed in the House of Delegates the last two years, but unfortunately did not get out of the Judicial Proceeding Committee in the Senate. In addition, I have legislation to create a Task Force to Study New Technologies in the fight against drugged and drunk driving. I remain concerned that our state has not incorporated any new methods to test drivers for drugs in their system, thereby allowing many to avoid prosecution. The drug impaired driving rates are increasing. We did lower the blood alcohol level for mandatory breathalyzers for drunk driving, however, there are many new technologies such as oral fluid swabs, cell phone analysis, and among other methods to help combat impaired driving fatalities. We need to study these advances and develop a policy for our approach to this rising problem.


In the area of Health and Human Services for the most needy of our citizens: Our state has not given an increase to the neediest of the needy for fifteen years, those citizens who are unable to work and are waiting for social security disability to be approved. I am proud to be the lead sponsor on legislation for this increase. I am also introducing legislation to make Community Action Agencies hold harmless for funding commitments from the federal government should those payments on which they depend be cut or reduced by the federal government, legislation to provide some gender neutral language for homeless shelters and  a change in regulatory language that would clarify that shelters cannot charge fees for the shelter and services, and to allow a modest increase in the Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA)  to 63% of the state minimum living level this year and then go up two percent each successive year until it reaches 71 percent.  Those on TCA have not seen an increase in over 15 years and are some of the neediest individuals and families in our communities.


To address the potential disruption of the MAGLEV high-speed train:  I have three bills which attempt to address the need for public notification and transparency in the building process of infrastructure programs. One requires Counties to have agreements with municipalities should the county transfer assets or grant building permits for the construction of a high-speed transportation system, one requires Counties to have a public hearing, notify citizens and have a super-majority vote on the transfer of assets or granting of building permits. Another bill under consideration will require greater notification to the public for Public Private Partnerships involving transportation systems, as well as a state approval when more than 25% of the project is funded by a foreign entity or built with foreign owned technology.


Education needs and policies:  I am proud of a bill to require additional reporting on follow up to students who fail vision and hearing screenings to assure that these children are actually receiving the necessary glasses or hearing aids to help them in learning.  Records show that in 2015-16 school year, only 34.8% of those children reported follow up medical assistance.  Another study shows that 69% of those students with an Individual Education Program (IEP) were shown to have vision impairments.  I also have several bills aimed at increasing funding levels for Prince George's County and a select number of other counties which fall below certain adequacy levels, certain counties in need of funding for Pre-K funding and funding to address school crowding issues.  Another bill would require schools to prominently post a child abuse reporting phone number.


For vulnerable populations: I am again introducing a bill to allow social service workers and others to file a report when they believe a threat of harm to a child is serious. Our current law only mandates abuse reporting after the abuse has occurred.  This bill would hope to prevent tragedies before potentially deadly abuse occurs. I am also introducing a bill which would allow a family member to petition the courts for a protective order to remove a gun from an individual if he or she has demonstrated a tendency towards harm to themselves or others.  In addition, I have sponsored legislation to bring Residential Treatment Centers into the guidelines for state run Centers in regards to sexual abuse reporting requirements.


Various other legislation:  For many years I have been fighting to see Racial Impact Statements included in our Department of Legislative Services' Fiscal Impact Analyses.  This year, I have introduced legislation which would seek to have a racial equity focus created to identify disparate impact of agency policy on youth, families and individual of color followed by strategic actions to achieve more racially equitable outcomes within the agencies of the state departments of Education, Health, Human Resources, Housing and Public Safety and Correctional Services.


I am introducing a bill to bring members of the Maryland National Guard under the guidelines for the Service Members Civil Relief Act when they are deployed outside of Maryland for extended periods of time.


And finally, I am introducing legislation to introduce guidelines for advertising regulations in the field of medical marijuana.  This legislation will address false medical claims, size and location of signs for both the brand of cannabis and location of dispensaries, and the intended age of the targets of the advertising.


Read details and more in the newsletter here.



Highlights of the 2017 Maryland Legislative Session

As the 2017 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly ends, I feel honored to have had the privilege of serving the citizens of Legislative District 23A. Your emails and phone calls have kept me abreast of the issues you care about and helped me to make informed decisions while representing you in Annapolis.


This has been a busy session and I worked hard to make sure that Maryland, and in particular, Prince George's County benefited. Much of our focus was placed on the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its potential impact on Maryland. I was proud to sponsor and pass several important pieces of legislation this session:

  • A bill to conform Maryland's HIPAA privacy laws to the federal standards which will allow families of patients undergoing a mental health crisis to have access to their hospital location and to work with their medical provider when the doctor believes it is in the best interest of the patient.
  • A bill to conform sentencing options for homicide by motor vehicle for driving while drugged to those in current law for homicide while driving drunk
  • A bill to forgive municipalities' debt for errors by the Comptroller
  • District 23 was also successful in reaching an agreement with the owners of the Bowie Race Track to improve the maintenance and upkeep of the area

Additional details for these bills follow in the Legislative Highlights included below.


Closer to home, we fought successfully to retain the promised funding for the Regional Medical Center in Largo, which the Governor had cut from the budget, and to have Laurel Hospital keep the best possible remaining programs.


District 23 was proud to secure funding for:

  • Champs House, which works with recovering alcoholic men
  • Alpha House, to help the homeless working poor
  • Patuxent 4-H Center, to renovate their cabins
  • a new building for community and scout meetings, and projects such as Warm Nights Homeless shelters for St. Nicholas in Laurel

All of these capital projects require substantial fundraising on the recipients' part.


While serving my first full session on the Appropriations Committee, I continued my past work securing benefits for the poor and indigent as a member of the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee and also served on the Personnel Subcommittee.  I was proud to serve over the interim on the Select Committee on Ending Homelessness, which helps me utilize my Appropriations Committee position to the fullest.


Our military families and deployed parents deserve our deepest respect. Continuing to fight to see that they are fairly treated by our state and courts compels my efforts to support many legislative efforts for our veterans and active soldiers. It was a great honor to be recognized for these efforts by the AMVETS as their 2017 recipient of the PNC A. Leon Anderson Free State Award of Excellence.


This was my second session as the Prince George's Delegation First Vice Chair and my first session as Chair of the Delegation Education Committee. The Delegation Education Committee heard many hours of testimony on HB 1565, Prince George's County Board of Education, PG 402-17. The Legislative Highlights on the following pages contain more detail on this bill and school funding issues.


My legislative priorities this session focused on the areas of impaired drugged and drunk driving, as well as mental health issues, juvenile justice causes, education, the poor, and local municipal issues.


Drunk and Drugged Driving

I am pleased that my proposal in HB 635, Homicide by Motor Vehicle or Vessel While Impaired by a Controlled Dangerous Substance - Penalties, became law.   This bill allows a judge to sentence someone who kills someone when driving while impaired by drugs to the same maximum sentence allowable as if the driver killed someone driving while drunk.   In addition, the bill increases the maximum allowable sentence for repeated offenders of these heinous crimes.  The need for this bill came to my attention after I was informed of a family whose beloved father and husband was killed by a driver impaired by drugs and the maximum sentence was only three years and not five as it would have been if the driver had been drunk.


Once again the House passed my bill, HB 1043, Vehicle Laws - Smoking Marijuana in Vehicles – Prohibition, by an overwhelming majority only to continue to have the Senate refuse to act on the legislation.   This common sense bill made smoking marijuana in a car subject to the same penalty as having an open container of alcohol. Currently, it is not a violation to smoke marijuana while driving. I will continue to advocate and spearhead this type of legislation, especially given the evidence that driving while impaired by drugs as well as crashes related to drug impairment have both doubled since 2011.


Family Matters

After a dear constituent described an untenable experience she had with her grandson suffering mental illness, I spearheaded a bill to remove overly restrictive provisions on the release of mental health information.  These restrictions prevented both hospitals and doctors from providing family and loved ones with needed information about their loved one experiencing a mental health emergency.   HB 1468, Medical Records - Disclosure of Directory Information and Medical Records, will conform the Maryland HIPAA privacy law to the federal law standards so that in Maryland all protected health information will be treated the same.  Now, if the medical provider deems it to be in the best interest of the patient, families will be given access to information about location and condition of a mental health patient with whom they have a close relationship.


For the last several years our County State’s Attorney, Angela Alsobrooks, and I have worked to pass legislation that clarifies a process for reporting to proper authorities when there has been a substantial and severe threat of harm which could endanger the child.  This year HB1321, Child Protection - Reporting - Threat of Harm, passed the House but failed in the Senate.  We will continue the fight for children next year and hope that the Senate will reverse its opposition.


HB 1071, MVA Notice to Victims, restructures a 2010 law which requires victim’s families to be notified of the right to attend an MVA hearing if their loved one is killed during a traffic incident.  This bill came to my attention when a constituent, whose granddaughter was struck and killed crossing the street, was never notified of her right to attend the MVA hearing for licensure revocation. This right was extremely important because the driver did not receive criminal charges and the families only right to be present would have been at the MVA hearing.  It is always my privilege to work with the Victim’s Resource Center for such victim’s rights.


Local Matters

In recent years the Comptroller of Maryland has been erroneously either withholding or refunding too many tax dollars to local governments due to misclassified addresses.   I was proud to be the lead sponsor of a bill, HB1433, Local Income Tax Overpayments - Local Reserve Account Repayment – Forgiveness, to forgive this debt on the part of the municipalities.  I am happy that the Comptroller, Governor and legislature all agreed that these debts were incurred through no fault of the towns and that they should not be held responsible.


The District 23 team introduced SB198/HB606, Horse Racing - Bowie Race Course Training Center - State Purchase or Condemnation, to call attention to the disgraceful neglect of the Bowie Race Track Training Center.  The bill did meet one of its primary objectives, which was to get the appropriate parties to the table to discuss much needed and long promised maintenance.   The racing officials, the Mayor of Bowie, and the District 23rd Legislative Team, have all signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for future maintenance and upkeep, along with the replacement of the fence and structural studies on the safety of the bridge.   The District 23 team will continue to monitor the situation.


While I was unable to make progress on my two bills to try to challenge the proposed development of the Jesuit property at the corner of Rt. 450 and Rt. 3, it is my hope that public participation and advocacy will help deter the project. I continue to believe the revisions, wherein the property was moved by the 2014 County Council from the Rural Tier and Priority Preservation Area zoning to the Established Communities Area, was intentionally done outside the Master Planning process so that public notice was not meaningful and there was no public outreach. Unfortunately, this change creates a better posture for the Developer filing its plan for residential development and request for zoning change.  I continue to urge all citizens to share their concerns with County Councilman Todd Turner to prevent the final zoning change needed for development and with the Mayor and all City Council members about objections to annexation so that the Developer cannot have access to City sewer and water.  Those local elected officials can do their best work when they hear from constituents about their concerns for this proposed development.


My top legislative priorities will continue to be fighting for the poor, juvenile justice, victims, veterans, the best possible education for all our children and my never ending fight against impaired driving.



Please read this letter from Chief David Morris, President of the Maryland Police Chiefs Association, regarding HB 1043. I introduced this bill in the Maryland Legislature to prohibit “a driver of a motor vehicle from smoking or consuming marijuana in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway; and prohibiting an occupant of a motor vehicle from smoking marijuana in the passenger area of the motor vehicle on a highway.” Please contact your respective state senators and have them urge JPR Chairman Senator Zirkin to put HB 1043 to a committee vote so the bill can be heard and voted on by the full Senate. Read the letter here and contact your state senators today.



Highlights of the 2016 Maryland Legislative Session

I was pleased and honored to be selected to move to the House Appropriations Committee this session.   This reassignment will allow me to work more closely on budget related items and important funding issues that affect our County and so many of us in so many ways.   This year I was pleased to be able to propose and have adopted budget language that will require a study of our Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) program. TCA is often the only safety net many families have when difficult times hit and the TCA eligibility standards have not been changed or reviewed in many years. I am also assigned to the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee which will allow me to put my combined nursing and law backgrounds to good use on important issues such as access to affordable and quality health care in our County.


In my second term representing you, I continued to personally advocate and spearhead legislation in the following areas:


Drunk Driving

I am very pleased that several of my bills directed at helping to address the problem of impaired driving were successful this year.  Working with the State’s Attorney Association, I primarily sponsored HB 157, Death or Life-Threatening Injury by Motor Vehicle or Vessel - Subsequent Offenders - Penalties, which will allow judges to apply more stringent penalties for repeat offenders who have been convicted in the past for drunk or drugged driving infractions, particularly in cases which have involved a serious injury or taken a life. This is a vital improvement because it allows the judge more flexibility in ordering long term treatment or probation to prevent this recurring problem. Read my Washington Post Op-ed on this subject here.


In conjunction with the State’s Attorney’s office, nurses and hospital organizations, I sponsored HB 773, Drunk and Drugged Driving - Evidence of Blood Test, to circumvent a tool used by the defense to have drawn blood test results thrown out of court in a drunk or drugged driving accident case. This bill will allow the law enforcement official to testify that they witnessed the procedure.   Current law allowed the medical personnel to be subpoenaed which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars to hospitals in duplicative salary costs only to have the personnel dismissed when they presented themselves to testify. This successful measure will prevent defense attorneys from using antiquated law to throw out otherwise sufficient blood alcohol evidence needed for successful convictions.


The ignition interlock bill, HB 1342, Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016, known as Noah’s Law in memory of Police Officer Noah Leotta, also successfully passed this session. This bill lowers the alcohol breath count to .08 to trigger the mandatory installation of ignition interlock systems on a car upon a drunk or drugged driving conviction. I was happy to support this much needed improvement in our efforts to address this problem from all sides.


Victim’s Rights

Working with County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, I successfully worked to close a senseless loophole. Current law prevented sex offenders registered in Maryland from receiving bail at a Commissioner hearing and required a judge specifically to review bond. However, sex offenders registered in another state did not have such added bail protections. HB 166, Criminal Procedure - Pretrial Release - Out-of-State Sex Offenders, closes this loophole, extending this common sense protection to all our citizens regardless of where the sex offense occurred.


One area that I have worked passionately for since my election has been victim’s rights and restitution. In the past, I have passed bills to require intercepts for overdue child support and crime restitution for casino and video lottery cash winnings. HB 707, Study of Intercepting Horse Racing Winnings for Child Support and Restitution, requires that the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) study the most effective way to apply these intercepts to bets made online and at the track for horse race winnings. In addition, I was humbled this month to receive the 2016 Maryland Champion for Crime Victims Award from the Maryland Crime Victim’s Resource Center.


Due to the expensive nature of vehicle air bags, a counterfeit black market has developed. Unfortunately, these counterfeit air bags have been found to contain garbage, sharp fragments or nothing at all. We assume that a functioning air bag will be there to protect us when needed. Federal law can only stop the importation of these airbags if they violate a copyright or trademark law. I sponsored, HB 1236, Vehicle Equipment - Counterfeit and Nonfunctional Airbags – Prohibitions, which will make it a misdemeanor in the state of Maryland to knowingly sell counterfeit air bags, thus giving law enforcement the tools needed to prosecute.


Justice Reinvestment

Last interim I served on the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council (JRCC).   As a member of the Council, I supported a large comprehensive criminal justice reform package, HB 1312, Justice Reinvestment Act (JRI), which passed this year.  This bill includes a number of provisions which will change the way justice is administered in the state with the ultimate goal of reducing the very costly prison population and channel that money back into drug treatment programs to keep people from returning to jail time and again.


Time served has increased 23 percent in the last decade, despite growing research demonstrating that longer prison terms do not reduce recidivism.  At the same time that nonviolent offenders are taking up costly prison beds for longer periods of time, drug and mental health treatment needs are not being met.   The JRI aims to focus prison beds on serious and violent offenders by requiring prompt placement of drug offenders to residential drug treatment, while creating longer prison terms for higher-level theft and drug kingpins. The bill is truly historic and seeks to change failed and often discriminatory criminal justice policies while protecting public safety and reinvesting savings back into community programs to decrease recidivism and strongly combat drug addiction.


For several years, I have also introduced various pieces of legislation which would require fiscal notes to look at the disparate impact and consequences that proposed criminal justice policies have on certain minority groups.  Unfortunately, for years the legislature has resisted passing such laws. I was pleased to once again advocate for the importance of collecting criminal justice impact statistics by race and ethnicity and to see the final JRI legislation include some provisions for collecting this important data.


Beyond the above priorities I was pleased as a member of the Prince George’s Delegation and Democratic Caucus to support the following successful measures:


Operating Budget (SB190)

The Operating Budget is a large document containing large amounts of information.  In general, the bill:  achieves structural balance with budget growth under spending affordability guidelines; increases cash balances; maintains the State’s commitment to public schools; funds all statutory requirements and several significant initiatives; provides sufficient funds to keep higher education tuition increases low; continues to provide vital health care services; focuses resources on substance abuse treatment and opioid addiction; and recognizes the efforts of the state workforce with employee merit increases.   You can see details of the final conference report for the Operating budget here.


OPERATING BUDGET specific to Prince George’s County



  • Direct Aid totals $1,094,052,411 an increase of 4.9% over FY 2016
  • Fully funds Foundation Program ($522,038,416) and Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) ($41,083,951)
  • Continues phase-in of Net Taxable Income ($18,460,342)



  • Local Highway User Revenues for all local jurisdictions are funded at $177.4 million according to current distribution formula
  • Prince George’s allocation is $4,487,929 – County share $2,981,477; Municipal share $1,506,452
  • Included language to bring the six-year funding level for the Greenbelt Metro up to at least $170 million for improvements and infrastructure should it be selected as the new location for the FBI headquarters



  • Fully funds according to formula – aid increases by $273,283 to $7,238,702



  • Community college is fully funded through the Senator John A. Cade formula – aid increases by $2,427,759 to $28,500,296



  • Police Aid is funded at its statutory level – aid increases by $1,005,471 to $14,822,262




CAPITAL BUDGET specific to Prince George’s County

  • $27.5 million in capital funds for Prince George’s Hospital
  • $19.6 million for renovation of Lanham Hall and Queen Anne Academic Center – Prince George’s Community College
  • $2.5 million for renovation and expansion of Detention Center’s Medical Unit
  • Total of $24.7 million for school construction projects
  • $31.5 million for the Natural Sciences Center at Bowie State University
  • The supplemental capital grant program for local school systems was doubled to $40 million by the Senate in the capital budget
    • Prince Georges share will be approximately $9,573,185.


Funding for District 23

I am happy to say that we did secure funding to help with the renovation of the Gymnasium at Tabernacle Church in Laurel which is used by many citizens of District 23 and for renovation of an annex to American Legion Post 381 in South Bowie.


Student Debt and Education

Over the past eight years, the legislature has limited tuition increases at Maryland’s colleges, to bring Maryland from the seventh most expensive to the 26th least expensive. There were several bills this year focused on the growing student debt issue; the average debt of a college graduate in Maryland last year was over $27,000. HB 1014, the Education Affordability Act of 2016, targets working families with a State match to their 529 plans to encourage the families to begin saving for their child’s higher education. It also assists middle class college graduates and families with student debt exceeding $20,000 with a refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 and incentivizes students to graduate in four years.


We also passed HB 1403, the Next Generation Schools Act, to give middle school students in lower-income counties, which includes Prince George’s County, encouragement to pursue a college education by providing access to summer work and internships, financial aid literacy, mentorships and career readiness programs.


The “summer slide” is a very real and major handicap for poor families who cannot afford expensive summer enrichment programs.   We passed the Public School Opportunities Enhancement Act, HB 1402, to provide expanded, extended day and summer enhancement programs for these students should the County choose to participate in this matching grant program.


Prince George’s Regional Medical Center (SB324)

The Prince George’s Delegation worked very hard to secure the funding for the Prince George’s Regional Medical Center.  The State of Maryland, the University of Maryland Medical System and Prince George’s County are collaborating to build this state-of-the-art facility to serve as the lynchpin of the State’s trauma system in Southern Maryland.   SB 324 codifies the State’s commitment to the new hospital center, including operating and capital funding over the next five years.   This is a very important piece of the future economic plan for our County and to address the need for in county health and trauma services for our citizens of all ages.


Statewide Transportation Priorities

SB 1013, Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016, although vetoed by the Governor was overturned by the General Assembly and creates a long term fundamental shift in how transportation decisions are made by creating a fair and transparent scoring system that is intended to remove the political forces and special interests that can impede the CTP process.  The legislation clearly states that the Governor retains the ability to fund any projects he desires, including safety projects, highway projects and local priorities.


Other Legislative Initiatives


I am happy to say we also successfully passed the following bills:


HB1003 Labor and Employment- Equal Pay for Equal Work

  • Ensures that employees are not discriminated against for salary purposes because of gender or gender identity


SB1007 Maryland Small Business Retirement Savings Program and Trust

  • Establishes the Program and Trust which requires specified private-sector employers to make the program available to their employees
  • Employers who participate are exempt from the State’s annual filing fee for corporations and business entities after the program become operational


HB211 Pollinator Protection Act of 2016

  • Prohibits private consumers from using pesticides that contain neonicotinoids, to protect Maryland’s bees which are essential to the pollination of plants, making them a critical part of our environment and agricultural economy


SB937 Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act of 2016

  • Requires the Department of Natural Resources with the UMD Environment Science Dept. to study the sustainability of harvesting public oysters


HB1012 Income Tax Credit-Commuter Benefits-Eligibility and Credit Amount

  • Doubles the commuter benefits tax credit from $50 a month to $100
  • Reduces carpool eligibility from 8 riders to 6 riders to encourage more carpooling


SB376 Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools Act of 2016

  • Statutorily allows an innovative model to graduate from high school with an associate degree or other pre-apprenticeship or career certificates
  • Funding provided to study the implementation of two in Prince George’s County


HB437 Prescription Drug Monitoring Program-Modifications

  • To help combat the prevalence of addiction to prescription drugs, this bill requires certain prescribers and all pharmacists to register in order to monitor the history of a patient when dispensing opioids


HB431 Maryland Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program- Establishment

  • Creates an income tax subtraction modification for contributions to an ABLE account (similar to a 529 plan) for families to save private funds to support individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence and quality of life



Highlights of Commissions and Standing Committees which met over the summer of 2015

Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council

I was proud to have been appointed by the Speaker to this Council which used a data-driven approach to develop a statewide framework of sentencing and corrections policies to safely reduce Maryland's incarcerated population, control corrections spending and reinvest in more effective, less expensive strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism. "For too many individuals, incarceration becomes a way of life, in which they flounder in a cycle of recidivism. It is clear we need a new direction in how we supervise offenders," said Christopher Shank, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention, and Chair of the JRCC. "The current revolving door of the criminal justice system is a drain on our economy. We need these individuals to be contributing members of their communities. The justice reinvestment process will ensure prison beds are reserved for the most serious criminals and low-level offenders are supervised through community-based programs that are proven to be effective. Everyone wins when that happens."  This Council was a challenging time-intensive task but one which I found totally worthwhile and which I hope will lead to a large legislative package to provide valuable reforms to both reduce government spending and ease the stress and financial strain facing so many families dealing with judicial matters.


Death With Dignity

Four states have now legalized some form of physician assisted suicide. The "Death with Dignity" legislation introduced in 2015 tried to address the many issues in this complex issue. We held several long hearings on this legislation which did not pass last year. As a result, the Speaker of the House, Mike Busch, created the Death with Dignity Commission which met over the interim to look into these issues in greater depth. I remain concerned over many areas of the bill. Many citizens feel Death with Dignity is about solving pain control at the end of life. We heard much testimony that,  for the most part, palliative and hospice care can address much of the pain facing patients. Control is what people desire. As a legislator,  I want to address these needs but in a way which will also address the great potential for abuse which exists towards the elderly and the disabled. I do not believe the current legislation adequately addresses these populations. I also struggle greatly with my own personal belief that every life has value until it's natural end. I will continue to weigh these issues thoughtfully as Maryland joins this national debate. I encourage you to read about the issue and share your thoughts with me as well.


Chair of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families

I am the House Chair of the Committee on Children, Youth and Families and we met to hear testimony in greater depth from department heads and stakeholders for the many issues which impact this population. These varied subjects are near and dear to my heart and it is my honor to try to solve some of the difficulties facing this segment of our population.


Other areas of important legislation

While I did not serve on the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup, I did follow the hearings and public meetings with great interest as a citizen and as a Member of the Judiciary Committee. We will have many bills to consider this year which address both public and police safety, body cameras, procedures for police review among other subjects. They are also complex sensitive subjects which often have many sides. If you are interested, I encourage you to watch some of these hearings as you can now stream them live or watch at a later time through the website when it is convenient for you. It is very informative and allows you to see the many sides of the issues which impact the public.


I will also be introducing several bills to continue my fight to strengthen our impaired driving laws, some bills to add important changes for domestic violence protections and child abuse statutes and several bills which will require a lens to be applied to the effect certain policy changes may have on minority populations before they are enacted. I take my bills seriously and will fight hard to see these changes implemented by the end of the Session.


Again, I encourage you to follow these issues and the many others before the Maryland General Assembly this year. You can follow bills at the Maryland General Assembly Homepage.



Legislative Accomplishments


Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith Legislation Passed During First Term  (2011-2015)


2015 Session

HB0263 (CH0233) – Domestic Violence – Permanent Protective Orders – Conspiracy or Solicitation to Commit Murder

Expanding the circumstances under which a court is required to issue a permanent final protective order to include the conviction of an individual for conspiracy or solicitation to commit murder under specified circumstances. Approved by the Governor - Chapter 233


HB0386 (CH0245) – Child Abuse and Neglect – Centralized Confidential Database

Repealing provisions of the law authorizing the Social Services Administration and each local department of social services to maintain a central registry of child abuse and neglect cases and substituting provisions authorizing a centralized confidential database; requiring each local department to enter and have access to specified information in the database; specifying conditions under which an individual may be identified as responsible for child abuse or neglect in the centralized confidential database; etc. Approved by the Governor - Chapter 245


HB05011 (CH0426) (SB0427) – Criminal Procedure – Victims of Crime – Notification Regarding DNA Profile

Requiring a specified law enforcement agency or unit, under specified circumstances, to give a specified victim or victims' representative timely notice as to specified matters relating to a specified DNA profile; requiring the State Board of Victim Services to develop pamphlets to notify victims and victims' representatives of how to request information regarding an unsolved case; etc. Approved by the Governor - Chapter 426


HB0549 (CH0093) (SB0561) – Video Lottery Facility Payouts – Intercepts for Restitution Payments

Requiring video lottery operation licensees to provide specified notices to obligors who win specified prizes and who owe restitution; requiring video lottery operation licensees to make specific payments, withhold specified amounts, honor specified requests in a specified order, and transfer specified amounts under specified circumstances; authorizing specified obligors to appeal specified proposed transfers; etc. Approved by the Governor - Chapter 93


2014 Session

HB904 (CH621) – Children, Youth, and Family Services – Local Management Boards and State Spending – Information Collection and Report

This bill requires local management boards (LMBs) and State agencies to report specified information regarding programs for children, youth, and families to the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) by October 1, 2014. DLS must collect this information in the form of a data resource guide, organized by county and municipal corporation, and report it to the General Assembly by January 1, 2015. Information to be reported includes programs administered or funded by the LMB and outcome data for each program.


HB957 (CH244) – Impaired Driving – Repeat Offenders – Penalties

This bill increases the penalties for a third or subsequent conviction for certain drinking/drugged driving laws, including: driving while impaired by alcohol; driving while so far impaired by any drug, and/or drugs and alcohol that the person cannot safely drive a vehicle; committing either of these crimes while transporting a minor. Penalties for a third or subsequent conviction of the first two are increased from a maximum of one year imprisonment and/or a $500 fine to a maximum of three years imprisonment and/or a $3,000 fine; for the third from a maximum of one year imprisonment and or a $2,000 fine to a maximum of four years imprisonment and/or a $4,000 fine.


HB286 – Criminal Law – Use of Handgun in Crime of Violence or Felony – Statute of Limitations

This bill makes the statute of limitations for the prosecution of using a firearm while committing a crime of violence or a felony the same as that of the underlying crime. Crimes of violence include assault, kidnapping, rape, robbery, and murder. This new law helps prosecutors by extending the time they have to file charges in cases where a firearm is used.


HB352 – Peace Orders and Protective Orders – Penalties – Second or Subsequent Offenses

This bill establishes that a conviction for violating either type of order qualifies as a prior offense for a second or subsequent violation of either type of order for the purpose of determining penalties. It removes the distinction between peace and protective orders as they are based on the relationship between the parties involved, not the acts that led to the issuing of the order.


HB1245 – Crime Victim and Crime Victim’s Representative – Electronic Notification

This bill provides for a crime victim or a crime victim’s representative to request specified notices in an electronic form in accordance with the new Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC) system. It also authorizes the prosecuting attorney and the clerk of the circuit or juvenile court to provide notices in an electronic form to the victim or victim’s representative.


2013 Session

HB909 (CH650) – Criminal Procedure – Venue for Prosecution of Murder and Manslaughter

This bill authorizes the prosecution of a person for first degree murder, second degree murder, or manslaughter to be brought in the county in which the crime occurred. If this cannot be determined, the prosecution may be brought in the county where the body or parts of the body were found.


HB916 (CH651) – Juvenile Law – Dispositions – Placement Guidance

This bill prohibits the juvenile court from committing a child to the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) for out-of-home placement for certain lesser offenses (e.g., possession of marijuana, trespass) unless specified conditions are met. Out-of-home placements may include foster homes, group homes, residential treatment centers, and seven DJS-operated facilities.


HB921 (CH652) – Correctional Services – Inmate Earnings – Compensation for Victims of Crime

This bill requires the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) to withhold 20% of the earnings of an inmate in the Private Sector/Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) Certification Program for compensation for victims of crime. DPSCS is required to report to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and House Judiciary Committee by December 1, 2013, on the payment of restitution by inmates under its jurisdiction.


2012 Session

HB707 (CH240) – Wrongful Death and Survival Causes of Action – Criminal Homicide – Time Limits for Bringing Civil Action

This bill delays the time when the statute of limitations begins to run for civil actions arising from a criminal homicide. If the conduct of an adverse party or his accomplice or accessory prevents a party from discovering the homicide or the identity of the person contributing to the homicide, the statutory period of limitations must begin to run at the time the party should have discovered this information through ordinary diligence.


HB1069 – Maryland Consolidated Capital Bond Loan of 2007 – Prince George’s County – Reid Community Business Development Center

This bill reduces the amount of matching funds to be provided by the Board of Directors of the Reid Community Development Corporation, as grantee, for the acquisition, planning, construction, and capital equipping of the Reid Community Business Development Center from $300,000 to $150,000. It also extends the deadline for the grantee to present evidence that a matching fund will be provided to June 1, 2014. Note: this bill was not passed separately but was rolled into SB1037 (CH659) – Prior Authorizations of State Debt to Fund Capital Projects – Alterations.


2011 Session

HB793 (CH82) – Behavioral Health – Veterans – Coordination and Provision of Services

This bill requires the continuance of the coordination of certain behavioral health services for certain veterans. It reenacts provisions of law that would have been abrogated as of May 31, 2011.


HB794 (CH361) – Division of Parole and Probation – Pre-Parole Investigations for Inmates of Local Facilities

This bill requires the Division of Parole and Probation to complete and deliver a pre-parole investigation of inmates in local correctional facilities within 60 days of that individual’s commitment. The investigation is delivered to the Maryland Parole Commission to help them more quickly determine the advisability of parole for certain inmates.


HB801 (CH362) – Criminal Procedures – Victims’ Rights – Enforcement

This bill requires a court to ensure that crime victims are afforded all of their rights under the law. It allows the court to enter a judgment of restitution if it finds that a victim’s right to restitution was not considered or improperly denied. The victim may file a motion requesting relief within 30 days of the denial or alleged failure to consider.


HB998 (CH518) – Militia – Employment for Military Spouses – Teachers, Health Care Practitioners, and Individuals in Business Occupations and Professions

This bill requires the head of the Maryland Military Department or his designee to assist the spouse of a military member who resides in or is transferred to the State in finding employment in certain professions. It also requires the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) develop an informational form that lists and explains various paths to certification and tenure for teachers in the State and which must be posted on its website.



Prince George’s County Delegation Bills 2011-2015

(Introduced by Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith and became law)


2015 Session

HBxxx (CHxxx) – Enter 2015 legislation here


2014 Session

HB1035 (CH439) – Prince George’s County Juvenile Court and School Safety Workgroup – Membership and Duties

This bill alters the membership of the Prince George’s County Juvenile Court and School Safety workgroup established by CH677 of 2013. It further requires the workgroup to develop recommendations on other relevant issues that warrant further review, study, or change. It will submit its final report and action plan to the Prince George’s County Delegation by December 15, 2014.


2013 Session

HB1107 (CH147) – Prince George’s County – School System – Academic Revitalization and Management Effectiveness Initiative

This bill adds four appointed members to the Prince George’s County School Board, three appointed by the County Executive and one appointed by the County Council. The bill specifies the purpose and responsibility of the county board of education and increases the authority of the Prince George’s County superintendent of schools. This position is now designated as Chief Operating Officer (CEO). The bill also reduces the authority of the county board of education.


HB1338 (CH677) – Prince George’s County Juvenile Court and School Safety Workgroup

This bill establishes the Prince George’s County Juvenile Court and School Safety Workgroup, to be staffed by the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS). The workgroup’s goals include recommending policies to reduce school-based arrests and referrals, to decrease the overrepresentation of African-American youth in the juvenile justice system, and to expand school- and community-based support services for youth exhibiting behavior problems in school.


2012 Session

HB802 (CH394) – Education – Prince George’s County School Board Budgets – Transparency

This bill alters the requirements for the Board of Education website to be developed in accordance with CH489 of 2011. It requires the website to include specified budget data and to allow users to search for data by individual school.


HB897 (CH401) – Prince George’s County – Property Tax – Installment Payment Schedule

This bill authorizes Prince George’s County to provide for an installment payment plan for property taxes of no more than six payments per year. The bill applies to homeowners at least 62 years old whose occupied residential property is not subject to specified encumbrances, e.g., deed of trust or mortgage.


2011 Session

HB1113 (CH489) – Prince George’s County Public Schools – Funding Accountability and Transparency Act

This bill requires the Prince George’s County Board of Education to develop and operate a free, public, and searchable website by January 1, 2013. The website is to provide information on payments of $25,000 or more made by the Board to a single payee in fiscal 2012 and each subsequent year.

Authority: Friends of Geraldine Valentino-Smith, Elizabeth Ryan, Treasurer

copyright 2018

website designed by Kathryn Andrews Communications