Public Interest Legislative Victories 2022

2022 legislative victories to safeguard public health, protect consumers, improve our democracy, reduce waste, and transform our energy and transportation systems. 

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The 2022 Maryland legislative session wrapped up at midnight, and there are a lot of important public interest victories that will safeguard public health, protect consumers, improve our democracy, reduce waste, and transform our energy and transportation systems.

 

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Public Interest Victories

The George “Walter” Taylor Act – Sen. Elfreth and Del. Love (SB273/HB275): PFAS are a class of chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency says can cause harmful health effects in humans. These “forever chemicals” have been found in 75% of the drinking water tested by the Maryland Department of Environment. This bill stops the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging and carpets and switches to safer alternatives in fire fighting foam. This bill has moved with UNANIMOUS bipartisan support through both chambers. Gov. Hogan signed this bill into law. Read our testimony.

Clean Air, Healthy Climate – Sen. Pinsky, Del. Barve and Del. Stein (SB528): This bill will reduce pollution that harms our health and worsens climate change. This legislation will mean cleaner air to breathe, healthier families and a safer climate for all of us. The bill will put Maryland on a path to net zero emissions by 2045, help transition state government vehicles and school buses to electric vehicles, require large buildings to reduce emissions, and establish a task force to examine how to cut fossil fuel use in new and existing buildings. This bill will go into law without a signature from Gov. Hogan. Read our testimony.

Improving Election Systems – Sen. Kagan (SB163): This bill streamlines the voting processes and ensures votes are counted by creating a process to cure unsigned mail in ballots and allowing local boards of elections to pre-processing ballots in advance of Election Day to speed the count. Gov. Hogan vetoed this bill, some of it’s provisions will go into effect through the State Board of Elections, but others will need to be voted on in 2023. Read our testimony.

Energy and Water Efficiency Standards – Sen. Pinsky & Del. Ruth (SB494/HB772 ): Maryland’s reliance on polluting fuels puts our health and safety at risk. We support policies to increase clean, efficient energy use. This bill establishes new and updated efficiency standards for 13 common household and commercial appliances, including air purifiers, faucets, water coolers, and restaurant cooking equipment. The new standards will save energy and water, reduce pollution and lower utility bills. This bill passed with UNANIMOUS bipartisan support in the State Senate. This bill will go into law without a signature from Gov. Hogan. Read our testimony.

Low Income Energy Efficiency – Sen. Feldman and Del. Charkoudian (SB524/HB108): This bill will help improve energy  efficiency in low income homes, saving energy, reducing pollution, and lowering utility bills. It sets a standard of 1% annual energy savings for low-income households, enables state-funded home energy performance audits in qualified low-income homes and funds energy efficiency improvements such as new insulation, better windows, EnergyStar® appliances, LED light bulbs and more. This bill passed with UNANIMOUS bipartisan support in the State Senate. Gov. Hogan vetoed this bill, and it will need to be reintroduced in 2023.

School Composting Grant Program – Sen. Hettleman and Del. Charkoudian (SB124/HB150): We support policies dedicated to the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle and put us on a path to zero waste. This bill establishes a grant program to award grants to county boards of education and public schools to develop and implement programs for reducing food waste and to establish composting of school waste. This bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and State Senate. Gov. Hogan signed this bill into law.

Electric School Bus Transition – Del. Fraser-Hidalgo (HB696): Each year, pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles cuts short an estimated 58,000 lives, and increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. Transportation is also America’s number one source of carbon pollution. This bill creates a pilot program from electric school buses, which is a common sense way to protect public health from diesel pollution and fight global warming. This bill will go into law without a signature from Gov. Hogan

Medical Bill Reimbursement- Sen. Hayes and Del. Charkoudian (SB944/HB694): We work to end exploitative practices and ensure a level playing field in the marketplace. Maryland hospitals collected an estimated $60 million from patients who should have received free medical care in 2017 and 2018. This bill requires hospitals to refund the money they should not have collected. This bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and State Senate. This bill will go into law without a signature from Gov. Hogan. Read our testimony.

Low and Moderate Income Solar Tax Credits – Sen. Elfreth and Del. Smith (SB264/HB76): Maryland’s reliance on polluting fuels puts our health and safety at risk. We support policies to increase clean, efficient energy use. This bill reduces the tax burden on rooftop and parking canopy community solar projects that allocate at least 50% of the generated energy to Low and Moderate Income (LMI) households. This bill passed with UNANIMOUS bipartisan support in the State Senate. Gov. Hogan signed this bill into law. Read our testimony.

 

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Legislative losses

Strengthening Enforcement of Clean Water Laws, Sen. President on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General (SB221): This bill would give the Maryland Department of Environment and Attorney General stronger tools to protect drinking water and waterways in Maryland. The bill, championed by Attorney General Brian Frosh, will ensure polluting industries can be properly penalized for violating the state’s clean water laws. The bill passed the Senate and now heads to the House Environment and Transportation Committee. Read our testimony.

Democracy for the People: The influence of wealthy donors in elections has eroded public trust in government and depressed civic participation. We should ensure all voters are able to participate in elections.

  • Campaign Finance Right to Know – Sen. Smith (SB895): An amendment to the Maryland Constitution to protect the right to know in an open, timely, and transparent manner about how, when, and by whom money is spent and from whom money is raised to influence the vote of the individual for candidates for office and ballot questions; and establishing that a publicly financed election is a right of the people. Read our testimony.
  • Maryland Fair Elections Act – Sen. Pinsky (SB358): Creates a program to enable candidates for General Assembly to run for office without large or corporate contributions by providing limited matching funds for small donations. Read our testimony.
  • Special Elections for Legislative Vacancies – Sen. Lam (SB73): An amendment to the Maryland Constitution that would require special elections for filling state legislative vacancies occurring within the first two years of the vacating legislators’ term. Read our Opinion Editorial in Maryland Matters.
  • Expanding Local Fair Elections – Del. Feldmark (HB488): Enables Counties and Baltimore City to establish local small donor public financing for additional offices after they locality has completed one cycle of the program for Executive and Legislative offices. Read our testimony.
  • Voters’ Rights Protection Act of 2022 – Del. Rosenberg (HB538): This bill extends the number of days that early voting centers are open to the public. Read our testimony.
  • Election Judges – Training and Signs – Accommodations for Voters in Need of Assistance – Del. Hill (HB702): This bill would require election judges to be trained on what methods judges can use to assist elderly voters and voters with disabilities and also require a sign outlining these methods to be placed at polling sites. Read our testimony.

Don’t Trash Maryland: We support policies dedicated to the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle and put us on a path to zero waste.

  • Producer Responsibility – Sen. Augustine and Del. Love (SB292/HB307): Requires producers to bear financial responsibility for recycling the products they create, reducing waste, and saving taxpayer money. Read our testimony.
  • Paint Stewardship – Sen. West and Del. Boyce (SB143/HB18): Establishes a producer lead program for disposing of household paint to protect our waterways and environment, public health, and sewer infrastructure.
  • Recycling Task Force – Del. Love (HB217): Established a task force to study the recycling and waste systems in Maryland, and make recommendations on updating the Maryland Recycling Act.
  • Truth in Recycling Act – Del. Love (HB700): Ensures products labeled as recyclable actually have the potential to be recycled in Maryland. Read our testimony.

Consumer Protection: We work to get dangerous products off store shelves, end exploitative practices and ensure a level playing field in the marketplace.

  • Maryland Consumer Reporting Act – Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (HB251): This bill provides critical protections for consumers from mistakes on their credit reports by ensuring Credit Reporting Agencies ensure maximum accuracy and respond more quickly to complaints of credit report errors. Read our testimony.
  • Biometric Identifiers Privacy Act – Sen. Feldman and Del. Love (SB355/HB259): Corporations are increasingly using technology to capture people’s unique biometric identifiers without their consent. This establishes protections for how companies handle Maryland consumers’ biometric information.
  • Farm Equipment Right to Repair – Del. Hornberger (HB562): Expands access to tools and information to allow for the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of farm equipment. Read our testimony.

Clean, Efficient Energy Use: Maryland’s reliance on polluting fuels puts our health and safety at risk. We support policies to increase clean, efficient energy use.

  • Commercial and Residential Emissions Standards and Electric Ready Construction – Sen. Pinsky and Del. Stein (HB831): Sets goals for emissions reductions for commercial and residential and requires new commercial and residential buildings be energy efficient and ready for solar, electric vehicle charging, and building-grid interaction. Read our testimony.
  • Grid Reliability and Inclusive Distribution – Sen. Feldman and Del. Charkoudian (SB525/HB88): Aligns the distribution planning process with the state’s goals for carbon and greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy development. Creates a working group to contribute to the planning process to ensure transparency, public engagement, and representation.
  • Reclaim Renewable Energy Act – Del. Stewart (HB11): This bill stops state renewable energy subsidies for incineration, woody biomass, and burning of gas from landfills and farms.
  • FUTURE Act – Sen. Rosapepe and Del. Solomon (SB471/HB729): Requires the University System of Maryland, the largest energy user and source of emissions in state Government, to achieve 100% carbon zero by 2055. Read our testimony.

Transform Transportation: Each year, pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles cuts short an estimated 58,000 lives, and increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. Transportation is also America’s number one source of carbon pollution.

  • Advanced Clean Truck Rule – Sen. Young and Del. Love (SB687/HB829): Trucks are some of the most polluting vehicles in the transportation sector. This regulation requires manufacturers to produce zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024 and increase sales targets through 2035. Read our testimony.

 

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Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.

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