Legislative Update: Almost Near the End of Session 2021

We are less than a week from completing the General Assembly’s 2021 90-Day legislative session.  Here are some of the latest actions taken by the legislature that AFSCME Council 3 has been advocating:

  • We are proud to announce our legislation to consolidate collective bargaining for our higher education institutions within the University System of Maryland (SB 09) has passed both the Senate and House!  Next stop: Governor’s Desk. Congratulations to members in higher education for this important step forward!
  • HB 73 would establish an Office of Telework Assistance to develop and post best practices for telework policies and to assist businesses with implementing telework policies, including awarding grants to businesses to help cover hardware and software purchases. HB 73 also requires local governments to establish telework policies to reinforce what many are already doing. In Maryland State Government, HB 73 requires public higher education institutions and each of the three branches of government to establish telework policies. Where employees in the State are covered by collective bargaining, these policies must be negotiated to begin in Fiscal Year 2023.  It has passed the House of Delegates and will receive a bill hearing in Senate Finance Tuesday, April 6.
  • HB 97, The Digital Connectivity Act of 2021, would establish an Office of Digital Inclusion in the Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure that every resident of the State is supported by high-quality, affordable broadband Internet service and has the tools necessary to take advantage of the Internet.  It would also require the Office to develop, by July 1, 2022, a statewide plan to ensure that all State residents have the ability to connect to reliable broadband Internet by December 31, 2026, and establish a Digital Inclusion Fund to support capacity building in the State.  The bill has passed the Senate 47-0 and the House 115-19 and now awaits presentation to the Governor.
  • The Maryland Essential Workers Protection Act (MEWPA-HB 581/SB 486) would provide for consistent policies regarding safe and hygienic worksites, emergency pandemic plans, paid pandemic leave, and the timely notification of positive cases at worksites. It passed the House of Delegates 93-39 and is awaiting action in the Senate.
  • SB 642 (Sen. Elfreth) and HB 922 (Del. Lierman) which would clarify the eligibility of members of the State Retirement and Pension System for “line-of-duty” death benefits when COVID-19 caused or contributed to the death of a member, passed both chambers, 45-0 in the Senate and 136-0 in the House and now awaits presentation to the Governor.
  • Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it is now celebrated annually on the 19th of June throughout the United States, with varying official recognition. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army General Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas.  HB 448 would designate June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day as a State legal and employee holiday.  It has passed the House of Delegates 112-24 and is awaiting action in the Senate.
  • SB 514 would enhance protections for medical consumers by strengthening limits on hospital debt collection practices, which can often target low-income patients for only hundreds of dollars through harassment and threat of legal action.  The bill has passed the Senate 47-0 and the House 134-0 and now awaits presentation to the Governor.
  • HB 13, which would prohibit a unit of State, county, or municipal government from knowingly using public funds to influence the decisions of the county or municipal employees to support or oppose an employee organization that represents or seeks to represent the employees, or to become a member of an employee organization, passed the House 97-41 and the Senate 32-15 and now awaits presentation to the Governor.