Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

2018 End of Session letter

The Maryland House of Delegates
Kathleen M. Dumais
15th Legislative District
Vice Chair, House Judiciary Committee
6 Bladen Street, Room 101
Annapolis, MD 21401

April 11, 2018

Dear Citizen:

The 438th Session of the Maryland General Assembly convened on January 10, 2018, the fourth and final session of this term. I continue to serve as Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, which allows me to have a tremendous impact on policy relating to the criminal justice system; public safety; civil actions and procedures; and family and juvenile law. I have had the honor of serving on the Judiciary Committee all of my four terms in the House of Delegates.

This marked the 10th session that I introduced legislation terminating parental rights of rapists, legislation I had worked on for more than a dozen years. Over these years the legislation evolved, and I think this year’s bill resulted in an excellent product. I am happy to report that House Bill 1, The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, achieved final passage in the first weeks of the session and was signed immediately by Governor Hogan. This new emergency law – which became effective as soon as it was signed – terminates the parental rights of a rapist when a child is conceived as a result of the rape. A Court will strip parental rights if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child’s conception resulted from rape and that the termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interests. If best for the child, a Court may approve supervised visitation that assures the child’s safety and well-being as well as the safety and well-being of the other parent. The law also:

• Clarifies that if the child’s attorney files for termination of the rapist’s parental rights, the victim parent must be joined as a party and the case cannot proceed if the victim parent objects.
• Provides for sealing the court records and requires that filings be handled in a manner that protects the parent’s and child’s privacy.
• Stipulates that the Court must advise an alleged rapist that they do not have to testify and that if they choose not to testify it cannot be held against them. The failure to advise is not grounds to overturn a decision.

Very importantly, the law provides an opportunity for timely action, allowing a rape victim to choose to carry a pregnancy resulting from rape to term and place an infant child up for adoption without first procuring the rapist’s approval. Enactment of the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act ensures that a rapist cannot continue to threaten the safety and well-being of an impregnated rape victim and the child conceived as a result of the rape.

Other items on the Dumais Agenda

I sponsored a total of nine successful bills, including measures that:

Reduce the length of time young adults must hold a driver’s learner’s permit. While assuring that current required hours of classroom instruction and practice driving remain in place, this bill compresses the mandatory timeframe for holding a learner’s permit for individuals between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five from nine to three months. The waiting period of nine months remains in place for permit holders who have been convicted of, or granted probation before judgment for, a moving violation. Young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five face increased responsibility as they enter the workforce and/or continue their education. Driving is often necessary in the pursuit of post-high school goals. This measure eases timeframe requirements for young adults, judiciously leaving substantive instructional requirements in place. Importantly, current requirements for drivers younger than eighteen remain.

Allow for the expungement of civil offenses or infractions when one has been charged, but not convicted. Expungement is currently permitted for criminal offenses that have been dismissed, acquitted, or disposed of due to other extenuating circumstances. A clean record is critical to success. Expungement should also be available for civil cases that have not resulted in conviction.

Permit defendants who have pleaded guilty and later become aware of exonerating evidence to seek post-conviction DNA testing and also permit them to file for a petition for a writ of actual innocence. Defendants found guilty by trial have avenues for submitting exonerating evidence. This legislation makes the evidence available for proving the innocence of anyone wrongfully convicted, whether by trial or plea.

Require correctional facilities to establish in writing protocols regarding the care of pregnant inmates. The bill spells out the essential health care that pregnant inmates have a basic right to access, stipulating that correctional facilities have written policies concerning prenatal care and establishing that those written policies be provided to pregnant inmates. This legislation ensures the health of pregnant women in state custody as well as the health of their children.

Allow a Court to order an award of reasonable and necessary expenses to the prevailing party when a custodian’s care of a minor’s assets is challenged. The Maryland Uniform Transfers to Minors Act requires a custodian to hold and protect a minor’s property and allows for either a minor over the age of 14 or an interested party to initiate a proceeding to determine if the custodian is properly managing the assets. With regard to expenses incurred to prosecute or defend, this measure holds harmless the party that wins.

A Balanced, Fiscally Responsible Budget
The Maryland Constitution requires only one action from the legislature during our 90 day session: passage of a balanced budget. We succeeded in doing so by a decidedly bipartisan margin. The Fiscal Year 2019 $44.5 billion budget keeps our books balanced while meeting important state needs. The budget included no new taxes. We stayed within Spending Affordability Committee goals of maintaining a healthy fund balance, and we achieved an FY 2019 structural surplus of $161 million. We maintained $879 million in the Rainy Day Fund and an additional $200 million in the General Fund, leaving more than $1 billion in reserves.

Our $4.6 billion Capital Budget included more than $131 million to fund many important Montgomery County initiatives. Our public primary and secondary schools will receive just over $53.7 million for construction projects. Our higher education facilities also benefited. Montgomery College will receive upwards of $13.8 million for its Rockville campus Student Services Center and $1.74 million for its Takoma Park/Silver Spring Math and Science Center. The Universities at Shady Grove gains $23.1 million for the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Building. Other highlights include almost $2.9 million for Health Facilities, such as the Avery Road Treatment Center, the Charles E. Smith Life Communities Facility, the Holy Cross Health Network Integrated Senior Health Center, Housing Unlimited, Inc., Main Street Connect, Inc., and Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care, Inc. The Montgomery County Pre-Release Center will receive $1.6 million for continued work on its Dietary Center Renovation project. Our parks will receive $927,000 for numerous initiatives throughout the County. Almost $21 million will fund environmental projects, including sanitary sewer reconstruction at the Cabin John, Little Falls, Muddy Branch, and Rock Creek basins.

I am proud to again report that Maryland has retained its AAA bond rating, one of only eleven states in the country to receive the highest possible rating from all three rating agencies – S & P Global Ratings (formerly Standard and Poor’s), Moody’s Investors and Fitch Ratings. The rating agencies cite Maryland’s strong and diverse economy, well-educated work force, above average wealth and income levels, sound financial management, and initiative and flexibility in response to economic cycles. The high rating enables taxpayers to benefit from lower interests rates for our State’s capital investments.

Other Budget Highlights: We earmarked $200 million for future education spending and $41.6 for school safety measures. Funding to public colleges and universities increased by 4.1%, which allows for tuition increases to be capped at 2%. Additionally, workers who care for the developmentally disabled will receive a 3.5% pay increase, and State employees will receive a 2% increase.

Bond Funds: Along with District 15 Senator Brian Feldman and Delegates Aruna Miller and David Fraser-Hidalgo, I am pleased to report that we secured bond funding for several important projects in our District: Dream Catcher Meadows, Ivymount School,, Metropolitan Ballet Theatre Expansion, Poolesville Grape Crushing Economic Development Facility, and TLC’s Katherine Thomas School.

Significant 2018 Legislative Initiatives

The General Assembly passed bills aimed to:

Provide tax relief: We raised the standard deduction for state income tax filers. Due to federal changes, more taxpayers will likely use a standard deduction rather than itemize, and this increase will benefit those filers. State filers who itemize will be able to itemize certain deductions that have been eliminated for federal filers. We expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit for qualifying low income residents. We also exempted from state income tax some retirement income of those who served in the military and correctional officers. Additionally, tax relief for businesses who provide paid sick leave and have less than 15 employees has been enacted.

Stabilize individual market health insurance rates: Federal changes that threatened the individual market left many Marylanders in danger of falling off the insurance rolls. We implemented a tax on insurance companies that will ease the financial burden for residents who purchase policies from Maryland’s health care exchange.

Commit to fund Metro: We pledged $167 million annually to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Combined with the commitments from the District and Virginia, the three jurisdictions will contribute $500 million in capital investments every year, ensuring Metro’s safety and reliability.

Facilitate voting: A constitutional amendment allowing election day registration and voting passed the legislature and will be on the ballot in November for voter approval. Additionally, another measure provides that Marylanders will be automatically registered to vote – unless they are ineligible or opt out – when they transact with certain state agencies, including the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, or social service agencies.

Create an education lock box for casino money: When voters go to the polls in November, they will be able to determine whether funds the state gains from casinos will be spent solely on K-12 education.

Enhance gun safety: In 2013, we enacted a strong assault weapons ban. As follow-up, this session we passed a ban on any device or part that accelerates the rate of fire of a gun, such as “bump stocks” and similar devices. We exempted replacement triggers that only slightly increase the rate of fire in order to protect the sport of competitive shooting. Additionally, we passed the “red flag” law. This measure allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms from someone who has been reported by a doctor, family member, or law enforcement, and then a judge determines the individual a risk to him or herself or others. Due process, similar to that which applies to extreme risk protective order hearings, must be followed. Another successful initiative allows law enforcement to execute a search warrant and retrieve weapons from the home of a convicted domestic abuser who failed to turn in his or her guns as required upon conviction.

Strengthened school safety: The comprehensive bill to improve school safety provides grant money to local school systems, establishes a governing board charged with overseeing school safety improvements, authorizes active shooter training drills, requires the development of policy to create and train school safety assessment teams, sets forth a protocol training school resource officers and determining how many officers each school needs, requires schools to conduct safety evaluations, and requires each school system to appoint a mental health coordinator.

Beefed up environmental protections: We passed the Offshore Drilling Liability Act, establishing that a person who causes an oil or gas spill while engaged in offshore drilling activity is strictly liable for damages. We also passed legislation prohibiting the Governor from withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative without legislative approval. We approved another bill requiring the Governor to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, which is a group of states that have committed to greenhouse gas reduction goals.

I hope you have found this highlight of the budget and overview of important legislative initiatives helpful and informative. In closing, I am so very grateful to the citizens of District 15 for entrusting me with the honor and responsibility of representing you. As always, I ask that you never hesitate to contact me with any state government or legislative concern.

Warm regards,

Kathleen M. Dumais

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