Bill would alter requirements for lead risk exemptions
ANNAPOLIS – The time period between lead-paint inspections of rental properties in Maryland would lengthen — from every two years to every five years — and would require an annual affidavit confirming exterior paint is not chipping or peeling, under a bill proposed by Maryland Sen. Adelaide Eckardt, R-Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico.
Eckardt said the bill was in response to a number of foreclosed properties in her district that require lead remediation, and some small remodelers asking for relief.
“It’s really important that we reduce lead risk, and it’s also important that we maintain an adequate supply of available, affordable housing in our rural districts,” Eckardt said “The impact of some of the lead regulations and laws and historic property regulations and laws, has made it a cost issue.”
Ruth Ann Norton, president of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, said that a federal government guideline states there is no safe level of lead, and argued that the health risks of lead paint poisoning outweigh the government convenience provided by this bill.
The impact of lead poisoning is irreversible, and makes children more likely to drop out of school or become involved with juvenile crime, Norton said. Lead also has long term impacts including hypertension, cardiac arrest, and early mortality, she added.
“This bill….goes backwards,” Norton said. “Moving this to a five-year standard is incredibly dangerous.”
– By Lexie Schapitl
Raskin proposes allowing punitive damages for repeat drunken drivers
ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony Thursday on a bill that would make repeat drunken drivers who injure or kill others liable for punitive damages in some cases.
S.B. 302 states if a driver with a blood alcohol level of more than .08 percent kills or injures another person, and has been convicted, pleaded no contest or received probation before judgment for drunken driving charges in the past five years, he would be liable for punitive as well as compensatory damages.
“This bill makes it clear that what we’re telling people is ‘stop driving drunk,’” said Robert Zarbin of the Maryland Association for Justice. “We now have Uber, we have cabs, we have friends, we have ways to get home.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, noted that drunken drivers are “notoriously being let off with very light sentences” and said the state should “raise the costs of drunk driving across the board” in both criminal and civil law.
“Do we want to treat the act of drunk driving and killing as something sufficiently warranting moral condemnation and social deterrence that we are willing to make punitive damages available?” Raskin said. “We really should have a zero tolerance policy with respect to drunk driving.”
Representatives for Allstate, State Farm, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and the Maryland Motor Truck Association opposed the bill on the grounds that drunken driving should be handled in a criminal court, the bill would pass the costs on to insurance companies and employers, and punitive damages would not deter drunken driving.
“Going to jail, losing your license, paying restitution, having probation…(being) subject to an Interlock, those are the things that send the message to the people of Maryland that you should not and you cannot tolerate drinking and driving,” said Noel Patterson, regional counsel with Allstate.
– By Lexie Schapitl
Proposed committee would scrutinize policy issues for health outcomes
ANNAPOLIS – A cross-agency task force would screen all new policy issues for short- and long-term health consequences under a bill sponsored by Delegate Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, a medical doctor.
“We all appreciate that health is a foundation for everything,” Morhaim, House deputy majority leader, testified in a Health and Government Operations Committee hearing Tuesday. “The ultimate goal of the bill is to have policy decisions — that aren’t necessarily about health — factor-in health.”
He gave the example of transportation policy as it would be assessed by the commission.
“If you’re building a road, do you have a sidewalk so that people can walk? Do you have a bike lane?” Morhaim asked.
Supporters of the bill said they believe it will ensure more integration among government agencies.
Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform Chair Leni Preston said policymakers should consider possible health implications, like how building projects could create too much dust, or how new transportation lines could provide access to clinics or doctors’ offices.
“Too often in the policy world decisions are made in a silo,” Preston said.
The state’s health department opposes the bill because it doesn’t want to staff another task force when it already staffs between 100 and 120 groups, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Government Affairs Director Allison Taylor told the committee.
–By Eliana Block