Public Policy Newsletter: April 10th, 2019

This week saw the close of the 439th Legislative Session. Family League’s Policy Team spent the past 90 days working closely with Baltimore City’s Delegates and Senators to pass several key pieces of strong public policy that we believe will support the wellbeing of children and families across our City. 

Each of our five priority bills passed this year! These are big wins, but each represents only a single step forward in a longer journey toward real equity and opportunity. During the legislative process, we must work with advocates and lawmakers on both sides of each issue and often have to reach compromises on bills. Our bills passed looking differently than they did when originally drafted; sometimes in small ways, other times with significant changes. This only means that, in the interim, we will continue monitoring their implementation and working with our coalition partners to determine what we need to do to make sure the work continues to move forward. We will be ready to return to Annapolis next year offering any changes that will help bring these new laws more in line with what we believe is most needed by the communities we serve and introducing new legislation as needed.

Each issue of our newsletter highlights one or more of Maryland’s 8 Child Well-Being Results Areas. In this issue, we focus on Communities Are Safe for Children, Youth and Families and Families Are Safe and Economically Stable.This includes our work in support of the Coalition to Reform School Discipline. One of the Coalition’s key bills this year – HB 725Public Schools – Student Discipline – Restorative Approaches,sponsored by Delegate Lorig Charkoudian – also passed. You can read our testimony in support of this bill here.

Family League’s Priority Bills for the 2019 Legislative Session

Community Schools – Established – SB 661 / HB 733

Sponsors: Senator Mary Washington, Delegate Eric Ebersole
Status: Passed!
Summary: This bill establishes a standard, best practices-informed definition of the Community School strategy for Maryland, setting us at the forefront of the national education landscape. The timing is incredibly pertinent, as the Kirwan Commission legislation included a significant investment in Community Schools in areas of concentrated poverty across the state, including in Baltimore City.

Maternal Mortality Review Program – Establishment of Local Teams –SB0602 / HB 796

Sponsors: Senator Shirley Nathan Pulliam, Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins
Status: Passed!
Summary: This bill will support the work of the statewide Maternal Mortality Review Program by creating mechanisms for local health offices to assemble a more focused, regionally responsive review team. We have worked closely with a number of stakeholders, medical professionals, and county health officers to craft a responsive and useful bill that we believe will support the expansion of this critical work on local levels. The Baltimore City Health Department was instrumental in pushing this forward as they have expressed a desire to begin a local review team for maternal mortality and morbidity in the City.

Maternal Mortality Review Program – Reporting Requirement – SB 356 / HB0583

Sponsors: Senator Shirley Nathan Pulliam, Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins
Status: Passed!
Summary: This bill will strengthen the annual report from the Maternal Mortality Review Program by including a comprehensive section on racial disparities that includes a comparison of the maternal mortality rates across race and ethnicity. Maternal mortality in the state is alarmingly on the rise.  Maryland’s maternal mortality rate for 2011 through 2015 is 20% higher than its rate for the five years prior. Nationally, Black women have a maternal mortality rate that is more than 2.5 times that of White women, but that disparity is higher in Maryland at 2.74 times. We look forward to a robust analysis of this racial disparity by the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Team in subsequent annual reports.

Summer SNAP for Children – SB0218 / HB 338

Sponsors: Senator Cory McCray, Delegate Pam Queen
Status: Passed!
Summary: This bill will support families of school-aged children by providing $30 per month, per child, directly onto their EBT, or SNAP, cards (formerly known as Food Stamps). Nearly 1 in 4 residents in Baltimore City live in a food desert, an area defined as having limited access to healthy food. Nearly 200,000 City residents depend on their SNAP benefits for access to nutritious food. While we had to compromise on the appropriations for this bill, funds are allocated to get a Summer SNAP program off the ground. We were also able to work in some useful provisions that will support Maryland’s Department of Human Services (DHS) in applying for potential federal funds when available. We hope we can see an increase in funding allocated to this new program in subsequent years.

Thrive by Three- SB0406 / HB 520

Sponsors: Senator Bill Ferguson, Delegate Brooke Lierman
Status: Passed!
Summary: This bill provides additional annual funding to the state’s “Thrive by Three” Grant Program. Currently, multiple sources of federal, state, local, and private funding support an array of maternal, infant, and early childhood programs and services. However, it is often the coordination of these services that is most challenging. Funding and developing a robust Thrive by Three Fund has the potential to transform existing public and private programs and resources into an integrated system of care. This bill raised the annual appropriation for the grant program, established a task force to support this work, and set a strong foundation to build on in future years as we continue advocating for funding of early childhood public health work.

Read our testimony on these, and other key bills we supported this year, here.

We are proud to have worked with so many strong and incredible coalition partners, local advocates, city and state agencies, and legislators from across the state to accomplish these wins! If you have questions about any of our priority areas or want to get involved in our advocacy efforts in the future, please email Matt Quinlan, Public Policy Manager, at And keep an eye on your inbox – we’ll be sure to keep you updated on local legislation as well as the implementation of these new state laws.