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Del. Mary Ann Lisanti: Working on unemployment insurance for federal employees

Mary Ann Lisanti, Harford County state delegate. The Democrat represents District 34A.
Mary Ann Lisanti, Harford County state delegate. The Democrat represents District 34A.(Courtesy Photo / HANDOUT)

One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2019 Maryland General Assembly session.

Now that we are ending our sixth week of the legislative session in Annapolis, I would like to take this opportunity to update the community on some of my key legislative priorities for the 2019 legislative session, in addition to work taking place.

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At the start of session I was assigned the position of chair of the Unemployment Insurance Subcommittee of Economic Matters and co-chair of the Joint Committee on Unemployment Insurance Oversight. I’m excited to be taking on this new role in leadership.

In this new capacity as chair of unemployment insurance, we are working to address critical issues as a result of the extended federal government shutdown and its impact on our citizens.

As of this writing, the committee is deliberating on HB 336 offered by Del. Jessica Feldmark of Howard County. This legislation would provide for unemployment insurance payments to federal civilian employees who are mandated to work without pay during a government shutdown.

Federal employees who are prevented from working are already eligible and are required to pay back the insurance payments after the government reopens and are paid. This legislation sets the same policy for those employees mandated to work.

With the threat of another government shutdown this week, we certainly must address the unfortunate circumstance this places on thousands of families and Maryland’s economy. The last government shutdown directly affected over 170,000 workers in the state and the potential loss of over $1.400 billion from the local economy.

Given Maryland’s significant dependence on the federal government for employment, I have introduced HB 1073 which would create a Joint Committee on Workforce Development. If enacted, this committee would evaluate the condition of Maryland’s public and private sector workforce and apprenticeship programs, and identify strategies to expand employment opportunities, particularly in the private sector, and increase income for Marylanders through workforce development policies.

In addition to my work on unemployment issues, I am working on several local bond bills to provide direct funding for Habitat for Humanity, the Historic Colored School and to create a satellite location for Harford Community College to provide workforce training and apprenticeship programs in partnership with Harford County Public Schools, the private sector and Army Alliance. Other local bills I am sponsoring include enhancements to alcohol policy and permitting an electric trolley service in Havre de Grace.

On a statewide perspective, I am the lead sponsor on a major climate bill that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuel by expanding our renewable energy standard to 50 percent by 2030. HB 1158 will also provide funding for training and apprenticeship programs in the wind and solar industry for 20,000 new jobs over the next 5 years.

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The Child Protection Act. Child abuse is a despicable crime and our children must be protected, therefore I am sponsoring HB 1069, the Child Protection Act. Maryland is one of only two states in the United States that has failed to place a civil and or criminal penalty for failing to report or cover up child abuse.

Nobody wants to see children hurt, therefore as introduced, this legislation would place a civil penalty on individuals already required to report child abuse such as teachers, hospital workers, religious leaders, and child care providers who knows abuse is occurring and fail to report. A criminal penalty would be applicable for failure to report by intentionally covering up known abuse of a child.

The last bill I would like to highlight is HB 1093 — Gold Star Families Tax Relief. This proposal expands on legislation Del. Pat Young of Baltimore County and I sponsored and passed into law last session that raised the tax exemption on military retirement income from $5,000 to $15,000 and lowered the age of eligibility from 65 to 55. While the goal was for a full tax exemption, we were happy to make a lot of progress in 2018. Sadly, it came to our attention that death benefits for our Gold Star Families were simply overlooked in 2018. We are honored to try to include these benefits to our Gold Star Families in 2019.

It's a great privilege to serve the people of Harford County in Annapolis and I always appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached at maryann.lisanti@house.state.md.us or by calling 410-841-3331.

Democrat Mary Ann Lisanti represents District 34A.

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