Reducing the nicotine level, Free speech in the work place, and Our AG can sue

Nicotine kills. It’s what makes cigarettes addictive.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced a plan aimed at reducing the nicotine in cigarettes to a nonaddictive level.

The likelihood of that being adopted by the Trump Administration is slim and none.

Is there anything we can do in Maryland?

Should we lower the tax on cigarettes if they’re not addictive?

I’m looking into it.

Does free speech stop at the work place door?

Jimmy John’s was within its rights to fire six employees for making signs that protested the company’s policy of forcing workers to come to work when ill, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Employers have First Amendment rights, most notably to make unlimited campaign contributions under the Citizens United decision.

Should the General Assembly enact free speech protections for workers?

I’m looking into this as well.

State Attorneys General, including Brian Frosh, can sue the federal government regarding the Affordable Care Act, because they have identified concrete injuries – an increase in insurance prices and a decrease in the number of insured individuals in their states, that would result if the Trump Administration stopped making payments for peoples’ health insurance.

That was the ruling yesterday of a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court, one step below the Supreme Court. As you may remember, I sponsored the law broadening AG Frosh’s ability to bring such lawsuits.

A Real Human Being

Personalize your testimony. 

I tell my students that – my staff as well.

It’s far better to make your argument by talking about a real human being, instead of some abstract principle.

Delegate Pete Hammen, chair of the Healh and Government Operations Committee, is a guest lecturer at my class, not a student.

When he defended the Administration’s health insurance bill on the floor Tuesday, he was most effective when he talked about a 62-year old constitunt who had gotten insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.

No doubt many of those listening thought of constituents, friends, and family who would benefit from having health coverage and with it, the ability to obtain preventive care.

No joke and crossing over to dry land

This is how our debate began on the bill to create a health exchange, where consumers can evaluate health insurance policies. The exchange would implement the Affordable Care Act.

“When I was driving here, I heard something on talk radio,” stated a Republican delegate.

“Many people consider that entertainment,” responded the Democratic floor leader for the legislation.

What followed was entertainment only if you’re amused by excessive and misleading rhetoric.

My Republican colleagues declared:

“This bill takes us down the dark night of socialism.”

“This won’t solve our uncompensated care problem because the people in emergency rooms are not lawfully present in this country.”

People will still be buying their health insurance from private companies. The Congress did not nationalize the industry.

Far too many of the people seeking care at an emergency room don’t have health insurance on the job. The vast majority of them are citizens of this country.

That’s no joke.

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I now have two file cards in my breast pocket.

One lists the 14 bills or issues I’m working on that have passed the House of Delegates and will avoid the delay of the Rules Committee.

The other has my five bills still waiting for the Red Sea to part in the House so that they can cross over to the dry land of the Senate.

The same as it was 29 years ago

            I’ve been doing this since I first got here.

            Protecting a woman’s right to choose was the issue when I was a floor whip on Medicaid funding for abortions in 1983.

A health benefit exchange will allow Marylanders to compare and purchase health insurance plans.  It is a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance law passed by the Congress.

Amendments prohibiting coverage of abortions under plans offered on the exchange were rejected by the Health and Government Operations Committee.   We expect they will be offered again on the House floor.

Our preparation will be the same as it was 29 years ago:

Don’t take anything for granted.  Inform pro-choice members prior to the vote.  Prepare for unfavorable contingencies.

In 1983, I passed my first bond bill.

          It was for the Jewish Museum.

          This session, I’m trying to do the same thing for the Roland Park Water Tower.

          For the first time, however, I need to demonstrate that a local project will remain eligible to receive state dollars.

          That’s because the Water Tower is on a list of historic properties now owned by Baltimore City that may be sold or leased if recommended by a consultant the City just hired.

             We need to draft language that would reassure the budget committees here that the tower will not be sold to a for-profit business.