There are several bills before the Maryland Legislature that would substantially weaken protection for children who have been exposed to lead paint, and offer loopholes for negligent property owners who ignore the law — please lend your voice to the many who oppose these bills!
Every year in Maryland there are 3200 children poisoned by lead, the overwhelming majority are poisoned right in their own homes. You can help to put a stop to this, and ensure that every child in our state has a healthy start!
Action you can take:
- Attend a hearing in Annapolis on Friday, February 22, at 1PM, House Environmental Matters (Room 250), Lowe House Office Building, Annapolis, MD.
- Contact the members of the House Environmental Matters Committee, especially if one of the members is your delegate, and let them know you oppose the following bills.
- Call, email, or write to your delegate and let him or her know you’re watching, and you expect Maryland’s children to be their priority. Children, especially children faced with adversity, typically do not have the tools to advocate for themselves — we need to be their advocates, and ensure they have the safe and healthy housing most of us take for granted.
If you don’t know who your delegates are, please click here and enter your address.
HB754 will bring back the Qualified Offer that was struck down by Court of Special Appeals. It allows property owners of rental units to:
- Require that new tenants get their child blood lead tested for any child that spends more than 24 hours a week in that property;
- Receive a copy of a blood lead test for any new persons at risk occupying the property;
- Receive evidence of residence history;
- Limits a person from brining an action for lead poisoning unless the elevated blood lead level is above 15, 20, or 25 µg/dl;
- Prevent a person from bringing suit for lead poisoning, unless a Qualified Offer has been made, should the property owner be in compliance with the law;
- Make an Qualified Offer of only up to $100,000 in benefits for a lifetime of damages; including medical and educational expenses that are NOT already provided by the medical insurance or the public school system;
- Provide only $11,000 for each IQ point that a child loses as a result of being poisoned;
- Limit economic and noneconomic damages to $100,000.
The Coalition believes that this Bill fails to adequately address the constitutional issues expressed in the Dackman v. Jackson decision striking down the Qualified Offer. It puts a price tag on the value of a child and creates a legal precedent that is in violation of current medical privacy laws. Additionally, there is no requirement that landlords prove or have adequate resources to cover a Qualified Offer. In effect a family can be prevented from filing suit simply because a landlord does not have the assets to make a Qualified Offer.
HB924 REMOVES properties built from 1950-1978 from the classification of “affected property”. This Bill will also remove the requirement to dust-test properties built from 1950-1978 to be registered, yearly, in order to be in compliance with the current Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing laws.
The Coalition STRONGLY OPPOSES this Bill as it undoes what was fought so hard for in the 2012 legislative session, the inclusion of properties built from 1950-1978 in the category of “affected property”. Children are at an 80% greater risk of being poisoned in houses built from 1950-1960. There are 18% more children poisoned in houses built from 1950-1978. The Coalition also OPPOSES this Bill as the bill incorporating houses built from 1950-1978 has yet to go into effect.
These specific houses are not scheduled to be incorporated into existing law until 2015. There is no data yet on the positive impact the inclusion of 1950-1978 properties have on the reduction of childhood lead poisoning and we should not be removing them from the law until we know how great an advancement we can make. In conjunction with HB754 passing, HB 924 would allow rental property owners of properties built from 1950-1978 to make Qualified Offers to their tenants, without requiring any form of risk reduction.
HB1299 will allow rental property owners to ONLY preform risk reduction dust inspections every FIVE years if there have been windows installed on the property after 1978, there is a pregnant woman or child that will occupy the property and/or there is notification given that a pregnant woman is occupying the property.
The Coalition feels that this Bill does nothing to protect families. There is no requirement in the Bill that the windows be lead free or that there be any work done to the exterior (window sills, wells, frame) to remove or abate existing lead hazards. Thus, families are still at risk from the number 1 cause of lead poisoning in home, old wooden windows. Under this Bill, rental property owners would be required to test less often with greater risk to the family.
HB923 will require the court to dismiss a lead paint tort claim filed in Circuit Court or a United States District Court for injury caused by the ingestion of lead-based paint or lead-contaminated dust if the claimant does not file a certificate of a qualified expert for each defendant specifying the contents of the certificate and stating when, where and how the claimant was poisoned.
The Coalition feels that this Bill should be reassigned to the Judiciary Committee as it involves significant changes to the tort system in Maryland. This Bill is not an issue for Environmental Matters. However, if reassigned The Coalition opposes the Bill as it puts an unnecessary burden on the claimant to prove their case before trial. We also feel that the current Qualified Expert law is Maryland is sufficient and this change is not necessary and singles out lead paint victims and claimants.
The property owners have their lobbyists and advocates — please contact your delegates today, and be an advocate for Maryland’s children!
As you’re contemplating the many deserving charities for your end of the year giving, here are some of our favorites — they’re all local, and they all work hard to make Baltimore a better city, despite the odds. Give often, and give generously!
A few new additions to the list for 2012, some of the same great groups from 2011:
- Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning
- Baltimore Heritage
- Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake
- Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
- Community Law Center
- Public Justice Center
- 1000 Friends of Maryland
- Homeless Persons Representation Project
- Healthcare for the Homeless
- Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.
- Lauren’s Luggage (This one is not yet a 501(c)(3) but they have applied. Consider donating anyway — there’s a compelling story behind this one.)
- Maryland Legal Aid
Why these charities and not others that might be equally as deserving? I have experience with all of them in some way. I know the executive directors, or I’ve watched them carefully over the years. These organizations have a few qualities in common:
- They spend more on programs and/or direct services than they do on swank office space or fundraising/admin costs.
- They’re organizations that work on the ground, directly making a difference — they “do” more than they “talk”.
So please — be generous. Without these organizations, Baltimore would surely suffer even more than it already suffers now. We can’t build a better city without them.
Columbus mayor: City will spend money to demolish unsafe vacant homes.
In Chicago, a young girl was raped at gunpoint between two vacant homes in the West Englewood neighborhood. Neighbors say the vacants are more than just a threat to property values, and they want action.
Instead of paying lead paint lawsuit judgments, the city’s Housing Authority is paying for take-home cars for its employees, according to WBAL’s Jayne Miller.
Not to beat a dead horse, but PLEASE take the 2012 Baltimore Citizen Satisfaction Survey. It’s like voting — if you can’t be bothered to do it, you shouldn’t bother complaining about not being heard.
The Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning has a summary of lead legislation for the 2012 Maryland Legislative session. Contact your legislators and ask them to support these important bills. (Link opens a PDF)
An elderly woman was found trapped in the collapsed rubble of a vacant home in Western Pennsylvania yesterday. The woman was trapped for two days.
Fantastic news for Philadelphia! Robert Coyle, the “Millionaire Slumlord” was charged with defrauding banks of $10 million. Hopefully now his homes can be put in the hands of people who will fix them up and live in them. And we hope he goes to prison for a long, long time.
Richmond, VA nonprofit warns of a “vacancy crisis” across the state. In 2010, vacant homes represented 9% of Virginia’s total housing stock.
From the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning:
Today, the EPA Final Rule removing the “opt-out” provision goes into effect. Owner occupants are no longer able to opt-out contractors from having to use lead safe work practices in their home if there are no children under age 6 in the property.
Release reiterates that EPA is enforcing lead safe work practices in target housing under the RRP Rule but they are not enforcing the certification for Renovator firms until 10/1/10 and for individual Renovators until 12/31/10 if the worker signs up for a course by 9/30/10.