Tagged: Maryland legislature

Legislative Action: Your Help is Needed!

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. 

From the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning:

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.

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The property owners have their lobbyists and advocates — please contact your delegates today, and be an advocate for Maryland’s children!

Link Roundup

The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University recently issued a report on investor activity in Atlanta.  Not surprisingly, the study found that investors were buying up property in neighborhoods where poverty and vacancy rates were high, and median home values were low.

A group of Montgomery County legislators have introduced a bill that has the slumlord lobby up in arms — the bill proposes Maryland property owners who own four or more rental units should be subject to rent control.  It also mandates that landlords cannot force tenants to make them the beneficiary of renters’ insurance policies.  These two things are definitely worth supporting.  Unfortunately, the bill is a bit of a mishmash, with other landlord-tenant issues thrown in — not sure where it will end up.

Some New York City landlords have found a way to make money off the homeless, by operating for-profit SROs/rooming houses — and needless to say, the living conditions are less than acceptable.

I’ve always been fascinated with Centralia, PA — a mostly-abandoned town situated on top of a coal fire that’s been burning for decades.  WGAL has a “then and now” slideshow that’s worth a look.

How to be successful in Maryland politics:  Give your campaign contributors lucrative development contracts.  Just don’t get caught…

CBS Baltimore reports that a recent house fire, in which one woman was found dead in the basement, was more than just a simple house fire.

So now the Mayor wants you to pay for trash pickup?  I thought property taxes paid for that, but…perhaps I was wrong.  Oh, and the City is dicking around with the Fire Department again.  It’s all about solving the budget crisis, I guess so we’ll have more money to give to local developers.

Speaking of the budget, how would you balance our completely out of whack budget?  There’s a website for that.

 

Another Tool to Fight Against Blight

From the Community Law Center:

Owners of abandoned properties in Baltimore City should start bringing their properties up to code, or the local community association might sue them to do just that. Today, the revised law known as the Community Bill of Rights, goes into effect. This amended legislation makes it easier for community organizations to use the law that has been unused but on the books for 15 years.

The revised law allows for community organizations to pursue code enforcement violations to reduce nuisances in their own neighborhoods. Community associations are empowered to address problem properties by filing a private legal action against the property owner. Owners could be forced by a Circuit Court order to correct the problems with their properties that are causing a nuisance in the neighborhood.

You can download a copy of the amended law here. Link opens a PDF.

Why this is important: Some property owners will not act, unless forced to by a court — this gives community members the ability to be proactive and take action against these property owners, hopefully ridding neighborhoods of blighted properties.

The only sticking point for me — some neighborhoods don’t have community associations — not official 501(c)(3) organizations.  And while the process to become a (c)(3) organization is not difficult, it is time consuming.  Some communities may be left out.  We’d like to see the Community Bill of Rights eventually expanded to include non-(c)(3) organizations, so neighbors can band together and take their communities back from slumlords, regardless of whether they have “official” status or not.

Link Roundup

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee understands the need to stabilize his city’s middle class through housing.

The Cleveland Fed says we need to change housing finance at the policy level, in order to slow speculative real estate transactions — hey Cleveland, we agree!

Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D, District 43) says we shouldn’t reward landlords who ignore lead paint regulations — and her bill would give coverage to smaller landlords who can’t afford the outcomes of costly lawsuits.  Sounds like a win to us!

Shrinking housing inventory in Baltimore isn’t because of higher sales volume, but disgruntled sellers.

Part of the Roland Park Shopping Center is structurally unsound and needs fixing.

One in every nine housing units in Baltimore City is vacant, according to an article by Jamie Smith-Hopkins in the Sun.

Think you have what it takes to run one of the most despised quasi-public agencies in Baltimore?

You can bet that housing will be a hot issue for the upcoming elections — especially in hard-hit states like Ohio.

A former mayoral candidate in Jacksonville, Florida was arrested with four others in connection with an illegal rental scheme.

 

 

Support House Bill 977

Bill Information:  House Bill 977 would require that an activity that disturbs more than 3 square feet of painted surface in a specified building, the property owner would have to pass a test for lead-contaminated dust. It also authorizes MDE to administer a renovation, repair, and painting program consistent with federal regulations. In addition, MDE would be required to seek authorization to enforce the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule on or before March 31, 2013.

Why This Is Important:  Lead dust is not only a danger to the people who live in the home — it is a danger to the immediate neighbors, and any children who are in close proximity to renovation/repair work that would disturb the underlying lead paint.

What You Should Do:  Contact your Maryland legislators and ask them to support this important bill.

Support House Bill 1247

Bill Information:  House Bill 1247 would require specified stores to charge a 5-cent fee on plastic carryout bags

Why This Is Important:  Many states and municipalities have either outright banned the use of plastic bags, or currently charge a fee for each bag a customer uses.  This can result in less litter, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, and added revenue for the state.

What You Should Do:  Contact your Maryland legislators and ask them to support this important bill.

Support House Bill 472/Senate Bill 873

Bill Information:  House Bill 472/Senate Bill 873 would establish a Lead Poisoning Compensation Fund, which would require Maryland rental property owners to pay into the fund.  The fees could range from $50 to $500 per unit.  The Fund would be required to cover property owners for claims arising from lead paint lawsuits.

Why This Is Important:  In light of Baltimore City’s blatant refusal to compensate victims of lead poisoning by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), there is an obvious need to take care of these victims — to take care of their immediate and future needs.

What You Should Do:  Contact your Maryland legislators and ask them to support this important bill.