Sam working to keep our community up-to-date

Early Voting Sites

Early voting is underway in Maryland, from June 12-19.  Below is a list of the Early Voting sites, which are open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Mid-County Community Recreation Center Social Hall 
2004 Queensguard Road
Silver Spring, MD 20906
 

Wheaton Community Recreation Center Gymnasium 
11711 Georgia Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20906

Activity Center at Bohrer Park Social Hall
506 South Frederick Avenue
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
 

Germantown Community Recreation Center
18905 Kingsview Road
Germantown, MD 20874

Marilyn J. Praisner Community Center 
14906 Old Columbia Pike
Burtonsville, MD 20866

Executive Office Building 
101 Monroe Street
Rockville, MD 20850

Silver Spring Civic Building 
One Veterans Place
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Damascus Community Recreation Center Social Hall 
25520 Oak Drive
Damascus, MD 20872

Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center Social Hall 
4301 Willow Lane
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

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New Maryland Law Requires Ignition Interlocks for Drunk Drivers with Kids in the Vehicle

Governor Martin O’Malley Thursday morning signed into law legislation that will require drivers caught driving drunk while a child is in the car to have their sobriety electronically verified in order to start their cars.  The new law is designed to combat a 20% rise in arrests for driving children while drunk in recent years.

“Every child deserves a designated driver,” said Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville).  “This law helps make that a reality for more of our kids.  Putting an ignition interlock in the cars of offenders is the best way to make sure they don’t drive drunk again.  After three years of fighting this battle, I am so proud of today’s victory.”

Current law only mandates use of these “ignition interlock” devices when the drunk driver has a BAC of 0.15—nearly twice the legal limit and sometimes known as the “super drunk” standard.  The enactment of HB 1015, sponsored by State Delegates Arora and Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore), lowers that threshold for drivers with children under the age of 16 in the car to 0.08 BAC—the level at which motorists may not drive legally.

On average, someone in Maryland is arrested every 19 hours for driving while impaired by alcohol and or drugs while also transporting a minor, according to the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).

The University of Maryland’s National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Systems cited that Maryland recorded 465 arrests in 2012 for driving while impaired by alcohol and or drugs while also transporting a minor. The National Study Center’s findings also conclude that the crime of DUI (§ 21-902(a)) in Maryland whilst transporting a minor is on the rise as citations for such have increased by double digit figures (20.94%) between 2009 and 2012.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that most drivers guilty of transporting minors under the influence of alcohol, drove drunk approximately 80 times before their first brush with the law.

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Categories: Public Safety  |  Drunk Driving

#TBT: The first class of interns for then-Senator @HillaryClinton

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The 2014 Legislative Session

As you may know, my final Legislative Session representing you in the Maryland House of Delegates concluded on April 7, and I plan to return full-time to the private sector when my term concludes at the end of this year. It is an honor each day to fight for you—as it has been over the last seven legislative sessions of my term. Working for you has been the greatest privilege of my career in public service.

I thought you might appreciate a brief summary of some of my work on your behalf during this session of the General Assembly:

Brought Home Nearly $300,000 in Non-Profit Grants

Your legislators from District 19 secured major funding for projects in our community: $120,000 for the Jewish Council for Aging of Greater Washington for improvements to the Ann L. Bronfman Center; $60,000 for the Silver Spring Jewish Center to expand the daycare Silver Spring Learning Center; $60,000 for improvements to B'nai B'rith Homecrest House; and $55,000 for improvements to the outdoor track at Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy that serves the entire community.

Getting Commuters More Bang for Their Buck

I was so pleased to introduce a successful measure that will make the Maryland Transit Administration plan for upgrades that will allow commuters to leverage IRS pretax commuting allowances better to pay for transit—including the upcoming Purple Line light rail in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. This measure particularly will benefit thousands of the working poor in Maryland.

Every Child Deserves a Designated Driver

I recently was named the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Maryland Legislator of the Year for my multi-year effort to require drivers caught driving drunk while a child is in the car to have their sobriety electronically verified by an ignition interlock in order to start their cars. That measure passed this year, and I am so glad Maryland’s children now are safer.

Protecting Children from Predators in a Position of Authority

As you may know, I have been working for two sessions to close a legal loophole that has allowed some school employees to have inappropriate sexual relationships with students. I am pleased to say that my colleagues and I were successful this year in making protections for our students clear.

Protecting Your Credit

I was pleased to pass a measure that will notify you when an individual files a financing statement alleging that you owe a debt. This measure will reduce the chances that you are the victim of a fraudulent or erroneous lien that can destroy your credit—a problem that has been on the rise in recent years.

Expanding Entertainment Options in Montgomery County

This session, the legislature passed a pair of bills I introduced that will make Montgomery County a hub for one of the country’s most rapidly-growing industries: microbrewing craft beer. Montgomery County’s byzantine alcohol laws have left our area behind while businesses have started up in Northern Virginia and D.C. to fulfill the demand. The measures I introduced pave the way for richer entertainment options within our county and open the door for new small businesses.

Cracking Down on Unfair Ticket Scalping

I introduced and passed legislation that bans the use of ticket-buying software scalpers use to purchase hundreds of tickets to popular concerts and sporting events within seconds of them going on sale online and prevents normal folks like us from having a chance to see live events. When the Redskins make it to the playoffs next year (fingers crossed), we all deserve a fair shot to get tickets before scalpers buy them all up, and this law will level that playing field. As for RGIII and the rest, they are on their own.

Making Mortgage Refinancing Easier

Last year, I authored a successful bill to streamline the refinance process for many mortgages, which already has helped many Maryland homeowners save money and avoid foreclosure by removing unnecessary legal hurdles that have hurt homeowners and kept them from securing lower interest rates. This year, I was able to improve the law to help protect even more homeowners.

Expanding Access to Kosher Wine

Working with Jewish advocacy groups, alcohol industry leaders, and government stakeholders, I helped broker a compromise designed to expand meaningful access to kosher wines in Maryland by 2015. You already may see signs in your local beer and wine stores about kosher wine as a result of our deal, and the Comptroller has agreed to maintain a website listing all the kosher wines your retailer can order for you.

Almost, But Not Quite

Several bills I introduced passed the House of Delegates but failed to receive a vote in the state Senate, thus killing them. These included:                           

Other Updates: A Chicken in Every Pot, and Speaking of Pot . . .

In other items of note—albeit an inexhaustive list—legislators approved measures that will:

  • Raise the minimum wage in the state to $10.10 per hour by 2018;                           
  • Decriminalize possession of amounts of marijuana under 10 grams and, instead, convert the offense to a civil fine;                           
  • Reverse the unworkable Court of Appeals opinion in Tracey v. Solesky to treat all dog-bite liability lawsuits the same, regardless of the breed of the dog;                           
  • Add criminal penalties when drivers cause major injuries or death from accidents while they are illegally using a cell phone;                           
  • Prohibit the publishing of “revenge porn”—explicit photos of a person without that person’s consent;                           
  • Expand pre-kindergarten programs that will equip thousands of young Marylanders with the early education they need to compete; and                           
  • Stiffen penalties on those who smuggle cellphones into correctional facilities.

If you would like more information about any of these or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me. It is a privilege to work for you in Annapolis. As always, I remain

Very truly yours,
Sam Arora

                        

IN THE NEWS:

                       

Here's How You Know Hillary Is Running [Bloomberg]

Maryland pulls an Underwood on ‘House of Cards’ [Fox News]                     

New penalties for drunk drivers with children on board [Baltimore Sun]

Md. delegate calls for end to drunk driving with kids in car [WTOP]        

We'll drink to that [Daily Record]                      

Brew ha ha for Montgomery [Montgomery Sentinal]                      

Bills to Help Bring Microbreweries to Montgomery County Pass Maryland House [NBC4]                      

Microbrew restrictions might be easing in Montgomery County [Wash. Business Journal]                      

Lawmakers: Loophole lets school sex abusers walk [Gazette]                      

Md. legislative session enters home stretch [WTOP]                      

This lawmaker thinks you should know about ‘icky’ smartphone snooping [Washington Post]                      

UPDATED: After Passing Measure to Tame Pace of State Regulations, Senators Fail to Act and Kill Small Business Priority [Blog]                      

Md. lawmakers OK ban on ticket-scalping software [AP]                      

House passes new schedule for releasing regulations [Gazette]                      

Maryland makes 'House of Cards' threat [UPI]                      

Big Brother wants you to shop here [News-Post]                      

Lawmakers Weigh Restrictions on Tracking Retail Shoppers via WiFi [CNS]                      

Kevin Spacey whips votes for Maryland film tax credits [Washington Post]

                    

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Maryland to Require Ignition Interlocks for Drunk Drivers with Kids in the Vehicle

General Assembly Adopts Legislation in Response to Increase in DUIs with Child Passengers

The state Senate approved House legislation late Monday that would require drivers caught driving drunk while a child is in the car to have their sobriety electronically verified in order to start their cars.  The measure now heads to Governor O’Malley’s desk to be signed in to law.

“Every child deserves a designated driver,” said Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville).  “This law will go a long way to making that a reality for more of our children.  By putting an ignition interlock in the cars of offenders, we can help make sure they don’t drive drunk again.  I applaud the General Assembly’s passage of this important measure, especially Delegate Clippinger whose expertise was essential to this victory.”

Current law only mandates use of these “ignition interlock” devices when the drunk driver has a BAC of 0.15—nearly twice the legal limit and sometimes known as the “super drunk” standard.  HB 32, sponsored by State Delegates Arora and Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore), lowers that threshold for drivers with children in the car to 0.08 BAC—the level at which motorists may not drive legally.

“Those irresponsible enough to drive with a child in the car while they are drunk should have the interlock installed,” said Delegate Luke Clippinger.  “Working together with Delegate Arora and a broad coalition of supporters, we passed a commonsense protection for Maryland’s children.”

“On average, someone in Maryland is arrested every 19 hours for driving while impaired by alcohol and or drugs while also transporting a minor,” said Kurt Erickson, President of the Maryland nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).

The University of Maryland’s National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Systems cited that Maryland recorded 465 arrests in 2012 for driving while impaired by alcohol and or drugs while also transporting a minor. The National Study Center’s findings also conclude that the crime of DUI (§ 21-902(a)) in Maryland whilst transporting a minor is on the rise as citations for such have increased by double digit figures (20.94%) between 2009 and 2012.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that most drivers guilty of transporting minors under the influence of alcohol, drove drunk approximately 80 times before their first brush with the law.

Read more

Categories: Public Safety  |  Drunk Driving

UPDATED: After Passing Measure to Tame Pace of State Regulations, Senators Fail to Act and Kill Small Business Priority

UPDATE (4/8/14): Unfortunately, Maryland's senators chose not to act to iron out a minor difference between the House and Senate versions, which killed the bill. That minor difference was whether to exempt the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from the bill.  DBM only puts out about five regulations per year, but it lobbied fiercely to kill the bill along with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. 

House, Senate Must Resolve Difference on Bill to Place 2,400 Changes to State Regulations on Quarterly Schedule

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Maryland House of Delegates Friday afternoon approved a measure that would help Maryland small businesses better navigate the nearly 2,400 run-of-the-mill regulatory changes state agencies make every year.  The move sends the bill back to the state Senate to iron out a minor difference between the versions passed by the two chambers.

The bill, SB 449, would place the effective dates for most non-emergency regulations on a predictable, quarterly schedule.  Currently, regulations may go into effect 365 days-a-year, and an average more than six regulatory changes are made each day.

“I applaud our state’s lawmakers in both parties for passing this important measure to help our small businesses succeed,” said Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville), lead sponsor of the House version of the legislation. “Small businesses are the backbone of Maryland’s economy.  They comprise 97% of our businesses and employ 54% of our private sector workforce.  Predictable and transparent lawmaking is good government and good business.”

The legislation was introduced in the state Senate by Senator Ron Young (D-Frederick) and in the House of Delegates by Delegate Arora and Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Passadena).

State agencies made 2,391 non-emergency regulatory changes in 2013, according to the Maryland Register—a more than 20% increase over the 1,954 changes made in 2012.  Keeping on top of and implementing these changes presents an especial challenge for small businesses, which represent over 97% of Maryland’s employers, because of their limited staffs.

SB 449 would not apply to emergency regulations, regulations required under federal law, and certain other cases.  Agencies needing to exercise immediate regulatory action would continue to use the process already in place under law for emergency regulations.

Under the proposal, most non-emergency regulations would go into effect on January 1, April 1, July 1, or October 1. California adopted a nearly identical regulatory schedule in 2012.  The Maryland bill enjoys broad support by the business community, including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, Maryland Home Builders, the Manufacturers' Alliance of Maryland, Maryland Farm Bureau, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and others.

The House companion bill was approved by the House of Delegates in March.  Both legislative chambers must concur on the form the law is to take by the time the legislature adjourns on April 7 in order for the measure to head to Governor O’Malley’s desk to be signed in to law.  Similar bills introduced last year passed their originating chambers but failed to receive a vote in the opposite chamber before the legislative session concluded.

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Categories: Jobs  |  Good Government

ICYMI: Compromise Reached on Expanding Kosher Wine Access in Maryland

ICYMI – Several Maryland Jewish community groups, alcohol industry representatives, and lawmakers reached a compromise to improve access to kosher wine in the state by 2015. 

Advocates from Maryland’s Jewish communities have pointed out for years that the state’s arcane alcohol distribution laws have made it difficult to obtain quality kosher wine from retailers in many parts of the state.  In response, legislators—including 100 state Delegates this year—sponsored legislation to allow Marylanders to purchase the religious wine from online retailers like KosherWine.com. 

The compromise framework calls for the Baltimore Jewish Council, the alcohol industry, and the Comptroller to work together this year to (1) create a centralized online listing of kosher wines that Marylanders can purchase; (2) increase the number of kosher wines available to Marylanders to 1,000; and (3) educate retailers how to make special orders of kosher wine for consumers.

The Alcohol Subcommittee of the House Economic Matters Committee next year will review the progress made to determine whether additional legislation is necessary.

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Categories: Religious Liberty

UPDATE: Senators Use Tactic to Halt Passage of Anti-Fraud Bill

UPDATE: In a dramatic moment on the Senate floor, moments before a final vote, the Republican Leader employed a parliamentary maneuver to table the False Claims Act, effectively killing the measure for the year.  This was the first year the measure had passed either house of the legislature. Those senators listed below as Voting Yea voted to kill the anti-fraud measure; those Voting Nay voted to allow it to receive a vote:

Calendar Date: Apr 7, 2014 8:17 PM
SEQ NO. 1223
Legislative Date: Mar 30, 2014
In Chair: Mr. President
General Assembly of Maryland
Senate of Maryland
2014 Regular Session
Explanation of Motions & Actions
HB 867 Third Reading (HB) Calendar No.51
Del. Arora et al                     (JPR)
Maryland False Claims Act
On Third Reading                              (Amend)
Motion to postpone indefinitely
26 Yeas     20 Nays     1 Not Voting     0 Excused (Absent)     0 Absent
Voting Yea - 26
Astle Hershey Montgomery
Brinkley Jacobs Peters
Colburn Jennings Pugh
Currie Kasemeyer Reilly
DeGrange King Robey
Dyson Kittleman Shank
Edwards Klausmeier Simonaire
Getty Mathias Young
Glassman Middleton
Voting Nay - 20
Benson Gladden Pinsky
Brochin Jones-Rodwell Ramirez
Conway J Kelley Raskin
Feldman Madaleno Rosapepe
Ferguson Manno Stone
Forehand McFadden Zirkin
Frosh Muse
Not Voting - 1
Mr. President

A Maryland Senate panel Wednesday afternoon approved a measure that would apply the state’s successful healthcare anti-fraud law to apply to all state contractors, sending it to the Senate floor for consideration.  Similar laws are in effect and have been successful federally and in 19 other states, D.C., as well as a number of local jurisdictions. 

Under the bill, the Maryland False Claims Act, whistleblowers would be allowed to file suit on behalf of the state, a county, or Baltimore city, to recover money defrauded from the government.  Currently, whistleblowers may only file suit on behalf of the government if the fraud is related is related to health care.

“Kudos to the Judicial Proceedings Committee, and especially Chairman Brian Frosh, for passing an important anti-fraud tool,” said Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville), the bill’s lead sponsor.  “With this law, we can fight fraud against taxpayers more effectively.  Right now, we are leaving money on the table when state and local governments are fleeced.  That will change if Maryland passes the False Claims Act.”

Senator Frosh originally introduced a version of the bill in the 2000 legislative session.  The legislation has been introduced half a dozen times, sponsored both by Democrats and Republicans, in the intervening fourteen years. 

The federal False Claims Act is 150 years old and was strengthened in 1986 by President Reagan and again recently in 2009 by President Obama.

Under the Maryland bill, state and local governments, as well as whistleblowers, will be able to recover funds siphoned by many different types of fraud against taxpayers, including in the areas of procurement, public pensions, payment of prevailing wages on public projects, and others.

The bill now heads to the floor of the state Senate.  For the bill to become law, the Senate must approve the bill and send it to the House of Delegates before the legislative session concludes late Monday.

The following individuals and organizations have testified in support of the Maryland False Claims Act:

Local governments:

  • Maryland Association of Counties (MACO)
  • Baltimore City Government
  • Montgomery County Government
  • Prince George’s County Government

Labor & Employee Associations

  • Maryland State and DC Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26
  • AFSCME Council 67
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO, CLC District 2-13
  • Association of Supervisory & Administrative School Personnel (ASASP)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Local Union No. 24
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO District Council No. 51
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Local Union 100 (S.M.A.R.T)
  • Maryland/DC Alliance for Retired Americans
  • The Maryland State Courts Employees AFSCME Local 3674
  • National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE)

Anti-Fraud Experts

  • Patrick Burns – Taxpayers Against Fraud
  • Zachary Kitts – K&G Law Group, PLLC
  • Brian Markovitz – Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, Attorneys At Law
  • Jamie Bennett – Ashcraft & Gerel, L.L.P.

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New Law Means Changes on Tap for Montgomery County Microbrewing

General Assembly Passes Measures Designed to Lure Microbreweries to Montgomery County

The Maryland General Assembly approved a pair of bills Friday afternoon designed to make Montgomery County a microbrewing hub, sending them to the desk of Governor O’Malley for his signature into law.

“The microbrewing industry is expanding rapidly, and we have been missing out until now,” said State Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville), the lead sponsor of the measures.  “After the legislation we passed today, I am looking forward to the next success stories to come from Montgomery County.”

A rapid rise in demand for craft beer has fueled tremendous growth in the brewing industry with sales doubling between 2005 and 2012 and the market for microbreweries estimated to grow at a combined annual growth rate of over 17% in the next few years.  In some areas of the country, microbrewing is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.

The first measure, SB 310, will remove a restriction—unique in the state to Montgomery County—that requires microbreweries to also be a fully licensed restaurant before becoming eligible to sell its brew for consumption at the microbrewery.  This restriction has stymied would-be entrepreneurs who want to bring their brewing business to the county without opening a restaurant and kept Montgomery off the craft beer map at a time when the microbrewing industry is rapidly expanding.  Virginia passed a similar statewide law in 2012 that is credited with triggering the rapid growth and success of in microbrewing in the commonwealth.

The second bill, SB 305, will allow breweries to distribute their own beer to licensed recipients in Montgomery County.  A similar statewide law passed the legislature in 2013 but, due to a loophole discovered after the law was enacted, its provisions did not apply to Montgomery County.

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Categories: Jobs  |  Economy  |  Economic Development

Maryland Outlaws Ticket-Scalping Software

General Assembly Approval Makes Maryland 12th State to Ban Use of “Bots” to Sell Out Popular Events Before Consumers Can Buy Tickets

The Maryland General Assembly Wednesday morning gave final approval to a measure that will ban the use of ticket-buying software scalpers use to purchase hundreds of tickets to popular concerts and sporting events within seconds of them going on sale online. 

Scalpers use software “bots” to circumvent security measures online ticket sites (like Ticketmaster) deploy to limit sales to humans and bombard these sites, purchasing large quantities of choice tickets at light speed, often contributing to sell outs and shutting out human buyers by crashing ticket sites.

“This is good step forward in making the ticket-buying process fairer for Maryland consumers,” said Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville), the bill’s sponsor.  “Next year, when the Redskins make the playoffs, we all deserve a fair chance to buy tickets.”

Bots allow scalpers effectively to cut in line in front of human users and doing so to a significant extent.  Ticketmaster estimates that as many as 60% of desirable tickets for popular shows are purchased by bots and that bots can account for 80% of all ticket requests on their website on some days. 

“By banning the use of ticket-buying software being used to circumvent security measures, Marylanders will benefit,” said Senator Brian Feldman (D-Potomac), the lead sponsor of the legislation introduced in the state Senate.  “Consumers will have a fair shot to purchase concert and sporting event tickets at reasonable prices.”

Bots can be purchased inexpensively “off the shelf” or tailor-made by programmers.  An off-the-shelf bot that exploits Ticketmaster is only $990.  A scalper will set up a bot to act like multiple website users (sometimes more than 100) to simultaneously hunt down tickets within a certain price point or to wait in “spinning” mode, bombarding the site with queries until additional tickets become available, when it immediately purchases them.

The bill, HB 98, now heads to the desk of Governor Martin O’Malley for his signature into law.  Once enacted, Maryland will become the twelfth state to ban the use of ticket-scalping bots.

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Categories: Consumer Rights

Measure to Tame Regulatory Barrage Receives Preliminary Approval in House of Delegates

Bipartisan Bill Cleared to Receive Final Vote Monday Would Place 2,400 Changes to State Regulations on Quarterly Schedule

The Maryland House of Delegates Saturday morning gave preliminary approval to a measure that would help Maryland small businesses better navigate the nearly 2,400 run-of-the-mill regulatory changes state agencies make every year. This move clears the way for final approval by the House on Monday.

The bill, HB 166, introduced by Delegate Sam Arora (D-Montgomery Co.) and Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel Co.), would place the effective dates for most non-emergency regulations on a predictable, quarterly schedule. Currently, regulations may go into effect 365 days a year, and an average more than six regulatory changes are made each day.

“I applaud the House of Delegates for moving on this important measure to help businesses in our communities succeed,” said Delegate Sam Arora. “Small businesses are the backbone of Maryland’s economy, and they are facing uncertain times. On top of that, they face an unpredictable barrage of regulatory changes that are impossible to keep up with. We have to get a handle on the barrage of regulations and help small businesses spend more time creating jobs.” 

State agencies made 2,391 non-emergency regulatory changes in 2013, according to the Maryland Register—a more than 20% increase over the 1,954 changes made in 2012. Keeping on top of and implementing these changes presents an especial challenge for small businesses, which represent over 97% of Maryland’s employers, because of their limited staffs 

“If Maryland wants to create a better business climate, it has to walk the walk,” said Minority Leader Nic Kipke. “Our small businesses need predictability so they can plan ahead. Right now, it is nearly impossible for them to keep track of the changes every day.”

HB 166 would not apply to emergency regulations, regulations required under federal law, and certain other cases. Agencies needing to exercise immediate regulatory action would continue to use the process already in place under law for emergency regulations. 

Under the proposal, most non-emergency regulations would go into effect on January 1, April 1, July 1, or October 1. California adopted a nearly identical regulatory schedule in 2012. The Maryland bill enjoys broad support by the business community, including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, Maryland Home Builders, the Manufacturers' Alliance of Maryland, Maryland Farm Bureau, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and others.

A companion bill sponsored by Senator Ron Young (D-Frederick Co.) was approved by the state Senate earlier this week. One of the two bills must approved by the opposite chamber by the time the legislature adjourns on April 7 in order for the measure to become law. Similar bills introduced last year passed their originating chambers but failed to receive a vote in the opposite chamber before the legislative session concluded. 
 

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Categories: Jobs  |  Bipartisanship  |  Good Government

House Passes Measure Requiring Ignition Interlocks for Drunk Drivers with Kids in the Vehicle

Incidents of DUI with Child Passengers on the Rise in Recent Years

The Maryland House of Delegates passed Friday morning legislation that would require drivers caught driving drunk while a child is in the car to have their sobriety electronically verified in order to start their cars. 

“Every child deserves a designated driver,” said Delegate Sam Arora.  “Ignition interlocks make sure that an offender is sober each time he starts his car, he will be sober and won’t put a child at peril.”

Current law only mandates use of these “ignition interlock” devices when the drunk driver has a BAC of 0.15—nearly twice the legal limit and sometimes known as the “super drunk” standard.  HB 32, sponsored by State Delegates Sam Arora (D-Rockville) and Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore), would lower the threshold for drivers with children in the car to 0.08 BAC—the level at which motorists may not drive legally.

Those people who are irresponsible enough to drive with a child in the car while they are drunk should have the interlock installed,” said Delegate Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore.  “I am thrilled to work with Delegate Arora to get this bill passed.”

“On average, someone in Maryland is arrested every 19 hours for driving while impaired by alcohol and or drugs while also transporting a minor,” said Kurt Erickson, President of the Maryland nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), registered Maryland lobbyist and proponent of HB 1015.

The University of Maryland’s National Study Center for Trauma and Emergency Medical Systems cited that Maryland recorded 465 arrests in 2012 for driving while impaired by alcohol and or drugs while also transporting a minor. The National Study Center’s findings also conclude that the crime of DUI (§ 21-902(a)) in Maryland whilst transporting a minor is on the rise as citations for such have increased by double digit figures (20.94%) between 2009 and 2012.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that most drivers guilty of transporting minors under the influence of alcohol, drove drunk approximately 80 times before their first brush with the law.

Read more

Categories: Public Safety  |  Drunk Driving

House Approves Restriction on Mobile Phone Tracking by Retailers

Measure to Notify Consumers When Stores Track Customer Cell Phone Signals Passes the House of Delegates 

A measure that would require retailers to disclose that they are using a customer’s own cell phone to learn their consumer habits passed the Maryland House of Delegates Thursday afternoon.

In recent years, many retailers have begun using technology that allows them to track the movements of shoppers throughout stores using consumers’ mobile phone signals.  An estimated 1,000 retailers already have used this technology, and a majority of retailers are expected to use it within five to ten years.

“It is alarming how much information a store can gather from your phone when you walk in the door,” said Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville).  “At the very minimum, we deserve to know when stores are tracking information from our phones.”

The technology works by tracking the unique identifier that each smart phone broadcasts, known as a multiple access control (MAC) address.  Most commonly, smart phones broadcast their MAC address when their wireless internet functions are enabled, whether or not the phone actually is connected to a WiFi or Bluetooth source. 

Wireless transponders can track consumers’ habits—including their movements, the frequency of their visits, and other behavior.  This technology sometimes is coupled with video tracking to monitor customers and even analyze facial expressions to determine shoppers’ moods.

When aggregated with data about consumer movements in multiple stores and in shopping malls, companies developing this technology are able to develop extensive dossiers on the behavior of individual consumers.  The use of additional video technology also allows retailers to visually recognize these individuals and, when a store can tie a consumer’s MAC address to other identifying information (e.g. their Twitter account), it may be able to gather more specific identifying information about that consumer.

The bill, HB 924, now heads to the state Senate, where it will need to be passed before April 7 in order to become law.  The Senate companion bill will receive a hearing on March 19.

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Categories: Consumer Rights

NBC 4: Bills to Help Bring Microbreweries to Montgomery County Pass Maryland House

NBC 4 noted today's passage of two of Delegate Arora's bills that would help bring microbreweries to Montgomery County:

The Maryland House of Delegates wants to make it easier to get a microbrewed beer in Montgomery County.

The House passed two measures Tuesday that would make the county more attractive for microbreweries, which specialize in making specialty beer in small quantities.

One would remove a restriction that requires them to be fully licensed restaurants before being able to sell their beer at the microbreweries. It passed on a 135-1 vote.

Another would enable breweries to distribute their own beer to licensed recipients in Montgomery County. The House approved that bill on a 135-0 vote. 

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Categories: Jobs  |  Economic Development  |  Press

House Signals Changes on Tap for Montgomery County Microbrewing

Measures Designed to Lure Microbreweries to Montgomery County Pass the Maryland House of Delegates

A pair of bills that aim to make Montgomery County a microbrewing Mecca cleared an important hurdle when they passed the House of Delegates Tuesday morning.

“The microbrewing industry is booming around the country,” said State Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville), who requested the legislation.  “I want the next success story come from Montgomery County.”

The first measure, HB 140, would remove a restriction—unique in the state to Montgomery County—that requires microbreweries to also be a fully licensed restaurant before becoming eligible to sell its brew for consumption at the microbrewery.  This restriction has stymied would-be entrepreneurs who want to bring their brewing business to the county without opening a restaurant and kept Montgomery off the craft beer map at a time when the microbrewing industry is rapidly expanding.  Virginia passed a similar statewide law in 2012 that is credited with prompting explosive growth in microbrewing in DC suburbs of that commonwealth.

The second bill, HB 132, which would allow breweries to distribute their own beer to licensed recipients in Montgomery County.  A similar statewide law passed the legislature in 2013 but, due to an oversight not discovered until late last year, did not apply to Montgomery County.

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Categories: Jobs  |  Economic Development

Frederick News Post: Big Brother wants you to shop here

In today's edition of the Frederick News Post, the editorial board endorses Delegate Sam Arora's proposal to require stores to post notice when they gather information about consumers by tracking their phones in the store:

Would you feel totally comfortable if your daily shopping habits were tracked as you went from store to store? What if that information extended to when you visit your doctor or lawyer? Imagine that data being filled in and expanded with every trip you took — to the golf course, a concert, the beach, the gym.

Now imagine if that could be combined with your Facebook account, or Twitter use.

No, we’re not talking about the National Security Agency here. This could be information you’re giving away without knowing, if you have an iPhone or Android mobile device, and which data-collection companies such as Turnstyle Solutions and RetailNext are gathering quietly, and with the consent of retailers you visit.

While we may expect a lot of our online shopping habits to be tracked, the average consumer may not know that brick-and-mortar retailers are beginning to do the same thing through the Wi-Fi signal of customers’ smartphones.

It is just this kind of deeply penetrative tracking and what it means to our privacy that the Maryland General Assembly began to discuss recently. The House Economic Matters Committee heard testimony last week on a bill sponsored by Delegate Sam Arora, a Montgomery County Democrat, that would make such unsanctioned monitoring subject to criminal and civil penalties, unless retailers display at their entrances a sign conspicuously stating that tracking is used at that place of business.

We support this bill as a preliminary step. However, the prevalence of data-gathering is becoming so widespread and so invasive, the Legislature may need to go further than simply having retailers make customers aware of it.

Read the full editorial here.

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Categories: Press  |  Consumer Rights

WTOP: Md. delegate calls for end to drunk driving with kids in car

You may have heard Delegate Sam Arora on the radio this week, explaining a measure he proposed that would require individuals convicted of driving drunk with a child in the car to have their sobriety checked by an ignition interlock device before their car would turn on.  Here's a snippet of what WTOP News radio reported:

The penalty for driving drunk with a child in the car differs in Maryland depending on an offender's Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), but one delegate is working to reduce the number of drunk driving crashes with children in the car.

"We need to protect these kids," says Maryland State Del. Sam Arora, D-Rockville, who says he believes anyone driving drunk with children in the car needs help.

"You're probably quite sick. You may not be able to stop yourself. This is an instance where we need to step in and stop you from harming your children and other children on the road," says Arora, referring to cases of drunk drivers being stopped by police repeatedly in one day with kids in the car.

Arora and Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, are proposing legislation to lower the threshold needed to require "ignition interlock" breathalyzer devices to be installed on the cars of people convicted of driving under the influence with a child younger than 16 years old in the car.

"The only way to stop this behavior is to make sure your car can't move unless you're sober," says Arora.

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Categories: Press  |  Drunk Driving

Maryland South Asian Leaders Applaud House Passage of South Asian Day Legislation

Legislative leaders praised the Maryland House of Delegates’ passage of legislation Friday morning that would proclaim October 2 each year as South Asian American Heritage Day

“We introduced this legislation to cultivate a deeper understanding of our heritage, culture, and customs at a time when our community is growing in size and visibility and yet continuing to encounter appreciable xenophobia,” said Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville), the legislation’s lead sponsor.  “I want my children to grow up proud of their heritage and in a society that appreciates that.  If we want to fulfill the charge to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world,’ it may begin with educating our neighbors.”

Passage of the bill in the Maryland House comes just days after the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, launched a year-long exhibit about the contributions of Indian Americans called Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation.

“South Asian Americans are proud to live in this great country and we are proud to be recognized by the people of Maryland in this way,” said Leader Kumar Barve (D-Gaithersburg).

At the request of members of Maryland’s South Asian community, Arora introduced the legislation in the House of Delegates along with the General Assembly’s entire legislative Asian American Caucus—including Majority Leader Kumar Barve and Delegate Aruna Miller (D-Darnestown), who, like Arora, are of Indian ancestry.  Senator Jim Rosapepe (D-College Park) is sponsoring a companion piece of legislation in the state Senate.

“Maryland is recognizing the contributions its citizens of South Asian heritage bring to our state,” Delegate Aruna Miller said.  “By celebrating the traditions and culture of South Asians, Maryland continues its commitment to being a progressive state that values cultural differences and promotes diversity.”

The House measure now moves to the state Senate for that chamber’s approval.  A Senate version companion bill will receive a hearing in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee today at 1:00 p.m.  The audio from those proceedings will be webcast live at http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmcommittees.aspx?pid=av&tab=subject7#senate.

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Categories: South Asia

House Panel Considers Ignition Breathalyzer for Drunk Drivers with Children in the Vehicle

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee this afternoon heard testimony on legislation that would require drivers caught driving drunk while a child is in the car to have their sobriety electronically verified in order to start their cars. 

 
“Every child deserves a designated driver,” Delegate Sam Arora said.  “Ignition interlocks will ensure that each time an offender starts the car, he will be sober and won’t put a child at peril.”
 
Current law only mandates use of these “ignition interlock” devices when the drunk driver has a BAC of 0.15—nearly twice the legal limit and sometimes known as the “super drunk” standard.  HB 32, sponsored by State Delegates Sam Arora (D-Rockville) and Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore), would lower the threshold for drivers with children in the car to 0.08 BAC—the level at which motorists may not drive legally.
 
“MADD believes that driving drunk with a child passenger in a vehicle is a form of child abuse,” Maryland resident and MADD advocate Chuck Hurley testified.  “Ignition interlocks reduce repeat offenses on average by 67%.”
 
The Centers for Disease Control reports that most drivers guilty of transporting minors under the influence of alcohol, drove drunk approximately 80 times before their first brush with the law.
 
“On average, someone in Maryland is arrested every 19 hours for driving while impaired by alcohol and or drugs while also transporting a minor,” Kurt Erickson, President of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program, said in testimony.  “The crime of DUI in Maryland whilst transporting a minor is on the rise as citations for such have increased by double digit figures between 2009 and 2012.”

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Categories: Drunk Driving

Diamondback: Maryland legislators weigh gun control measures

The Diamondback this week reported on Delegate Arora's proposal to catch Maryland's gun laws up with advances in technology that make it easy to produce retricted components for regulated firearms by using 3D printers:

Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery) proposed a bill this year that would make it illegal to use 3-D printers to produce high-capacity detachable magazines intended for assault weapons.

“The sale of firearms is highly regulated in many states and federally,” Arora said. “When you have the mass ability to print these parts at home, to say it’s a disruptive technology is perhaps an understatement while we’re talking about firearms.”

Though 3-D printers have “many legitimate and even wonderful uses,” Arora said, he fears their potential to produce firearms.

Read more here.

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Categories: Public Safety  |  Crime  |  Press