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.
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.
Read more here.
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.
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.
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.
The Gazette reported on the effort Delegages Sam Arora, Luiz Simmons, and others are engaged in to protect Maryland's children and close a pernicious loophope in state law that has allowed some teachers to prey upon students:
Lawmakers: Loophole lets school sex abusers walk
Two groups of Maryland legislators want to close a statutory loophole regarding which adults can and should be punished for engaging in sexual conduct with a student. . . .
Maryland law criminalizes sexual contact between certain people in a position of authority and a minor in their care, but lawmakers say there is a huge loophole in the law.
The law defines individuals in positions of authority to include principals, vice principals, teachers and school counselors.
However, the law applies only to individuals who are full-time, permanent employees. It does not apply to part-time employees and coaches, substitute teachers or volunteers.
Lawmakers in both chambers point to the 2012 case of a Montgomery County middle school teacher as a reason to change the law.
The teacher was 47, and he was accused of having sex with a 16-year-old former student. The student was, at the time of the alleged offense, on a high school track team that the man coached part-time, according to police.
He was charged with two counts of fourth-degree sex offense because prosecutors said that, as a former teacher and the victim’s coach, he was in a position of authority.
Charges against him were dropped due to a legal technicality that prevented prosecutors from moving forward because he was not employed full-time.
Sens. Jamie B. Raskin, Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville and Nancy J. King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village have proposed a Senate bill to close this loophole. Dels. Luiz R.S. Simmons and Sam Arora have proposed a House bill with a similar mission, but different provisions.
Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park said lawmakers have tried for nearly a decade to close the loophole. . . .
Simmons (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville said he and Arora (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring want to broaden the list of people in authority positions who could be held accountable under the law by including part-time school employees, coaches, independent contractors and employees of county recreation departments.
The two delegates fused their respective bills on this issue last year, Simmons said. Their consolidated bill passed the House, but not the Senate.
Arora said this year’s bill is nearly the same. One amendment would add employees of boards of education, he said.
Simmons said his Senate colleagues are taking “a different approach.”
Read more here.
A bill that would notify Marylanders if a debt is filed against them under circumstances conducive to fraud passed the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously Friday morning. HB 99, sponsored by Delegate Sam Arora, woudl require Maryland agencies to notify alleged debtors when both parties of a filed debt are individuals.
The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC), a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations that advance fairness and justice for Maryland consumers, today applauded the Maryland General Assembly for passing legislation outlawing the use of automated ticket buying software (bots). The House bill (HB98), sponsored by Del. Sam Arora, passed its final reading on a unanimous vote today.
Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville) today announced the introduction of legislation to prohibit 3D printing of major firearm components. The bill comes less than a day after the U.S. House of Representatives renewed a federal plastic gun ban but chose not to ban the use of 3D printers to manufacture guns at home.
Three-dimensional printing is a process of manufacturing a physical object through a many-fold laying of a thin material, typically plastic. Congress’ inaction will continue to permit individuals to use this readily available technology to manufacture firearms using designs freely available on the internet.
"Congress is failing to recognize that modern technology makes it dangerously easy to make plastic guns at home," Delegate Arora said. "So it may be left to states to protect their citizens. Sadly, this is no longer the stuff of science fiction. This is a revolutionary technology with many great applications but with some scary ones, too."
Defense Distributed, a company promoting the use of 3D printers to manufacture firearms, offered free design files for variants on the AR-15 and AK 47 semiautomatic rifles which were downloaded more than 100,000 times before being blocked by federal officials in May. In October, British police charged a Manchester man with attempting to build a firearm by 3D printing plastic gun components.
Under Delegate Arora's legislation, which was pre-filed Tuesday for the 2014 legislative session, the use of 3D printers to manufacture firearm receivers—the component that house most of a firearm's moving parts—as well as high-capacity magazines would be a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Delegate Arora proposed a similar provision during the 2013 debate surrounding Maryland's gun violence prevention bill.
The text of the bill is available below:
Happy Thanksgivikkuah! Here are a few brief updates for you this holiday week:
With Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah falling tomorrow, today is the busiest travel day of the year. If you must travel to join loved ones this holiday, don't forget two rules of the road now in effect and that police will be enforcing:
MADD Legislator of the Year
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) named me the Maryland Legislator of the Year, citing my efforts to protect children from being the victims of drunk driving. I am humbled by the recognition. Speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves is one of the highest callings in public service. I am proud to lock arms with MADD in that work.
Local Bill Hearings Monday Evening
Montgomery County legislators will meet Monday at 7 p.m. at the County Council Building in Rockville to hear about a dozen pieces of legislation affecting Montgomery County, including a measure I introduced to open up Montgomery County to entrepreneurs in the craft beer industry. You are welcome to attend and even sign up to testify on a bill. My office would be more than happy to assist you to do so.
It remains an honor to represent you in Annapolis. As always, please let me know if I can be of any assistance.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and happy Hanukkah,
P.s. This time of year invariably reminds me of how blessed Jaime and I are to be free from want, and what a heartbreaking contrast that is to much of our world. In case you also also are moved to give this holiday week, whether to a local or global need, here is a link to the Red Cross.
This morning, Mothers Against Drunk Driving recognized Delegate Sam Arora as its Maryland "legislative champion" (legislator of the year). Below is their announcement:
COLUMBIA – Mothers Against Drunk Driving on Monday announced its “2013 Legislative Champions” and recognized Delegate Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County) for his leadership within the Maryland General Assembly to make sure children are safe from drunk drivers.
“MADD thanks Delegate Sam Arora for his dedication and commitment to advancing MADD’s mission in Maryland. Driving drunk with a child passenger in a vehicle is a form of child abuse. Every child deserves a non-drinking designated driver. We appreciate his unwavering commitment to improving Maryland’s drunk driving law to protect our most vulnera
ble population, children,” said Maryland resident and MADD National President Jan Withers.
“Driving drunk with a child in the car should shock our conscience, and we must do everything we can to protect our children,” Delegate Arora said. “Speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves is one of the highest callings in public service. I am proud to lock arms with MADD in that work.”
In 2013, Delegate Sam Arora authored HB 32 requiring the use of ignition interlocks for DUI offenders who drive drunk with a child passenger in a vehicle.
“MADD applauds Delegate Arora for his leadership in authoring legislation helping to protect children from drunk drivers. MADD hopes lawmakers take action in 2014 on this lifesaving legislation as well as ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers,” said MADD Maryland Executive Director Glenn Alexander.
A major portion of MADD’s advocacy efforts in states originates from the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® that was launched in 2006. A key component of the Campaign calls for states to enact laws requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.
There are twenty two states that require ignition interlocks in cases of DUI child endangerment. These are the 20 states that either require or highly incentivize the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers in addition to Alabama and Florida. In Maryland, ignition interlocks are required for all repeat and first-time offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater.
An interlock is more effective than license suspension alone, as 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. Ignition interlocks are effective in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses by 67 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For more information on ignition interlocks, please visit madd.org/interlock.
This is it--the final chance to help turn Virginia blue and elect Terry McAuliffe governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
I have known Terry for ten years, back from when I worked for him at the Democratic National Committee, and I can tell you personally that they don't come any finer than him.
If you can donate any amount of time, join me in helping to elect Terry by signing up here:
This weekend will witness the Indian festival of Diwali. This holiday serves not only as a festival of lights, but holds a deeper resonance as a period celebrating the triumph of good over evil and of light over darkness for many Hindus in our area and around the world.
I have had the pleasure of attending dozens (maybe almost 100) Diwali celebrations, which Indian American communities celebrate annually, and I am looking forward to celebrating this evening with County Executive Ike Leggett in Rockville.
During Diwali, communities come together to celebrate and share their joys, dreams, and aspirations for the year ahead. To me, one of my most notable traditions is that of lighting lamps, a practice that symbolizes light dispelling darkness and celebrating goodness. It is a theme that reminds me of Jewish and Christian scriptures that illustrate themes of good triumphing over evil and truth over ignorance though the metaphor of the lamp. In that vein, it also brings to mind Gandhi's charge to "be the change you wish to see in the world."
As the lamps are lit to celebrate Diwali this year, may we all share the light of kindness with one another and cement the illumination of goodness with each other that will come out of this collaboration.
I have heard from so many supporters in recent months, and I am grateful for their overwhelming encouragement urging me to continue serving District 19. As I listened, I also weighed the caliber of effort I expect of myself when representing our community in the General Assembly, the demands of helping to lead a rapidly expanding family business in a challenging economy, and how to care for my family well during this season of life.
As you may have heard, a number of new laws went into effect earlier this month. While new laws can become effective whenever the legislature them to be, traditionally most new laws begin on October 1, a tradition that stems back to a time when the printing of new editions of the code books fell around then. Here is a summary of some Maryland's new laws:
I hope you are having a great autumn so far. My office has been hard at work, helping District 19 residents connect with their government, awarding college scholarships, and preparing for the 2014 legislative session. I thought you might appreciate updates on some of my work:
Rethinking How We Finance a College Education
Over the summer, I have been investigating new ways to think about how we finance higher education in Maryland and am working on legislation to make higher education affordable for every student. I was so pleased to hear President Obama make college affordability central to his plan for strengthening the middle class, but I think the issue is at least as important to those less well off. As the 19th century education reformer Horace Mann wrote, "Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery." Because quality education is a game changer, this is not merely a financial issue but also a moral one. Precisely because making college affordable seems so intractable, we must be willing to look at it in new ways. Read more.
Delegate Arora Awards Scholarships to Over 70 Constituents
On the topic of higher education, I have made it a priority to distribute scholarship awards each year to undergraduate and graduate students. This year my office awarded over $46,000 in scholarship funds to impressive students from District 19. I met with many of them this summer to recognize publicly their commitment to excellence. Read more.
Change May Be on Tap for Montgomery County Microbrewing Law
I recently introduced legislation that would allow more microbreweries to consider moving to Montgomery County. Despite an explosion of successful craft beers emerging around the country, local entrepreneurs have been kept on the sidelines by a law requiring Montgomery microbreweries to open a restaurant in order to operate. We have an opportunity to help create more small business success stories in Montgomery County while cultivating richer entertainment options. Read more and see the legislation. You can also read more about my proposal in the downcounty news site BethesdaNow.
Consumer Rights Group Names Delegate Arora Consumer "Champion" for Work in Judiciary Committee
I was honored to learn that a prominent consumer rights group recently recognized me as a "committee champion" for consumer rights in Maryland for my work in the House Judiciary Committee. It's an especial honor to be one of only five honorees within the 141-member House of Delegates. Read more here.
Delegate Arora Continues to Hold Highest Environmental Rating in Legislature
I was also honored this summer when the League of Conservation Voters, a leading environmental group, this summer gave me the highest possible environmental rating in Maryland, a perfect 100% lifetime rating as well as a 100% rating for the most recent legislative session. Read more.
Delegate Arora Joins Governor O'Malley to Unveil Major Funding for Montgomery County Transportation
I recently joined Governor O'Malley, Lt. Governor Brown, state lawmakers and others to unveil significant transportation funding for Montgomery County, and it couldn't come a moment too soon. We live in one of the most congested areas in the nation, and that hurts the quality of life for working families. Too few transit options in our diverse and rapidly growing county limits our potential. We finally have some of the resources to move forward boldly and change that. Read more.
Laws That Went into Effect This Summer
This summer, a number of significant laws went into effect, including making Glenmont an eligible state Enterprise Zone, a protection for your credit record, offshore wind, advances for medical marijuana, healthcare exchanges, major transportation funding, and more. Read more.
There will be more new laws going into effect on October 1, including the legislation I wrote to streamline mortgage refinancing and preserve homeownership, and I will send you more information about that soon.
Popular downcounty news site BethesdaNow recently reported on Delegate Arora's idea to promote craft beer breweries in Montgomery County:
A Montgomery County legislator says he will introduce a law that would remove a hurdle to those who want to open a craft brewery in the county.
Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville) on Friday introduced a bill that would remove the restaurant requirement from the licensing process for opening a microbrewery.
Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in the state in which a microbrewery or craft brewery must be a licensed restaurant in order to qualify for a microbrewery license.
Arora said the explosion in popularity of craft beers means the county is missing out on opportunities to attract new businesses.
“Forcing businesses to open restaurants on top of meeting their normal alcohol license requirements has discouraged them from coming to Montgomery and limited entertainment options,” Arora wrote on his website. ”There is an explosion of successful craft beers emerging around the country right now. We can help the next success story come from Montgomery County.”
The conversation mirrors those about alcohol regulations going on in the county’s Nighttime Economy Task Force, which meets on Monday in Germantown. Some members of the Task Force have talked about changing county liquor laws, though the Department of Liquor Control’s chief of regulation has said some laws (in particular, the 50-50 ratio of alcohol to food requirement) aren’t the reason for Montgomery County’s lagging nightlife scene.
Read the full story on BethesdaNow here.
Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville) today introduced local legislation that could allow more microbreweries to set their sights on Montgomery County. The current law requiring microbreweries to open restaurants has hurt the county, Arora said.
“Forcing businesses to open restaurants on top of meeting their normal alcohol license requirements has discouraged them from coming to Montgomery and limited entertainment options,” Delegate Arora said. “There is an explosion of successful craft beers emerging around the country right now. We can help the next success story come from Montgomery County.”
In order to qualify for a license that allows a microbrewery (sometimes known as a craft brewery) to sell its beers for consumption on the premises in Montgomery County, that business currently must be a licensed restaurant. This restriction—which is unique in the state to Montgomery County—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.
Delegate Arora’s legislation would remove the restaurant requirement and allow microbreweries to sell their wares when they receive a standard alcohol license from the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control.
The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition released its 2013 Legislative Scorecard, naming Delegate Arora as one of five Consumer Committee Champions out of the 141-member House of Delegates. The Judiciary Committee, of which Delegate Arora is a member, is one of the committees which considers the most challenging legislation in the realm of consumer rights. Members were recognized with this honor if they earned the highest scores on consumer rights bills that were hotly debated within their respective committees.
Several organizations asked me to help them get the word out about a community health fair that they will hope will reach out to a number of community members who might benefit from the information and services they will be providing:
The Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI) and the National Council of Asian Indian Associations (NCAIA) cordially invite you to a community health fair. The event will be taking place on Sunday, October 27th from 11:00am to 3:00pm in the in the Great Hall of the Silver Spring Civic Building located at 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Free Flu Vaccines, Free Labs, Free Primary Consultations and Free Health Education along with ACA (Medicaid enrollment)