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)
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) will be holding two public hearings to present its Staff Draft Proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) for fiscal years (FYs) 2015-2020, which includes projects in District 19.
The first hearing will be held at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, September 10 at the Stella B. Warner Building, 7th Floor Hearing Room, located at 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850. The second hearing will take place at 7:30 PM on Thursday, September 12 at the RMS Building, Room 308, located at 1400 McCormick Drive, Largo, MD 20774.
Anyone wishing to submit written testimony may either send them to the recipient and address listed below, or email at email@example.com by noon on Monday, September 23, 2013.
The notice follows:
This year, we in the General Assembly joined with Gov. O'Malley to buffer our state from the turbulence of the federal government's budget process. Perhaps it is flattering to even call Congress' inability to craft a budget and its occassional flirtations with fiscal brinksmanship a "process", but nevertheless, we have been doing what we can on a state level to protect Marylanders.
Earlier today, a constituent wrote me today about whether there was a Maryland law allowing merchants to charge as much as 4% on top of purchases if they were made on a credit card. I thought it might be helpful if I posted what we found when reseraching this in case there is some confusion spreading about what Maryland law does and does not do. I hope you will find this useful. -Sam
Q: My brother and I were having a discussion about the pros and cons of directly paying utility (and other) bills through a bank or credit card. In the course of the discussion, my brother said that Maryland has enacted a law where merchants are allowed to charge as much as 4% on credit card purchases. Does this also apply to utility companies such as, Washington Gas, PEPCO, Verizon, etc.?
A: To follow up on my voicemail, I am not sure about the notion that there is a state law on this. According to the [legislative staff who helped me research this], the concepts of merchants requiring minimum purchases, discounts for cash, and charging a fee for using credit falls under federal purview. [I am not immediately clear] whether federal law actually incorporates utility companies because it was not spelled out well in the federal statutes. There is some useful background here in this analysis of a particular state bill from this year:
In July 2012, Visa and MasterCard announced a settlement with retailers. The settlement addresses complaints from retailers that the two credit card issuers prohibited retailers from imposing a surcharge on customers using the issuers’ credit cards. As part of the settlement, Visa and MasterCard agreed to pay the retailers more than $6 billion as well as allow the retailers to impose a surcharge on credit transactions, subject to a cap. According to the Kiplinger Personal Finance Newsletter, the National Retail Federation has stated that those merchants that add the surcharge for Visa and MasterCard would have to add a surcharge to other cards with an equal or higher surcharge fee, such as American Express. Since American Express prohibits retailers from charging swipe fees, businesses that accept all three cards would not be able to impose the fee.
The retailers must meet several requirements before a surcharge can be imposed, including providing notice at the store entrance, point of sale, or on receipts of the imposition of the surcharge. Any notice on a receipt must show the fee amount and state that the amount is equal to the credit card issuer’s processing fee. The surcharge may also not be imposed on debit cards.
The settlement does not affect 10 states that already prohibit credit card surcharges. Those 10 states are California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. Also, existing Visa and MasterCard rules require companies to employ the same credit card surcharge policy in all stores. As a result, national retailers with stores in the 10 states that prohibit credit card surcharges would not be able to impose the surcharge in any of their stores. Additionally, in 2013, legislation was introduced in New Jersey to prohibit retailers from charging a surcharge on credit card purchases.
A retailer typically pays credit card issuers a processing fee anywhere from 1.5% to 3% of a total purchase in a credit card transaction. As of January 27, 2013, the aforementioned settlement allows a retailer to charge only the amount it pays to process a card, up to a maximum of 4% [NOTE: this might what your brother is thinking of].
The settlement also requires that if a retailer imposes a surcharge on Visa or MasterCard transactions, the retailer must also impose a surcharge on all other transactions involving a credit card issuer that charges a processing fee that is equal to or higher than the fee charged by Visa or MasterCard. One such credit card issuer is American Express. However, American Express prohibits a retailer from charging customers an extra fee to use their cards. Therefore, the retailer will not be able to impose a surcharge on any credit card transaction.
Also, the following federal regs may be of interest:
15 USCA § 1693o-2 contains information on minimum purchases and discounts for using cash. It says (full statute also attached if you want to take a look, but Annette highlighted these relevant statutes below):
(2) Limitation on restrictions on offering discounts for use of a form of payment
(A) In general
A payment card network shall not, directly or through any agent, processor, or licensed member of the network, by contract, requirement, condition, penalty, or otherwise, inhibit the ability of any person to provide a discount or in-kind incentive for payment by the use of cash, checks, debit cards, or credit cards to the extent that--
(i) in the case of a discount or in-kind incentive for payment by the use of debit cards, the discount or in-kind incentive does not differentiate on the basis of the issuer or the payment card network;
(ii) in the case of a discount or in-kind incentive for payment by the use of credit cards, the discount or in-kind incentive does not differentiate on the basis of the issuer or the payment card network; and
(iii) to the extent required by Federal law and applicable State law, such discount or in-kind incentive is offered to all prospective buyers and disclosed clearly and conspicuously.
(B) Lawful discounts
For purposes of this paragraph, the network may not penalize any person for the providing of a discount that is in compliance with Federal law and applicable State law.
(3) Limitation on restrictions on setting transaction minimums or maximums
(A) In general
A payment card network shall not, directly or through any agent, processor, or licensed member of the network, by contract, requirement, condition, penalty, or otherwise, inhibit the ability--
(i) of any person to set a minimum dollar value for the acceptance by that person of credit cards, to the extent that--
(I) such minimum dollar value does not differentiate between issuers or between payment card networks; and
(II) such minimum dollar value does not exceed $10.00; or
(ii) of any Federal agency or institution of higher education to set a maximum dollar value for the acceptance by that Federal agency or institution of higher education of credit cards, to the extent that such maximum dollar value does not differentiate between issuers or between payment card networks.
(B) Increase in minimum dollar amount
The Board may, by regulation prescribed pursuant to section 553 of Title 5, increase the amount of the dollar value listed in subparagraph (A)(i)(II).
In terms of whether there are fees charged for using a card, there is a related regulation, 12 CFR §235.3. It says:
(a) In general. The amount of any interchange transaction fee that an issuer may receive or charge with respect to an electronic debit transaction shall be reasonable and proportional to the cost incurred by the issuer with respect to the electronic debit transaction.
(b) Determination of reasonable and proportional fees. An issuer complies with the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section only if each interchange transaction fee received or charged by the issuer for an electronic debit transaction is no more than the sum of--
(1) 21 cents and;
(2) 5 basis points multiplied by the value of the transaction.
I hope this sheds some light on your question.
Delegate Sam Arora
Lowe House Office Building, Room 224
Annapolis, MD 21401
This summer, a number of significant laws became became law. Here are some important measures of interest:
HB 677 - Montgomery County - Property Tax Credit For Qualified Enterprise Zone Property - Glenmont MC 18–13
This law, which I co-sponsored, alters the definition of qualified enterprise zone property for purposes of a specified local property tax credit in Montgomery County to include property that is located within the area encompassed by the Glenmont Shopping Center Area, the Metro Station/Layhill Triangle Block, the Winexburg Manor Apartments area, the Glenmont Forest Apartments area, and the Privacy World Area of the Glenmont Sector Plan developed by the Montgomery County Planning Department. Additionally, the property must be zoned for commercial or commercial/residential mixed use development and has had improvements made on it on or before January 1, 2025.
HB 941- Criminal Law - Fraudulent Liens – Prohibition
This law, which I authored, prohibits the filing of a false lien against and individual in Maryland and protects Maryland's public servants from a growing harassment tactic used by individuals known as the Sovereign Citizens, whom the FBI have identified as part of a domestic terror movement.
HB 226 - Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013
This law, which I have supported for years, incentivizes to build a wind energy farm off the coast of Ocean City and seeking to protect Maryland taxpayers from any cost overruns, which instead would be borne by energy developers and not ratepayers.
HB 180/SB 580 - Medical Marijuana - Caregiver - Affirmative Defense
This law creates an affirmative defense in a prosecution for the possession of marijuana or related paraphernalia that the defendant possessed marijuana or paraphernalia because the defendant was a caregiver and the marijuana or paraphernalia was intended for medical use by an individual with a debilitating medical condition. The law specifies that the affirmative defense may not be used if the defendant was using (or assisting in the use of) marijuana in a public place or was in possession of more than one ounce of marijuana. In addition, the law specifies that a defendant may assert the affirmative defense only if the defendant notifies the State’s Attorney of the defendant’s intention to assert the affirmative defense and provides the State’s Attorney with all documentation, in accordance with specified rules of discovery, in support of the affirmative defense.
HB 228 - Maryland Health Progress Act of 2013
This law modifies State law to further implement federal health care reform under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law expands Medicaid eligibility, and establishes a dedicated funding stream for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) from the insurance premium tax on health insurers and for-profit health maintenance organizations. The law also provides for the transition of Maryland Health Insurance Plan enrollees into MHBE, establishes a State reinsurance program, and establishes continuity-of-care requirements.
HB 1515 - Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013
This law will phase in a gradual increase in the tax levied on motor fuels based on the retail price of gasoline and is indexed to the rate of inflation. The revenue collected will be dedicated to the State’s Transportation Trust Fund, where it will be used to fund highway projects and transit improvements.
HB 225/SB 273 - Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013
This law facilitates professional licensing for active military personnel, veterans, and their spouses through the expedited issuance of specified licenses, registrations, and certificates.
HB 224/SB 279 - Election Law - Improving Access to Voting
This law increases the number of early voting centers in certain counties and establishes an eight-day early voting period for the 2014 and future elections. Beginning in 2016, the law allows for an individual to register to vote and subsequently vote during early voting, at an early voting center and makes specified changes to absentee voting provisions, including expanding and clarifying the methods by which a voter may request to receive an absentee ballot. The law also alters the information that must be provided in order to use the online voter registration system, increases a specified maximum fine, and requires specified elections-related studies and evaluations to be conducted.The law took effect July 1, 2013, with the exception of provisions governing voter registration during early voting, which take effect January 1, 2016.
HB 1413/ SB 969 - Public Safety - Fire Protection and Prevention - Residential Smoke Alarms
This law clarifies existing laws related to smoke alarms and specifies technological and installation requirements for residential and nonresidential structures. The law also requires additional smoke alarm information to be included in a specified disclosure form required in a contract of sale for single-family residential real property.
A leading environmental group this summer conferred on Delegate Sam Arora the highest possible environmental rating in Maryland, a perfect 100% lifetime rating as well as a perfect 100% rating for the most recent legislative session.
The Maryland League of Conservation Voters this summer unveiled its most recent legislative scorecard, rating Delegate Arora once again as unimpeachable on environmental priorities, the latest in each of his years of service in the Maryland General Assembly.
Joining Governor Martin O'Malley, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, state lawmakers and others today to unveil significant transportation funding for Montgomery County, Maryland State Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville) applauded the news.
"This funding couldn't come a moment too soon," said Delegate Arora. "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 boldly move forward and change that."
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In response to the announcement today of a multistate $17 million victory in a health care fraud case, Maryland State Delegate Sam Arora (D-Rockville) praised the success of the state’s anti-fraud law focused on protecting health care funds and called for its expansion to protect other state monies.
"Our anti-fraud law is racking up success after success and winning back funds stolen by health care fraud," Delegate Arora said. "This law’s proven success raises the obvious question of why it remains narrowly limited to protecting only health care funds. I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand this law to safeguard Maryland taxpayers’ dollars. Congratulations to Attorney General Gansler and his team for a job well done for our state."
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of state delegates led by Delegate Arora proposed expanding the law to protect all state funds from fraud instead of only healthcare funds. The Judiciary Committee’s chairman has requested the bill be a focus of the Committee’s attention this fall—one of only three bills that committee will take up before the 2014 session, indicating a strong interest in the legislation.
The Maryland False Health Claims Act, Maryland’s current law, passed in 2010 with the backing of Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, allows the state and whistleblowers to pursue perpetrators of fraud of the state’s health care programs in a civil suit and win damages up to three times the amount defrauded.
Maryland is one of only a dozen states that limit their false claims protections to health care-only. The federal government, 19 states and the District of Columbia, and several local jurisdictions have full false claims laws that extend the ability to pursue any fraud. The federal government’s law turned 150 years old this year.
Maryland’s share of the settlement unsealed today is $305,151.24, triple the amount Malik was claimed and was reimbursed by the Maryland Medicaid Program. Maryland’s recoveries under its 2010 False Health Claims Act were over $13 million for FY2013, according information released by the Attorney General’s Office. The total for FY2012 was slightly over $1 million.
Today, several constituents wrote me about Oregon’s decision to study income-based repayment plans for students who choose to attend its public universities and colleges. This is a very exciting idea to me, and this summer I have been investigating this and similar ideas with the goal of proposing next year that Maryland study these and other approaches to make higher education more affordable.
I was so pleased to hear President Obama this week make college affordability central to his plan for strengthening the middle class, but I think of 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.”
It is the power of a quality education to be that great equalizer with the power to reduce poverty that makes this not merely a financial issue but a moral one.
Precisely because the challenge of making college affordable seems to intractable today, we must be willing to look it in new ways. That means examining every option from cost containment to repayment programs to income based loan rate swaps. Burying our heads in the sand and avoiding politically inconvenient debate can no longer be an option.
For years, Maryland has kept the rate of tuition increases down, but in an era of decreasing federal funding and higher education cost increases, we need to take a hard look at all aspects of the cost and affordability of education—including how students finance education.
As you may know, the Oregon pilot program would require in-state students to pay the state a certain percentage of his or her annual adjusted gross income for a specified number of years following graduation in lieu of paying tuition. This program has many exciting implications, e.g. making college affordable for all qualified students. Analysts have pointed out that it also may present challenges, including that the state would have to locate a massive amount of up-front funding and the loss of access to federal loan subsidies and incentives. They also point out that this approach may realize a detrimental adverse selection bias (where students who believe they will eventually earn high incomes see this as a bad deal for them, opt out of the system, and create an unbalanced system that becomes unsustainable).
A second idea that will be proposed soon by legal scholars is that of an “income based rate swap”, which would allow a student to enter into a contract with a school where the school agrees to make the students’ loan payments in exchange for a commitment from the student to pay the school a percentage of income over a period of time. This idea presents a another pathway toward affording higher education that interacts with the existing federal tuition financing structure and does not place the same enormous capital requirements on a state. This idea, too, may present a number of challenges.
By no means do these approaches appear to be silver bullets, but if Maryland is serious about tackling the problem of college affordability, we have to take a new look at these and other ideas.
Fundamentally, we have to ask ourselves whether we can do better at financing a college education. I think we can, and it begins with leaving our preconceived notions and biases at the door and thoroughly examining all the options.