ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Cutting prescription drug costs and ensuring health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing medical problems are among the top priorities for Maryland Democrats this legislative session, state lawmakers said Tuesday.
Democrats, who control the Maryland General Assembly, outlined seven measures relating to health, gun control, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and fighting pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
Democrats hold a 99-42 advantage over Republicans in the House, and a 32-15 majority in the Senate.
“These are bills that have been agreed upon by both the leadership of the House and the Senate,” House Speaker Michael Busch said during a news conference. “We think these pieces of legislation build a stronger middle class here in the state of Maryland, and that’s what we’re all about.”
This year’s legislative session convened Jan. 9 and runs through April 8.
Here is a look at the legislation:
Democrats say they plan to pass legislation to create a commission to increase transparency for the cost and choices of prescription drugs, as well as a measure to cap the out-of-pocket drug costs for state retirees.
Legislation backed by Democrats would create a statutory right in Maryland for people with pre-existing medical conditions to have access to health insurance.
A measure already endorsed by the 57-member Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland would raise the age for buying tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21.
Legislation would ban 3D-printed gun blueprints and “ghost guns.”
“Ghost guns are something you can order off the internet, and as long as the kit will only create 80 percent of the gun, it’s legal, and you can then go to a gun store and buy whatever other little parts you need for that other 20 percent,” said Del. Kathleen Dumais, a bill sponsor. “These guns are not regulated, untraceable, no serial numbers. We shouldn’t allow them in Maryland.”
Maryland Democrats are supporting an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour.
Democrats propose adding $20 million a year to increase the state’s existing child care tax credit, which hasn’t been modernized in nearly 20 years. Supporters of the legislation say child care costs are skyrocketing at an average of nearly $14,000 a year and the fifth highest in the country. “This is something that we must fix,” said Sen. Delores Kelley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
Lawmakers say they want to make Maryland the first state to ban polystyrene, the synthetic polymer often used in Styrofoam packaging. The measure would require businesses to use alternate materials such compostable or recyclable containers.
“We are seeing viable alternatives that are much safer that are environmentally friendly,” said Del. Dereck Davis, who is the chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee.
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