Reaching out to my colleagues across the State has been a formula for success. Through cooperation, not confrontation, we have succeeded in bettering the lives of all of our residents.
Please take a moment to look at my record as your elected official and the legislation I have championed:
- Protecting our seniors from con artists and scammers;
- Fighting gangs and targeting their leaders;
- Consumer protection initiatives;
- Landmark environmental protections;
- Combating drunk driving;
- Supporting our neighbors with developmental disabilities; and
- Protecting victims of domestic abuse.
State Delegate Ben Kramer’s Summary of Successful Legislation:
Working to Improve The Lives of Maryland’s Senior Residents
- Financial Exploitation of the Elderly
This legislation made Maryland the only state in the nation to criminalize the use of “undue influence” to take money and other assets from our senior residents. This new law has already been successfully prosecuted in Montgomery County. No longer will the financial victimization of our community’s elderly be perceived as a “minimal risk.”
- Financial Abuse-Bank Reporting Act
This new law requires employees of banks and credit unions to report suspected financial elder abuse to adult protective services or law enforcement. Bank tellers are now required to undergo specified training to help them recognize elder financial abuse and to understand reporting procedures.
In the war against the financial exploitation of our senior citizens, the banks are on the front-line in defending against the abuse of older Americans.
- Silver Alert
This statewide system provides for the rapid dissemination of information regarding a missing person who suffers from a cognitive impairment. Passage of this legislation was a top initiative of the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as, individuals who have autistic family members. Maryland’s Silver Alert program has been successfully used repeatedly to reunite family members with loved ones who had wandered.
- Senior Call-Check and Notification System
With passage of his bill, Maryland is the only state in the nation to have established a statewide automated program to provide at least once a day, at a time scheduled by a senior resident, a call to check in on the well-being of the person.
Any resident of the state, who is at least 65 years old, is eligible to enroll in the program at no cost. The daily call will provide an opportunity for the senior to indicate whether they are well or in need of assistance. If they are in need of assistance or do not answer the call, a notification call will be placed to a person of record (friend, family, neighbor, or local law enforcement if they choose to participate) that the individual is in need of assistance.
Additionally, the system will be able to notify the people in the program about anticipated dangerous weather (snow storms, hurricanes) so that they can be prepared with additional food or medications should they not be able to get out of their homes for a few days.
The system will also be able to notify them about the latest scams being perpetrated against our seniors to help prevent their being exploited by the con-artists and scammers who are constantly preying on our senior residents.
Many of our seniors live alone without anyone routinely checking in on their well-being. This program will provide the assurance of knowing, that at least once a day, they will receive a call to check in on them.
- Asset Recovery for Exploited Seniors
Our senior citizens are under constant attack by scammers and con artists who are relentless in their efforts to swindle the life’s savings of hard working elderly residents.
With passage of this bill, Maryland became the only state in the nation to have empowered its Attorney General with the authority to step into the shoes of a senior citizen, who has been victimized, and seek to recover their lost assets in civil court. Any recovery by the AG’s Office will be returned to the victim.
Many of our seniors, who have been victimized and have lost their nest egg, do not have the financial resources to hire an attorney and pay the costs of a lengthy court battle. Maryland’s Attorney General will now be able to bring the power of the AG’s Office to bear in an effort to recover the lost assets on behalf of the victimized senior.
- Maryland Securities Act-Vulnerable Adults
The con artists and scammers are constantly looking for ways to financially exploit our senior residents and to rip-off their hard earned nest eggs.
This legislation requires that the agents and brokers who deal in stocks, bonds and other securities report to legal authorities any transactions or dealings that seem to be suspicious and that might potentially be the financial exploitation of a senior citizen.
The bill also increases the staff of the Attorney General’s Office for the purpose of investigating suspected exploitation.
- Electric Utilities-Service Restoration to Special Medical Needs Facilities
With passage of this legislation, Maryland will for the first time track the frequency and duration of electric power outages to hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and congregant housing for senior citizens.
Each year the electric utilities will be required to report to the PSC, a list of the facilities that experienced outages of greater than four hours; or experienced protective devices, serving the facility, that tripped five or more times in a year; or a facility that is on a feeder that is one of the utility’s poorest performing in the utility’s service territory.
Additionally, if any of these events are present, the utility will be required to provide the PSC with a proposal as to how service will be improved to the effected facilities.
Finally, the electric utilities are required to meet with the PSC and determine what other procedures might be adopted to ensure reliable service to these facilities. For most of us, when the power goes out it is frustrating and an annoyance, however, for our most vulnerable residents living in these facilities, extended power outages can result in significant physical harm.
- Reverse Mortgage Homeowners Protection Act
With passage of this legislation, Maryland became one of the only states in the nation to establish strict provisions governing reverse mortgage loans and protecting our senior homeowners from being financially exploited.
- Assisted Living and Nursing Home Residents Protection Act of 2010
This legislation requires the Sexual Offender Advisory Board to review policy and procedures relating to convicted sex offenders who reside or are employed in Maryland’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. National studies on this issue have revealed many cases of convicted sex offenders, who reside in nursing homes, victimizing other residents.
The Sex Offender Advisory Board is charged with providing recommendations as to how we can best protect our nursing home residents from sexual assault. We owe our most vulnerable citizens no less than to ensure their safety.
- Insurance Producers – Use of Senior or Retiree Credential or Designation
The successful passage of this bill created a legitimate educational and training standard, for insurance agents who represent themselves as specialists in senior or retirement investing, for the sale of annuities, life insurance or health insurance. Too many of our senior residents have lost their retirement nest eggs to scammers who claimed to be specialists in senior investing. Delegate Kramer also successfully sponsored similar legislation governing securities, including the sale of stocks and bonds.
- Wire Transfer Business…Protection of Elder Adults Against Financial Abuse
As passed, this bill required money transmitters (Western Union, Money Gram, etc.) to provide training materials to their agents on how to recognize financial abuse and financial exploitation of elder adults. The training will also provide for how the agent is to respond of the agent suspects that she or he is being asked to engage in a fraudulent transaction in which an elder adult is the victim of financial abuse. Many scams being perpetrated on our senior citizens involve the use of wire transfers, These scams often ask the victim to wire money for taxes that are due on “Lottery Winnings” or money to get a “loved one”, who is out of town, “out of a jam.”
This legislation will help to curb this kind of financial exploitation. With its passage, Maryland will join California as one of the two states to successfully take action in response to this financial abuse of our senior residents. This bill was the top priority.
Financial Support for our Friends, Family & Neighbors with Special Needs
- Income Tax Checkoff for Developmental Disabilities
This successful legislation created a checkoff, on Maryland Tax Returns, by which individuals can voluntarily contribute to provide community based housing and job opportunities for our residents with developmental disabilities.
- Business Tax Credit for Hiring an Individual with a Disability
Our citizens with disabilities continue to find themselves unemployed at a far greater rate than the population in general.
With the passage of this bill, businesses will now receive an important tax credit for hiring an individual with a disability. It is important to help our friends, neighbors and family members with disabilities find meaningful job opportunities and to fulfill their desire to be self-sufficient and productive.
- State Personnel-Individuals with Disabilities-Hiring Preferences
Our citizens with disabilities are unemployed at a much higher percentage than the general population. Passage of this bill makes Maryland the only state that provides a resident with a disability, that is otherwise qualified for the job, a preference in hiring for a position in a state agency.
- Prohibition of Devocalization of Cats and Dogs
This legislation prohibits the cruel practice of severing the vocal chords of a dog or cat. Just like humans, dogs and cats use vocalization to communicate their feelings. Unfortunately, they are often times silenced by owners, breeders and researchers who simply don’t want to listen to them – thus subjecting them to a lifetime of the inability to communicate. Often, devocalization surgery can lead to vocal cords scarring, creating difficulty in breathing, drinking and swallowing.
- Medical Procedures Not Performed by a Veterinarian
This legislation requires that the cropping of ears, docking of tails, removal of dew-claws and caesarian section procedures performed on dogs and cats be performed under anesthesia by a licensed veterinarian.
Before passage of this bill, no standard existed for these painful and sometimes life threatening procedures. They were frequently performed by unqualified people using inappropriate and painful methods.
- Companion Animal Welfare Act
Puppy mills and kitten factories continue to operate with minimal standards of care for the breeding animals. The conditions in which the breeding animals live are egregious and their care is virtually nonexistent. Puppy mills could not exist without the retail pet stores that sell the puppies and kittens that they produce.
This bill created the strictest standards in the nation for how and where the retail pet stores can acquire their “pet inventory.” Pet stores in Maryland are now prohibited from purchasing puppies and kittens from puppy mills that have been cited repeatedly for violations even minor ones. Additionally, dogs and cats may no longer be sold or offered at “roadside stands,” including parking lots, carnivals, county fairs, sidewalk sales, etc.
- Regulation of Animals-Kennel Licenses
This law requires more dog breeders in our state to be licensed and inspected.
The implementation of the regulations required in the law will help to reduce the number of puppy mills.
The puppy mill industry is cruel and ugly. The breeding dogs are kept in appalling conditions and suffer greatly. I will continue my efforts, in the future, to fight back against the inhumane treatment of loving companion animals forced to live in misery for purposes of profit.
Hopefully, Maryland will one day prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens in retail pet stores entirely, which will help to eliminate the demand for product from the grotesque puppy mills.
- Telephone Bills – Third-Party Vendor Billing
This legislation will bring an end to what has been a consistent top 10 consumer complaint known as “cramming.” Cramming is the practice of placing an unapproved charge on a person’s phone bill for a service or item that the consumer never requested.
This legislation created a process for ensuring that any charges on a consumer’s phone bill were actually requested and approved by the customer and affords a method for restitution to the consumer should they be crammed in the future.
The passage of this legislation made Maryland one of only a handful of states to have successfully addressed this problem.
- Homeowner’s Insurance-Notification of Dog Breed Specific Coverage Limitations
This law requires insurance companies in Maryland, who provide homeowner’s insurance, to notify the insured at the inception of the policy, and at least once a year, if the insurer has dog injury liability limitations and if they exclude coverage based on a particular breed of dog. If there are breed specific limitations, the insurer must list the excluded breeds in the required notifications.
- Door-to-Door Sales
Disreputable home improvement contractors continue to prey on consumers, particularly our seniors, using high pressure tactics during door to door sales in an effort to have the consumer sign a contract for services. Often the work covered by the contract is unnecessary and/or significantly over priced.
With passage of this legislation, Maryland became the only state to create the following standards for home improvement sales that are contracted through door to door contacts.
All consumers will have 5 days to cancel a door to door home improvement contract, without penalty of any kind. If the consumer is 65 years old, or older, the right to cancel the contract is 7 days.
The contractor or salesman must provide the consumer with notice of their right to cancel the contract. The consumer must acknowledge in writing that the contractor provided them with the oral notice of cancellation.
The contractor must also provide in writing a document, separate and apart from the contract itself, that provides the consumer with the notice of their right to cancel the contract.
By providing this cooling off period, the consumer will now have the opportunity to seek a bid from another contractor to do the work covered by the contract and determine if the price is fair and if the work is even necessary.
In the Forefront of Protecting Maryland’s Environment
- Environmental Management of Road Salts and Best Practices Guidance
The successful passage of this legislation makes Maryland the only state in the nation to address the damaging and toxic effects that road salts are having on our freshwater ecosystems, soil, vegetation, wildlife and drinking water.
One important recent study has indicated that if salinization from road salts in Maryland’s freshwater streams continues at its current rate, that within this century, much of our drinking water supply will be toxic and undrinkable.
This legislation required the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland State Highway Administration to create guidelines for the best practices of road salt management, to be utilized by the SHA and all local authorities across the state that are responsible for snow and ice removal.
- Jane E. Lawton Conservation Loan Program
This bill expands on opportunities for local governments, non-profits and businesses to receive low or no interest loans to make energy efficient improvements to their buildings and equipment.
Our state has made significant improvements in our use of renewable energy sources to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. However, we have much work to do in reducing the amount of energy that we consume. The greatest impact that we can have on reducing our carbon footprint is to reduce the amount of energy that is being used in the state. Energy efficiency, which is at the core of this legislation, will bring about significant reductions in emissions of carbon pollution. This bill was actively supported by a number of environmental organizations.
- Hate Crimes Protection Act of 2009
With passage of this legislation, Maryland afforded women and the disabled the opportunity to be protected under the umbrella of our hate crimes statute.
- “Noah’s Law”
This common sense legislation requires that anyone convicted of drunk driving will be required to install an ignition interlock in their car for a period of at least 6 months. Every study that has been conducted on this issue indicates that the use of an ignition interlock is the only method that consistently results in a reduction in the recidivism rate of people who drink and drive.
Maryland continues to average 170 deaths per year as a consequence of drunk driving related tragedies. In other states that have implemented legislation similar to this, the reduction in fatalities has averaged between 30-70%.
This bill was titled in memory of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who at the age of 23, was struck and killed by a drunk driver while Office Leotta was making a traffic stop of a different suspected drunk driver.
- Public Safety – DNA Database System
This legislation requires that a person arrested for a “crime of violence” in Maryland, have their DNA sampled by a cotton swab on the inside of the cheek. The sample is then entered into the DNA database for comparison with DNA samples from unsolved crime scenes.
This requirement has successfully removed numerous violent criminals and sex offenders from our neighborhoods.
Delegate Ben Kramer was the recipient of the “Katie’s Hero Award,” national recognition for introducing and fighting for the passage of this legislation.
- Ambulance Services – Direct Reimbursement from Insurance Providers
The vast majority of jurisdictions, in Maryland, bill health insurance companies for ambulance services provided to their citizens. However, a Maryland law which provides for the direct reimbursement to the governments, from the insurance providers, was scheduled to “sunset” and no longer allow for this critically important collection process.
In Montgomery County alone, the lost revenue would have been $14 million every year that pays for much needed fire and rescue services.
With the passage of this bill, the sunset provision was repealed, and the law remained in effect. Fire and rescue service personnel from across the state came out to support this legislation.
- Carrying Proof of Motor Vehicle Insurance
Maryland has one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists in the nation. Passage of this bill requires Maryland’s motorists to have proof of insurance coverage with them when they are driving.
This was the number one recommendation of a task force that was formed to address this issue. All of the states surrounding Maryland already have this requirement in law, as well as, the vast majority of the states across the country.
- Maryland Drunk Driving Elimination Act
This legislative proposal was the number one initiative for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
As introduced, anyone convicted of drunk driving would be required to use an ignition interlock device on their car for at least 6 months. An ignition interlock is a device which prevents the car from starting if the driver has alcohol in their system. The driver must blow into the device and be sober to start the car.
The driver is required to blow into the device at random intervals, while driving, to ensure their continued sobriety.
States which require this procedure for convicted drunk drivers are achieving reductions in drunk driving related auto fatalities of better than one-third. In Maryland, that would translate into 55 saved lives each year.
As passed by the legislature, the law now requires anyone who is convicted of drunk driving and had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher, to install an ignition interlock on their vehicle.
I am proud and honored to have received MADD’s “Visionary Award” in “recognition of extraordinary service and effort to save lives and protect Maryland’s citizens.”
- Minimum Wage Enforcement
This bill requires the Dept. of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) to enforce the minimum wage in Montgomery County. Previously, by law, DLLR was only able to enforce the State of Maryland’s minimum wage. However, Montgomery County’s minimum wage is different from that of the state.
With passage of this bill, Montgomery County taxpayers will no longer be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to have local government enforce the minimum wage, when their tax dollars to the state were already paying for its enforcement by the state.
- Office of the Inspector General-Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is a state agency with considerable authority over land use planning and the parks and recreation facilities in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
The M-NCPPC has an annual budget of well over $300 million dollars funded by our taxpayers.
The agency is independent of our county government and does not answer directly to our elected officials. With increasing frequency, I have received requests from constituents seeking greater accountability and transparency with regard to the revenues, expenditures and operations of the M-NCPPC.
With passage of this bill, the position of an independent Inspector General (IG) will be created within the agency. The IG will have the authority to audit all finances of the agency and any of its subcontractors.
In addition, the IG will have the authority and power of subpoena to investigate any allegations, deemed appropriate by the IG, of fraud, waste, mismanagement and misconduct.
The public and the M-NCPPC employees will now have an independent person to whom they can report concerns about fraud, waste, mismanagement and misconduct.
- Prohibiting Smoking in Montgomery County/Prince George’s Parks & Recreation Facilities
Secondhand tobacco smoke is a class-A carcinogen for which there is no safe level of exposure. Each year, tens of thousands of non-smokers die from exposure to the toxins contained in secondhand smoke. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of non-smokers are adversely affected by secondhand smoke, ranging from asthma to ear infections in children.
Studies indicate that the effects of secondhand smoke in outdoor settings can be just as harmful as those located indoors. In our parks and recreation facilities, families gather to enjoy outdoor sports, recreation and the beauty of nature.
With passage of this legislation, they will now be able to do so, in the parks and recreation facilities of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, without being exposed to the detrimental effects of secondhand tobacco smoke.
- Montgomery Co. – MNCPPC – Lease, Contract, or Agreement Terms: Save Sligo Golf Course
This bill prohibits, in Montgomery County, a lease, contract, or agreement entered into by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) from containing a provision that (1) authorizes an entity other than M-NCPPC to close a park or park facility; or (2) authorizes another entity to require the closure of an existing park or park facility to prevent competition.
This bill was necessitated by a leasing practice of the MNCPPC (Park & Planning) permitting private entities to require the closure of park properties and assets. This issue raised its ugly head when the Montgomery County Revenue Authority leased Sligo Creek Golf Course from the MNCPPC and subsequently decided to return Sligo to the MNCPPC and insisted that the course be closed, so as not to compete with the Revenue Authority’s other golf courses.
Sligo Creek Golf Course is the only down County public golf course, and it has been and continues to be a vital recreational facility for Montgomery County’s residents in the lower portion of the County. If the golf course is to close, that decision should be made by the MNCPPC and the Montgomery County government, not a private third party.
Passage of this bill brings accountability and transparency to the process of closing our parks and park facilities and prevents the MNCPPC from ceding its authority, to close these taxpayer funded public assets, to another entity.