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.
- 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.
- 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.
Currently, no standards exist for these painful and sometimes life threatening procedures. They are frequently performed by unqualified people using inappropriate and painful methods.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 someone else.