State Delegate Ben Kramer’s Summary of Successful Legislation

Working to Improve the Lives of Maryland’s Senior Residents

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.

Financial Exploitation of the Elderly
This legislation made Maryland the first state in the nation to criminalize the use of “undue influence” to take money and other assets from our senior residents. This law has been successfully prosecuted in Montgomery County and throughout the state. No longer will the financial victimization of our community’s elderly be perceived as a “minimal risk.”
Financial Abuse-Bank Reporting Act

This 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.

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

Passage of this bill made Maryland the only state to 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 are required to report to the PSC, a list of the facilities that experienced outages of greater than four hours; or experienced five or more momentary outages in a year.

Additionally, if any of these events are present, the utility is required to provide the PSC with a proposal as to how service will be improved to the effected 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 exploited by unscrupulous lenders.

Assisted Living and Nursing Home Residents Protection Act of 2010

This legislation required 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.

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 sponsored successful legislation governing securities, including the sale of stocks and bonds.

Wire Transfer Business…Protection of Elder Adults Against Financial Abuse

As passed, this bill requires 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 if 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 has helped to curb this kind of financial exploitation. With its passage, Maryland joined California as one of two states to successfully take action in response to this financial abuse of our senior residents. This bill was the top priority of the Montgomery County Commission on Aging.

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.

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. It has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, for this purpose, since going into effect.

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.

Animal Welfare

No More Puppy Mill Pup and Kittens Act

Delegate Kramer passed a law that created strict regulations for the sourcing of the puppies and kittens offered for sale in retail pet shops. The retail pet shops purchase their “inventory” from the barbaric puppy mills that exist throughout much of the country.

The regulations required that Maryland stores not purchase their inventory from those puppy mills with particularly egregious USDA violations and that they provide proof of the sourcing of their inventory.

Many of the retail stores were not complying with the law, even after being notified to do so. In response to this willful disregard of Maryland law, by the pet sale industry, Delegate Kramer sponsored a successful bill, the “No More Puppy Mill Pups and Kittens Act of 2018,” which will prohibit the sale of any puppies or kittens in retail pet stores as of January 1, 2020.

This bill makes Maryland the second state in the nation to take this important step to stop the sale of puppies and kittens, produced in the gruesome and cruel mills that mass produce these loving companion animals in brutal conditions for profit.

Companion Animals Used In Research

Research facilities still use companion animals ( dogs and cats ) for purposes of experimentation. Typically, when the experiments are completed, the companion animals are simply killed.

Beagles are the breed of dog most commonly used in research. Their sweet disposition and compact size make them a popular choice for prodding, poking, and exposing to hazardous chemicals and medical experimentation.

This law requires that companion animals, that survive the experiments and are still in good health, be offered for adoption rather than simply killed out of convenience. There are a number of organizations that specialize in the rescue of research dogs and cats that will rehabilitate them and place them into good homes.

After experiencing so much pain and suffering for the benefit of humankind, the least that we can do for these sweet and loving animals is to show them a little human kindness and allow them to live out whatever remaining life they have knowing the warmth of a loving home and family.

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.

Protecting Consumers

Travel Insurance Regulation

The travel insurance industry has been poorly regulated with little government oversight and control. As a consequence, it has been a source of significant consumer complaints, dissatisfaction and consumer fraud.

This bill makes Maryland the first state to adopt a national model for the travel insurance industry that creates consistency in this industry and provides for strict government oversight and regulation, as is done with other types of insurance, such as, property and casualty.

Consumers will now have a greater understanding of the product that they are purchasing and there will now be government resources to turn to when the insurers don’t perform as agreed.

Telephone Bills – Third-Party Vendor Billing

This legislation brought an end to what had 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 has made 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 law expanded 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.

Public Safety

“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.

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.

Alcohol Regulation, Enforcement, Safety and Public Health

Alcohol continues to be the number one abused and misused drug in the nation and it is estimated that excessive drinking costs Maryland $5 billion annually.

Alcohol use is commonly involved in sexual assaults, physical assaults, automobile crashes and fatalities and 1,300 deaths annually in Maryland.

Every year, the legislature reviews hundreds of proposed bills to expand the distribution and availability of alcohol in the state. However, rarely if ever, is consideration given to the health, welfare and public safety aspects of greater availability and consumption of alcohol.
This bill creates a task force comprised of experts in the fields of health, public safety, medicine and members of the alcohol industry to study the best practices for alcohol distribution in the state.

The task force will make recommendations to the legislature as to how the state can best provide the distribution and sale of alcohol to the public and minimize the ill-effects of its consumption.

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.

Local Legislation

Office of the Inspector General-Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

The WSSC is a quasi-state agency that is responsible for the water and sanitary sewer service in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

The WSSC has an annual operating budget of well over $1 billion funded by the ratepayers of the two jurisdictions.

The agency operates independently of county and state government and does not answer directly to our elected officials.

Our residents have the right to know that an agency of this size with such a huge budget, funded by them, is being run with the utmost efficiency, without waste, fraud or corruption.

This bill creates the office of an inspector general, that will have the independence and authority to audit all finances of the agency and its subcontractors. The IG will have the power of subpoena to investigate any allegations deemed appropriate that relate to fraud, waste, mismanagement and misconduct within the agency.

The public and WSSC employees will now have an independent person to whom they can report concerns about these issues.

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.

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. – M-NCPPC – 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 M-NCPPC (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 M-NCPPC and subsequently decided to return Sligo to the M-NCPPC 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 M-NCPPC 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 M-NCPPC from ceding its authority, to close these taxpayer funded public assets, to another entity.