Several bills passed in the just-ended legislative session responded to the election of Donald Trump. In the 2016 presidential election, Maryland was one of the bluest of blue states, with 60.33% of voters supporting Clinton and only 33.91% supporting Trump. (Anne Arundel County split more evenly with 47.7% Clinton voters to 47.1% Trump voters.) As a consequence, state legislators passed Senate Joint 5 and House Joint 3, empowering Attorney General Brian Frosh to “investigate, commence, and prosecute or defend any civil or criminal suit or action that is based on the federal government’s action or inaction that threatens the public interest and welfare of the residents of the State.” The bills call out a series of grounds for action, including:
- Protecting the health of the residents of the State and ensuring the availability of affordable health care.
- Safeguarding public safety and security.
- Protecting civil liberties.
- Preserving and enhancing the economic security of workers and retirees.
- Protecting financial security of the residents of the State, including their pensions, savings, and investments, and ensuring fairness in mortgages, student loans, and the marketplace.
- Protecting the residents of the State against fraud and other deceptive and predatory practices.
- Protecting the natural resources and environment of the State.
- Protecting the residents of the State against illegal and unconstitutional federal immigration and travel restrictions.
- Otherwise protecting the State’s interest in the general health and well-being of its residents.
House Bill 913 added some teeth to these measures by providing cash, with Governor Hogan required to budget at least $1 million to be used for carrying out the bill’s provisions and instructing the AG to use the money to hire five attorneys and empowering the AG to employ pro bono assistant counsel to assist with any litigation that arises.
AG Frosh has hit the ground running by launching action against the Trump travel ban based on his new powers. His most recent action was to file a brief in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump before the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“President Trump’s second executive order is still a Muslim ban,” said Attorney General Frosh. “It is a policy that is unconstitutional and un-American but also makes us less safe, not more safe. It makes us less competitive and will harm Maryland’s universities and our economy.”
Another bill passed by the recent session that responds to federal action is House Bill 1083 (Ch. 28), which establishes a Family Planning Program in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to ensure the continuity of family planning services in the State. Under the Act, DHMH is required to ensure access to and the continuity of services provided by Medicaid family planning providers that were discontinued as recipients of federal funding because of the scope of services offered by the provider. In other words, if the feds defund Planned Parenthood the state will make up the money.
Finally, Big Bird and Downton Abbey fans will be pleased by the passage of Senate Bill 1034, which establishes a minimum State funding level for the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission. This is another case of Maryland saying that if the feds defund it, the state will refund it.