The MSBA recently welcomed Delegate Dana M. Stein (District 11, Baltimore County) for a conversation with former Senator Bobby Zirkin, to discuss the recent legislative session, his background, and his legislative goals. 

Delegate Stein was first elected to the House in 2006 and is currently Vice-Chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee and Chair of the Environment Subcommittee. He has served as the House of Delegates representative on the Maryland Commission on Climate Change since 2015. In 2019, Delegate Stein was appointed to serve on the Chesapeake Bay Commission, one of three delegates representing the Maryland House of Delegates on the Commission. He also co-chairs the state’s Financial Education and Capability Commission.

Delegate Stein is also the Executive Director and Founder of Civic Works, a nationally recognized “urban Peace Corps” in Baltimore City that transforms the lives of young adults through community service. Participants rehab homes, build parks and gardens, tutor and mentor students, make improvements in the homes of senior citizens, and grow fresh produce on an urban farm. Civic Works, based in the historic Clifton Mansion, also operates a high school in Baltimore City. Prior to establishing Civic Works, Del. Stein practiced law for several years at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in Washington, D.C.

Delegate Stein noted that one of his bills, the Climate Solution Now Act of 2021 (SB 414), was one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation this year, but unfortunately did not pass. He explained that the effects of climate change are evident everywhere. Maryland is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, and current projections show that by the end of the century a large portion of the state’s coastal areas will be underwater. 

The Act was an omnibus bill that attempted to cover numerous areas, including energy and environmental justice, which was part of its undoing. There was agreement in the Senate on approximately 80% of the bill, but there were issues with provisions regarding making large buildings energy-efficient. Specifically, the bill fell apart due to disagreement over the standards that should apply for retrofitting large commercial buildings and the energy efficiency requirements of new ones. The bill will likely be broken into separate bills in the next session so that even if an agreement is not reached over the building standards, the other provisions should pass.

Delegate Stein explained that environmental justice requires recognition of the reality that lower-income communities and communities of color have been subject to environments that are more polluted have and suffer greater health consequences as a result.  It is a realization that projects have had negative environmental impacts in certain communities. and requires  efforts to mitigate such harmful effects in future projects. 

He noted that while there is a cost associated with effecting environmental change, such changes will improve the health of Marylanders overall. If, for example, emissions standards are modified it will reduce pollution, resulting in less respiratory distress. If you reduce the urban heat island effect by adding more greenery, fewer Marylanders will suffer from heat exhaustion. Making cars and buildings more energy efficient will result in economic benefits as well. 

Fortunately, another bill Delegate Stein championed, the Clean Water Commerce Act (CWCA) (SB 119), passed. He explained that in 2010, the EPA set goals for Chesapeake Bay watershed states to  reduce pollution, and required each state to draft and submit a pollution reduction plan. The EPA also set 2025 as the deadline for when their targets must be met. The CWCA attempts to meet those targets. The goal of the CWCA is to take some of the money from the Bay Restoration Fund and make sure it is applied to the most efficient practices to reduce pollution into the Bay.  

He also sponsored the Maryland Driver Privacy Act  (SB 234), which passed in the House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor Hogan. The Act stemmed from the fact that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was obtaining state motor vehicle files to identify and deport undocumented immigrants who had committed no crime other than coming to the U.S.  without documentation. Maryland has a second-tier driver’s license for undocumented immigrants, and the Act aimed to prevent the disclosure of the driver’s license information of undocumented immigrants to ICE for civil enforcement of immigration laws. The governor ultimately vetoed the Act because he believed it would impact homeland security. 

Delegate Stein and former Senator Zirkin also discussed the potential extension of the affirmative defense against eviction for people who cannot pay rent due to a loss of income caused by COVID-19, mask mandates in school districts, and the legalization of recreational marijuana use. 

You can view the full session here.