Delegate Addie Eckardt’s Legislative Wrap Up

This week the House Health and Human Resources Committee was briefed by the Department of Human Resources regarding their initiative Place Matters – a program to provide a comprehensive community approach to reduce out of home placements for children. Research indicates that children do better in a family setting. Efforts to recruit additional foster families, increase reunifications of children with families and establish permanent adoptions have been effective this year throughout the state and on the Eastern Shore. Other services planned for the coming year include Mental Health Crisis and Wrap Around and Stabilization Services.

The Committee also reviewed the Department of Disabilities budget and programs. The Employed Individuals with Disabilities Program is one of the most powerful work incentive programs for people with disabilities. This program enables citizens with disabilities who work and meet certain requirements to receive Medicaid coverage for a small premium. The income and asset limits are much higher than for other Medicaid programs. Enabling people to earn and save more money without losing health coverage. The Department of Disabilities helps Marylanders understand and enroll in the program which is funded by Federal dollars. Maryland has only participated in this program for the last three years.

According to the Maryland Oyster Advisory Committee the implementation of a large-scale oyster bar habitat rehabilitation program is dependent on the availability of large amounts of oyster shell. To that end, Delegate Eckardt has introduced HB 103 which would extend the date to require the Department of Natural Resources to apply to the United States Army Corps of Engineers for a specified permit to dredge fossil oyster shells. DNR’s permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expired in September 2006 and was not renewed. Oyster shell is critical to oyster restoration in the Bay – the bay’s oyster population acts as a natural filter and removes 133 million pounds of nitrogen annually. The bill will be heard in the Environmental Matters Committee on February 4, 2009 @ 1PM.