DLLR News

 

DLLR on the Move: Legislative Session Wrap-Up

 

The 90 day legislative session wrapped up last month, and DLLR had a remarkably successful session. I am very grateful for the hard work across all of the Department's units to ensure that we were prepared, accessible and effective.

Working together, and working in close collaboration with the Governor's office, we accomplished so much for Maryland. The foreclosure epidemic is one of the greatest crises confronting Marylanders, and the Governor has already signed four bills that the Washington Post called among the "most sweeping" reforms in the nation. The four bills, sponsored by the Governor and a result of the recommendations of the Homeownership Preservation Task Force, will have an immediate impact on foreclosures in the state and will provide long term reforms for lending and foreclosures in Maryland. Under the new laws, lenders must provide homeowners with more time and notice before filing a foreclosure action. Individuals who commit mortgage fraud will now be subject to criminal penalties, and foreclosure rescue transactions - a despicable practice used to steal equity from distressed homeowners - are now illegal. The bills also have far-reaching implications for mortgage lending in Maryland, banning pre-payment penalties, requiring a lender to verify a borrower's ability to repay a loan, and strengthening licensing requirements for mortgage professionals. If you know anyone who is struggling to pay their mortgage, please let them know that DLLR can help.

Meanwhile, another successful measure sponsored by Governor O'Malley will see the transfer of Maryland's adult education and adult correctional education programs to DLLR's Division of Workforce Development. More than 200 dedicated state employees will join the DLLR team in July 2009. Part of the Governor's strategy to create a more cohesive and comprehensive system of workforce creation, the new law will allow us to more seamlessly provide adult learners with the services they need to improve their lives. A transition council will meet over the course of the next year to develop a plan for a smooth transfer, and DWD will begin oversight of the programs in July 2009.

The passage of a bill to allow the spouses of military personnel transferring out of Maryland to collect Unemployment Insurance benefits was another highlight of the session. With Maryland ready to receive thousands of new military-related jobs as a result of the base realignment, or BRAC, the measure had strong support from Governor O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, and puts Maryland in line with neighboring states that already allow such benefits. By amending the law to differentiate between the choice to move versus the necessity to move because of a spouse's mandatory transfer, the State of Maryland is recognizing the reality of military employment.

And there are other important measures to report:

  • Home inspectors will be subject to stricter requirements in order to receive a license under a measure passed this year. Applicants will now have an examination requirement, more classroom hours to complete and a higher liability insurance requirement.
  • Another measure passed this session will allow the Real Estate Commission to order the emergency suspension of a licensee who has committed a felony, or who has lied to the commission about a felony.
  • The Commissioner of Labor and Industry will see some relief of the backlog of boiler and pressure vessel inspections after the passage of a bill to allow third party inspections.
  • The General Assembly reauthorized the Design Boards, and passed legislation clarifying responsibilities of the Board of Appeals.
  • After years of trying and failing to secure special funding for oversight of banks and credit unions by the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, a special funding proposal won approval by the General Assembly.
  • Another successful measure will allow the Commissioner to share vital financial information with other state and federal regulators, better enabling the Commissioner to stop terrorist financing, money laundering, mortgage fraud and illegal lending activity.
  • The Flexible Leave Act will require employers who offer paid leave to allow employees to use their earned paid leave to care for a sick child, spouse or parent.
  • The Maryland Individual Tax Preparers Act will require the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to register individual tax preparers. The new law requires the creation of a state Board of Individual Tax Preparers.
  • A measure to reform bank laws in Maryland will make 10 changes to the law in an effort to erase a competitive disadvantage faced by state regulated banks.

Overall, it was a great session for DLLR, and a great session for working families. I look forward to our work ahead in implementing these new laws and continuing our mission to protect and empower Marylanders.