Today marks the start of the 2024 legislative session. Unlike the United States Congress, the Maryland General Assembly is part-time and meets for 90 days each year. Also unlike Congress, the House of Delegates only has six standing committees--the U.S. House has about 20--and I am starting my first session as chair of one: the Environment and Transportation Committee.
Below I will discuss my legislative agenda--the bills I will be primarily sponsoring--but like every year I will also have the opportunity to work on numerous other issues both as a member of the full House and chair of a committee. Specifically, in addition to having the usual opportunity to weigh in on the state budget, public education, healthcare (including reproductive health), sensible gun control and public safety, and myriad other issues, the committee I chair has jurisdiction over the environment, transportation, housing, agriculture, ethics, and more. In fact, as committee chair I am the sponsor of 17 bills as a courtesy to various state departments and agencies seeking changes to their governing statutes.
That said, I currently plan to sponsor five pieces of legislation with a few more still under development. I will share more about these bills in the weeks ahead but here are brief summaries:
Electric Vehicle Recharging Equipment Act of 2024: Senator Ariana Kelly is cross-filing this bill which has been pre-filed (already introduced). The bill updates a law we passed several years ago on access to vehicle charging equipment in buildings governed by homeowners associations and condo boards. Specifically, the bill adds co-ops to the existing law, expands the definition of vehicles to include charging equipment for e-bikes, and puts in place a process for the state's Department of Housing and Community Development to implement the law and serve as a point of contact for individuals who need assistance with the law.
Maryland Metro Funding Act of 2024: This is another pre-filed bill I am working on with Senator Brian Feldman, as well as Senator Malcolm Augustine and Delegate Jazz Lewis. As you may know, our local Metro system is facing an operating funding short-fall. The Moore Administration has stepped up with additional funds but this requires a change to our state law capping the operating fund increases to Metro.
The Washington Suburban Transit Commission Reform Act: This is a local bill already introduced for which the local hearings were previously held. The bill reforms the Montgomery and Prince George's bi-county commission that oversees our state's Metro commitment by clarifying how the state Transportation Secretary's designee can serve on the Metro board, revises how the other Metro board seat can shift back and forth, and alters what budgetary actions the commission can take independently.
The Open-Source Phonics Matching Grant Program Act: This legislation came from my work with a constituent and will put some state support into free reading materials to help support literacy in and out of schools.
The Transportation Funding Act of 2024: Through my work on a state transportation revenue and investment commission (more on that below) and the Administration's recently announced transportation cuts (which I discussed in last month's email), it is clear that more support is needed for the type of infrastructure I often hear constituents want: less trash on the roads, fewer potholes, well-functioning mass transit, roadway improvements, and so on. Given the federal government's current historic investment in infrastructure, it is also an important time for our state to step up. For that reason, I am sponsoring a bill to increase revenue for transportation infrastructure by charging low fees on transportation network company (Uber) trips and certain home deliveries. I do not do this lightly and will explain more of my thinking in future newsletters, but safe, reliable, and efficient infrastructure costs money.
The Maryland General Assembly website has many great resources if you are interested in following our work over the next 90 days. I will highlight just a few:
The general schedule is available here.
You can look up legislation and track its progress here. Every bill introduced by the bill introduction deadline is guaranteed a hearing and before the hearing, a fiscal and policy note about the bill will be published.
You can view the Committee Schedule, which will be regularly updated, here.
I also recommend a few different news resources for those of you interested in the legislature. In addition to the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, there are three websites that specialize in coverage of Annapolis:
Maryland Reporter: http://marylandreporter.com/
Maryland Matters: https://marylandmatters.org/
Center Maryland: http://www.centermaryland.org/
The Climate Solutions Now Act is our state's ambitious law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland and ultimately make us a net zero state. As a result of the bill, the Maryland Department of the Environment recently released its comprehensive Climate Pollution Reduction Plan, which you can view here.
The Climate Solutions Now Act also required the Maryland Public Service Commission to assess the capacity of the large electric and gas utilities to serve customers under a managed transition to highly electrified buildings between now and 2031. The key takeaways are below. But the bottom line is that the report finds that the system-wide load growth is manageable based on the history of load growth in MD. However, that does not negate the need for granular study in specific locations.
You can read the full report here.
If you missed the District 16 send-off last week, you can watch the town hall style event on YouTube here.
Legislation can be "pre-filed" before we convene, This year, 255 House bills and 310 Senate bills were pre-filed. Notably, 68 of the House bills are in my committee, the most of any House committee. You can browse the full list of bills here.
As I have shared before, I am serving as a House appointee on the state's Transportation Revenue and Investment Needs (TRAIN) Commission. The Commission is meeting for two years and our interim report has been released which you can read here.
I support the recommendations but they are also inadequate not only to meet our long-term infrastructure investment needs, but our immediate needs as well. Given the Governor's proposed transportation cuts and some of the investments we already know we want to make as a state, I do not think we can wait another year to act on transportation revenue which is why I am introducing one of the bills referenced above.
The General Assembly prepares the Joint Chairs Report as part of the budget requesting info and reports from the executive branch. We requested that the Maryland Aviation Administration prepare a report on solar opportunities at Marshall BWI Airport and Martin State Airport. The report is in.
The report recommends seven sites at Marshall BWI and three at Martin State that are financially viable for near-term implementation to help decarbonize the airports.
The Montgomery Perspective blog recognized some of my work in 2023.
On Thursday, January 11th at 7:30am, the Bethesda Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club will hear from Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones. Email email@example.com for more information.
As those of you who know me or follow me on social media know, I read a fair bit about Maryland history and politics and I thought it would be a nice addition to these newsletters to highlight some of these books.
This month I will highlight John W. Frece's 2009 book Sprawl and Politics: The Inside Story of Smart Growth in Maryland. Smart growth was a program pushed through a package of bills and initiatives by then Governor Parris Glendening. The book is a great "how a bill becomes a law" tale in Maryland but also touches on land use policies that are still central to our state and local politics almost 30 years later. If you read the book or have read it previously, let me know what you think. Frece, by the way, has been a writer or co-writer on other Maryland books I may cover in the future.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.