At midnight, the House of Delegates adjourned the 2023 legislative session. For the next nine months, my newsletter will return to its monthly format. Below is an update on some of what occurred during the legislative session. Your District 16 legislators will also host a town hall soon and I will share that information as soon as it is available.
It has been an exciting and historic session with the inauguration of a new Governor. The District 16 Delegation also changed as State Senator Susan Lee joined the Moore Administration and Senator Ariana Kelly succeeded her. As a result, Delegate Sara Love and I were recently joined in the House by your newest legislator, Delegate Sarah Wolek. I also took on a new role as House Majority Leader, a part of the leadership team of the House of Delegates. I continued to chair the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and served as a member of the Capital Budget Subcommittee and the Oversight Committee on Personnel.
Below is a synopsis of some key highlights from the legislative session. We work on thousands of bills each legislative session so if an issue you care about is not addressed here, please email me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The one piece of legislation that we are constitutionally required to pass each year is a balanced budget. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I worked throughout the session on fiscal issues and was pleased to see the passage of a robust and bipartisan budget that funds our legislative priorities. The budget includes:
Full funding for K-12 and community college formulas. This includes $8.7 billion for public school support, with more than $940 million allocated to Montgomery County Public Schools.
$900 million for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future fund, which sets aside dollars for future year public education expenditures.
$100 million in additional transportation funding, beyond the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, targeted to support significant transit projects around the state.
Support for colleges and universities to cap in-state student tuition increases at 2%.
The full actuarially required contribution to the state’s pension fund plus an additional payment above and beyond the requirement.
In District 16 and across Montgomery County, the capital–or construction–budget as passed includes:
$84 million for Montgomery County school construction.
$800,000 to replace and upgrade the irrigation system at Povich Field (home of the Bethesda Big Train).
$1 million for the Bethesda Market Park project adjacent to the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market.
$2.6 million for the White Flint/North Bethesda Metro Station second entrance.
$2 million for the new Institute for Health Computing in North Bethesda.
$27 million for Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit.
$5 million to purchase zero-emission buses.
$1 million for Round House Theatre renovations.
$500,000 for improvements to the Maplewood Alta-Vista Local Park.
$1 million to modernize the Glen Echo Fire Department.
$900,000 for capital improvements for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s headquarters.
$271,000 to construct a Respiratory Isolation Suite at the National Institutes of Health’s Children’s Inn.
Protecting Reproductive Rights
In the wake of the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Maryland is taking bold steps to protect a woman’s right to choose and make her own medical decisions. I was proud to support and co-sponsor the Right to Reproductive Freedom (HB 705), which will place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in the November 2024 general election where voters can decide whether to enshrine protections for reproductive health care in the state constitution. The General Assembly also passed legislation to provide legal protections from civil and criminal consequences for medical providers and others who help an out-of-state resident access reproductive health care in Maryland through the Reproductive Health Protection Act (HB 808), to prevent the disclosure of sensitive medical information (HB 812), and to improve access by directing public higher education institutions to develop a plan for the provision of reproductive health care services to students (HB 477).
Supporting Maryland students at every age and ensuring that they have access to a quality education is one of my top priorities, and this session, the Maryland General Assembly took many steps to strengthen Maryland’s education system. As described above, the state budget fully funds our public education formulas in the coming year. Teachers are the backbone of our schools, and the Maryland Educator Shortage Act of 2023 (HB 1219) provides funding for and improves teacher recruitment and retention efforts in the state to address high vacancy rates and attract educators from underrepresented communities. One of the major issues for Maryland students and families is the affordability of college, especially given the missteps of the Maryland 529 Program as it relates to their pre-paid trust program (not their investment account program). The General Assembly moved quickly to pass legislation to reform the program and provide relief for affected families (SB 959). I also supported alterations to the state’s student loan debt relief tax credit to increase student loan debt relief for state workers (HB 680).
Several of my own enacted bills dealt with education. I introduced the Teacher Pay Parity Act (HB 448), which requires the state and counties to provide teachers in special education placement programs with a salary that is equivalent to salaries received by special education teachers in public schools. The program is for public-school funded students who are placed in a non-public facility to better meet their unique educational needs. As an avid reader, I am particularly excited about another bill I sponsored, entitled the Young Readers Program Expansion Act of 2023 (HB 243). The legislation builds on a bill of mine that was passed last year to support nonprofits that provide free books to children under five.
Expanding Economic Opportunity
During the legislative session, I supported several bills that make it possible for individuals and families to thrive in Maryland. The Fair Wage Act (SB 555) sets the minimum wage for all employers at $15 per hour beginning on January 1, 2024 instead of 2025. The Family Prosperity Act of 2023 (HB 547) moves the state closer to its goal of eliminating childhood poverty by making permanent expansions to the state Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit that were originally enacted during the pandemic. Building off of last year’s work establishing a paid parental and medical leave program in the state, HB 988 alters the implementation date to allow time for the Department of Labor to build out the necessary infrastructure, sets the cost share for employers and employees, requires the state to cover certain contributions, and makes other changes to strengthen this important program that will provide economic stability for so many. I was also proud to support the Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act of 2023 (SB 551), one of the pillars of the Governor’s agenda, which creates a service-year option for high school graduates to work for community organizations and nonprofits.
The General Assembly also passed legislation to protect and support renters in Maryland by requiring landlords to notify tenants about upcoming rent increases (HB 151) and establishing a Statewide Rental Assistance Voucher Program to provide assistance for low-income families on the waiting list for federal housing vouchers (SB 848).
Increasing Access to Health Care
Expanding access to health care has been a critical priority for the Maryland General Assembly. I supported HB 279, an emergency bill that removes the termination date on Maryland’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board and allows it to continue doing its important work to lower the cost of prescription drugs in Maryland.
While gender-affirming care has been under fire in other states, Maryland has been making strides to protect access to the necessary care. I am proud that the General Assembly passed the Trans Health Equity Act (HB 283), which requires Maryland Medicaid to cover the same gender-affirming care for low-income Marylanders in the transgender community that is offered to those with private insurance.
Environment and Energy
Since I was elected to the House of Delegates, I have worked to make Maryland a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making us a greener state. This year, the General Assembly passed the Clean Transportation and Energy Act (HB 550) and the Clean Trucks Act of 2023 (HB 230), which increase funds to help make transportation in Maryland cleaner and to expand the network of electric vehicle recharging stations in the state and require the establishment of new regulations for the sale of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks. We also passed legislation to protect Maryland’s natural resources and land by establishing the Environmental and Natural Resources Crimes Unit in the Office of the Attorney General to prosecute those that violate state environmental protection laws (HB 874) and updating state forest preservation and retention laws (HB 723).
In addition to strengthening environmental protections and expanding our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I have been committed to ensuring that Marylanders have the option of transitioning their own homes to green energy. That is why I was proud to support legislation which makes the Community Solar Program permanent and the distribution of generated energy more equitable (HB 908). We also passed legislation to establish a state goal of generating 3000 megawatts of energy storage by 2033 and to grant the Public Service Commission (PSC) the authority to accomplish this goal in a cost-effective manner (HB 910). I have worked on energy storage legislation in previous sessions and was proud to support this bill. I also introduced the Net Metering Flexibility Act, which makes net metering for home solar panels more consumer friendly by giving consumers greater options for how to redeem the energy credits they generate. The Senate version of the bill (SB 143) has been sent to the Governor.
I previously served as a member of the State Transparency and Reform Commission to provide oversight to the state’s quasi-governmental agencies and ensure that they are carrying out their duties effectively. As a result of this work, I learned about the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, which is a 40-plus year old agency set up to support incineration in the state. In order to ensure that we have a forward-looking waste policy, I sponsored the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority Sunset Act (HB 161) to require a sunset review of that agency to determine whether its functions could best be performed instead by the Maryland Environmental Service.
Cannabis Legalization and Public Safety
In 2022, Maryland voters approved a referendum to legalize recreational cannabis use for those over 21. As a result, the General Assembly was tasked with creating a regulatory framework that establishes cannabis business licensing, taxation, and enforcement. Using lessons and best practices from other states, HB 556 sets up the new legal cannabis industry with a focus on keeping tax rates competitive to diminish the illicit market as well as developing an equitable licensing process and market through support for applicants from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis laws.
The legalization of recreational cannabis requires associated reforms to the state’s criminal laws. The General Assembly passed legislation to prohibit a law enforcement officer from initiating a stop and search of a person or motor vehicle based solely on the odor of cannabis and other factors (HB 1071). The bill treats cannabis like alcohol by restricting the area of a vehicle that may be searched if the individual is under suspicion of driving impaired or under the influence of cannabis.
Ensuring the safety of Marylanders is one of the most important duties of the General Assembly, and I am proud to have supported many efforts this year to improve public safety. Gun violence remains a serious problem facing our state and our nation, and Maryland has taken steps to protect our communities. I supported HB 824, which makes the process for purchasing a firearm in Maryland more comprehensive and improves training requirements, as well as (SB 858) which updates firearm storage requirements. In addition, the Gun Safety Act of 2023 (SB 1) strengthens restrictions on where a person can carry a firearm. After being stalled for a number of sessions, the General Assembly finally passed HB 4, which repeals the spousal defense for rape.
I am heavily involved in transportation issues as Chair of the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee of Appropriations. Additionally, I am a co-founder of the bipartisan Transit Caucus. This year the General Assembly made progress on several bills to improve transportation funding. The legislature passed the Senate version of my bill, the State and Federal Transportation Funding Act (SB 24). The bill allows for Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE) bonds to be used to fund critical transportation projects in Maryland. The legislature also passed HB 524 to establish a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Fund, of which Montgomery County will receive at least $20 million of funding to support the vital BRT system in the county.
Although not legislative, there have also been recent developments regarding former Governor Hogan’s plan to widen I-495 and I-270 with toll lanes as part of a public-private partnership. Last month, the private contractor Transurban exited the project. Whether any aspect of the project will continue and in what form is now in the hands of the Governor.
This session, I was proud to pass two bills expanding on my previous efforts to increase government transparency in Maryland. The Board of Public Works Comment Act (HB 498) requires the Board of Public Works to allow members of the public to submit public comments electronically and requires the comments to be included in meeting materials and posted online. My other bill, the Maryland State Agency Transparency Act of 2023 (HB 58), builds on prior work I have done with Senator Cheryl Kagan to make various agencies’ governing boards more transparent. This bill applies web streaming and agenda posting requirements under the Open Meetings Act to the State Ethics Commission.
My Office Outside of Session
Thank you for contacting me during the legislative session. I strongly value the input of my constituents on the issues before the General Assembly. While the state legislature only meets for 90 days each year in Annapolis, I am working for you 365 days a year. As we progress throughout the year, my office will continue to be a resource to help connect you to state and local officials.
If you have any questions about the material in this letter, other questions about the recently concluded legislative session, ideas regarding policy issues, issues with a state agency that require constituent services, or are interested in my office’s legislative scholarship, please contact me any time. I can be reached by phone at 301-858-3649, or by email at email@example.com.
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