Earlier this week Delegate Sarah Wolek was sworn in to the House of Delegates representing District 16 alongside Delegate Sara Love and me. Delegate Wolek fills the term of now-Senator Ariana Kelly, who was appointed to fill the term of Susan Lee who joined the Moore Administration. For those who are interested, the process for filling vacancies in the Maryland General Assembly is enshrined in the State Constitution at Article III, Section 13. Congratulations Delegate Wolek!
We are now just a few days from adjournment of the 2023 legislative session and I wanted to offer a brief update on some of the major issues we have been addressing this legislative session. This certainly does not encompass every issue or bill we have worked on so if you have a question about something not included here, please click reply.
Reproductive Health: Because of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade (in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health), the General Assembly has been considering a package of bill's related to the right to choose this year. Chief among them is a measure to enshrine the right to choose in Maryland's constitution, which will be on the ballot in 2024. Both the House and the Senate have also passed versions of the Reproductive Health Act, which ensures that those who come to Maryland for reproductive health services and their medical providers are protected. HB 812 has passed both the House and the Senate and enhances certain privacy protections related to reproductive health. Finally, HB 477 addresses access to reproductive health at our institutions of higher education.
Cannabis Reform: Last year, the voters passed a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis in Maryland. The House and the Senate continue to negotiate the precise final language of the legislation that would establish the regulations, taxation, and licensing of recreational cannabis. Differences still to be resolved include the tax rate, whether an independent agency or an expanded Alcohol and Tobacco Commission will regulate, and how on-site consumption will work.
Family Prosperity Act: The proposal from Governor Moore extends and expands the state's earned income tax credit and the state child tax credit. It should be heading to the Governor's desk by the time you read this.
Minimum Wage: Governor Moore proposed a faster implementation of the $15.00/hour minimum wage and the Senate sent it over to the House making the wage effective January 1, 2024 instead of January 1, 2025. The bill passed the House on Tuesday and now awaits the Governor's signature.
529 College Pre-Paid Trust: There have been heavily reported problems with the Maryland 529 College Pre-Paid Trust plan (separate from the savings accounts known as Maryland College Investment Plans). As a result, the House and the Senate have been considering legislation to reform the program but negotiations on the details are still under way.
Firearm Safety: The Supreme Court's New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision has caused some reconsideration of the state's firearm safety laws, including permits to wear, carry, and transport a handgun; handgun permit fees; who can obtain a handgun permit; altering the locations of where a firearm can be carried; and so forth. The House and Senate have passed different bills and whether no bill, both bills, or one bill passes will need to be determined this week.
Transgender Health Equity: Many private insurers in Maryland provide coverage for gender affirming care that our state's Medicaid program for low-income residents does not cover. The Trans Health Equity Act would create parity and is already on its way to the Governor's office.
Paid Family and Medical Leave: Last year, we passed legislation to create a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program that is still being implemented. Legislation being worked on by the House and Senate would make certain modifications to assist with program implementation, such as clarifying the employer/employee contribution percentages and delaying the timeline for program enactment.
Earlier this week, the House and Senate passed the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2024 state operating budget. As always, the budget is balanced, sets aside 10% of General Fund revenue in the state's Rainy Day fund, pays our actuarially required contribution to the state pension fund, and projects a structural balance in the next fiscal year. It does all of this while fully funding our state's public education K-12 and community college formulas, provides funding to keep higher education tuition increases to 2%, and makes investments in our state workforce, parks, and transportation network. The budget passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Yesterday, the House also passed the state's capital (construction) budget. It includes significant investments in and around District 16 that I will share more about following Senate action on the budget.
As I have shared in prior emails, we have received significant communication regarding Little Falls Parkway and Old Georgetown Road.
Little Falls Parkway: The Montgomery County Planning Board has authority over Little Falls Parkway and recently held a public hearing on the proposed linear park and lengthy road diet on the Parkway. The Planning Board will take up the issue at their April 13th Planning Board Meeting.
Old Georgetown Road: As regular readers are aware, the State Highway Administration (SHA) installed bicycle lanes along Old Georgetown Road (MD 187) between Tilden Lane and Ryland Drive late last year (bicycle lanes were previously installed between Ryland Drive and Cedar Lane in 2020). As you also know, there has been some loss of life and serious injury along the road in recent years and SHA installed the bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road in an effort to create a buffer between the road and sidewalk and accommodate many uses. As background, you can read SHA’s Corridor Needs Analysis regarding Old Georgetown Road here. And here is a presentation regarding the Tilden to Ryland stretch.Since the bike lanes were installed, my office has relayed many implementation questions and concerns from the public to SHA. As a result of the feedback received, SHA agreed to perform an Interim Analysis to examine the impact of the bike lanes on traffic times and safety. It is available here. Some of you may have received this directly from SHA late last week. Because SHA is still adding features to the bicycle lanes (mostly paint that was challenging to apply during the winter months), the agency has committed to conducting a “post-installation analysis” later this summer.
Once SHA sent out the Interim Analysis, the District 16 state legislators met with them to get answers to some immediate questions we thought constituents would have. For example, we confirmed that all data collected for the Interim Analysis was done during the middle of the week (Tuesday to Thursday) in line with traffic analysis standards. No data was collected on a public holiday, school break, school early release, or during any inclement weather period or special event that would impact normal traffic times in the area.
The crash data provided in the analysis also seemed flawed, because it was not comparing the period with the bicycle lanes to comparable periods in prior years. SHA has agreed to provide a comparison of crash data on Old Georgetown Road between December 15, 2022 and March 15, 2023 and the same prior two year period, which we will share when available.
The Interim Analysis also does not include data regarding usage of the bike lanes themselves, which SHA has now agreed to provide for the post-installation analysis this summer. My office will continue to relay constituent feedback to the State Highway Administration. That said, SHA’s contact information is also included at the end of the analysis document if you prefer to reach out to them directly.
If you know of an upcoming District 16 event or a District 16 resident who merits recognition or condolences, please email email@example.com.
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