2022 End of Session Report

Apr 12, 20220 comments

Greetings! I am so pleased to bring you my final End of Session Report. After serving for eight years as a Delegate, I am proud that my final session was one for the history books! We passed legislation that has been debated for years – from paid family & medical leave to juvenile justice reform measures, to legislation to tackle climate change, and massive increases in financial aid for college-bound students. We also had a record year for our state budget and were able to bring millions to communities around the state for important capital projects that will create jobs and create a better Maryland. Thank you for your support and engagement over the years. Enjoy this report and please reach out with any questions, concerns, or needs. Keep in touch! 

Building a Strong FY23 Budget

The outlook for our state budget is extremely strong. Revenue estimates based on income and sales tax revenue have come in at higher levels than expected this year and that strength shows no signs of abating. Our revenue estimates showed a $7.6 billion surplus before final passage of our FY23 budget and it leaves over $2 billion in our Rainy Day Fund. 

The Operating Budget (SB290/HB300). The operating budget includes $1.86 billion in tax relief over the next five years for Maryland retirees, small businesses, and low-income families. The budget also makes historic investments in:

    • Public safety, crime prevention, and support for victims: Provides funding increases for crime prevention and victim services by about $148 million, including $6.5 million for City warrant apprehension activities and $35m for victim service providers. 
    • Healthcare and social safety net programs: Expands dental coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries ($27 million), expands SNAP funding by $5 million, increases summer SNAP to cover 45,000 additional children and provides more funding for elderly SNAP recipients.
    • Education: Increases state support for public schools by nearly 7% ($459 million). We also provided additional funding to our public colleges and universities and community colleges, as well as funding for need-based aid.
    • Increases pay for state employees: Boosts state employee salaries to facilitate recruitment and retention, including more COLAs, bonuses and salary adjustments. These overdue raises will help us fill some of the hundreds and hundreds of open positions, which hinder the efficient operation of our state government.
    • Childcare Subsidies & Providers: Provides $160 million to assist childcare providers and support the child care subsidy program, including creating a child care revolving loan fund and additional child care scholarships for families of limited means.
    • Cybersecurity: Increases and modernizes our cybersecurity needs, funded by $210 million to improve state government cybersecurity. 
  • Rate increases for providers: Provides an 8% rate increase for most health care providers serving our vulnerable populations, and 10% for those serving youth in foster care or juvenile justice. 

The Capital Budget (SB291/HB301). The capital budget provides approximately $1 billion for school construction, including funds from the Built to Learn Act, which uses the state’s casino revenue to issue bonds to support school construction. Capital spending is the state’s single best job creation tool and because of our record funding availability, we will see many important projects come to fruition in the next couple of years. 

The District 46 Delegation advocated for and was able to secure funding for several projects in District 46, including: 

Local Bond Initiatives

C.A.R.E. Community Association Resource Center

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company 

The Clinton Street Community Center

Conkling Street Garden

The Digital Bay Center

Filbert Street Garden

FSK Playground

Reveille Grounds (Brooklyn)

SB 7 Coalition Headquarters

The Ship Caulkers Houses

3rd Street Crosswalk/Garrett Park Entrance

4MyCiTy Community Onsite Composting

Park, Playground & Pool Funding

O’Donnell Heights Park

Patterson Observatory

Farring-Baybrook Park

Riverside Park Pool Bathhouse

Latrobe Park Longhouse Restoration

Patterson Park Pool & Kiddie Pool

Riverside Park Light Installation

Friends of Patterson Park HQs

Harbor Point Public Park

Solo Gibbs Recreation Center

Inner Harbor Promenade Renovations

Supporting Workers & Families

Workers and families are the foundation of a healthy and thriving state. This year, the General Assembly passed and then overrode the Governor’s veto of the Time to Care Act of 2022 (HB8/SB275). This legislation establishes a paid family and medical leave program to provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for workers facing personal or family medical issues. The weekly benefit will be based on the individual’s average weekly wage, subject to a cap. The fund to support this program consists of employer and employee contributions and pays for benefits, a public education program, and implementation and administrative costs. The Maryland Department of Labor will conduct a study to determine the specific contributions necessary to support the fund. The state is providing initial seed money for the fund. This legislation is critical because many Marylanders are not offered parental leave and related time off to care for family through their employer. Maryland is now the 10th state in the U.S. to offer a state-level paid family leave program. 

As our community transitions into life after the pandemic, families are still in need of support as they get back on their feet. The Family Budget Boosters Package is a suite of bills aimed at supporting Maryland families by cutting the sales tax on essential items. Those items include diapers (HB282/SB316), baby products (HB 288), medical devices (HB 364/SB488), oral hygiene products (HB 492/SB571), and diabetic care products (HB1151). These bills passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support and were signed into law by the Governor! 

Child Care. In recent years, there has been a growing shortage of quality childcare providers and costs for childcare have increased as the post-pandemic workforce experiences major changes. Over the course of the last two years, more than 750 childcare providers have been forced to close. These closures have created unpredictability and exhaustion for families. To address these needs, the House and Senate passed – with broad bipartisan support – a package of bills to financially support childcare providers and families in need of childcare. The package of bills expands access to the childcare scholarships and provides loans to childcare providers. 

Students/Higher Education. The cost of higher education continues to rise, putting even more financial strain on Maryland’s families. This year, I passed the Maryland Student Investment Act (HB734/SB912). This bill will establish the largest new state investment in higher education grants and expand eligibility criteria for these grant programs. It requires an appropriation of at least $112 million into two critical state financial aid programs, so that more students can be supported; it ensures that students remain eligible for their full financial aid award amount even if their family income changes, as long as they are still eligible for a federal Pell Grant; and it provides $4 million to a fund that awards scholarship to military and public safety personnel and their eligible dependents. In a time of rising costs and college costs becoming unattainable to many, this is an important investment to ensure cost is not a barrier to Maryland students having the opportunity to reach their full potential. I am very proud that this bill unanimously passed both chambers and is now law! 

Prioritizing Health & Public Safety

Crime Prevention/Public Safety. Similar to other states across America, Maryland has seen increases in levels of violent crimes since the pandemic began. One contributor to the problem is ghost guns. Baltimore City saw a 2,000% increase in ghost guns over the past year. Ghost guns are guns that can be ordered online and assembled at home and do not have serial numbers. They are nearly impossible to trace which presents major challenges to law enforcement. In response, the House and the Senate passed HB0425/SB0387. This bill, now law, will effectively ban ghost guns by preventing the purchase and sale of unidentified firearms and firearm parts in the state of Maryland. This law will help the Baltimore City Police Department, Mayor Scott’s administration, and all who are trying to create a safer state. The House and Senate also passed the Maryland Criminal Justice Data Transparency Act (HB1429/SB763). This bill makes information about cases prosecuted in circuit courts public via an online dashboard so that we can continue to study and improve criminal sentencing policy. It also requires the Division of Parole and Probation to produce a report on how it will improve oversight of residents under its supervision and provide data on offenses committed by people while under their supervision. This is particularly important because ⅓ of all people involved in violent crime in Baltimore are in violation of their parole and probation. Finally, SB681 establishes the Maryland State Police Gun Center within the Department of State Police, which will serve as a statewide firearms enforcement center for the tracking, screening, and vetting of all firearm crimes in the state.

Safety of Students. I was proud to sponsor the Elijah Gorham Act (HB836/SB638) this year in honor of a Baltimore City student athlete who tragically died after suffering a brain injury during a football game on September 18, 2021. This bill ensures that our school athletic organizations are in the best position possible to respond to life-threatening sports-related injuries by requiring them to create and practice emergency action plans. These plans focus on common causes of injury and death among student athletes – like heat stroke, head injury, and heart issues – among others. This bill passed both chambers with broad bipartisan support and is with the Governor for his consideration.

Healthcare. Access to family planning and maternal health care is being threatened at the federal level. This session, the General Assembly passed two bills to protect and enshrine these rights at the state level. The Healthy Babies Equity Act (HB1080/ SB778) ensures that non-citizen and low-income mothers in our state have access to these fundamental healthcare services. This bill – now law – requires the Maryland Medical Assistance Program to provide comprehensive medical care and services to non-citizen pregnant women who would otherwise not qualify for the program.

The General Assembly also passed important reproductive healthcare access legislation this year when we passed – and overrode the Governor’s veto of – the Abortion Care Access Act (HB937/SB890). This bill will establish the Abortion Care Clinical Training Program and Fund and create requirements for how Medicaid and private insurance must cover abortion care. I proudly spoke and voted in support of these bills because I believe that a woman should have the right to make her own healthcare decisions. 

Reforming the Criminal Justice System

Criminal Justice Reform. One of the issues with the most interest from constituents this year was the legalization of cannabis. The House and Senate passed two bills that are now law: HB1 would put the question of legalization to voters on the ballot this November. If it is approved by a majority of voters, HB837 will set up the framework around legalization by creating an advisory council; conducting several studies; altering penalties associated with cannabis; altering expungement provisions; and establishing a business assistance fund and public health fund.

Juvenile Justice. In the past few years, our country and State have been experiencing an important reckoning on the unjust treatment of Black Americans at the hands of the police – and the racist practices in so many other aspects of life. In response, the General Assembly passed a collection of policing and criminal justice reform bills. Juvenile Justice Reform (SB691) legislation – now law – will make a big impact on the way that Maryland approaches children who commit crimes. This bill implements the recommendations of the Juvenile Justice Commission that studied – over the past two years – best practices and evidence-based interventions to reduce recidivism among youth in Maryland. Respected research studies repeatedly demonstrate that rehabilitative programming is far more effective than incarceration in reducing future interactions with the criminal justice system when it comes to children.

I was proud to vote to pass and then override the Governor’s veto of the Child Interrogation Protection Act (HB0269/SB0053). This bill, now law, requires a law enforcement officer to provide notice to a child’s parents if they are arrested and also prohibits an officer from interrogating a child until the child has consulted with an attorney. This bill addresses the frequent occurrence of false confessions from juveniles and fosters a justice system that will not penalize a child that is still in early stages of cognitive development. 

I was also pleased to sponsor legislation to provide safe harbor to child victims of sex trafficking (HB833/SB768). This would have protected and supported children who have been trafficked instead of prosecuting them for prostitution and crimes related to their trafficking. After the House passed the bill, the Senate severely weakened the bill at the last minute, and we were unable to pass it in the final moments of session. I am confident that next year the Assembly will pass this important bill! 

Strengthening the Housing Supply & State Transportation System

Housing. Affordable, healthy housing is essential to ensuring the stability and well-being of Maryland families. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the housing market and left renters facing economic hardship in a particularly precarious position. I was proud to support several bills to prevent evictions and strengthen housing policy this year. Both chambers passed HB674/SB384, which protects from eviction tenants that have applied for and are awaiting rental assistance funding. In this case, a judge must stay any proceeding until resolution of the tenant’s application and disbursement of any funds awarded. Both chambers also passed HB724/SB662 which sets aside funding so that low-income Marylanders in need of representation in court have access to counsel in eviction proceedings. This bill is now law.

Revitalization and preservation of old buildings is another important piece of the affordable housing puzzle. These are cost-effective and environmentally responsible ways to stimulate economic development and develop housing. The FY23 budget added to the pool for historic tax credits, increasing the total to $22 million, bringing Maryland closer to the investments that neighboring states – like West Virginia at $30 million – make to encourage private sector investment in the rehabilitation and re-use of historic buildings. Both chambers passed HB27/SB289, which extends the Historic Revitalization Tax Credit Program, funds it at a higher level annually, and increases the maximum value of the commercial tax credit per-project from $3 million to $5 million.

Transit. I have been advocating for a more reliable and more interconnected transportation system in Maryland for nearly a decade, from my days working on the Red Line citywide coordinating council to founding the Maryland General Assembly Public Transit Caucus. This year, I was proud to support and help usher through several bills that will help strengthen our state’s transit system. All of the following bills passed successfully through both chambers. The Transit Equity Act (HB141/SB23) requires the Maryland Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to conduct a transit equity analysis, perform a cost-benefit analysis, consult with members and leaders of affected communities, and develop policies and thresholds in the event of proposed service changes or cancellations of routes or projects. The Maryland Regional Rail Transformation Act (HB778/SB514) will expand and strengthen the MARC rail system, which the state has underinvested in for years. It requires MTA to establish investment programs for major MARC rail enhancement projects, including the Camden and Penn lines, expansion of the Brunswick line to better serve Western Maryland, and to start work on a Bayview station. It passed with the support of environmentalists, the business community, labor unions, and civic leaders – and we successfully overrode the Governor’s veto of the bill, so it is now law. I was also happy to champion legislation ensuring that Baltimore City Public School students and YouthWorks participants have free public transit on school or work days (HB1056). Finally, I was happy to support a bill to create the Greater Baltimore Transit Governance and Funding Commission (HB1336) which will study, review, and make recommendations on transit governance and funding for the Baltimore area transit system specifically, to be staffed by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. 

Protecting the Environment & Mitigating Climate Change

Climate change is the challenge of our lifetime and requires our urgent attention. Maryland serves as the home of the largest estuary in the United States. That privilege comes with great responsibility. Maryland is the 4th most vulnerable state to sea-level rise associated with climate change. I am excited that the General Assembly was able to pass an amended version of the Climate Solutions Now Act (SB528), and it is now law! This law strengthens Maryland’s commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change by setting more aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gasses and achieve net-zero statewide emissions by 2045. It focuses on transitioning the state to renewable energy, electrifying school buses and the state vehicle fleet, reducing emissions in the building sector, and so much more. It also requires the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Commission on Environmental Justice to address issues of climate equity for communities disproportionately affected by climate change.  

I was also thrilled to support a bill that will curb the use and presence of PFAS Chemicals (HB275/SB273). The bill specifically bans the manufacturing, use, and sale of fire-fighting foam, personal protective equipment, rugs, and food packaging with intentionally added PFAS chemicals in Maryland. According to the EPA, this class of chemicals have been “linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals” because of their widespread use.

I worked hard this year on Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging (HB307/SB29) to provide a holistic solution to the scourge of single-use products – particularly plastic packaging. Unfortunately, the bill did not advance this year. I will continue to advocate for product stewardship in order to build a stronger and more sustainable recycling system in Maryland; protect the environment; and shift costs of managing packaging from taxpayers to producers of packaging and incentivize more sustainable packaging. See the pension section below for more on climate risk in investments as well!

Investing in Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses

The General Assembly passed several strong bills this year to support businesses that want to start and/or grow in Maryland. First, my bill – the Maryland Equity Investment Fund (HB1479 / SB885) – passed unanimously in the Senate and with strong bipartisan support in the House. This bill establishes the Maryland Equity Investment Fund within TEDCO. TEDCO is an organization that was created by the General Assembly in 1998 to provide funding, resources and connections that early-stage technology and life sciences companies need to thrive in Maryland. This bill will provide $10 million in one-time seed funding (from unappropriated general fund surplus) to TEDCO to make private equity and venture capital investments in Maryland-based businesses, stimulating the state economy. Fifty percent of returns from investments realized will benefit enrollees in the Maryland State Retirement and Pensions System, and the remainder will be used to sustain the Equity Investment Fund. 

Many years ago the Augustine Commission to improve the business climate in Maryland recommended that the Comptroller’s office provide “private letter rulings” for tax filers in Maryland seeking guidance on their tax liability. Working with the Maryland Association of CPAs this year, I was proud to bring legislation to finally make this a reality (HB366/SB477). This bill will create a Legal Division within the Office of the Comptroller to provide private letter rulings and other forms of guidance that will make it easier for Maryland businesses and residents to understand what they owe. 

Further, I was thrilled to support many of my colleague’s bills that will make Maryland a better place to do business. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (HB2/SB598) passed the House and the Senate unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor. It allows employers that claim the federal work opportunity credit to claim a credit against the state income tax for certain wages paid to individuals with barriers to employment. Both chambers also passed the Maryland E–Nnovation Initiative Program (HB730/SB473), which lowers the minimum threshold for contribution to the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF).

The House and Senate passed – with broad bipartisan support – the Maryland New Start Act (HB158/ SB554) which creates the Maryland New Start Pilot Program to support and provide loans to formerly imprisoned individuals starting businesses. The Maryland Makerspace Initiative Program (SB453) was passed nearly unanimously by the Senate and the House. This bill establishes the Maryland Makerspace Initiative Program within TEDCO to encourage the establishment and expansion of makerspaces throughout the state. The Senate and House also passed the More Jobs for Marylanders Program (HB418/ SB391), extending this program – which provides state income tax, sales tax, property tax, and fee benefits to certain businesses that create and maintain a minimum number of qualified jobs – for five more years. The Senate also unanimously passed the Project Restore Program and Fund (HB414/ SB393), which creates a program to provide financial incentives for small businesses, commercial developers, and nonprofit organizations to revitalize certain vacant retail and commercial space. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass the House.

Supporting Older Adults & Retirees 

Pensions. As Co-Chair of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Pensions, I had the pleasure of sponsoring several bills this year that will strengthen the retirement security of the over 400,000 participants in the State Retirement and Pension System. 

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine mid-session, I called for an immediate special hearing on our investments in Russia, and then worked to pass legislation to require divestment from Russian assets. It is our duty and obligation to safeguard our retirees’ investments, and because of Vladimir Putin’s actions, it is no longer safe for us to take the risk of having money in Russia. This also sends the important message to fellow pension funds and the world that we support the democratically elected government in Ukraine. I was proud to sponsor (HB1482/SB1005) – Divestment from Russian Holdings. It passed both chambers unanimously and is awaiting the Governor’s approval. 

Climate change threatens our livelihood and poses great investment risk as economies move away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable, renewable energy technologies. Investors around the country are recognizing that climate risk is investment risk. I am thrilled that my bill to codify climate risk as investment risk (HB740/SB566) passed both chambers and is now law. This bill will help ensure the long-term sustainability and profitability of the state’s investment portfolio. 

Tax relief for retirees. The legislature passed and the Governor approved the Retirement Tax Elimination Act of 2022 (HB420/SB405) – a tax credit for retirees age 65 and older filing returns as individuals earning up to $100,000 per year or joint filers earning up to $150,000 will be eligible for an income tax credit of between $1,000 to $1,750 per year. This will provide substantial tax relief to 80% of retirees. Further, both chambers of the legislature passed and the Governor signed into law HB1468. Under this law, beginning in tax year 2022, all eligible individuals for retired law enforcement, correctional officers, and fire, rescue, and emergency services personnel who are at least age 55 are allowed to exempt the first $15,000 in qualified retirement income. I am committed to making sure Maryland is an affordable and supportive state for older adults and retirees to live.

Keep in touch!

This letter is just a snapshot of the Legislative Session, but I hope it conveys the amount of work we did and the seriousness with which we approached this historic session. My Chief of Staff, Dani DiPietro, and I are always here to help you and work with you to find answers to questions and solutions to challenges. Thank you for your advocacy and commitment to Baltimore and Maryland over the past eight years – it has been truly the honor of my lifetime to serve as a State Delegate. I look forward to continuing to work with you to build a better Maryland for all our residents in a different capacity.