As your state senator, I am pleased to report on the legislative victories and historic progress we made for Maryland during the 445th legislative session, concluded in April.
Despite increased economic uncertainty and difficult budgetary decisions, we made historic investments in public education, created a path to economic prosperity for working families, improved health care delivery, and invested in Maryland values through a responsible and balanced budget. Every decision we made this year was from a lens of expanding opportunity for as many residents as possible, and I am proud to say we accomplished our objectives.
Working alongside my colleagues in the House of Delegates, I secured more than $1 million in capital funding for the communities in District 33. Among the projects that received funding were the restoration of the historic Severna Park train station building, the Anne Arundel County Food Bank and the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds. These investments were made possible by bipartisan cooperation and a balanced budget of $63.1 billion, which allocated resources to critical areas such as tax relief, public safety, health care coverage, education, and initiatives related to addressing climate change, while still putting money in the rainy day fund.
At the outset, I want to highlight the seven bills I sponsored and passed with bipartisan support:
Let's now explore the key matters that were tackled during the session. The 2023 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly saw significant progress made in addressing several pressing challenges that are confronting the state, specifically:
Expanding Opportunity for Working Families. One of the most noteworthy changes implemented was the acceleration of the minimum wage increase to $15 per hour. This change aims to enhance the financial stability of working families and boost the economy by increasing the disposable income of low-wage earners who are likely to spend it within their local communities.
In addition to this, the General Assembly expanded the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, providing additional support to those who require it the most. Another positive change made was in the policies on paid family and medical leave, aimed at providing greater economic security for working families. Furthermore, the General Assembly created the Apprenticeship 2030 Commission, tasked with developing strategies to grow apprenticeships from 12,000 to 60,000 by 2030 to align with the demands of the 21st-century economy.
Improving the Delivery of Behavioral Health Services. Another priority for the General Assembly was improving and modernizing behavioral health care in Maryland. The Senate advanced a bipartisan behavioral health care package, which included fully funding the 988 crisis hotline, extending collaborative care between primary and behavioral health care providers, expanding wraparound services for children and youth most at-risk, creating systems for comprehensive community behavioral health clinics, preserving affordable access to telehealth services, allowing for creative health care for Maryland’s highest-need patients, and planning for a 21st century behavioral care delivery system.
Safeguarding Reproductive Freedom. Significant emphasis was placed on health care and reproductive rights, resulting in the passage of several bills aimed at safeguarding access to care and enshrining reproductive freedom in the state's laws. Notably, one of these bills proposed a constitutional amendment that would ensure Maryland continues to lead the way in protecting the rights of women and families so they can make their own health care decisions. It is important to note that the constitutional amendment must be approved by voters in the 2024 election and will appear on the ballot as a referendum measure.
Enhancing Public Safety Through Gun Safety. To address the issue of gun violence, the General Assembly passed several bills to promote responsible firearm ownership. These measures included prohibiting carrying firearms in sensitive public locations (such as schools and day cares), promoting proper storage of firearms, and tracking surrendered firearms.
Protecting the Environment. Maryland took commendable steps toward addressing climate change by making strategic investments in renewable energy and actively reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The state allocated substantial funds toward various clean energy programs, including the Maryland Solar Grant Program and the Clean Energy Jobs Initiative.
Maryland also became a leader in offshore wind energy with the passage of the POWER Act, which aimed to generate billions of dollars in investments and create thousands of jobs. This was a significant step in achieving a resilient and affordable energy future. Additionally, the General Assembly made long overdue updates to Maryland's Forest Conservation Act.
Establishing a Framework for Legalized Recreational Cannabis. With the legalization of recreational cannabis approved by voters in the 2022 elections, Maryland created a framework to regulate, license and tax the recreational cannabis market in an equitable way, which will promote economic growth and job creation in the state, while also ensuring that cannabis is regulated in a responsible and safe manner.
Demanding Justice for Victims of Child Sex Abuse. The Child Victims Act, which eliminates the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits associated with child sexual abuse and establishes additional avenues for justice for survivors, is a much-needed reform that has been long overdue. This historic legislation will finally enable survivors to seek justice and reparations for the trauma they have endured.
Reforming the 529 College Saving Plans. In addition to these measures, the General Assembly also reformed the Maryland 529 Prepaid College Trust, creating a claims process for impacted account holders and incentivizing the phase-out of the Prepaid College Trust in favor of other Maryland 529 plans that have consistently performed without issue.
Standing with Those Who Served. The legislature took steps to provide better support to veterans and the National Guard, including increasing tax exemptions for military retirement income and establishing a voluntary contribution program to support the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund. The Health Care for Heroes Act of 2023 provides monthly grants to subsidize health insurance for Maryland National Guard members, which is a much-needed benefit for those who have served their country. The General Assembly also enacted emergency legislation to address disturbing widespread reports of abuse and mistreatment of veterans at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.
It has been an absolute honor to serve as your state senator and work toward advancing the interests of our community. I deeply appreciate the trust you have placed in me and will continue to be an advocate for the needs of our district. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me in the future for any concerns or suggestions you may have.
During the interim, I will continue to hold office hours to meet with constituents, and I am also available to speak at community association meetings or other local gatherings. You can contact my office directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-841-3568.
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