April 10, 2023
Maryland state lawmakers spent Monday tying up loose ends as they inched closer to the finish line for bills to become law in the 2023 legislative session.
The end of the 90-day session comes at midnight Monday, and much of the bills that required heavy lifting have already been sent to the governor’s desk.
“We’ve been efficient, effective. We’ve been able to navigate the transition,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-District 46. “All of our major priorities have moved through. (We’re) tying down of loose ends today, but it’s been a great year.”
The governor’s legislative agenda included 10 bills, some of which were watered down, but all were passing in some form.
“We are very happy about what we think will be an extraordinary successful session for us,” Gov. Wes Moore said. “We started this whole journey saying that this will be a state that leaves no one behind, and I think if you look at our legislative package that we presented, we mean exactly that.”
“We worked extremely well with the governor, we worked with his office, across the street in the House,” Ferguson said.
Conference committees ruled the day Monday as House and Senate members met face-to-face to hammer out differences on specific bills.
“This has been an historic session, from abortion rights to climate solutions to civil rights, gun control and so much more,” said Montgomery County Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-District 17.
A restrictive concealed-carry gun bill is expected to land on the governor’s desk well before the end of the session at midnight Monday. The Senate version of the bill generated much discussion on the House floor.
“This only regulates people (who follow the rules to legally get a gun and get a conceal-carry permit), the good guys,” said St. Mary’s County Delegate Matthew Morgan, R-District 29A.
A House version of the bill that limits who gets a license is already on the governor’s desk. The Senate weaved in the proposal by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates to increase the jail time for illegal handgun possession from three to five years.
Republican lawmakers are disappointed their crime package will not cross the finish line.
“Unfortunately, it is a real missed opportunity to address the really key issues that Marylanders are facing, whether it was violent crime. We’ve done next to nothing,” said Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready, R-District 5.
The House had a busy agenda that included creating a study to come up with a Baltimore regional water task force. There’s also legislation that would help those being evicted afford a lawyer, and the Senate’s version of the framework to create a legal cannabis market was also on the calendar.
“When you get into the ideological discussions and you take the party label off, it really adds a new flavor, and you can get to a resolution, something for the people,” said Sen. John Mautz, R-District 37, whose district encompasses much of the Lower Eastern Shore.
Some lawmakers cited the capital budget, saying they believe it has been a great session for Baltimore City.
“If you look at the millions and millions that the state is investing in jobs in our neighborhoods and our communities, especially the community-based organizations, we would not otherwise be able to provide the work in our communities that they want,” said Senate Majority Whip Senator Antonio Hayes, D-District 40.
The governor’s proposal to provide a paid year of service for high school students and recent graduates has a couple of procedural hurdles before reaching his desk.
Here’s a look at some of the legislation that lawmakers passed in Session 2023:
Lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment that will go on the ballot next year to enshrine the right to abortion in the Maryland Constitution. Lawmakers passed legislation to protect patients and providers from criminal, civil and administrative penalties relating to abortion bans or restrictions in other states. They approved a separate data-privacy bill to protect medical and insurance records on reproductive health in electronic health information exchanges that can be shared across state lines. Legislators also passed a bill to ensure public colleges and universities in Maryland have a plan for student access near campuses to birth control, including emergency contraception and abortion pills.
Lawmakers approved a $62.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year. The General Assembly decided to put aside $900 million to help pay costs in future years of a sweeping education reform law known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. That’s on top of $8.7 billion set aside for pre-K-12 funding in the next fiscal year. The state will have about $2.85 billion in reserves, including about $2.5 billion in the rainy day fund and a balance of $351 million in the general fund.
Lawmakers decided licensing and tax rates needed to open a recreational marijuana market on July 1, after voters approved a constitutional amendment in November. Medical cannabis stores will be able to get a dual license to sell recreational marijuana, and there will be additional licenses made available with an emphasis on equity concerns. The tax will be 9%. Adults 21 and over will be able to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and two marijuana plants.
Maryland will set requirements for vehicle manufacturers to sell a rising annual percentage of zero-emission vehicles like electric trucks, delivery vans and school buses in the state beginning in model year 2027.
Lawmakers passed a measure to end the state’s statute of limitations for when civil lawsuits can be filed against public and private institutions related to child sexual abuse.
The state will expand procedures relating to gender-affirming care that are covered by the state’s Medicaid program. Coverage will expand to cover procedures that include hair alteration, voice modification surgery and therapy, alterations to the abdomen, trunk, face and neck and fertility preservation services. Revisions and reversals of prior treatments also would be covered.
HEALTH CARE FOR NATIONAL GUARD MEMBERS
Lawmakers decided to provide some medical insurance reimbursement funds for National Guard members only, and not their families.
988 CRISIS PREVENTION
Lawmakers passed a measure to set aside $12 million in 2025 to fund the 988 suicide and crisis prevention hotline.
Maryland will begin processing mail-in ballots during elections eight business days before the start of early voting, though some smaller jurisdictions can get a waiver. The state’s primary will be moved from April to the second Tuesday in May in 2024.
Maryland will speed up its scheduled increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour to take effect in January, rather than waiting until 2025 under previous law; however, the governor’s proposal to tie future increases to inflation was stripped out of the measure.
The Maryland Attorney General will have independent authority to bring criminal charges against police officers after investigating deaths when officers are involved.
The General Assembly passed the governor’s expansion of tax credits that had been set to expire for low-income residents. The legislation will make permanent an expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit approved in 2021 for tax years through 2022. The measure also will expand the state’s child tax credit.
Coverage of telehealth will be extended to June 30, 2025, by the Maryland Medical Assistance Program and certain insurers, nonprofit health services plans and health maintenance organizations.
Moore scheduled a bill signing for noon on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.