Opinion: New state laws show progress in improving Marylanders’ lives (But more work remains to be done)

October 15, 2022

Bethesda Magazine Bethesda BEAT

The beginning of October marked the effective date for hundreds of new Maryland laws.

Even as we advocate for urgently needed reforms not yet passed, we all ought to celebrate the steady progress being made toward a fairer, more prosperous Maryland. We should take a moment to recognize some of the hard-fought progressive victories that became law in October and give props to the advocates and Montgomery County legislators who made them happen.

Laws in Maryland are often the product of more than one year’s three-month legislative session. Passage of a state bill can take years of persistent work. Good bills have to pass through committees, the Senate and House and occasionally survive a governor’s veto to become law.

Take, for example, Maryland’s new law requiring firearm dealers to safely store their guns. Over the past decade, thousands of guns have been stolen or gone missing from gun sellers in our state. The new law calls for dealers to lock their guns away or install security in their stores— preventing those weapons from falling into the wrong hands and destroying lives in our community.

Our Montgomery County delegates and senators have fought for this completely common sense law since at least 2020, when Dels. Marc Korman, Gabe Acevero, Al Carr, Lorig Charkoudian, Ariana Kelly, Sara Love, Emily Shetty and Vaughn Stewart sponsored the Firearms Dealers’ Safety Act, alongside legislators from across the state. Thanks in part to the dogged advocacy of Maryland’s Moms Demand Action chapter, the measure finally passed this year, over the veto of Gov. Larry Hogan.

In that realm of legislation that will save lives, Sen. Brian Feldman’s bill to expand Maryland Medicaid coverage for new kinds of blood pressure tests became law this month. It will fully take effect at the beginning of next year and help patients in Maryland initiate treatment sooner while saving money. Sen. Cheryl Kagan worked across party lines to update and modernize Maryland’s 911 system, ensuring operators are correctly classified as first responders, can seek trauma-related treatment with full confidentiality, and receive fair compensation.

Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Nancy King and Del. Julie Palkovich Carr, the Maryland Earned Income Tax Credit Assistance Program became law this month and will be fully operationalized over the next few years. The program will increase uptake of the Maryland earned income tax credit, a critical anti-poverty support for families. Over time, the law will help thousands of additional Marylanders save money.

Dels. Linda Foley and David Fraser-Hidalgo spearheaded a law establishing basic consumer protections for drivers who get towed. Del. Eric Luedtke helped pass a law that will help conserve Maryland’s native plants. Sen. Will Smith and Del. Pam Queen sponsored a new measure that improves Maryland’s anti-harassment laws and will make workplaces safer for everyone.

There is still so much more work to do.

Many of these laws don’t go as far as we wish they did. Too many critically necessary policies sponsored by our county’s legislators didn’t get a full vote in the legislature. The promise of our state — of a world-class education for every student, ample opportunity for every resident, and a compassionate safety net for any Marylander who needs it — is still not fully realized.

But when we inch closer to that great promise, as we have thanks to the work of our county’s legislators and advocates, it’s worth celebrating.

Rising Voices is an occasional column by Matt Post, a Sherwood High School graduate; Nate Tinbite, a John F. Kennedy High School graduate; and Ananya Tadikonda, a Richard Montgomery High School graduate.