December 21, 2023
The Maryland General Assembly kicks off its legislative session in Annapolis on Wednesday, Jan. 10. The session will run for 90 days. It is set to end on Monday, April 8. This will be the second straight year Maryland holds a Democratic trifecta: control of the office of Governor and both chambers of the state legislature.
However, unlike last year Governor Wes Moore is facing a huge budget deficit. Reports indicate Maryland is facing a $761 million shortfall for the fiscal 2025 budget. The state legislature will have to address the issue when it convenes next month.
Maryland state senator Cheryl Kagan, (D-District 17) said the budget problems exist because federal funding provided during the pandemic through the American Rescue Plan is ending, and the legislature “inherited some budget challenges from the Hogan administration.”
“Between those two items, there’s a bit of a perfect storm. There will need to be some difficult decisions. It’s going to be hard to pass new programs that have a lot of costs connected to it,” Kagan said.
Proposed Transportation Cuts
The budget axe could fall on transportation projects already in the pipeline. The Moore administration is proposing to cut $3.3 billion from the state’s six year transportation plan.
“That’s obviously a problem to many of us because transportation is the backbone of our economy. We need to make sure that transportation continues to flourish in Maryland,” Kagan said.
The state may have to curtail money for projects such as the Capital Beltway expansion and the Purple Line.
Year For Military Families
The Governor also recently declared 2024 as the year for military families. Moore is an Army veteran who previously served in Afghanistan. One issue he hopes to solve is to help spouses of service members find work. Oftentimes military members are forced to relocate, and military spouses can struggle to get a job when that happens. Moore wants to make it easier for military spouses to get work in Maryland.
“It’s extraordinary to have a Governor who is so in touch with his military service and such a proud veteran. He sees our military families and the challenges they face,” Kagan said.
She also wants to help veterans get work, while addressing a shortage of police officers across the state. Kagan wants to expand legislation she helped pass in 2019 to “make sure that an honorably discharged veteran who is not yet an American citizen can apply to serve as a police officer, and serve our state or community after he or she has served our country.”
Aid in Dying Bill
Another hot button issue is whether to legalize medical aid in dying. Both chambers have considered similar bills in the past, but supporters believe there is a strong chance the General Assembly will approve it this time.
“It’s about bodily autonomy. For me, it’s just like abortion rights. It’s my body, it should be my choice, and it is fundamentally health care. We need to have safeguards to be sure it is not used inappropriately. I will do whatever it takes to make sure it gets through the Senate,” Kagan said.
Other Big Issues
The three-term Senator said some other important issues coming before the General Assembly include a push for more affordable housing, a possible decision on whether the state will adopt rank choice voting, and discussions about artificial intelligence.
“AI continues to be in the news. There are going to be conversations about how to install some guardrails. There are ways in which AI can be a service and an opportunity, and there are ways that it can be a threat. I am hoping that Maryland is at the forefront of navigating this exciting but terrifying technology,” Kagan said.
As the calendar gets set to flip to 2024, the General Assembly will face some consequential issues in the coming months that likely will have a big impact on people living in Montgomery County and around the state.