Below you will find key legislative highlights from the 2021 Session. HB signifies “House Bill” and SB signifies “Senate Bill.” Please visit the Maryland General Assembly (MGA) website to review general information about the Session or to read specific bill details you may enter the bill number in the search bar at the top right of the MGA home page.
In the Capital Budget, the District 23 team secured bond funding for our community:
- Bowie Lions Club Building- $10,000
- Maenner House (Historic Building at Bowie Golf Course), $300,000
- Maenner House Annex, $250,000
- Maryland Interfaith Family Life Center, $75,000
- Fountain Food Pantry, $30,000
- Boys and Girls Club Sports Park, $125,000
Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 --Prince George’s State Aid
Overall State aid to Prince George’s County increased by 3.8 percent. Some highlights include: Education- $1,330,213,581; Libraries- $7,721,828; Community Colleges-$40,448,995 and Health Department: $6,685,732. See more details here.
Fiscal Year (FY) 2022—State Budget
In Maryland we have a Constitutional requirement to pass a balanced budget. For the FY 2022 budget (HB 588/HB 589) a total of $52.4 billion passed both chambers after facing nearly a billion dollar structural deficit. With the significant influx of federal COVID relief assistance the budget passed with a balance large enough to erase the State’s deficit for two years, general funds are up by nearly $900 million and $1.8 billion is available to restore the Rainy Day Fund.
The FY2022 budget provides sufficient funding for previously underfunded public health departments and significant funds to address the healthcare impacts of COVID-19. The budget also shores up the State’s retirement system, fully funds the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and other education initiatives and allows additional support for low-wage earners and small businesses. You may see the details by reading the Conference Committee Budget Report at the Maryland General Assembly Website here.
SB 496 Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families (RELIEF) Act
The bipartisan RELIEF Act provides over $1.5 billion in pandemic relief. The Act infuses the State’s economy with $509.0 million in spending and provides over $1.0 billion in tax relief and credits:
Maryland becomes the top state in the nation for implementation of the Earned Income Tax Credit (SB 218)
- Unemployment insurance payments will be exempt from the State income tax, keeping over $225 million in the pockets of unemployed Marylanders.
Marylanders who qualified for the earned income tax credit in 2019 will be provided with stimulus payments of up to $500, putting over $175 million immediately in the hands low–income families.
- Allows small businesses to keep sales tax collections of up to $9,000 over three months.
- Helps up to 100,000 small businesses & nonprofits to defer paying unemployment insurance taxes until the first three months of 2022.
- Minority and Small Business Loans (MSBDFA): Converts up to $50,000 in Equity Participation Program loans to grants.
As many of you know, it was patently clear and continues to be so that our state’s unemployment system is systemically dysfunctional and letting down many Marylanders deserving of support. The Unemployment Insurance Reform Package will make structural fixes that will help streamline the process, modernize the system, improve customer service and create more accountability, while also planning for the next emergency.
HB 0907 Unemployment Insurance - Study on System Reforms
HB 0908 Unemployment Insurance - Employer Contributions
HB 1138 Unemployment Insurance - Maryland Department of Labor – Accountability and Oversight
HB 1139 Unemployment Insurance - Weekly Benefit Amount – Income Disregard
HB 1143 Unemployment Insurance - Work Sharing (Work Share Expansion Act of 2021)
I have consistently been a supporter of equitable funding for education and believe that well- funded schools and an educated population are core to a thriving economy and the only way many can hope to exit poverty.
HB 1 increases funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) resolving a decade-long federal court case. It will provide $577million to resolve the program duplication issues in Maryland’s four HBCUs and level the playing field for all students – regardless of background, or race, or college they attend.
Overriding the veto of 2020’s HB 1300, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, was one of the first orders of business in the 2021 Session. This groundbreaking legislation was a result of the multi-year work of the Kirwan Commission and is built on the principle that every child deserves an outstanding education regardless of zip code.
HB 1372 is the 2021 Blueprint for Maryland's Future – Revisions, and addresses learning loss due to the pandemic school closures. The “Blueprint 2.0” bill provides more support to address academic learning loss by expanding behavioral and mental health resources, closing the digital divide with more access to broadband and devices, and increased data reporting.
SB 433 clarifies the State’s formula to ensure that funding to community colleges in the state are calculated equitably and are fully funded in the same way as four-year institutions. The bill also provides $7 million to the School of Medicine for doctors in specialty areas.
The pandemic compelled election changes for increased access and voter participation and made election reform a legislative priority with the following results:
HB 745 recognizes the practical and helpful option of early voting and modernizes the State’s formula for Early Voting Centers and will result in over a dozen new centers across the state for the 2022 election. This legislation also requires local boards of elections to take into account equity and maximizing participation when placing Early Voting Centers.
HB 1048 will make voting easier and more convenient by creating a permanent mail-in ballot option. Marylanders who want to vote by mail in future elections will not need to request a ballot for every election after they make an initial application.
HB 1350 will require campaigns to produce bank statements if they are assessed a civil fine by the State Board of Elections.
The Governor vetoed several police reform bills, but Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Delegates quickly overturned those vetoes. The final legislation sets limits on when police can use force against people, repeals the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR), creates a disciplinary process with more civilian involvement for officers accused of wrongdoing, creates a statewide unit to investigate when police kill people, opens more personnel records to public scrutiny, and requires departments to have body camera programs. Although each side was disappointed in some respects, I do believe law enforcement and the communities they serve entered into discussions to enact reform with a desire to provide justice for all Marylanders regardless of zip code, economic status or race with fair and transparent police accountability.
HB 670 generated from the 2020 House Police Reform and Accountability Workgroup and changes the police disciplinary process:
Civilian–Driven Transparency in Police Misconduct: A single individual, the chief or head of a police agency, will no longer control the investigation, charging, and ultimate discipline of officers and other input will now also be included.
Supporting Civilian Complaints: Civilians may file complaints with their local police accountability board as well as the police department. This addresses concerns that many civilians did not have a mechanism for filing complaints and understanding of what transpired, if anything.
Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights: Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, which was enacted nearly 50 years ago, is repealed and modernized with revised procedures which will be in place for consistency between all departments and counties.
Uniform Penalties for Police Misconduct: Police agencies must use a statewide, uniform matrix to discipline officers, developed by the Police Training & Standards Commission.
Police Officer Hiring and Certification: An individual who applies for a position as an officer with a Maryland police agency is required to disclose their full disciplinary record before being hired.
Education: Provide $10 million in funding for tuition support to encourage diversity.
SB 71 requires for the first time ever that all local and state law enforcement officers wear body cameras by 2025; limits the use of force; and includes Employee Assistance and Early Intervention Programs where law enforcement agencies must establish early intervention systems to identify officers who are at-risk for engaging in the use of excessive force and to provide all officers who are identified with retraining and behavioral interventions, reassignments, or other appropriate responses.
SB 178, Anton’s Law, provides the public with access to police disciplinary records. Additionally, the bill puts greater restrictions on how and when no-knock warrants can be served. I heard the most concern from law enforcement about the new public disclosure requirements. I plan to continue to listen to their concerns and the community and evaluate if any future changes should be considered once we have the chance to understand the ramifications of implementation.
Justice and Parole Reform
HB 16 bans private immigration prisons in Maryland stopping new detention center contracts and grandfathers its three existing detention centers.
SB 202 takes the Governor out of parole decisions for those who are sentenced to life in prison after 20 years served. Maryland will now join the majority of states who follow this model. This bill ensures the parole process is independent and fair and includes victim participation.
SB 494 known as the Juvenile Justice Restoration Act, will end juvenile life sentences without parole and individuals who were convicted as adults for an offense committed as a minor can be considered (not mandatory) for parole after being imprisoned for at least 20 years for the offense.
HB 742 known as the Walter Lomax Act, provides appropriate compensation for individuals who are erroneously convicted, sentenced and jailed in order to provide restitution and adequate resources so those who have been exonerated can have a better quality of life when they re-enter society.
HB 18 will grant tenants a right to counsel in specific eviction cases.
Legislation to Support Minority Equity
HB 1178 creates tax-free savings accounts for all first-time, prospective homebuyers so an equal path to homeownership can be afforded for more Marylanders.
HB 1210 requires Maryland companies to report on the racial diversity of their boards; requires companies to demonstrate racial diversity in board membership, executive leadership or mission in order to qualify for State capital funding.
HB 1211 adds $10 million to TEDCO’s Builder’s Fund to provide more meaningful venture opportunities for minority entrepreneurs who may not have the same access to capital.
HB 1213 prevents housing loan/credit applicants from being denied if applicants can provide alternate forms of creditworthiness including a history of rent payments, utility payments, etc.
Energy and Environmental Legislation
HB 2 the Maryland Environmental Service Reform Act of 2021 will reform Maryland Environment Services (MES) to prevent outrageous severance packages from happening again because of political
HB 30 Ensures that climate change is part of the conversation when energy and utility regulations are considered at the Public Service Commission (PSC) and creates a climate counsel position to advocate at the PSC on climate change issues.
HB 507 will lift the sunset of the Bay Restoration Fund and increases the allocation from the Bay Restoration Fund Wastewater Account from $10 to $20 million through 2030.
HB569 doubles the state capacity for residential rooftop solar and community solar projects
State Song Repeal
An analysis of all the verses of “Maryland My Maryland”, the state song, reveal a decidedly pro-secessionist sentiment. HB 667 repeals the state song so Maryland can better reflect values of unity, diversity and inclusion.
Studies have linked health disparities to racial bias, healthcare access and lack of economic resources.
The following bills address some of these inequities:
HB 28 Requires health equity and bias training as part of the accreditation and licensing process for all health care providers including registered doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners.
HB 78 Establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity to create a health equity framework that works to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequities.
HB 463 Creates a process to designate Health Equity Resource Communities which will provide targeted support in order to improve access to primary care, promote primary and secondary prevention services and reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and readmissions.
HB 940 Maryland has been at a competitive disadvantage with other East Coast states who offer sports betting options. Last year at the ballot box, voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting. Maryland will allow 100 in-person and online venues. House Bill 940 makes Maryland the 21st state in the nation to legalize sports betting.
Wage Increases in State Contracts
HB 37 ensures that contracted workers are paid a fair wage in state government projects. The bill expands Maryland’s prevailing wage laws to apply to State contracts with a value of $250,000+ instead of $500,000+ and for projects for which the State provides at least 25 percent of the construction costs instead of 50 percent.