Floor Action

Here are some of the bills the House passed this week (you can see all the floor agendas and debates here):

HB 588 and HB 589 – FY22 State Budget
After facing nearly a billion dollar structural deficit because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the House Appropriations Committee presented a budget 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.

Because of the swift actions taken by the General Assembly and federal assistance provided by Congress, the state budget provides sufficient funding for healthcare resources to address COVID-19 impacts, shores up the State’s retirement system, fully funds the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and other education initiatives, and allocates additional support for low-wage earners and businesses.  

HB 448 designates June 19th as a state holiday, Juneteenth Freedom Day. This new holiday will commemorate June 19, 1865 – the day that the last enslaved Americans learned they were free – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. House Bill 448 reflects our values of inclusivity and celebrates the freedom of all Americans.

HB 1207 reforms the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities. This Commission has not had the staffing or support to do much; this bill will enable them to do the work of addressing environmental injustice.

HB 1372 revises the Blueprint for Maryland's Future. After a year of distance learning due to COVID-19 school closures, a growing number of students are falling further behind. This legislation revises the Blueprint in response to the current state of education and gives students a path forward. The Blueprint 2.0 bill includes needed fixes to education funding that were exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and:
  • Provides more support to address learning loss;
  • Expands behavioral and mental health resources;
  • Closes the digital divide with more access to broadband and devices; and
  • Requires better reporting and data tracking for more accountability. 

HB 23 ensures that the U.S. Dept. of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cannot gain access to drivers' license information without a warrant. Years ago Maryland created a two-tier license system to ensure safety on the roads by allowing undocumented immigrants to get a driver's license (having drivers education and getting insurance). ICE has been accessing this information for enforcement purposes, creating a disincentive for immigrants to get drivers licenses. This bill allows ICE to access the information with a warrant, ensuring their ability to access the information when necessary and ensures drivers have the training and insurance they need to be safe on the road.

Signed, Sealed & Delivered!!!

Last week the Governor signed HB 1, funding for Historically Black Colleges & Universities. While the State has increased operating and capital funding to the HBCUs over the past decade, additional investment is needed to increase the availability of new and distinct programming to attract more students to HBCUs. HB 1 provides $577M to settle a decade-long lawsuit and level the playing field for all students – regardless of background, race, or college they attend.