Maryland legislators returned to Annapolis this week with a long list of issues to tackle, including swearing in a new governor, expanding power over the state budget, creating a recreational marijuana industry, and strengthening protections for abortion care in the state. increase.
And for the first time in nearly three years, lawmakers expect the 90-day session to return almost completely to pre-pandemic procedures, with most meetings and sessions held in person. A sick Marylander.
“It’s going to be almost like a normal session,” Republican leader Rep. Jason Buckell said hopefully.
With Republican Governor Larry Hogan stepping down and Democratic governor-elect Wes Moore taking office on January 18, the reality facing lawmakers has changed. Both houses of the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly.
For 90 days starting Wednesday, 188 members of the Maryland Legislature will convene in Annapolis. Their only requirement is to pass a balanced budget, but from regular adjustments to existing programs to address some of the state’s persistent problems with violent crime, education funding, and inadequate transportation networks. We will consider thousands of bills, including attempts to
In an interview with The Baltimore Banner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the State Senate said that Gov.-elect Wes Moore won the inauguration not only because he’s from the same party, but because he believes he’s going to be president. He said he was looking forward to doing it. We will be more proactive in talking to and partnering with lawmakers.
“I find it rewarding to have a governor who communicates because he shows that he’s that type of person. That’s a big difference for me,” said a Baltimore County Democrat and House member. Chair Adrian A. Jones said. Jones has been Speaker of the House since 2019.
Hogan rarely negotiated with state legislators during his eight-year tenure, and, as other governors did for their top priorities, before Congressional committees to introduce his bills. never appeared in Hogan’s ministers and ministers often took no position on bills affecting state agencies, much to the frustration of lawmakers.
Jones and Baltimore Democratic Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson hope Moore will be more supportive.
“I think Gov. Moore has a great vision of where he wants to lead the state,” said Ferguson, who will lead the Senate from 2020.
However, when it comes to reigning, Moore’s numbers are still a bit unclear. During the campaign, Moore outlined broad goals for the campaign — promoting “jobs, wages, and wealth” was one of his slogans — but he said that in his first few months in office, We have not yet provided a list of specific items we would like to work on. office.
Some of the governor’s election promises can be fulfilled through administrative action by the governor, while others require legislative passage. Moore’s nomination for cabinet ministers will also be scrutinized by state senators, who will retain confirmation votes. So far, Moore has made few personnel announcements.
A Moore spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the incoming governor’s policy priorities.
No matter what Moore proposes, state legislators know their jobs are already cut short on a range of issues.
High on the agenda is a follow-up to the November vote to legalize marijuana use by adults. Maryland already has a medical marijuana industry and regulatory system, and lawmakers are establishing the soon-to-be-legalized recreational marijuana industry, including setting tax rates and deciding who is allowed to grow and sell cannabis. I need to figure out a way to do it. medicine.
Lawmakers will also address whether it will be easier for victims of child sexual abuse to sue the perpetrators and the organizations that employed or supervised the perpetrators. The issue is receiving renewed attention as it considers whether to publish a thorough new report on decades of abuse.
Democratic leaders plan to address concerns raised last summer when the Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed access to abortion care.
Maryland has had state laws guaranteeing access to abortion care since the early 1990s, but Congress this year enshrined that right in the state constitution through an amendment requiring voter approval in the 2024 election. We are planning to start the process. The state’s constitutional amendments had been debated before the Supreme Court’s ruling, but never reached voters.
Then there’s the concern that legislators face every year. To reduce violent crime, make communities safer, improve public education, improve transportation and boost economic development.
Lawmakers will also figure out what to do with the huge extra money in the state budget. In the current budget year ending June 30, the state is projected to accrue an additional $5.5 billion in his budget, including $3 billion in the state’s Rainy Days Fund, with a surplus of $2.5 billion. am.
Hogan warned that new governors and lawmakers shouldn’t spend all of their money in the upcoming budget year, which begins July 1. Hogan said a potential recession or a looming recession means that the money isn’t going to go down. suggested that it would be wise to pay attention to
Moore will submit the budget just two days after taking office. And when legislators review and approve the budget, for the first time they will have much more power and flexibility than before.
Previously, legislators could only cut budgets from the governor’s proposed budget. They couldn’t move the money or add the cut money to another part of the budget.
Thanks to voters who approved the change during the 2020 election, it is now possible.
Ferguson said he believes budget flexibility will help lawmakers and Moore work together to fine-tune the budget and fund common priorities. Moore has only been given two days to formally submit a budget since he took office, so it could largely reflect the work done by the outgoing Hogan administration.
“The previous governor has priorities, the next governor has priorities, the General Assembly is here, and we’re going to exercise our authority to be an agency that knows where we’re going. I don’t think so,” said Ferguson.
Meanwhile, Jones said Congress should change the new budget authority only “if necessary.”
While Democrats drive the agenda in Annapolis (Democrats make up 72% of Congress), Republicans work to make their voices heard.
Although Republicans are overwhelmingly outnumbered, he is the minority leader of the House of Representatives, who says he represents the millions of rural Marylanders who have different views on how to solve the state’s problems. Buckel, a Republican from West Maryland, said Republican lawmakers have a responsibility to be the voice of the opposition in the face of overwhelming Democratic power.
Buckel listed many of the same priorities as Democrats — “the holy trinity of crime, our economy and education” — but Republicans favored different policy solutions. Buckel said further restrictions on ownership would not reduce shootings. And Republicans want tougher punishments for violent criminals.
While Republicans will try to pass their own bills, they will also oppose far-left proposals that they believe are out of step with most Marylanders, Buckel said.
Buckel is concerned that the Democratic Party’s strong results in the November election and Moore’s sweeping gubernatorial victory over Republican Dan Cox will encourage Democrats to pursue more progressive policies. said there is.
“I am worried,” he said. “Some members of parliament are completely in love with the radical ideas of the far left.”
Without the Republican governor who grabbed the media attention and vetoed, it would be up to lawmakers to promote Republican ideas in Annapolis.
“Our legislator is the main voice of republicanism in Maryland,” Buckel said.