Brooke’s Brief: Special Saturday Edition

I am headed down to Annapolis for a Saturday session and Monday is Sine Die (the last day of session). Before the end of session and my final End of Session report, I wanted to give you a quick update on a few big things! We’ve worked on a huge variety of issues – public safety, criminal justice reform, education, environmental issues, transportation, healthcare – but here are a few quick hits from this past week:

Education: The General Assembly has now approved a major bill called the Education Blueprint for Maryland, which will provide $800 million more for schools over the next two years. This is the first bill to phase in the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission — increasing teacher salaries, expanding pre-kindergarten, supporting students with special needs, investing more in schools with high levels of concentrated poverty, investing in tech ed, and providing more health-based services to students and families.

Veto Overrides: The Governor vetoed four bills we sent him early this year and we voted last week to override all four vetoes to: (1) ensure local school boards can control their own school calendars to meet the needs of the kids they are educating, (2) ensure workers’ wages continue to increase annually up to $15/hour in 2026, (3) create a better system to enforce alcohol and tobacco laws (like the majority of other states) by using an objective commission rather than an elected official; and (4) create sanctuaries for oysters, which are at 1% of their historic population.

UMMS Reform: After reporting by the Baltimore Sun revealed that the University of Maryland Medical System was awarding sole-source contracts (and more!), the General Assembly has moved to pass legislation sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter and Speaker Busch to require all Board members to resign, prohibit sole-source contracts, and implement audit requirements. What was going on at UMMS was completely unacceptable, and this bill is an important first step toward ensuring that we are protecting taxpayers (and patients!) from footing the bill for grift.

#FoamFreeMD: After three years of trying, I am thrilled to report that the General Assembly just passed my bill and Sen. Cheryl Kagan’s companion bill to make Maryland the FIRST state in the country to ban EPS foam (styrofoam) food containers! Foam is the worst form of plastic because it breaks down into pieces that are too small to pick up and end up in our waterways and beaches, but those small pieces attract wildlife who eat them and ingest the toxic chemicals they absorb. Our state, our country, our world are overrun with single-use plastics – it’s up to us to start cleaning up the mess that we have created and this legislation is an important FIRST step to demonstrate that we have the political will and know-how to make that happen.