Today began the 441st session – and my 6th session – of the Maryland General Assembly! Although the legislature only meets in Annapolis every year for 90 days, as your Delegate I work year-round to represent District 46. But the next 90 days will be a sprint to pass a state budget and hundreds of pieces of legislation in Annapolis. This year, a big focus will be on education!
This year, I am excited to work on bills that will improve public transportation, fund programs to prevent violence, reduce plastic waste, increase access to affordable housing, and enhance the transparency of government agencies. Although by no means a complete list, here are some of the major bills I will be introducing this year (And of course, although this list does not include the the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, I will be strongly supporting that legislation – and many other pieces of legislation that my colleagues are bringing!).
Transit Safety & Investment Act
A recently-released Capital Needs Inventory revealed that the Maryland Transit Administration is under-funded by $2bn over the next ten years – just to maintain current levels of operation. This bill will provide additional annual capital funding to ensure that MTA is able to maintain its assets in a state of good repair and allow the agency to implement basic modernization to its outdated fleet of buses, trains, etc. This funding is imperative to sustain our public transit infrastructure and ensure safe transit for all riders.
Violence Intervention and Prevention Program – Mandatory Funding
Two years ago, I championed and passed the first program to prevent gun violence using evidence-based efforts. Although the Governor funded the program during its first year, he zeroed it out in FY20. This bill will require annual funding for the Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (VIPP) to fund local efforts around the state. Many of these programs are non-profit organizations with limited resources, but that do incredibly important work. This bill will provide the resources that these programs need to double down on the highest-crime neighborhoods, and expand into new neighborhoods.
Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act
Plastic waste litters our streets and waterways in Baltimore. It’s an eyesore and it also contributes to climate change. Despite popular belief, plastic bags can not go in your recycling bin and they are not biodegradable. This bill aims to reduce plastic trash by prohibiting stores from distributing plastic bags to consumers. It also encourages residents to use reusable shopping bags by requiring stores to charge .10 for paper bags. Finally, it establishes a “Single-Use Products Working Group” to study and make holistic recommendations on reducing plastic trash and single use containers in Maryland.
The Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act (HOME Act)
Housing discrimination is far too common, including discrimination based on source-of-income. Source of income can refer to income from veterans or disability payments or a public assistance program. Seventy percent of housing voucher recipients in Maryland are seniors, people with disabilities, or children. Currently, finding rental housing is challenging for voucher holders. Based on recent studies across the East Coast, up to 67% of landlords refused renters with housing vouchers. This bill prohibits discrimination based on a renter’s source of income, just as it is illegal to discriminate against a renter’s race, sex, religion, etc. Although many local jurisdictions have already passed their own version of this bill, it is important to ensure minimum standards are the same across the state.
Strengthening Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA)
Maryland’s Public Information Act needs an update. Agencies can be overwhelmed with repetitive requests and members of the press and public are often denied information in a timely or cost-effective manner. And yet, there is no way to enforce the PIA provisions without resorting to the courts. The State’s PIA Ombudsman is issuing a report this month that will recommend changes to the law to strengthen it so that members of the public can have confidence that our government is being transparent in its decision-making. This bill is based on those recommendations and on the need for more proactive disclosure of information by our agencies. If you have requested government records in the past, I want to hear from you! Please consider taking this short survey by clicking here. Your input will help me craft legislation for an accountable and transparent PIA request process.
The Jordan MacNair Safe & Fair Sports Act
Our college student athletes are working hard to be champions for us – now it’s time for us to be champions for them. This year, I will be introducing a bill to allow college student athletes to retain the rights to their own name, image, and likeness. We cannot stop there though, because many of our students are facing true health and well-being challenges as well, including of course, the tragic loss of Jordan MacNair in 2018. This bill will also set up a permanent commission to oversee college student athlete well-being that will have the power to investigate any alleged wrongdoing.
Supporting Maryland Arts Institutions
I will be introducing two bills to support Maryland arts institutions, one focusing on capital funding and one on operating dollars. Both of these bills will provide important and ongoing sources of funds to ensure that our Maryland arts community can continue to thrive and grow!
Keeping up with the Maryland General Assembly
The Maryland General Assembly website has many great resources if you are interested in following our work over the next 90 days. I will highlight just a few:
- The general schedule is available here.
- You can look up legislation and track its progress here. Every bill introduced by the bill introduction deadline is guaranteed a hearing and before the hearing, a fiscal and policy note about the bill will be published.
- You can view the Committee Schedule, which will be regularly updated, here.
It is an honor and a thrill to represent District 46 in the General Assembly and to speak up for Maryland residents and families! In the past five years, we have accomplished major legislative milestones – and I know this session we will continue that record. We will ensure government is working for Marylanders, creating opportunities for all, and breaking down barriers that prevent individuals from reaching their potential. If you have any questions about bills that I am proposing or have ideas or thoughts – or just want to chat! – please keep in touch.