Report on 2020 Maryland Legislative Session

First things first: the virus crisis 

Protecting our families from the virus:  To support the state’s public health efforts while keeping the essential services of government functioning, the Maryland legislature: 

— set aside more than $350 million in emergency funds for tests, treatment, tracing, and other critical medical services

— boosted state reserves and increased the tobacco tax to provide funds to respond to the crisis

— cut the Session short to focus on making sure that our constituents benefit from state efforts to fight the virus and its economic disruption. As part of this effort, Jim and Joseline have been named to the Joint Covid-19 Response Legislative Workgroup to monitor state responses and recommend ways to improve it. 

Protecting our incomes and jobs: We passed legislation to expand unemployment insurance, fight price gouging, help small businesses, and other ways to help protect Maryland families from the economic impact of this virus, especially those who lose their jobs.

Other Key Priorities 

Training high school graduates for family-supporting jobs: To help young people get good jobs at good wages, we passed the “Kirwan” plan to expand access to reading and math skills, job training programs and paid apprenticeships.

Reducing college tuition costs: College costs too much. So we worked successfully to:

— expand opportunities for high school students to earn college credits tuition-free

— cap next year’s tuition hikes at Maryland colleges at 2%

Protecting senior citizens: Older adults with complex care needs want to live as independently as possible and limit stress on family caregivers. The new telehealth law offers the potential to improve access to care and the quality of care, while reducing strain on family caregivers.

Investing in Morgan State, Bowie and other historically black colleges and universities: These schools are ladders of opportunity for many of our young people. To help them expand their offerings, particularly in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel, we committed the state to a ten year funding plan.

Cleaning up our environment: Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous pesticide that does harm to our environment, so we banned it. We also worked to promote environmentally-conscious transportation initiatives.

Supporting our community: 

— Boosted state funds for local schools in Prince George's by $54.7 million and Anne Arundel by $16.9 million.

— $7.4 million for rebuilding Route One in College Park and $4.9 million for modernizing and expanding Route 175 in Odenton.

— $186 million for construction of the light rail Purple Line, connecting the Metro Green Line and the University of Maryland with Bethesda, New Carrollton – and ultimately New York!

— To fix pot holes and improve local roads, we approved $6.9 million for Prince George's and $6.7 million for Anne Arundel.

— $100,000 for an outdoor living classroom for the Laurel museum.

— $200,000 to build a family-friendly plaza at the new College Park City Hall. 

We worked together on all these initiatives:

— As Vice Chair of House Health Committee, Delegate Peña-Melnyk led the successful fight to protect Obamacare from Trump attacks on it and to crack down on prescription drug price hikes.

— Delegate Lehman led the successful fight to protect college students and staff from mold by requiring the University System of Maryland to inventory building contaminants and plan to fix them.

— Delegate Barnes, Chair of the House Education Subcommittee, worked to boost state funding to local schools, making sure that, for the first time, state money will flow directly into our kids’ classrooms, not the central office. 

— Cutting child care costs for working families by expanding subsidies for public and private preschools, championed by Senator Rosapepe, Vice Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.