Thank you for continuing to trust me to advocate for our community during the 2023 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly. This year, my colleagues and I considered many pieces of legislation that would positively impact our state. Out of the nearly 2,300 bills proposed and discussed, 810 went on to pass both Chambers and have been sent to the Governor.
This year will be remembered as one of many significant changes. The legislative session began on a celebratory tone as we swore in Wes Moore—Maryland’s first African-American governor—and Aruna Miller—the nation’s first South Asian lieutenant governor. We were also delighted to welcome 41 freshman delegates who brought a lot of fresh energy and enthusiasm to the House floor.
Looking over the legislation that passed this year, I am excited to say Maryland is leading the way on several important fronts. We continue to move forward with ambitious climate policy such as increasing our investment in offshore wind to help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We also stood firm for reproductive rights.
Highlighted below is some of the significant legislation we considered this Session. All legislation listed passed both chambers and has been sent to the Governor, unless otherwise indicated. Items marked with an asterisk (*) are bills I introduced. HB = House Bill and SB = Senate Bill. All bills are hyperlinked to the General Assembly website so you can read the actual final bill language.
Again, thank you for your support and advocacy. Although the legislative session has ended, I will continue my work in District 20 throughout the year and I will never stop my efforts to make our community a more just and inclusive place for all.
Climate and Energy
* Offshore Wind—Expanding Maryland's Commitment (HB793/SB781): supports the expansion of offshore wind power by increasing Maryland’s offshore wind goal from generating 2 gigawatts (GW) power to 8.5 GW by 2031, initiates a state process to build coordinated transmission infrastructure, invests in the full build-out of the existing offshore wind lease areas, and establishes strong labor standards for this growing industry.
* Energy Efficiency—Investing in Efficiency for Low and Moderate Income Housing (HB169/SB144): coordinates and consolidates a range of federal and state funding sources, enables state-funded home energy audits in low-income homes, and increases EmPOWER and state funding for programs targeting low-income households who wish to make energy efficiency improvements.
Energy Efficiency and Conservation Plans and Green and Healthy Task Force (HB1035/SB905): sought to strengthen Maryland’s EmPOWER program by requiring a focus on greenhouse gas reductions including setting new reduction goals. I worked diligently with my colleagues to incorporate the Energy Savings Act, HB904, into this bill to create comprehensive EmPOWER legislation to greatly improve the program. This passed in the House but I was disappointed to see it did not progress in the Senate. I will continue to work on this issue.
* Solar and Clean Energy Equipment for Condominiums (HB101/SB593): changes portions of the Maryland Condominium Act to make it easier for condominium associations to install solar panels and other clean energy equipment. This bill passed the House, but unfortunately did not pass in the Senate this year. I will be bringing it back in the next Session.
* Public Service Companies—Increasing Transparency and Accountability (HB1186): requires Maryland utilities to make public the votes they take at the regional transmission organization (PJM), so the public can learn about the decisions made that can significantly affect our climate and utility rates. This bill passed the House, but I was disappointed it did not pass out of the Senate. I will continue to work on increasing transparency in our energy sector.
Community Solar Energy Generating Systems Program (HB908/SB613): makes the community solar program permanent and improves the ability of low-income Marylanders to participate.
Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act of 2023 (HB6/SB92): requires newly constructed buildings, buildings undergoing major renovations, and buildings that are over 50% state-owned to be compliant with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.
Clean Trucks Act of 2023 (HB230/SB224): mandates the Maryland Department of the Environment to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Truck Rule, which requires vehicle manufacturers to sell an increasing number of new zero-emission trucks and school buses through 2035.
Clean Transportation and Energy Act (HB550/SB548): incentivizes the purchase and sale of electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks and charging stations, and provides more support for installing electric vehicle charging stations.
Reclaiming Renewable Energy (HB718/SB590): would remove three polluting industries—trash incineration, poultry waste-to-energy, and woody biomass—from counting as renewable energy eligible options in the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which eliminates financial incentives for these sources of air and climate pollution. I was disappointed this bill did not progress and will continue to work with my colleagues to address polluting industries.
Fair Wage Act (HB549/SB555): sped up the implementation of increasing the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, starting in January of 2024. I was disappointed the section on indexing the minimum wage to follow inflation was removed, but overall am glad to see the implementation timeline shortened.
* Categorical Eligibility- Streamlining Applications for Safety-Net Services (HB111/SB26 and HB323): creates a coordinated application process for Medicaid, SNAP, and energy assistance programs, automatically enrolling thousands more people in Medicaid and energy assistance.
Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program - Modifications (HB988/SB828): supports the effective and equitable implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Program.
* Prevailing Wage for Electric Utilities (HB61/SB337): requires all work done on the electric grid to be done by employers paying prevailing wages and benefits. I was disappointed that this bill did not pass through either chamber, but I will bring it back next Session.
Recovery of Unemployment Insurance Benefits (HB140/SB136): limits the amount the Secretary of Labor may deduct from weekly benefits payable to an unemployment insurance (UI) claimant when recovering UI benefit overpayments unrelated to fraud.
Trans Health Equity Act (HB283): ensures Maryland Medicaid covers gender-affirming care deemed medically necessary.
Access to Care Act (HB588/SB365): ensures every Marylander, regardless of immigration status, has access to health care through the state’s Health Benefit Exchange Fund. This bill passed the House. It was disappointing to see this important bill stall in the Senate. I will continue to support this crucial effort in the coming Session.
* Medical Bill Repayment (HB333/SB404): sets up a refund process for low-income patients who were eligible for free healthcare, but were incorrectly billed and paid the hospital bill.
* Treatment Plan Improvement (HB121/SB8): improves family and patient involvement in treatment plans for individuals experiencing mental health challenges who are involuntarily hospitalized.
* School-Based Behavioral Health Services—Increasing Funding for School-Based Mental Health (HB82/SB201): requires Maryland to take the necessary steps to allow children enrolled in Medicaid to receive mental health services in the school setting. While this bill did not progress, I will continue to work with the Department of Health in the interim to make progress on this approach and will bring legislation back next year.
Health Insurance – Diagnostic Examinations for Breast Cancer (HB376/SB184): prohibits health insurers and providers from imposing a copayment for diagnostic breast examinations.
Prescription Drug Affordability Board—Upper Payment Limits (HB279/SB202): removes the Board’s sunset provision and allows our first-in-the-nation Prescription Drug Affordability Board to continue to do its work on upper payment limits.
Declaration of Rights—Right to Reproductive Freedom (HB705/SB798): allows Maryland voters to decide whether the right to abortion and other reproductive health care should be enshrined in our state constitution, the highest level of protection we can give to Marylanders in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn its Roe v. Wade decision. The vote will take place in 2024.
Public Senior Higher Education Institutions—Reproductive Health Services Plans Requirements (HB477/SB341): requires public higher education institutions in the state, in consultation with their students, to develop and implement a reproductive health services plan.
Reproductive Health Services—Protected Information and Insurance Requirements (HB812/SB786): provides additional privacy protections for medical records relating to abortion services that are legal in the state of Maryland and prevents patients’ reproductive healthcare data from being used in criminal prosecution or civil litigation outside of the state.
Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration (SERVE) Act (HB546/SB551): provides access and exposure to public service by creating a service year option for Maryland high school graduates to work for community organizations and nonprofit groups.
Income Tax—Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit (HB680): provides increased student loan debt relief to certain new and existing state workers via increased tax credits and increasing the time in which tax credits can be claimed.
Blueprint for Maryland's Future - Publicly Funded Prekindergarten (HB770/SB913): ensures that every child has access to high-quality prekindergarten by expanding free access to homeless students, income eligible students with disabilities and income eligible students who come from a home in which English is not the primary spoken language.
* Dual Language Education - Teacher Certification, Program (HB56/SB389): helps establish a certification process for bilingual education programs and dual language teachers. While this bill did not progress, the Department of Education has committed to enacting this through regulations.
Hear Our Voices Act (HB16): improves access to Title IX resources by requiring each public school to provide information regarding who serves as the school’s Title IX coordinator and how to file a sexual misconduct complaint.
Maryland Educator Shortage Act of 2023 (HB1219/SB893): requires the State Department of Education to create new and permanent pathways into the education profession and enhances programs to recruit, qualify, and retain new educators and childcare providers
Maryland 529 Program - Reform (HB1290/SB959): abolishes and repeals the Maryland 529 Board and transfers fiduciary authority to the Treasurer. Also allows prepaid plan accounts to be rolled over into other accounts under the 529 program through a claims settlement process.
Outdoor Preschool License Pilot Program - Establishment (HB525): establishes a pilot program, administered by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), to license outdoor, nature-based early learning and child care programs.
Child Care Scholarship Program - Alterations (HB495/SB350): prohibits the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) from increasing the copayments or reducing the reimbursement rates or the income eligibility requirements for this program.
Statewide Rental Assistance Voucher Program (HB826/SB848): creates this program to help low income families with housing costs while they are on the waitlist for federal assistance.
Proof of Rental Licensure (HB36/SB100): ensures a landlord has the required county rental licenses before they can go to court to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent, tenant holding over, or breach of lease.
Protections for Mobile Home Park Residents (HB23/SB746): protects residents of mobile home parks by requiring potential buyers to commit to the housing security of current residents and allows the residents to match an offer to buy their community. This bill combats efforts by venture capital firms to buy these communities, increase the rent, and push residents out when they redevelop the property.
Environmental Protection and Preservation
Greenspace Equity Program (HB503): provides annual state funding to support projects, led by land trusts, local governments and community partners, that would increase and enhance “community greenspace” in Maryland’s underserved and overburdened communities.
Maryland the Beautiful Act (HB631/SB470): creates a rapid-response revolving loan fund to make it easier to move quickly on land conservation opportunities and ensures the lands are protected in perpetuity.
* Certified Local Farm and Fish Program (HB63/SB386): incentivizes the removal of blue catfish and other invasive species caught in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, by allowing them to count towards the goal of Maryland-run institutions procuring 20% of their food from local farms and fisheries.
* Pollinator-Friendly Power Lines (HB62/SB62): supports electric utilities to create pollinator-friendly meadows underneath their power lines and prohibits counties and municipalities from enforcing their “weed” height ordinances in powerline corridors.
Forest Preservation and Retention (HB723/SB526): strengthens statewide forest cover and tree canopy goals and updates the Forest Conservation Act to give local governments needed flexibility to meet their preservation goals.
Environmental and Natural Resources Crime Unit (HB874/SB611): establishes the Environment and Natural Resources Crime Unit within the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute cases against those who commit crimes against the state’s environmental laws.
Cannabis Reform (HB556/SB516): following the referendum from the 2022 election where voters decided to legalize cannabis, this creates an equitable licensing, tax and regulation framework for the new adult recreational cannabis industry. Includes the following equitable steps as part of the licensure process for those disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition: priority consideration for the licensing processes, state provided technical services, and targeted grants and loans to help jumpstart new businesses.
Cannabis - Odor Searches (HB1071): bans police from using the smell of cannabis to justify warrantless stops and searches.
Criminal Justice Reform and Public Safety
Hate Crimes – Civil Remedy (HB13/SB5): authorizes a person who is the victim of a hate crime to bring a civil action against the person or persons who committed the act.
Gun Safety Act of 2023 (SB1): strengthens our concealed carry licensing laws and establishes a comprehensive list of sensitive locations where guns may not be carried.
Jaelynn's Law (SB858/HB307): modifies and expands current safe storage rules to limit unsupervised access to firearms, especially by minors.
Possession and Permits to Carry, Wear, and Transport a Handgun (HB824): strengthens gun safety by adjusting Maryland's concealed-carry permitting process to broaden the list of what disqualifies someone from receiving a permit (such as being younger than 21, having a history of violence, etc.).
The Child Victims Act of 2023 (HB1): eliminates the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, allowing for meaningful access to the civil court system for victims.
Stop the Spam Calls Act of 2023 (HB37/SB90): prohibits a person from robo-calling someone without the prior express written consent of the party being called and takes other steps to prevent unnecessary spam calls.
* Maryland Food System Resiliency Council—Making it Permanent (HB32/SB124): makes the Food System Resiliency Council (FSRC) a permanent entity within the Maryland Department of Emergency Management. The FSRC addresses emergency food security issues with the goal of building a just and sustainable food system.
Prevent Electronic Benefits Theft Act of 2023 (HB502/SB2): requires the Department of Human Services to restore SNAP beneficiaries’ benefits lost due to theft.
Maryland Meals for Achievement In-Classroom Breakfast Program (SB559/HB514): increases the appropriation in the annual budget bill for this program from $7,550,000 to $12,050,000.
Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program (SB353): increases the budgeted amount for this program from $150,000 to $225,000 beginning in fiscal year 2025. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass. I remain committed to this program and will continue to advocate for this funding in next year's session.
Ballot Pre-processing and Curing (HB535/SB379): improves the state’s election system by allowing the processing of vote by mail results before the date of the election.
Election Judge Pay Increase (HB1200/SB925): requires counties to pay election judges at least $250 per day, with returning judges receiving an additional $100 per day.
* Melanie Diaz Sprinklers Save Lives Act (HB1292/SB970): following the tragic Arrive Apartment fire in February, this bill seeks to improve fire safety by codifying the 2033 deadline for grandfathered buildings to install sprinklers; increasing safety measures like fire extinguishers and smoke alarms; and providing transparency for tenants. Unfortunately, given the late filing of this bill (due to the timing of the fire), it was caught up in procedural hurdles that we were not able to overcome before the end of session. I will continue to work on this issue and bring the bill back next year.
Consumer Protections Against Price Gouging (HB775/SB542): limits non-seasonal price increases on essential goods and services to 15% during a state of emergency and gives the governor the power, during a state of emergency, to designate essential goods and services.
* Safe Access for All (SAFE) Roads Act of 2023 (HB70/SB16): requires that when a pedestrian safety construction project is set to take over a year, temporary pedestrian and cyclist safety measures are taken in the interim.
HOV Lanes—Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicles (HB123): reestablishes the authorization for any plug-in electric drive vehicle with a permit to use HOV lanes at all times.
Transportation Equity (HB9/SB19): requires the Maryland Transportation Plan to prioritize achieving equity in transportation when developing goals. The department will now be required to develop guidelines and equity analysis policies and to report on the impacts on riders with disabilities and minority groups who may be adversely affected by current transportation policies.
Equitable and Inclusive Transit-Oriented Development Enhancement Act (HB12/SB151): establishes a $5M Transit-Oriented Grant Program and requires that transit oriented development is a priority for the Department of Transportation’s continued planning, which makes it easier to cut the cost of carbon emissions and address housing affordability.
* Corporate Effective Tax Rate—Increasing Transparency and Accountability (HB39): requires the Comptroller’s office to report the number of large corporations who pay no taxes in Maryland. This bill passed the House. I was disappointed this did not pass in the Senate and I will continue to work on this issue moving forward.
Family Prosperity Act of 2023 (HB547/SB552): makes the 2021 expansion of Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) permanent and expands the state’s Child Tax Credit to cover taxpayers with children 5 and under who have a federally adjusted gross income of $15,000 or less. Also makes access to EITC permanent to taxpayers who file with an Individual Tax Identification Number, because all Marylanders, regardless of their immigration status, should have access to these critical benefits.
Budget Bill—Fiscal Year 2024 (HB200/SB181): This year's budget secures our state's financial future while continuing to make critical investments in Maryland’s economy as well as our transportation, education, technological, infrastructure, and physical and behavioral health sectors to support working Marylanders and their families.
Ever since immigrant families started being bused to Maryland from Texas and Arizona, I have been working hard to support their resettlement in our community. A major obstacle has been finding funding to support the costs associated with this effort. I worked closely with the Legislative Latino Caucus to ensure the state budget included an historic appropriation for $5 million dedicated to migrant resettlement. Additionally, there is $250,000 in funds for the school compost grant program started by the bill I passed last Session.
Bond Initiatives/Grants for District 20 Capital Projects
The District 20 Delegation worked hard to fund the following local capital projects:
Long Branch Library Improvements: $555,600 to provide exterior improvements to the Long Branch Library, primarily a shade structure to allow for more use of the outdoor space.
Progress Place Reflection Gazebo: $100,000 to help build a shaded area for Progress Place to create a safe, green space for clients and meal guests outdoors.
Project Neighbor Care: $75,000 to build a greenhouse to grow food for the community the Clifton Park Baptist Church serves.
Stonehedge Local Park: $150,000 to renovate this park, including a new playground and ADA upgrades.
Springsong Museum: $1.25 million to build a museum in honor of world-renowned writer, scientist, and former Silver Spring resident, Rachel Carson.
Long Branch Parks Initiative: $250,000 to make improvements including active recreation facilities, park amenities, trails, environmental enhancements, and infrastructure improvements.
Quality Time Learning Center: $50,000 to construct an addition to Quality Time Learning Center which provides early learning and developmental experiences to children prior to elementary school.
Takoma Park Library and Community Center Redevelopment: $125,000 to expand and rebuild the library and community center to better serve the area.
As a Member of the House of Delegates, I am able to provide my constituents with academic scholarships. This scholarship is available to students who are planning to attend a Maryland community college, four-year university, or graduate school during the 2023-2024 school year. Applications must be completed and submitted by May 10th, 2023. Applications can be completed online here.
To the advocates, volunteers, and community organizers who work tirelessly throughout the year, I admire your dedication. I appreciate your passion and activism, which keeps me informed about District 20 priorities. I am also thankful to the hard work of my Chief of Staff Rose Stutz; Legislative Aide Brittany Baker; and wonderful interns, Tierney Acosta and Phillip Manzon.
I hope to have many opportunities to engage with you as I plan for the next Session. Over the coming months, I will continue to reach out to all corners of District 20. I also encourage you to reach out to me. The best way to contact us is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also leave a message at (410)-841-3423.