The 2023 Session of the General Assembly concluded on Monday, April 10th at Midnight. Some of the statewide topics attracting the most attention this year included: Cannabis, Crime and Firearms Legislation, Mental Health, Renewable Energy & Zero Emissions Vehicles, Education & BOOST funding, Reproductive Freedom, Minimum Wage & Family Medical Leave, the Budget, and the Maryland 529 Program.
While some of these issues were priorities for Governor Moore, the Governor also campaigned for creating a Department of Service and Civic Innovation, reducing taxes for Military Retirement Income, and overhauling Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.
Challenges facing our local health care systems were top priorities for our office this Session. While several bills addressing licensing boards and other aspects of medical practice were approved, most significant to our district was the approval $20 million to begin the process of constructing a new Regional Hospital in Easton to replace Easton Memorial as the hub of Shore Health’s system; and $9.5 million to support trauma centers, specifically to support the Trauma Center at Tidal Health, which is one of only three level-three trauma centers in Maryland.
Governor Moore strongly endorsed increasing and indexing the minimum wage to $15 per hour beginning this July. We were able to change this legislation and prevent automatic future increases by eliminating the proposed indexing, but the minimum wage still increases to $15 per hour ahead of schedule, January 1, 2024.
It was another frustrating Session for Public Safety advocates and 2A supporters. First and foremost, attempts to enact new laws to increase penalties and focus on repeat offenders were rejected. There was one modest exception, a penalty increase, from 3 to 5 years for illegal handgun possession. Meanwhile, the Legislature granted new authority for the Attorney General to investigate police involved incidents, this was approved despite overwhelming opposition from States Attorneys. Lastly, the Legislature enacted new laws to restrict areas from wear & carry and implemented new restrictions and costs for weary & carry permits.
The environmental agenda this Session was led by an initiative championed by Governor Moore to transition all passenger and light duty vehicles to a zero emissions standard over the next decade. In addition to the new zero emissions initiative, a host of bills enhancing and supporting renewable energy generation were also approved. These bills are very ambitious and concerning because at a time when we have experienced record inflation and economic turmoil, the cost of implementing these policies will ultimately be passed on to citizens/ratepayers in future years.
We were pleased that funding for the BOOST program was included in the State’s Education Budget, but there are many outstanding concerns with public education. Test scores show that statewide proficiency must improve, which in our view, has been overshadowed by the challenges facing Administrators who have been consumed with mandates and securing funding for the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
The Legislature approved a referendum for the upcoming Presidential Election that will allow voters to decide whether “Reproductive Freedom” should be added to the Maryland Constitution. Maryland law explicitly protects the rights of parents to continue or end a pregnancy and Maryland has also greatly expanded abortion services. While the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, has no impact on Maryland citizens, the decision to implement this new standard of “Reproductive Freedom” into the Maryland Constitution will be left to Maryland voters in the Presidential Election.
Finally, Maryland voters overwhelming endorsed legalizing recreational cannabis in the recent election. Recreational cannabis will be legal on July 1 of this year, new laws were passed for licensing and taxing cannabis. It’s important to note that penalties for public consumption were lowered from $500 to $150 and license and tax revenues are expected to bring little benefit to local governments, which are points of concern.
We are very pleased to report that after multiple attempts our legislation to update Oyster Taxes (SB634/HBHB1084) was approved. Unlike other taxes, these revenues go directly to support growing oysters in the Bay. This adjustment has not occurred for more than 20 years and will double funding for the purchase of oyster shell used for replenishment and restoration – last year’s public fishery oyster harvest was the strongest in more than 38 years.
Serving in the Maryland Senate is an incredibly humbling honor. I cannot say thank you enough to friends, supporters, colleagues, and constituents who have lent their inspiration and expertise to help me succeed in this new role. During the interim we will begin preparing for Session 2024. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you ever feel that we may be of assistance, we may be reached at email@example.com or at 410.841.3590.
Thank you again for the great honor to serve in the Maryland State Senate, best wishes for health, happiness, and prosperity as we regroup and prepare for the 2024 Legislative Session.
Senator Johnny Mautz
Proudly Serving Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico Counties
Senator Steve Hershey (District 36, Upper Eastern Shore) and I chatting outside the Senate chamber at the completion of the 2023 session.
Olivia Scuderi was our fabulous intern during the 2023 Legislative Session. Olivia is finishing up her junior year at the University of Maryland and will be taking the LSAT’s this fall with plans to apply to law school after graduation.
Sarah Kilmon has been my legislative aide for the past two session. She will be leaving our office to take a new job as the Communications Manager for the Talbot County Government.