The Sun Sets On Another Legislative Session
The 90-day meeting of the Maryland General Assembly has come to an end, and almost everyone agrees that it was a session we can all be proud of. A total of 935 bills and five resolutions were passed this year.
Among those passed, I was the primary sponsor of two. The first was a bill that would create a discount program for Purple Heart recipients and authorize the same fishing benefits for Prisoners of War and 100 percent disabled veterans that we currently give them for hunting.
The second was a local Anne Arundel County bill to give property tax credits to seniors who are at least 62 years old and of limited income. Although I was the primary sponsor of this bill, it became an Anne Arundel County bill.
I sponsored several other bills, some of which were statewide and others local to Anne Arundel County this year. They covered topics such as child abuse, foster care system, increased transparency and diversity in our liquor board, and more. Unfortunately, these bills were not passed this session for different reasons. As I have found, sometimes it takes multiple years to get good legislation passed. I will be back next year, working hard to get these bills passed, as they are important issues to me and will be beneficial to many families in Maryland.
The General Assembly passed Governor Hogan’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget largely intact, with few changes made to the governor’s initial proposal. As introduced, Governor Hogan’s Fiscal 2018 budget contained no tax increases while being structurally balanced, and protected important priorities such as K-12 and higher education, environmental programs and public safety.
Governor Hogan’s budget proposal provided a record investment in K-12 education. This investment fully funds the mandates set by the General Assembly; every dollar that every jurisdiction in the state anticipates for education is completely funded. The budget also included funds to cap tuition increases to 2 percent, which the General Assembly maintained. Governor Hogan’s initiative to provide scholarships for low-income students to attend private school (BOOST) was also funded. The governor’s budget also included an investment of $51 million for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, and provided enhanced substance abuse funding as well as dollars to bolster contraband detection efforts in state correctional facilities.
After the General Assembly’s actions, the overall budget growth was 1.5 percent over last year, with general fund spending (the area the governor and General Assembly have the most control over) growing by 0.5 percent. The budget also leaves more than $950 million in reserve to guard against potential revenue shortfalls over the year.
The vast reach of the opioid crisis in our state cannot be overstated. We lose five Marylanders per day due to fatal opioid overdoses. There is no part of our state that is immune to or safe from this epidemic; it touches every region of our state and every demographic.
In January, Governor Hogan introduced a series of initiatives and a budgetary investment of more than $20 million focused on prevention, treatment and enforcement.
In response to the sharp increases in heroin- and fentanyl-related deaths in our state, and to better enable state and local coordination to respond to the crisis, Governor Hogan declared a state of emergency in March of this year.
Several bills passed this session will continue the fight against the opioid crisis in Maryland. They focus on three areas: prevention, treatment and enforcement.
Much-needed changes are taking place in Maryland, and I am honored to be a part of it.