End of Session Wrap-Up 2017
Thursday, May 4th, 2017 @ 12:03PM
A few weeks ago, we wrapped up the 2017 Legislative session, my 11th and my first as the Senate Majority Leader. I was honored to have had the opportunity to work with my colleagues to help set our priorities and direction, as well as sponsor or co-sponsor many pieces of very important legislation. I am proud of the many successes of this session, including the passage of a balanced budget of $43.5 billion that protects our State’s priorities without harming our citizens or raising taxes.
A few of this year’s accomplishments include:
- We passed legislation that requires the formation of the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission. The Legislature called upon the President and Congress to not overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, which provides or helps to provide health insurance to over 400,000 Marylanders. However, should that happen, this proactive legislation will help ensure that here in Maryland we will be ready and able to provide needed healthcare to our citizens.
- The Prince George’s County Hospital System will receive $208 million in capital funding for a new regional medical center as well upgrades to the Bowie Health Center and Laurel Regional Hospital. Additionally, we secured $100 million over the next ten years in operating expenses.
- We maintained our commitment to Prince George’s County Public Schools by investing over $1 billion in K-12 education. Passed legislation will limit testing and test preparation to no more than 2.3% of classroom instruction time and resulted in the formation of Workgroup to Study the Implementation of Universal Access to Prekindergarten for 4-Year Olds.
- To ensure that Maryland’s higher education system continues its path to affordability, under this budget, undergraduate tuition will not rise by more than 2%. Additionally, innovative ways to decrease the cost of higher education include the passage of the Textbook Fairness Act. This will require the Governor to include a fund of $100,000 to the Maryland Open Source Textbook (MOST) initiative, formed to provide low income students, and schools with easy access to textbooks and learning materials.
- Employees should not have to choose between being sick and losing pay. Towards that end, the Legislature crafted a compromise sick leave bill which will allow working citizens to receive adequate protection while affording businesses flexibility in administering paid leave. The resulting legislation requires businesses with 15 or more employees to provide 5 days of paid sick leave to employees in the state of Maryland.
- Tragically, deaths from Heroin and Opioid addiction have skyrocketed over the last two years across the country, including here in Maryland. I am proud to say that our state Legislature has passed legislation commended by the American Medical Association as the most comprehensive in the country. This will require a focus on Education & Prevention, Treatment & Rehabilitation, and Recovery & Maintenance.
- Several bills were passed to provide services and assistance to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedom. The Hire Our Veterans Act of 2017 creates a tax credit for small businesses that hire qualified veteran employees. Units within state government are now required to designate a veteran’s services specialist who will be able to coordinate with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs should services be needed for employees and $200,000 will be provided to the Maryland Center for Veteran’s Education and Training Intensive Outpatient Treatment Center allowing to expansion of its facilities.
- Legislation focused on protecting the most vulnerable of our citizens include a bill which encourages participation in federal government’s program that provides free breakfast and lunch to all students in a high-poverty school area. To help ensure access to quality care for those in need, we passed a 3.5% rate increase for providers serving the developmentally disabled and a 2% increase for most other health and human service providers.
- Our brave Law Enforcement, Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services personnel risk their lives to protect us. This year, to help show our appreciation, we passed legislation allowing first responders over the age of 55 a subtraction modification of up to $15,000 per year in retirement income.
- Environmental legislation includes a ban on fracking, and, to reduce energy costs and curb climate change, we have required each electric company to provide cost- effective programs that have energy savings of at least 2% per year. Additionally, in response to proposed cuts the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, my colleagues and I have passed a Joint Resolution calling on the Governor and Maryland’s Congressional Delegation to speak out against these cuts at the federal level.
- Job creation and employment opportunities continue to be priorities. A national skilled trade labor shortage will be addressed with funding for apprenticeship programs and a requirement for use of apprenticeship programs in large state projects. Also, qualified manufacturing companies that create new jobs will be eligible for state tax credits while expansion of the Research and Development Tax Credit Program will allow for the continuance of strides we have made in creating high paying quality jobs in those fields.
This is just a limited listing of all the legislation passed and programs assisted during the 2017 Legislative Session. If you would like to review this more in depth, please click here. If you would like additional information on specific legislation sponsored and co-sponsored by me this year, it can be found here.