Maryland legislature ends session marked by funds surplus

Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Associated Press

Maryland lawmakers closed their legislative session late Monday with approval of laws to strengthen cybersecurity in a 12 months marked by a funds surplus that enabled upgrades to parks, infrastructure, colleges and knowledge expertise programs, in addition to tax reduction.

In a 12 months of big surplus largely attributable to federal pandemic reduction, the General Assembly handed a bundle of cybersecurity measures and practically $570 million for data expertise upgrades. It comes after Maryland’s well being division was hit by a ransomware assault in December that impeded details about well being metrics referring to COVID-19.

Lawmakers reached an settlement Monday on elevating the authorized age of marriage within the state from 15 to 17, with judicial evaluate if there is no such thing as a parental consent, after years of scuffling with the difficulty. They additionally accepted restrictions on long-lasting chemical compounds generally known as PFAS and switching to safer options for firefighting foams.

Democrats, who management the legislature, and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan already had agreed to a bipartisan funds deal. It contains practically $1.86 billion in tax reduction over 5 years for Maryland retirees, small companies and low-income households in a 12 months of monumental funds surplus for the state’s $58.5 billion funds.

The deal included a tax credit score as an incentive for employers and companies to rent and retain staff from underserved communities. It additionally contains gross sales tax exemptions for baby care merchandise reminiscent of diapers, automobile seats, and child bottles, and well being merchandise for dental hygiene, diabetic care and medical units.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, hours earlier than adjournment at midnight, cited bipartisan work in an election 12 months that resulted in main investments within the state.

Investments included about $150 million for state parks to handle a upkeep backlog and funding for brand new parks and upgrades. Lawmakers additionally accepted massive investments in psychological well being initiatives to assist in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I believe that Marylanders needs to be actually pleased with the funds that we handed, the investments that we’re making, and I believe throughout the board it was really an historic 12 months,” stated Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat.

Hogan highlighted the tax reduction for retirees that he has been advocating for years as one of many causes for calling this his greatest session as governor.

WATCH: Hogan considers this the very best legislative session he has ever had

“Look, we’ve stood up and disagreed strongly on different issues, but I think we’ve accomplished a lot together,” Hogan said, referring to bipartisan work with Democrats.

Democrats indeed had their disagreements with the term-limited governor, now in his last year in office.

Lawmakers overrode Hogan’s veto on Saturday to create a paid family leave insurance program that has been discussed for years in the state. Maryland workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave to deal with such family issues as having a baby, caring for a sick relative or dealing with a military deployment.

They also overrode the governor’s veto of legislation to expand access to abortion in the state. Maryland will end a restriction that only physicians perform abortions, enabling nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants with training to perform them.

The General Assembly passed a broad measure aimed at slowing climate change. Hogan said Friday he would let the bill go into law without his signature. The “Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022” accelerates Maryland’s present aim of lowering greenhouse gasoline emissions from 40% of 2006 ranges to 60% by 2031. It additionally units a aim of reaching carbon neutrality by 2045 within the state.

Lawmakers accepted a constitutional modification to legalize leisure marijuana in July 2023, giving the ultimate determination to voters in November. A measure lawmakers handed to take preliminary steps towards implementation went into regulation with out Hogan’s signature. Licensing and taxing points will probably be taken up subsequent 12 months, if voters approve.

Separately, lawmakers handed a invoice setting apart $1 million to fund various therapies together with psychedelics and hyperbaric oxygen remedy for veterans with post-traumatic stress dysfunction and traumatic mind accidents in scientific trials.

Lawmakers additionally accepted a invoice to take a position $400 million in improvement within the space round FedEx Field Stadium, dwelling to the Washington Commanders soccer staff, although the cash wouldn’t be used to pay for a brand new stadium. A companion invoice to spend $1.2 billion to improve Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium additionally was handed. Hogan is scheduled to signal these payments Tuesday.

Legislators and the governor agreed to a brand new congressional map for the state, after a decide struck down the map accepted by lawmakers over Hogan’s veto in December as a “product of extreme gerrymandering.” The General Assembly redrew the state’s eight U.S. House districts to be extra compact, and Hogan signed the measure final week.

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