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MARYLAND SENATOR RON WATSON -- 2023 End of Session Letter


Dear Neighbor:

     The Maryland General Assembly recently concluded our 445th Legislative Session and made historic
progress for the State as we go through a generational leadership transition.

     This year, Maryland swore in new individuals to every statewide constitutional office for the first time in
decades. This changing of the guard, including a new Governor, Lt. Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, and Treasurer, has created a more cohesive State government with a level of partnership between the executive and Maryland General Assembly that has not existed for nearly a decade.

     Thanks to our increased level of collaboration, we were able to truly make the most of our 90-day
legislative session despite an increased level of economic uncertainty and difficult budgetary decisions.
Because it is the first year of a term, our goal was to put Maryland on a path to prosperity and advance issues that will define the next four years. I am incredibly proud to say that we accomplished those objectives.


     During the session, we focused on expanding opportunities for as many residents as possible. We
made historic investments in public education through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, created a path to economic prosperity for working families by accelerating the State’s $15 an hour minimum wage, and
responded to the recent extreme United States Supreme Court decisions by safeguarding the right to abortion access and increasing public safety by limiting the number of guns in our communities.


     We also passed a number of other important bills, including the expansion of tax relief for working
families, establishing an equitable recreational cannabis market, strengthening Maryland’s paid medical and family leave system, ensuring fair access to voting, prioritizing public service, demanding justice for victims of child sexual abuse, and supporting Maryland’s veterans.


     I look forward to serving Maryland’s 23rd District back home until the 2024 Legislative Session kicks off next January, and I am committed to continuing to work towards expanding opportunities for all Maryland residents!  Please contact my office if you would like me to present a more detailed summary of legislative actions taken, as well as discuss plans for future legislations.  Your input is needed!





























Key Statewide Legislation

Enshrining and Expanding Reproductive Freedom: - SB798/HB705, SB341/HB477

The recent U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning decades of law protecting abortion access has been
devastating. As dozens of states around the country have moved to restrict what was previously a fundamental
right, Maryland has stepped up to fill the void for individuals seeking care in our State. Here in Maryland, the
right to bodily autonomy will never be diminished. The MGA built on the Abortion Care Access Act passed in
the 2022 Legislative Session with a series of four bills that protect reproductive freedom without political
interference. These measures enshrine the right to reproductive freedom in the Maryland Constitution
(SB798/HB705), increase access to care on college campuses (SB341/HB477), and protect Maryland patients and
providers from out-of-state investigations (SB786/HB812 and SB859/HB808).

Enhancing Public Security through Gun Safety: - SB1, SB858, HB824 & SB185/HB3

As the increasing number of mass shootings in Maryland and throughout the United States demonstrates,
addressing senseless gun violence is one of the most urgent issues we face. Despite the immediate need to tackle
gun violence, the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision moves our nation and our State in the wrong direction by
making it harder for states to set guardrails around concealed carry permits. As a result, we are witnessing more
guns in public sensitive spaces like grocery stores, places of worship, and nursing homes. Objectively, when
more guns are procured legally, more guns are also lost or stolen and eventually found to be used in violent
crime. More guns lead to more gun violence and more gun-related injuries. That’s why the MGA passed a
number of bills prohibiting individuals from carrying firearms in public sensitive locations (SB1); strengthening
standards for obtaining a concealed carry permit and penalties for those illegally possessing firearms from three
to five years (HB824); ensuring gun owners properly store firearms unloaded and away from children (SB858);
and enabling the Maryland State Police Gun Center to track firearms surrendered under peace orders

Expanding Opportunity for Working Families: - SB555/HB549, SB552/HB547, SB550/HB548

Maryland’s working families continue to bear the brunt of inflationary pressures and a slowing economy.
Although federal funding and the temporary expansion of benefit programs to support vulnerable Americans
during the COVID-19 pandemic are ending, Maryland is stepping in to alleviate the burden that these families
and individuals face. A livable, family-sustaining wage is foundational to reducing the impacts of poverty. That
is why the MGA set our State on the path to a $15 an hour minimum wage in 2019 and expedited its statewide
implementation to January 1, 2024 this Session (SB555/HB549). In addition, the MGA made the expansion of
Maryland’s Earned Income and Child Tax Credits permanent (SB552/HB547), understanding that equitable tax
relief will help to eliminate childhood poverty in our State. Finally, access to banking and capital is vital for
generational wealth building. The Access to Banking Act will alleviate bank desserts in low- to moderate-income
communities throughout the State (SB550/HB548)

Developing a National Model for an Equitable Recreational Cannabis Market: - SB516/HB556

After Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to legalize adult-use recreational
cannabis last November, the Maryland General Assembly began working hard to craft legislation to set up an
equitable framework for regulation, licensing, and taxation of adult-use recreational cannabis. The legislative
framework passed reflects a commitment to repair the injustices to communities caused by the failed war on
drugs and set a national model for implementation of a legal market, learning from other states’ policies that
have undertaken similar initiatives. It ensures that small cannabis businesses are supported by being eligible to
apply for a license without needing a brick and mortar facility, while lowering application costs and reserving
licenses for individuals who live in disproportionately impacted areas of the State. The legislation also unifies
the regulations for cannabis so regardless of whether an individual is using cannabis recreationally or medically,
it will be regulated in the same fashion. Finally, the bill sets aside millions of dollars for the communities most
harmed by the failed war on drugs.

Strengthening Maryland’s Paid Medical and Family Leave System: - SB828

Paid family and medical leave is imperative to the wellbeing of Maryland families and workers. Access to paid
family and medical leave ensures that Maryland families have adequate resources to support a new child or
other loved one who requires care. Marylanders should not have to choose between being with a parent during
their last days and putting food on the table, which is why we passed the Time to Care Act last Session,
establishing a system for paid medical and family leave for our State’s residents. The fiscal sustainability of that
program is imperative for it to be effective at supporting Marylanders, which is why we strengthened its funding
mechanism in a way that’s affordable for employees and employers.

Improving and Modernizing Behavioral Healthcare in Maryland:

The COVID-19 pandemic led to an undeniable and acute behavioral health crisis in Maryland and throughout
the entire country. An increased sense of isolation and disruptions to healthcare services have put a strain on
the entire healthcare system, but nowhere has that been more evident than in Marylanders seeking behavioral
care. Going into the 2023 Legislative Session, one of our top priorities was to pass policies that accomplished
dual objectives of improving access to care and modernizing the system of delivery. The Senate advanced a
bipartisan behavioral healthcare package, including:

● Fully funding the 9-8-8 crisis hotline with $12M per year (SB3/HB271);
● Extending collaborative care between primary and behavioral healthcare providers (SB101/HB48);
● Expanding wraparound services for children and youth most at-risk (SB255/HB322);
● Creating systems for comprehensive community behavioral health clinics (SB362);
● Preserving affordable access to telehealth services (SB534);
● Allowing for creative healthcare for Maryland’s highest-need patients (SB581); and
● Planning for a 21st century behavioral care delivery system (SB582/HB1148).

Investing in Maryland Values through a Responsible and Balanced Budget for Fiscal Year 2024:
The core role of the Maryland General Assembly in any legislative session is passing a balanced State budget for
the next fiscal year. Even as federal funding from the COVID-19 pandemic goes away and the Board of Revenue
Estimates projects lower revenue through Fiscal Year 2024, we were able to make responsible investments to
benefit our State’s residents and economy. We ultimately enacted a $63.1 billion budget (HB200 and HB202) that
invests heavily in Maryland values, including:

● $14B in Medicaid funding to provide healthcare coverage to 1.5 million residents;
● $8.7B for Maryland public pre-k to 12 schools, an increase of 9.1%, in addition to another $900 million as
a downpayment on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future;
● $250M to combat the climate crisis, including $160M to support State parks and forests, $60M for
Chesapeake Bay restoration, $15M for tree planting, and $15M for projects under the Climate Solutions
Now Act of 2022;
● $200M available for new mass transit and transportation infrastructure throughout the State to allow
flexibility should Maryland be awarded competitive federal grants;
● $200M for tax relief for Maryland’s veterans and working families;
● $86M in public safety and victim services enhancements, including an additional $46M above the
statutorily required amount to fund police aid and to $40M in increases to support domestic violence
victims and rape crisis centers; and
● $2.85B in cash reserves, including $2.5B in the Rainy Day Fund and over $350M in the General Fund,
with ongoing general fund revenues projected to exceed ongoing expenditures by over $150M in FY24.

Developing a 21st Century Workforce: - SB104

Meeting the demands of a 21st century economy means developing alternative pathways to our State’s
workforce. Our economic future depends on Maryland employers' ability to build a dependable and skilled
labor force. The Senate firmly believes that one of the most robust opportunities for workforce development is
through scaling up registered apprenticeship options, both for individuals after graduation from high school
and those currently disconnected from work. Apprenticeships allow individuals to earn a living wage while
they learn their necessary skills for the job. The Maryland General Assembly is creating the Apprenticeship 2030
Commission, which will determine strategies to grow our current number of apprenticeships from 12,000 a year
to 60,000 by 2030.

Prioritizing Public Service: - SB551/HB546

The fabric of our civic society has been fraying for years because we tend to silo ourselves in like-minded
communities with others of similar backgrounds. Democracies thrive when a marketplace of ideas exists, and
individuals communicate and work together across differences. Service is a powerful tool for bringing people
together with a shared purpose and vision for what’s possible. The Maryland General Assembly worked with
Governor Moore to shape the new Maryland Department of Service and Civic Innovation and establish two
service year option pathways under the Maryland Corps program (SB551/HB546). This legislation will ensure
every Marylander interested in serving our community has the ability to do so.

Demanding Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse: - SB686/HB1

Fundamentally, there must be due process and justice for children and youth who were victims of the heinous
crime of sexual abuse. To address these harms and ensure the survivors of these horrific crimes may be given
the opportunity to seek restitution, we passed the Child Victims Act (SB686/HB1). The bill removes the statute
of limitations for child sexual abuse civil lawsuits and allows victims previously obstructed from seeking justice
access to reparations. Further, the legislation will create more avenues for justice in cases that deal with some of
the most painful experiences an individual can ever endure as a child. The passage and enactment of the Child
Victims Act has been years in the making.

Supporting Maryland’s Veterans and National Guard: - SB553/HB554, SB354/HB316, SB554/HB553 & SB974

Maryland’s men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction, or are still doing so
through our National Guard, deserve recognition for that sacrifice. The Maryland General Assembly took a
number of steps to ensure veterans stay and invest in Maryland after their service, including increasing the
amount of military retirement income that is tax exempt for State purposes (SB553/HB554) and establishing an
income tax checkoff for voluntary contributions to the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund (SB354/HB316). Further,
we put safeguards in place to remediate the issues currently facing the State-owned Charlotte Hall Veterans
Home (SB974). Finally, the legislature passed the Health Care for Heroes Act of 2023 to award monthly grants
to subsidize health insurance for Maryland National Guard members and ensure they can continue serving
safely (SB554/HB553).

Lowering Energy Costs for Marylanders: - SB144/HB169, SB613/HB908

Energy costs are continuing to rise globally and in Maryland due to inflationary pressures and the war in
Ukraine. One of the most effective mechanisms for lowering the amount that Marylanders spend on monthly
energy bills, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is through energy efficiency improvements. It is also
imperative that those benefits go to those who can least afford to make those improvements on their own. That
is why the legislature mandated that the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
provide energy efficiency improvements for low-income housing throughout the State (SB144/HB169). We also
made the existing community solar pilot program permanent, with a requirement that 40% of participants be
low- or middle-income Marylanders and specified that participation in the program must be a net benefit to the
subscriber (SB613/HB908). Finally, the General Assembly passed the Net Metering Flexibility Act to allow
customers generating excess energy to accrue the benefits of that energy for an indefinite period of time.

Protecting Maryland’s Environment for Future Generations: - SB222

One of the most critical responsibilities facing the legislature each year is to ensure the stewardship of
Maryland’s natural resources for generations to come. A number of critical conservation programs have lingered
without update for decades, which we addressed this Session through two bills. First, we meaningfully updated
Maryland’s Forest Conservation Act (FCA) for the first time since 1991 in order to achieve a “no-net-loss” of
forest standard while giving local jurisdictions much-needed flexibility to align forest conservation needs with
local land use priorities (SB526/HB723). Second, we tapped into available federal funding for conservation efforts
that we had previously been unable to access by modestly raising fees for hunting licenses for the first time in
over three decades (SB327/HB983). Additionally, the General Assembly took the first steps to ensure that
industry is a genuine stakeholder in recycling programs and mitigate the costs passed on to local governments
by establishing a producer responsibility program for packaging materials.

Transforming Our State’s Transportation Sector: - SB24/HB51

One of the most important issues of this four-year term will be transforming Maryland’s transportation sector
and infrastructure to meet 21st century needs. Car manufacturers are ramping up the production of electric
vehicles over the next decade and it is critical that we build out a system of incentives and charging infrastructure
to meet that increasing demand. The General Assembly passed legislation to adopt the Advanced Clean Truck
Rule to reduce emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, provide incentives to mitigate the cost of those
zero emission trucks, and increase funding for the electric vehicle recharging equipment rebate program
(SB224/HB230 and HB550). Further, we required that newly constructed homes or those undergoing significant
renovations include electric vehicle charging capability (SB477/HB830). Finally, as Marylanders minimize their
reliance on gasoline, we recognize that the State must have a long-term discussion to maintain transportation
infrastructure funding that is currently provided through a tax on motor fuel. The legislature is planning for a
21st century transportation sector by creating the Maryland Commission on Transportation Revenue and
Infrastructure Needs, which will guide our work to stabilize funding for critical transit infrastructure as vehicle
electrification increases.

Capital Funding Projects (Bond Bills) for the 23rd Legislative District

This session we were able to bring home almost $12 Million to support key activities in the 23rd District:



$500,000 – Center for Justice and Law – Bowie State University
$250,000 – Student Mental Health Support – Bowie State University
$1,100,000 – New Thurgood Marshall Library Commons – Bowie State University
$400,000 – The Bowie-Mitchellville (MD) Diamond Foundation – Kappa Alpha Psi
$2,000,000 – Liberty Sports Park
$200,000 – Disney-Bell American Legion Post No. 66
$500,000 – City of Bowie – Water Infrastructure Improvements

Laurel / Beltsville:
$1,500,000 – Capital Technology University
$500,000 – Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services
$1,000,000 – City of Laurel Historical Dam Ruins at Riverfront Park
$1,500,000 – Laurel Multiservice Center

Upper Marlboro:
$150,000 – Upper Marlboro Parking Project

$50,000 – The Ivy Community Charities of Prince George’s County
$300,000 – Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council
$335,000 – The Foundation for the Advancement of Music & Education (FAME)
$25,000 – Prince George’s County Links, Inc.
$1,000,000 - Neighborhood Revitalization within the Department of Housing and Community
Development to support an emergency rental assistance fund for seniors

23rd District Residents Continue to Lead in our State

I was honored to support our neighbors listed below for gubernatorial appointments and send my deepest

Anthony Woods (Mitchellville) - Secretary | Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs
Roland L. Butler (Bowie) - Secretary |Maryland Department of State Police
Michael Gorman (Bowie) - Prince George's County Board of Elections
Kara Hunt (Bowie) - Commission on African American History and Culture
Rosann Ndebumadu (Bowie) - State Board of Waterworks and Waste Systems Operators
Awawu A. Ojikutu (Upper Marlboro) - Maryland Health Care Commission
Enid Cruise (Bowie) - State Board of Chiropractic Examiners
Dirk Butler (Bowie) - Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission
Maria Hankerson (Mitchellville) - Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission
Sandy Roberts (Mitchellville) - Maryland Port Commission
Leon Bailey (Mitchellville) - Maryland Public-Private Partnership Marketing Corporation
Karen Price-Ward (Upper Marlboro) - Maryland Aviation Commission
Justin Hall (Upper Marlboro) - Advisory Committee on the Budget of the State Workers' Compensation Commission
Ayodele Okunoren (Upper Marlboro) - Correctional Training Commission
Timothy J. Adams (Bowie) - Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays
Janell Bell (Upper Marlboro) - State Labor Relations Board
Gareth Diedrick Jr. (Upper Marlboro) - Board of Examiners of Landscape Architects
Akilah English (Bowie) - University of Maryland Medical System Corporation Board of Directors
Dana Brewington Stebbins (Mitchellville) - Maryland Economic Development Commission
Elisa Basnight (Upper Marlboro) - University of Maryland Medical System Corporation Board of Directors
Omar Karim (Mitchellville) - Maryland Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors



It’s been a great honor to represent you and our community as your State Senator. If I can ever be of service,
Please contact me.

Best Regards,

Senator Ron L. Watson, PhD
23rd Legislative District
O: 301-858-3631 
121 James Senate Office Building
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

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