MARYLAND SENATOR RON WATSON -- 2022 End of Session Letter

 

Dear Neighbor:


The Maryland General Assembly recently concluded our 444th Legislative Session and it was one for the
record books.


We entered Session in January under the cloud of the COVID-19 Omicron variant causing massive
disruptions throughout our communities and to the Senate’s operations. At the same time, the State of Maryland,
for the first time in many years, had a historic budget surplus that allowed the Maryland General Assembly to
make strategic and generational investments for our residents.


The last two years living through the COVID-19 crisis, and the recent rise in prices due to inflation, has
placed an immense strain on our most vulnerable residents and economic sectors. In supporting our working
families, retirees, and small businesses, it was a top priority to provide much needed relief as we continue to
recover from the pandemic.


As I said from the beginning of the 2022 Legislative Session, our state’s economy and the health and
safety of our residents are of paramount importance. Those values were fundamental to every piece of legislation
that we considered, and as you will read below, what we accomplished will be transformational.


I am extraordinarily proud of what the General Assembly achieved in our 90-day Legislative Session and
look forward to serving our community back here in the 23rd District for the remainder of the term.


Here is an overview of some of the most important issues the Maryland General Assembly addressed in the
2022 Legislative Session:


Targeted Tax Relief to Fight Inflation: The Senate of Maryland, the Maryland House of Delegates, and Governor
Hogan came together across party lines to enact nearly $2 billion in economic support for Maryland’s working
families, retirees, and small businesses. At a time when Maryland has a historic surplus and a balanced budget,
we invested in vulnerable populations who have spent a lifetime caring for others in a way that is fiscally
sustainable and responsible. That tax relief package included:


● $1.55 billion in relief for retirees 65 and older making up to $100,000 in retirement income, and married
couples making up to $150,000. As a result, 80% of Maryland’s retirees will receive substantial relief or
pay no state income taxes at all (SB405/HB1468);
● $195 million to fund the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to incentivize employers and businesses to hire
and retain workers from underserved communities that have faced significant barriers to employment
(SB598/HB2);

● $115.6 million in ‘Family Budget Boosters’ including sales tax exemptions for child care products such as
diapers, car seats, and baby bottles, and critical health products such as dental hygiene products, diabetic
care products, and medical devices (SB316/HB282, HB288, SB571/HB492, SB488/HB364, and HB1151);
and
● $100 million to suspend Maryland’s gas tax for 30 days to provide short-term relief to Marylanders as
prices at the gas pump increased quickly due to the events in Ukraine (SB1010/HB1486).

 

Balanced Budget for Fiscal Year 2023 that Invests in Maryland Values: The State surplus and fiscal outlook as
we entered the 2022 Legislative Session was unprecedentedly positive. The surplus in State general funds, albeit
mostly one-time funding, allowed the Maryland General Assembly to make transformative investments while
saving for the future. We ultimately enacted a $61 billion budget that invests heavily in Maryland values,
including:


● $7.9B for Maryland public schools, an increase of an estimated 6.8% from last year, in addition to another
$800 million as a down payment on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future;
● $14B in Medicaid funding to provide health care coverage to 1.5 million residents with $27M set aside
for expanded dental coverage;
● $210M to improve the cybersecurity of our State systems to prevent future outages;
● $50M to address the workforce shortages in hospitals around Maryland;
● $50M for grants to arts and tourism organizations disparately impacted by the pandemic;
● $36M to support local economic development and revitalization efforts;
● $25M to expand workforce development opportunities through apprenticeships; and
● $2.6B in cash reserves, including $2.4B in the Rainy Day Fund and $211M in the General Fund, with
ongoing general fund revenues projected to exceed ongoing expenditures by over $310M in FY23.


Reducing Violence and Enhancing Safety: Addressing the unacceptable level of crime across Maryland is of the
utmost importance, especially as incredibly high numbers of homicides and violent crimes continue to occur.
The Senate of Maryland advanced a comprehensive public safety package aimed at addressing every stage in
the justice system including prevention, intervention, criminal justice, and rehabilitation. In addition to a $148
million increase in crime prevention and victim services funding in the State budget, that package included:


● Scaling up funding for warrant apprehension efforts throughout the State (SB585);
● Establishing a Maryland State Police Gun Center to track gun crimes through prosecution (SB861);
● Banning un-serialized and untraceable ghost guns in Maryland (SB387);
● Ensuring judicial and prosecutorial transparency so the public can access trends (SB763);
● Requiring that all State residential facilities create and implement safety plans (SB3).


Investing in Our Local Economies and Anchor Institutions: The MGA worked with the Governor to invest
nearly $7.8 billion in capital funds, the largest capital budget in State history, to stimulate our local economies
and get Marylanders back to work (SB291). That funding will provide a critical lifeline to our local institutions
and invest State dollars in our community. This year we brought home over $12 Million for Maryland’s 23rd
Legislative District that include:


● Bowie State University

○ Road Improvement – Residence Hall $ 750,000
○ Security Enhancements – Bomb Threats $ 1,800,000
○ Thurgood Marshall Library – Renovations $ 3,500,000

● Old Town Bowie – Historical Properties $ 500,000
● Bowie Baysox Stadium – MNCPPC $ 500,000

● Next Level Sports Innovation Center- South Lake $ 5,000,000
● Alpha and Beta Houses – St. Matthews Housing Corp. $ 75,000
● Laurel Dinosaur Park – MNCPPC $ 50,000
● Maryland Family Life Center – Judah Village $ 50,000
● St. Pius X Green Initiative $ 200,000
● The Ivy Village Incubator – Ivy Community Charities $ 100,000
● Upper Marlboro Community Playground – Splash Park $ 275,000


Giving Marylanders Time to Care: No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and getting
treatment for cancer, caring for their newborn, or comforting a parent during their last days. Soon, Marylanders
will no longer have to make that impossible decision as we establish a system for paid medical and family leave
that covers all working Marylanders (SB275). The legislation we passed this Session is cost effective and
affordable for workers, employers, and the State. It also includes well-established reasons people need family
and medical leave while ensuring a substantial amount of wages during the period of leave. Finally, workers
will be protected against adverse consequences for taking leave, while recognizing the impacts employee leave
may have on employer operations.


Urgently Addressing the Climate Crisis and Protecting Our Future: The climate crisis is having drastic impacts
throughout our State as extreme weather increases. We must take bold, but achievable, actions to reduce our
emissions as quickly as possible. That’s why we passed the Climate Solutions Act of 2022 (SB528) to set bold,
aggressive, and practical goals for reducing Maryland’s emissions of greenhouse gases 60% by 2030 and reaching
net neutral emissions by 2045. The legislation makes Maryland a national leader in curbing emissions by

electrifying our State vehicle fleet and local school buses, financially incentivizing the construction of new net-
zero schools, leveraging private funding for green energy investments, and curbing emissions from large

buildings over time.


Supporting Maryland Families and Childcare Providers: Strong, reliable childcare is a critical piece in
addressing the workforce shortage, but financial hardship and under enrollment resulted in Maryland losing
nearly 800 licensed childcare facilities during the height of the pandemic. Bolstering our childcare ecosystem for
Maryland families was a top priority, and we passed a number of bills that remove barriers by improving the
childcare scholarship program (SB920/HB995), allocating $50 million in childcare stabilization grants for
providers who have faced financial hardship (SB480/HB89), creating a $35 million revolving loan fund for critical
renovations (SB919/HB993), and providing $16 million to support hiring new employees and retaining existing
employees through bonuses (SB806/HB1100). Finally, an additional $3.7 million is provided to support
specialized child care and education to young children with developmental delays and physical disabilities
(SB506/HB725).


Reforming Outdated Policies on Adult-Use Recreational Cannabis: The issue of legalizing adult-use
recreational cannabis was a priority of the General Assembly this Legislative Session. The Senate has always
held that Marylanders need to know what they are voting for, and any ballot referendum would need to be
accompanied by a robust framework for implementing cannabis legalization. As a result, Marylanders will have
the opportunity to vote on a referendum to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis this upcoming election (HB1)
with a clear framework of what that actually means (HB837/SB833). We also included $53 million in the FY23
State budget for the implementation of cannabis legalization, including $5.5 million for expungement and
funding for a robust business disparity study on the adult-use cannabis industry and market. Next year, should
Maryland voters affirm the decision to legalize the adult-use of cannabis, we will finalize the licensing and
taxation details of implementation and use the disparity study results to ensure equitable market access. I am

excited that the General Assembly took this once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the injustices caused
by the past criminalization of cannabis.


Modernizing Maryland’s Juvenile Justice System: As Maryland’s criminal justice system has evolved in recent
years, our juvenile justice system has not kept pace. Too often, when minors encounter the juvenile justice
system, they are treated in ways that are not developmentally appropriate and lead to inequitable outcomes that
are punitive as opposed to reformative. After years of study, the Maryland General Assembly moved forward
with reforms recommended by the State’s Juvenile Justice Reform Council to protect children’s due process
rights when they are taken into custody (SB53/HB269), and comprehensively overhaul our criminal code as
applied to children to reflect national best practices (SB691/HB459).


Increasing Access to the Ballot Box: As states around the country move to restrict voting rights, Maryland
continued to focus on making it easier for all eligible voters to have voices heard. Mail-in voting is continuing
to gain in popularity and we made sure that voters who forget to sign their mail-in ballot have the opportunity
to fix, or “cure,” it in time for that vote to be counted. In addition, we allowed local boards of elections to begin
canvassing mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day to avoid delays in communicating results (SB163/HB682).
Finally, we codified the cost-split between the State and our local jurisdictions relating to administering elections
to maintain robust access through minimizing expenses.


Supporting Maryland Workers and a Living Wage: Rising income inequality, heightened by the pandemic,
continues to be one of the most consequential issues we face. Unions have long been one of the most effective
tools for building our State and nation’s middle class and protecting economic opportunities for all. Collective
bargaining is a vital tool in leveling the playing field, which is why we expanded the ability to collectively
bargain to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (SB255/HB90) and supervisors and sergeants in the
Maryland Transit Administration Police (SB475/HB580). We also passed key bills to expand the applicability of
a prevailing and family-sustaining wage (SB259/HB611), as well as our ability to enforce those requirements
(SB1/HB145).


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
www.RonForMaryland.com
O: 301-858-3631 C: 240-604-8400
121 James Senate Office Building
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

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