Now that the 2023 General Assembly is over, we take time reflect on what was accomplished overall, to celebrate our victories, and thank those who helped make a difference in our State. We began the session saying that a new day was dawning in Maryland after the 2022 elections, and indeed that was the case. In addition to a new Governor, a new General Assembly was sworn in that was more representative of the state in terms of race, gender, party affiliation, and age than a decade ago. (Article Here)
Responding to Supreme Court Decisions
The new Senate and House of Delegates immediately had to deal with two U.S. Supreme Court Decisions that directly effected our laws. The first was the Dobbs Decision, which eliminated the constitutional right to reproductive decisions. The other was the Bruen Decision, which said that Maryland's restrictions on gun permits and the ability of gun owners to wear or carry firearms was unconstitutional. While these two issues were dealt with successfully, they overshadowed many other worthy issues that otherwise would have passed.
For example, it is possible that the attempt by opponents of reproductive rights to characterize proponents as creating a “death cult” may have influenced the leadership’s decision not to bring forward the End-of-Life Options Act that UULM-MD supported and has been supporting for years. This year, the citizens who would have been helped by the End of Life Options were specifically called out in the anti-abortion protests, as another group of the "voiceless" who needed protecting.
UULM-MD can be proud of its support of successful efforts to enshrine reproductive rights in the State Constitution (subject to referendum in 2024), to provide such health services through college campuses, and to protect health records and those who assist people from other states to obtain abortion services.
We are also thankful for our new Gun Violence Issue Lead, Ken Shilling. He led our efforts in support of successful bills to rewrite the rules for carrying guns and obtaining handgun permits, while also helping to finally pass a priority bill requiring safe storage of firearms and thereby protect children from harm.
The Governor's Initiatives
Meanwhile, our new Governor got most of his legislative agenda passed in some form or another, including increasing the state’s earned income tax credit and the Child Tax Credit to alleviate poverty, raising the minimum wage, a tax break on military retirement income and help for Maryland National Guard members to pay for health insurance, and creation of a new fund to help spur banks and credit unions to serve low- and moderate-income communities.
It is in the context of the Governor’s and General Assembly’s agendas that UULM-MD is celebrating some significant victories. We supported the Governor’s efforts to adjust clean energy programs, including grants for medium-duty or heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles and zero-emission heavy equipment, and a rebate program for charging equipment for electric vehicles. Independent of the Governor’s priorities, we also supported bills that will expand offshore wind energy generation, further community solar projects, and enhance mass transit, while assuring that there is an equity component in transportation planning and attention paid to energy efficiency in low-income housing.
And while other states were passing laws restricting the trans community, Maryland passed the Trans Health Equity Act to provide Medicaid coverage of gender-affirming health care. We also helped pass, with bipartisan support, a bill introduced last year to deal with federal interpretation of Maryland’s Probation Before Judgment law in a way that could trigger deportation of New Marylanders, regardless of their immigration status. While an effort to expand access to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) immediately to immigrants failed to pass, there is now a legislatively-mandated study and report comparing options for offering affordable health care and dental care coverage to State residents who are ineligible for Medicaid, the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHP), or qualified health plans (QHPs) or stand-alone dental plans through MHBE due to immigration status.
Governor Moore has already signed the two of our priority bills, both entitled "Prescription Drug Affordability Board - Upper Payment Limits;" an emergency measure that restores the Board’s ability to set upper payment limits on what government will pay for pharmaceuticals. As soon as we learn of other bill signing ceremonies, we will post them so that our members can attend and get in the official signing photographs.
All of these efforts could not have been successful without the help of our allies in the environmental community, CASA de Maryland, Marylanders for Justice Reform, Planned Parenthood of Maryland, Pro-Choice Maryland, Marylanders for Reproductive Choice coalition, Compassion and Choices, and others. And throughout, our actions have been guided by our outstanding Issue Leads, Phil Webster, Candy Clark, Betty McGarvie Crowley, Jan Bird, Ken Shilling, Jim Caldiero, and Rev. Alexa Fraser.
We owe them our thanks for a wonderful session!