2023 Legislative Session
April 17, 2023
The 2023 Session of the Maryland General Assembly officially ended at midnight April 10th. While this session took a toll on most of us physically (I have been taking naps since I returned home), we passed significant policies that will make a real difference for Marylanders in the years to come. The length of this letter is a testament to the fact that it was a successful session.
It was an exciting session for me personally as I was appointed vice chair of the Health and Government Operations (HGO) committee. It is an incredible honor to serve with Chair Peña-Melnyk, who shares my vision of assuring every Marylander has access to affordable health care and a robust health care workforce that will meet the needs of all our residents. The chair and I are extremely grateful to all of the members of HGO for stepping up to lead floor discussions on bills and work with advocates to resolve difficult issues. We are a dedicated and hard-working team with a focus on meeting goals–and committed to finding options that lay the path forward.
This was our first “hybrid session” which allowed folks from all over the state to testify in bill hearings, either in person or virtually with a link. While technology can always be challenging, it worked most of the time and provided greater access for more residents to the bill-passing process. I am hopeful that this model is maintained going forward to assure opportunities for participation.
The tempo of this session was a little different–it started off very slowly–but in the end the House and Senate sent 810 bills to Governor Moore for his signature. The rest of this letter includes just a few of the highlights. If you would like a more comprehensive description of these and other bills, see the 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2023 Legislative Session. This report, as well as complete information on any bill can be found at https://mgaleg.maryland.gov.
I successfully worked to pass six bills for which I was the primary sponsor, ranging in areas of health occupations (HB 278/SB213 and HB1159), managing drug prices (HB279/SB202), providing for life-saving equipment in large restaurants and grocery stores (HB288/SB299), improvements in long-term and dementia care services (HB614/SB228) and efforts to decrease animal research testing (HB626/SB560). We also passed the Senate crossfire of my bill requiring the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange and the Maryland Department of Health to research options for making Medicaid available to undocumented immigrants who are financially eligible (HB368/SB806).
After I take a little break to recover from the adrenaline rush of the 90-day session, I will be considering whether or not to reintroduce bills that did not make it over the finish line this year. The one I am most disappointed about is HB588/SB365, Access to Care Act, which would have potentially allowed immigrants, regardless of immigration status, to purchase insurance through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. We are continuing to look at ways to have 100% of Maryland residents covered by insurance.
I am very grateful to serve with the entire Montgomery County delegation and we were able to deliver on some of the County’s top priorities, including putting nine of the local bills on the governor’s desk. In terms of budget dollars, we secured a total $218,243,800 for many projects including these:
- $27 Million For County Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
- $2 Million For Institute for Health Computing
- 8% Increase In State Aid to Montgomery County
- $71 Million Increase for Education
- $84 Million For Public School Construction
- $65 Million for Northwood High School
We were also able to strengthen the ethics laws and transparency of the Montgomery County Planning Board and created a work group to examine and improve the development review process.
HEALTH AND GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS COMMITTEE
As Vice-Chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee, I am proud that our team was able to report the highest number of favorable bills out of any House committee.
As chair of the Health and Government Operations Insurance & Pharmaceuticals Subcommittee I am happy to report that we were able to pass several key bills that require health insurance carriers to cover necessary diagnostic testing for breast cancer (HB376/SB184 – Health Insurance – Diagnostic and Supplemental Examinations for Breast Cancer – Cost–Sharing) lung cancer (HB815 /SB965 – Cancer Screening – Health Insurance and Assessment of Outreach, Education, and Health Disparities) and biomarker testing, which allows for choosing the best treatment options for cancer (HB1217/SB 805 – Maryland Medical Assistance Program and Health Insurance – Required Coverage for Biomarker Testing). In addition, we passed a bill that will make it easier for health care providers to request exceptions to the “step therapy” requirements of insurance carriers (HB785/SB515 – Health Insurance – Step Therapy or Fail–First Protocol and Prior Authorization – Revisions).
We successfully passed a number of bills that were a priority for both the General Assembly and the administration with respect to reproductive rights and autonomy. HB705/SB798 – Declaration of Rights – Right to Reproductive Freedom provides for a constitutional amendment, which, if approved by the voters at the next general election to be held in November 2024, (1) establishes an individual’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including, but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one’s own pregnancy and (2) prohibits the State from directly or indirectly denying, burdening, or abridging the right unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.
HB812/SB786 – Health – Reproductive Health Services – Protected Information and Insurance Requirements prohibits the disclosure of “sensitive health services” by a health information exchange, electronic health network, or health care provider beginning December 1, 2023. HB 808/SB859 – Reproductive Health Protection Act provides additional protections for information related to “legally protected health care” and protects health care providers who provide the services. Finally, HB477/SB 341 – Public Senior Higher Education Institutions – Reproductive Health Services Plans – Requirements requires public colleges and universities to work with students to develop and implement a reproductive health service plan.
The provision of behavioral health and substance abuse services were another priority in this session and a number of different bills were passed to meet that goal. HB1148/SB582 Behavioral Health Care – Treatment and Access (Behavioral Health Model for Maryland) creates a Commission on Behavioral Health Care Treatment and Access to address the issues in a comprehensive way. HB322/SB255 – Public Health – Home- and Community-Based Services for Children and Youth expands access to and provides reimbursement for specified wraparound, intensive in-home, and case management services relating to the 1915(i) Intensive Behavioral Health Services for Children, Youth, and Families Program. HB811/SB 914 – Hospitals – Testing for Fentanyl (The Josh Siems Act) requires a hospital to include testing for fentanyl in a urine drug screening done in diagnosing an individual’s condition. The hospital must report the deidentified test results of screenings that detect fentanyl to MDH through the State-designated health information exchange. HB418/SB283 – Mental Health – Workforce Development – Fund established the Behavioral Health Workforce Investment Fund to provide reimbursement for costs associated with educating, training, certifying, recruiting, placing, and retaining behavioral health professionals and paraprofessionals.
HB214 – Commission on Public Health – Establishment establishes a Commission on Public Health to make recommendations to improve the delivery of “foundational public health services” in the State. HB283/SB460 – Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Gender-Affirming Treatment (Trans Health Equity Act) codify the intent of the General Assembly that Medicaid provide gender-affirming treatment to all Medicaid recipients for whom gender-affirming treatment is medically necessary, including transgender, nonbinary, intersex, two-spirit, and other gender diverse individuals. HB290 – Public Health – Dental Services – Access requires the State Board of Dental Examiners to publish a searchable list of mobile/portable dental service providers. SB584 – Public Health – Parkinson’s Disease – Advisory Committee and Website requires the Parkinson’s Disease Registry Advisory Committee to consult with entities that may be able to collect data and work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to aid CDC in creating a national Parkinson’s disease registry.
There is a national shortage of qualified health care providers. During this session, we took some strong steps to increase the access of qualified individuals to obtain licenses in Maryland. HB611/SB690 – State Board of Nursing – Sunset Extension, Licensure Exceptions, and Board Operations and Membership gives the Secretary of Health authority over the “infrastructure operations” of the Board for two years in order to address issues of outreach and efficiency in the licensing process. HB454/SB187 – Health Occupations – Licenses, Certificates, and Registrations – Lawful Presence and Identification Numbers prohibits a health occupations board from requiring as a condition for licensure, certification, or registration that an applicant (1) provide proof of lawful presence in the United States or (2) have a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number.
HB774/SB665, Assisted Living Programs – Unlicensed Programs – Resident Abuse, Exploitation, and Neglect (The Senator Delores Kelley Residents of Unlicensed Programs Protection Act) clarifies and strengthens rights of an individual and the family in the complaint process when there is suspected abuse or neglect. HB1301/SB 974, State–Owned Nursing Homes – Deficiencies, Citations, and Fines – Contractor Reporting Requirements increases the requirements on contractors operating a State-owned nursing home with respect to providing notice of a deficiency or enforcement action to the appropriate federal and state agencies.
HB260/SB346 – Maryland Sign Language Interpreters Act establishes a regulatory framework for the licensure of individuals who provide sign language interpretation services in the State. HB816/SB510 – Procurement – Minority Business Enterprises and Veteran-Owned Small Business Enterprises – Participation Goal Scorecard requires the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs (GOSBA) to develop a scorecard to evaluate State agencies on their performance toward meeting the State’s minority business enterprise participation goal and the veteran-owned small business enterprise goal.
I was proud to support three bills that recognize and honor the diversity of our communities and the contribution of each. HB1244/SB 842 – Maryland Holocaust Remembrance Day establishes January 27 as Maryland Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day of reflection, recollection, and determination for Maryland families, educators, religious communities, political bodies, and media to remember the human tragedy that is the Holocaust and (2) a pledge to spread the lessons and the reality of the Holocaust to future generations in an effort to ensure that we never forget and bear witness to the mass slaughter of human beings as a consequence of prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, and hate. HB370 – 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Day established March 9 as 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Day in recognition of the service of the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion during World War II. HB967 – General Provisions – Commemorative Days – Dashain Day establishes October 5 as Dashain Day, a festival originating in Nepal that celebrates and symbolizes victory of good over evil.
In another spirit (pun intended) HB178/SB 497 – State Designations – State Spirit – Maryland Rye designates Maryland Rye or Maryland Rye Whiskey as the State spirit. Given the fact that Maryland distillers are producing rye whiskey again, this designation presents an economic opportunity in the state.
BEYOND HEALTH AND GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS
The bills below are on the Governor’s desk and include a wide range of topics that are worth knowing about.
House Bill 556 – Cannabis Reform is a follow up from the voter affirmation in the 2022 passage of the referendum to make recreational cannabis legal in Maryland and creates an equitable licensing, tax and regulation framework for the new cannabis industry.
A number of bills were passed to provide for families economically and build the workforce of the future. HB547 – Family Prosperity Act of 2023 makes the expansion of Maryland Earned Income Tax Credit permanent and makes the Child Tax credit cover taxpayers with children 5 and under who have a federally adjusted gross income of $15,000 or less. HB552 Economic Development – Build Our Future Grant Pilot Program and Fund (Innovation Economy Infrastructure Act of 2023 establishes the Build Our Future Grant Pilot Program within the state Department of Commerce to better support technology projects, develop innovation infrastructure and bring needed jobs across the state. The program will leverage state dollars for grants to businesses, local governments, non-profits, and academic institutions for infrastructure and technology programs. HB546 – Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act of 2023 provides access and exposure to public service for young Marylanders by creating a service year option for high school graduates to work for community organizations and nonprofit groups. The program will serve as a springboard for participants to enter post-service year employment, higher education, or apprenticeships. This will create a lifelong culture of service in our young people and our communities across the state.
HB 200 Budget Bill (Fiscal Year 2024)
This year’s budget secures our state’s financial future while continuing to make critical investments in Maryland’s economy as well as our transportation, education, technological, infrastructure, and physical and behavioral health sectors to support working Marylanders and their families.
FY 24 Budget:
- funds continued cost of living raises so we can provide competitive salaries and recruit and retain great workers as we seek to rebuild state government and fill record vacancies across our state agencies;
- continues to make record investments in public education so every student has a chance to succeed;
- includes new behavioral health investments so we can better address the mental health crisis in Maryland;
- makes continued investments in enhancing the child tax credit and expanding other benefits that support Marylanders in need to lift families out of poverty and support our working families; and
- prioritizes the development and utilization of renewable energy and other important steps to reach our goal of a clean, sustainable environment.
HB016 – Hear Our Voices Act improves access to Title IX resources by requiring each public school to provide information to students, faculty, staff, and parents regarding who serves as the Title IX coordinator for the school, the process in place for filing a sexual misconduct complaint, and the support measures that are in place for filing a sexual misconduct complaint and how to access the support measures.
HB384/SB248 – Institutions of Higher Education – Transcripts – Prohibition on Punitive prevents colleges and universities from withholding transcripts because of outstanding debt.
HB448 – Nonpublic Education – Placements of Children with Disabilities – Teacher Salaries (Teacher Pay Parity Act) requires a nonpublic school in which a child receiving special education services is placed to pay its teachers a salary that is equivalent to the local school salaries, phased in as specified over three years, beginning in 2025.
HB770 – Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – Publicly Funded Prekindergarten, Maryland Consortium on Coordinated Community Supports, and Career Ladder – Alterations works to ensure that every child has access to high-quality prekindergarten by allowing homeless students, income eligible students with disabilities and income eligible students who come from a home in which English is not the primary spoken language to qualify for free full-day pre-K.
HB1219 – Maryland Educator Shortage Act of 2023 addresses the record vacancies in Maryland’s schools by establishing the Teacher Development and Retention Program as a pilot program to encourage college students to pursue teaching careers. The pilot program will help recruit more diverse teachers by providing stipends for students enrolled in a teacher preparation program at certain HBCUs.
SB959 – Higher Education – Maryland 529 Program – Reform transfers the administration of 529 program to the Treasurer. That includes all the duties of the existing board, the transfer of the employees – with all their benefits and seniority and all other powers and duties of the existing program and board. The bill also phases out the prepaid plan completely by prohibiting any new pre-paid accounts starting June 1.
H 410 – Election Reform Act protects historically disenfranchised communities by ensuring local boards of elections do not implement discriminatory consolidation and closures of in-person voting locations. This bill requires local boards to hold a public meeting before approving the change of a polling place location and to submit a polling place plan to the state board which requires the locals to show they follow current law on polling place placement and that the proposed plan will not harm historically disenfranchised communities.
HB535 Ballot Pre-processing and Curing improves the state’s election system by putting ballot curing and pre-processing into law and codifying important regulations that went into effect during the 2020 election to help make administration easier, such as requiring local boards to start ballot canvassing eight days before early voting and giving voters the opportunity to cure a missing signature up to ten days after Election Day.
HB012 – Equitable and Inclusive Transit-Oriented Development Enhancement Act furthers efforts to cut the cost of carbon emissions and address housing affordability and market expansion by prioritizing transit-oriented development (TOD).
HB169 Public Utilities – Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programs – Energy Performance Targets and Low-Income Housing ensures equity in our energy efficiency program by investing state and federal funds to support weatherization for low-income families who struggle most to pay their utility bills.
HB230/SB224 – Department of the Environment – Zero-Emission Medium-and-Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Regulations (Clean Trucks Act of 2023) reduces Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions by electrifying medium- and heavy-duty trucks in Maryland. The bill requires the Maryland Department of Environment to adopt the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule by the end of 2023, which sets requirements for vehicle manufacturers to sell an increasing annual percentage of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles – including electric trucks, delivery vans, and school buses – in the state beginning in Model Year 2027.
HB874 – Environment and Natural Resources Crime Unit establishes the Environment and Natural Resources Crime Unit within the Office of the Attorney General, to investigate and prosecute cases against those who commit crimes against the state’s environmental laws.
HB793/SB781 – Offshore Wind Energy – State Goals and Procurement (Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources Act) increases Maryland’s offshore wind capacity and directs the state to find solutions related to transmitting offshore energy to land. To support our transition to a clean energy economy, the rapid deployment of renewable energy and investments in infrastructure must be prioritized. This bill supports the expansion of offshore wind power by setting an offshore wind goal of 8.5 GW by 2031, initiating a state process to build coordinated transmission infrastructure, and investing in the full build-out of the existing offshore wind lease areas.
HB908 – Electricity – Community Solar Energy Generating Systems Program and Property Taxes establishes an equitable community solar program to increase access to renewable energy. Community-based, innovative solutions like community solar are critical to diversifying our energy portfolio. Makes the community solar pilot program permanent with equitable access to renewable energy.
HB775 – Public Safety – Emergency Management – Consumer Protections Against Price Gouging is an anti-price gouging bill, limiting non-seasonal price increases on essential goods and services to 15% during a state of emergency. The bill would also give the governor the power during a state of emergency to designate essential goods and services.
HB036 – Proof of Rental Licensure requires a landlord to have the rental license required by their county before they can go to court to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent, tenant holding over, or breach of lease. A landlord may be exempted from this requirement if they can show the court that the tenant is causing the lack of licensure or by administrative error.
HB151 – Notification of Rent Increase 151 requires a landlord to tell a tenant about an upcoming rent increase, 90 days in advance if the lease is for more than a month and 60 days in advance for a month-to-month lease.
HB1/SB686 – Civil Actions – Child Sexual Abuse – Definition, Damages, and Statute of Limitations (The Child Victims Act of 2023) removes the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Data shows that the average age a victim of child sexual abuse will come forward is between 50 and 70 years old. Removing that statute of limitations for child sexual abuse will allow those victims to get justice regardless of how much time has passed.
HB13 – Hate Crimes – Civil Remedy enables victims who have suffered hate crimes to bring a civil action against the person or persons who committed the act, even as hate crimes are dangerously increasing in Maryland and the nation.
HB824 – Public Safety – Regulated Firearms – Possession and Permits to Carry, Wear, and strengthens gun safety in Maryland by adjusting Maryland’s concealed-carry permitting process to include additional disqualifications to state law. Among other new requirements, HB 824 prohibits possession of a regulated firearm by a person who is younger than 21, a person who suffers from a “mental disorder” and has a history of violent behavior, or a person who has been involuntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days to a facility for treatment of a mental disorder. It also doubles the fees for a wear-and-carry permit, a renewal or subsequent application, and a duplicate or modified permit; these fees have not been increased since 1992.
SB001 – Criminal Law – Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting Firearms – Restrictions (Gun Safety Act of 2023) is a complementary bill to HB 824, which prohibits concealed carry weapons to be carried onto private property without the permission of the owner of the property as well as courthouses, hospitals, schools and areas where alcohol is served.
SB858 – Firearm Safety – Storage Requirements and Youth Suicide Prevention (Jaelynn’s Law) strengthens Maryland’s gun safety laws and reduces children’s unsupervised access to firearms. The bill also takes action to help prevent youth suicide by requiring the Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services to develop a youth suicide prevention and firearm safe storage guide.
TAXES AND BENEFITS
HB 2– Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Union Dues gives a tax deduction to Maryland workers paying union dues. This will ensure we put more money back into the pockets of working families.
SB 555 – Fair Wage Act accelerates Maryland’s $15/hr minimum wage so more workers can earn a living wage. It moves the state’s $15 minimum wage up from its January 1, 2025 timeline to January 1, 2024.
HB 502/SB 2 – Department of Human Services – Electronic Benefits Transfer Cards – Theft of Benefits (Prevent Electronic Benefits Theft Act of 2023) makes Maryland the first state in the country to reimburse fraud victims for stolen SNAP benefits. The bill requires the Department of Human Services to automatically restore the benefits of a SNAP recipient if shown that the benefits were lost due to theft.
HB 554/SB 554 – Income Tax – Subtraction Modification for Military Retirement Income (Keep Our Heroes Home Act) expands the state’s existing tax exemption for military retirement income to encourage more of our military veterans to retire here at home in Maryland. The legislation would eliminate the current age distinction and allow for the exemption of up to $25,000 for the taxable year beginning after December 31, 2022, and $40,000 for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2023.
HB 988/SB 828 – Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program – Modification implements the milestone legislation Time to Care Act for paid Family and Medical Leave that was passed last year. The critical modifications in this bill allow Maryland to begin providing the needed time off and partial wage recovery, through the state-administered insurance program (the FAMLI fund) funded by both employers and employees, that our workers and families need to care for their newborn children or ailing family members.
Please feel free to reach out to me during the intersession, with your thoughts, ideas, feedback and questions. You can reach me at BonnieCullison@house.state.md.us or 301–858–3883.
Have a wonderful spring!
All the best,