Education funding and leadership changes where the running threads that united the outlooks from the panelists on the 2020 General Assembly Forecast.
Delegate Eric Luedtke, House Majority Leader, dubbed the 2020 session as “the year of Maryland children.” He discussed the first three bills that will be introduced in the House. HB 1 the Build to Learn Act which will focus on school construction; HB 2 the Blue Print for Maryland’s Future the ever anticipated education funding bill; and HB 3 a bill to ban flavored vaping products in light of youth vaping.
Senator Stephen Hershey, Minority Whip espoused on the changes in the Senate. Noting that “committees are where the work gets done” he shared that there will be all-new chairs and vice-chairs in the Senate since the 2018 session. Transportation funding and implied preemption (one of MACo’s initiatives) as it applies to solar projects were also high on the list of policy concerns.
Delegate Jason Buckel, Chief Deputy Minority Whip, raised fiscal issues and criminal accountability. He shared that tax increases cannot be the solution to all of the state’s problems if we’d like businesses to succeed, thrive, and grow in Maryland. Acknowledging that there have been some concerns with tax credit programs in the state, he held that work should be done to address those problems rather than get rid of the programs altogether.
Keiffer Mitchell, Chief Legislative Officer for Governor Hogan shared highlights of the Governor’s agenda which included the recently announced $3.8B Building Opportunity Act of 2020 for school construction, the CLASS Act of 2020 for school accountability, and criminal justice reforms primarily in partnership with Baltimore City to reduce crime rates. Namely a push for more judicial transparency, protection against witness intimidation, and tougher penalties for the illegal possession of firearms.
When it came to Kirwan, each of the panelists acknowledged the difficulties ahead with satisfying all stakeholders. Hershey shared costs are likely to be higher than anticipated. Mitchell reiterated the Governors support better education policies but opposition for tax increases to fund it. Buckel noted that people raising concerns arent anti-teacher or anti-children, but that there are questions as to how to reach what is reasonable, logical, feasible with education funding. Luedkte stated that they will continue to work to find the best path forward for addressing the concerns from the smallest to the biggest counties.
The session was moderated by MACo President Baltimore City Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton and held on Friday, December 6, 2019.
The 2019 MACo Winter Conference, “Building for the Future,” was held on December 4-6, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.