The 2023 Legislative Session has drawn to a close and brought with it substantial changes in State government as this is the first year since 2014 that Maryland is under single-party control. Governor Wes Moore’s budget and legislative agenda are a pointed departure from the last eight years. While I certainly do not agree with a number of these proposals, I have been able to find common ground. This includes tax relief for veterans, increased vocational education opportunities, and greater broadband access for rural communities. I am also pleased with the interest in local issues from the new administration, particularly with the progress at the Perry Point Veteran’s Village. I would like to thank Housing Secretary Jake Day and Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Anthony Woods for visiting the Village to meet with local stakeholders and formerly homeless vets.
As Chair of the Cecil County Delegation, we were able to pass important legislation at the request of local officials. In addition to updating outdated language for Cecil County’s membership in the Upper Shore Regional Council, we were successful in strengthening the forthcoming Port of Deposit State Park. After numerous discussions, we were able to preserve the Historic Tome School campus along with the Snow Hill antebellum free slave community and identify funding to conduct a Phase 1 archeological dig on the site and the adjacent conservation wooded area. It is important that we protect this parcel as a State Park to maintain open space, local history, and Cecil County’s natural beauty. After twenty plus years under lock and key, it is time to finally enjoy this outdoor treasure.
As a senior member of the Ways & Means Committee in my role as Deputy Minority Whip, we considered a variety of issues including education, election law, horse racing & gaming, and tax law. We were able to pass HB-554/SB-553 – Keep Our Heroes Home Act, which cuts taxes on retirement income for veterans. We also passed HB-551/SB-547, which will help with future broadband expansion in rural areas. I worked diligently to kill HB-119, which would have given radical powers to the State Board of Education to penalize County school systems and further erode local control over education curriculum. I voted NO on this misguided bill and it thankfully died in the Senate.
State Budget Highlights for Cecil County
-Port of Deposit State Park – $350,000
-Perryville American Legion Post 135 – $100,000
-Frenchtown Wharf Park, Elkton – $500,000
-NorthBay Outdoor Education – $502,232
-Cecil College Capitol Improvements – $1,150,000
-Elk Neck State Park Cabins & Shower Buildings – $4,038,000
General State Aid to Cecil County
-County/Municipal – $11,428,000
-Cecil Community College – $9,838,000
-Public Schools – $136,443,000
-Libraries – $951,000
-Health – $3,313,000
-Subtotal – $161,973,000
-Retirement – $14,493,000
-Total – $176,466,000
-Increase from FY 2023 – $20,002,000 (12.8%)
A full overview of the State FY24 Budget for Cecil County can be found by clicking here: https://kevinhornberger.org/…/cecil-county-fy24-state…/
The budget includes $8.7 billion in funding for K-12 education and caps in-state tuition increases at 2%. Approximately $200 million in tax relief is included in the budget, primarily for low-income families. The budget also includes $35 million for Maryland’s emergency medical systems and uses one-time cash to fund “pay-as-you-go” Capital projects rather than increase debt loads.
In terms of School Choice, Governor Moore’s budget cut funding for the BOOST program from $10 million to $8 million and included language to phase out the program. This program has helped numerous Maryland students leave failing public schools for better options at participating non-public schools. With the House GOP leading the charge to restore and save this program, BOOST ended up receiving $11.5 million in FY 2024, with $9 million going to scholarships and $2.5 million available to participating schools for safety, textbooks, nurses, and other school health expenses. This reflects a $1.5 million increase in funding for the program. Additionally, language that would have phased out the BOOST Program was removed because of our efforts. No child deserves to be stuck in a failing school.
I was able to pass statewide legislation on a variety of issues.
HB-791/SB-368 allows professional emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to participate in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System (LEOPS) if their employer elects to join LEOPS. This brings EMTs into the same posture as other medical first-responders already eligible for LEOPS. This bill was brought to us by first-responder constituents and received additional support from local municipal leaders.
HB-1249/SB-362 ensures that Maryland is utilizing already existing resources at the federal level for Community Behavioral Health Clinics CCBHCs to the greatest extent possible. This landmark legislation will lower cost for mental health and substance abuse recovery without burdening local tax dollars.
HB-149/SB-44 further streamlines electrician licensure following the comprehensive reform from previous years by making cross-jurisdictional work easier and clarifies insurance requirements for tradespeople working under the direction of a master electrician. It also allows for a shelved Master License with ability to reactivate later. This reform has been a seven-year effort!
Bad Bill – ALERT
SB 1, the so-called “Gun Safety Act of 2023” effectively bans the wearing and carrying of a firearm in Maryland, wearing and carrying at a private dwelling unless you have expressed permission from the property owner, sets up a de facto discrimination of renters from exercising their 2A rights without their landlord’s permission. It creates numerous locations where the wearing and carrying of a firearm is prohibited even if you possess a concealed carry permit! Some are traditional locations such as schools and government buildings, but the bill also creates “special purpose areas” that include areas such as amusement parks, stadiums, racetracks, video lottery facilities, museums, and anywhere that serves alcohol including restaurants. While the GOP was able to amend the bill to require intent before a criminal charge and allow for transit in vehicles, the broader bill is obviously a non-starter for me. I voted NO. This bill will be challenged in the court system and hopefully be struck down as unconstitutional with extreme prejudice.
It has been a privilege to serve as your delegate this session. More information on all the activities of the Maryland General Assembly can be found at https://mgaleg.maryland.gov. Our District 35 Team consists of Senator Jason Gallion, Delegate Mike Griffith, Delegate Teresa Reilly, and myself. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of our offices in the future should you need assistance. Thank you.