2022 End of Session Letter
It is an absolute honor to represent Maryland’s District 30a in the legislature. I am so proud of what we have accomplished over the past two years. I am humbled to have been entrusted by my colleagues to take a more active leadership role, including leading the floor debate on a dozen bills, named as the Chair of the Education Subcommittee for the Anne Arundel County Delegation, and recently elected to the executive committee of the Maryland Women’s Caucus.
I treasure serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee where I’ve had the opportunity to work on so many critical issues. Our committee was assigned more bills than any other committee; from legislation to cut taxes and provide relief for Maryland families, to supporting our teachers, students, and parents through education policies, securing our elections, and ensuring elected officials are held accountable for campaign finance violations. I want to thank my fellow committee members, from both sides of the aisle, who I have worked with to pass well-informed, sound legislation that serves the needs of Marylanders.
This year, I was determined to pass legislation that would address the rise in crime we have seen in our communities. I voted for several measures that would not only address crime, but also the root causes of crime. I voted to help get “ghost guns” off our streets and to invest in behavioral health and public safety. I supported Republican Minority Leader Jason Buckel’s amendment on HB 425 that would have classified the theft of a firearm as a felony and established stricter penalties for this crime. We have seen too much crime and gun violence here in Annapolis and across the state. I believe it's past time that we take action against these criminals and acts of violence.
I sponsored thirteen bills, eight of which I’m proud to say passed the House, all with bipartisan support and some unanimously. We passed the largest tax cut package in state history that will provide $2 billion dollars of tax relief for retirees, Maryland families, and small businesses, which Governor Hogan hailed as, the “best session yet” of his eight years in office. As part of this historic tax relief the House introduced “Family Budget Boosters,” a package of six bills that brought targeted tax relief for families. I was the sponsor of two of the bills included in this package and co-sponsor on the other four. This package of bills will save Marylanders $300 million over the next five years. We also passed the Retirement Tax Elimination Act which would reduce, or in some cases remove, income tax for around 80% of Maryland’s retirees. This bipartisan agreement, which Governor Hogan described as “major and long-overdue relief” is a huge step in reducing the retiree tax burden.
In the pages to follow, I review this session’s highlights and accomplishments - including the nearly $60 million in state funding which I and my district mates, in coordination with the Governor, have secured for projects to better our district.
Funding For the District
This year, working with my fellow Delegation members, in coordination with the Governor’s Office, I helped to secure nearly $70 million in funding for the district. This includes $1,200,000 dedicated to the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation for the acquisition of Carrs and Sparrows Beach to preserve these historic properties, converting them into a state park where Marylanders can enjoy the outdoors while learning about their rich history. Additionally, we have secured funds for three dozen capital projects for numerous different community projects, including;
Crownsville Hospital Memorial Park ($26,000,000)
City Dock Stormwater & Flood Mitigation ($10,000,000)
Anne Arundel County Local Parks, ($5,350,000)
Historic Annapolis Restoration of the Brice House ($3,000,000) and an additional $970,000 for operating costs
Girl Scouts Central Maryland Camp Woodlands ($2,000,000)
Newtowne Community Resource Center ($1,500,000)
New Courts of Appeal Building in Annapolis ($830,000)
Truxtun Park Improvements ($700,000)
Stanton Community Center Renovation ($600,000)
Anne Arundel Medical Center ($600,000)
Aging Schools Program ($506,038)
The Summit School ($500,000)
South Shore Bike Trail ($500,000)
Moving Annapolis Utilities Underground ($500,000)
YWCA Trafficking Safe House ($350,000)
Monarch Academy Gym ($325,000)
Anne Arundel County Food Bank ($250,000)
Improvements to our local Maryland State Police Barrack ($232,000)
Sandy Point State Park Critical Maintenance Program ($180,000)
Annapolis Maritime Museum ($190,216)
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse ($150,000)
Highland Beach Community Pavilion ($125,000)
Hillsmere Shores Restoration ($109,000)
Anne Arundel County SPCA ($100,000)
The Annapolis Ancient City Lodge No. 175 ($100,000)
Upgrades to the Annapolis Middle School’s Athletic Facilities ($100,000)
Rise and Shine Bakery ($100,000)
The Annapolis Universal Lodge No. 14 ($100,000)
Wellness House of Annapolis ($100,000)
Acton’s Cove Park ($100,000)
Langton Green Community Farm ($100,000)
Woodside Gardens Track ($100,000)
Crownsville Hospital Patient Cemetery Memorial ($100,000)
Hammond-Harwood House Preservation/ Improvements ($75,000)
Supporting our Small Businesses & Non-profits
Disaster Relief - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
My bill, HB 386 would expand and streamline the ability of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County to distribute relief money to small businesses and nonprofits who are in need after a natural disaster. The critical need for this legislation became clear last fall when a EF-2 tornado tore through the district and dozens of businesses sustained devastating damage. Unlike the response to the floods of October 2021, there was not a State of Emergency declared. Therefore, Maryland was unable to receive FEMA assistance and counties were not able to distribute certain relief funds. HB 386 would fix the problems seen in the aftermath of the tornado by allowing the Anne Arundel Small Minority and Women-Owned Business Account (SMWOBA) fund manager to issue grants in the case of a *local* emergency declaration - rather than just in Federal or State.
Targeting Crime in our Community
Like many of you, I am heartbroken, angry, and devastated over the senseless gunfire that has shattered the lives of families in Annapolis over the past year. I have had, and continue to have, ongoing conversations with law enforcement and our local partners about how we can better protect our residents and I am committed to working with my colleagues here in the legislature to better address violent crime in our communities.
Regulating Ghost Guns - PASSED, Veto Override & Enacted into Law
HB 425 addresses untraceable “ghost guns” on our streets by closing the loophole that has allowed for this new unregulated firearm market to exist. I am both proud and frankly relieved that the Maryland House chose to take this step in addressing gun violence in our state to better the health and safety of our residents. I additionally supported Republican Minority Leader Jason Buckel’s amendment on HB 425 that would have classified the theft of a firearm as a felony and established stricter penalties for this crime. We have experienced too much crime and gun violence here in Annapolis and across the state. I believe it's past time that we take action against these acts of violence.
Enhanced Security for Firearms Dealers - PASSED, Veto Override & Enacted into Law
I joined my colleagues in voting for HB 1021 which requires firearm dealers to put common sense security features like video cameras, burglary systems and safes in their shops to prevent stolen firearms. These enhanced security measures will prevent stolen firearms from going on the black market and used to commit crimes.
Judicial Transparency and Police Accountability - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
SB 763 requires judicial transparency measures to be implemented by the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy. Specifically, the Commission must collect and publish information for sentences involving a crime of violence, which will ensure more accountability from our courts. Too many repeat offenders are released back on our streets.
Tracking Firearm Crimes - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
I supported SB 861 which establishes and funds the Maryland State Police Gun Center. This gun center is responsible for the statewide tracking, screening, and vetting of all firearm crimes committed in the State. This will give our state police the data they need to investigate all firearm crimes so that we can get more criminals off the street.
Behavioral Health & Public Safety - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY On the Governor’s Desk
We have unfortunately seen a sharp rise in crime and substance abuse across the country as a means of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulties it has brought. In response, I supported. HB 1018 which would give additional support to the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services to help bolster efforts in identifying and treating at-risk Marylanders. The bill will help to certify additional peer support specialists, provide additional funding for regional training workshops and behavioral health screenings, and improve behavioral health crisis responses to help save lives.
Expanding Tax Relief
Family Budget Boosters - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & Signed by Governor
Earlier this year Speaker Adrienne Jones, Majority Leader Eric Luedtke, and Chairwoman Vanessa Atterbeary, announced the Family Budget Boosters tax relief package to help bring relief to Maryland families. I sponsored two of the six bills in this package; My bill HB 282 exempts diapers from sales taxes while, HB 288 for whom I partnered with Delegate Brian Crosby, exempts baby car seats, bottles & baby bottles accessories from sales tax. This package of bills for which I was the co-sponsor on the remaining four, will save Marylanders $300 million over the next five years in targeted tax relief.
Retirement Tax Elimination Act - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & Signed by Governor
I was so eager to support HB 420/SB 405, a bipartisan bill to bring overdue tax relief for retirees aged 65 and older making up to $100,000 in retirement income (or $150,000 for married couples). This bill will provide 80% of Maryland retirees substantial tax relief, and in some cases, no state income tax at all, providing $1.55 billion in relief.
Motor Fuel Taxes, Tax–Free Period - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & Signed by Governor
I co-sponsored HB 1486 which made Maryland the first state in the nation to suspend the motor fuel tax. Maryland families are suffering from sky-high gasoline prices. This legislation provided $93.6 million in relief to help Marylanders get through this tumultuous time as we allow gas prices to stabilize.
Supporting our Law Enforcement Officers - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY in the House - Ran out of Time Finding a Consensus with Senate
My bill, HB 285, expands an existing benefit to disabled Federal agents. Many counties, including Anne Arundel, already extended this benefit to State Officers injured on the job. This bill would add Federal job series: 0083 and 1811 which encompasses officers in the U.S. Capitol Police, ATF, CIA, NIH, USPS, the Supreme Court Police, Pentagon Police – just to name a few. Last year, we watched in horror as insurrectionists stormed the Capital. The only thing that stopped these violent actors from reaching our elected officials and staff was the heroic actions taken by our Capitol Police Officers and Metropolitan Police. I believe extending this property tax credit to disabled Federal agents shows how we value these Federal officers from Maryland, their families & their dedication to our country. It shows our intent on retaining these brave men and women in Maryland as neighbors, community members & heroes.
E-Z Pass Terms and Conditions - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & On the Governor’s Desk
Throughout the past year, many constituents have contacted the office concerned with E-Z Pass billing problems. Some individuals were charged hundreds or thousands of dollars over what they should have been paying. HB 335 will alter the terms and conditions for E-Z Pass accounts, allowing a person to dispute charges or fees up to at least three years after the charge or fee is posted to the account.
Supporting Our Schools, Our Students, and Parents
Time to Care Act - Family & Medical Leave - PASSED, Veto Override & Enacted into Law
No one should have to choose between the job they need and the family they love. That is why I was eager to support SB 275 which established a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, enabling workers to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave for family circumstances such as caring for sick relatives or having a baby. It would provide up to 24 weeks for a parent, if they had a serious health issue in the year of a child’s birth.
Maryland Student Investment Act - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
In addition to supporting Blueprint funding, I supported HB 734, the Maryland Student Investment Act, which will help expand access to higher education. It makes college more affordable for Maryland students by increasing funding to the State’s financial aid program. I think this is a commonsense step for Maryland as we continue to invest in our higher education system.
School Bus Driver Wage Study - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
For years, local school boards have struggled to recruit and retain an adequate number of school bus drivers to ensure our students have reliable transportation to school. Many of you felt the impact of this school year when school bus drivers left their jobs for higher-paying positions with companies like Amazon and UPS. In response, I introduced HB 753 to alleviate the challenges of hiring qualified bus drivers. This bill will help local jurisdictions identify issues related to school bus driver wages so they can make more informed decisions about how to attract and retain these desperately needed employees, and will help ensure all students have access to safe and reliable transportation to and from school.
School Bus Capacity - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY in the House
HB 283, a reintroduction of my school bus safety bill from last year, would require school buses to be routed with the intent that the number of students on the bus does not exceed the manufacturer's rated capacity. This commonsense bill passed the House nearly unanimously the past two years.
Expanding Childcare - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
With childcare costs soaring, I was happy to support HB 89, the Child Care Stabilization and Child Care Expansion Grant Programs, which prioritizes child care providers most in need for the State’s $50 million stabilization grant. This legislation will allow child care providers most in need a better opportunity to take advantage of the grant this fiscal year. I supported four additional bills that will help expand access to childcare and support staff including:
HB 725 - Children - Therapeutic Child Care Grant Program - Establishment
HB 993 - Child Care Capital Support Revolving Loan Fund
HB 995 - Early Childhood Development - Child Care Scholarship Program
HB 1100 - Child Care Providers and Employees - Bonuses
Making Voting More Accessible
This Session, as a member of the Election Law Subcommittee, I sponsored three election bills; removing limited restrictions on polling locations, raising the pay for election judges, and strengthening our campaign finance laws.
Expanding Polling Locations - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & On the Governor’s Desk
HB 328 is a bill that would help our state and local boards of election make voting more accessible to voters by removing outdated restrictions on locations that can be used for polling locations.
Strengthening Campaign Finance - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
HB 340 would strengthen our campaign finance laws and give prosecutors the tools they need to hold politicians and contributors who maliciously break the law accountable.
Fair Wages for Election Judges - Ran out of Time Finding a Consensus
HB 327 would raise the daily wages for election judges. Ensuring that our election judges are paid a minimum wage is the least we can do for those who facilitate the very foundation of our democracy. I was proud to have the support of Attorney General Brian Frosh and agree with his statement that “Election judges stand at the front lines of democracy; their work makes it possible.” Unfortunately, we did not reach a compromise in time with HB 327, but I will reintroduce it next year to ensure that we compensate those administering the very foundation of our democratic process.
Protecting Voting Rights - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & On the Governor’s Desk
In addition to my own bills, I supported SB 158 which requires the State and local boards of elections to provide at least the same number of in-person polling locations as the 2018 election. This emergency legislation was in response to attempts made by local boards of elections to conduct a consolidation of polling places, and was needed to prevent any chance of voter suppression. While states across the country have experienced anti-democracy legislation in recent years, Maryland will continue to be a leader and ensure equal access to the ballot and expand voting opportunities.
Ballot Initiative: Legalizing Cannabis - PASSED, Veto Override & Enacted into Law
I supported HB 1 which puts a referendum for legalizing cannabis for individuals 21 or older on the 2022 General Election ballot, allowing you the voter to decide. Additionally, I supported HB 837 which addresses criminal justice and public health issues facing legalization while building the necessary foundation to create social equity in the recreational cannabis industry. This bill automatically expunges the conviction of anyone previously found guilty of simple possession of marijuana, giving individuals an opportunity to help them regain critical access to housing and economic opportunity.
Protecting our Environment
Climate Solutions Now Act -PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
I supported SB 528, the Climate Solutions Now Act. This landmark legislation strengthens Maryland’s commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change by setting achievable goals to reduce greenhouse gasses and meet the goal of net-zero statewide emissions by 2045. This bill proves that Maryland is a national leader when it comes to addressing climate change.
Great Maryland Outdoors Act - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & On the Governor’s Desk
Our State Parks here in Maryland are a treasured resource that are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people each year (including my family and I!). This was highlighted during the pandemic when the public use of and demand for parks increased dramatically. I joined several of my colleagues in co-sponsoring HB 727, the Great Maryland Outdoors Act. This will be the largest investment in our State Parks in Maryland history. The bill addresses overcrowding & understaffing at our parks, addresses the deep backlog of critical repairs, and helps create new State parks - like Carr’s Beach here in D30a!
Invasive and Native Plants - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & On the Governor’s Desk
English Ivy and other invasive plant species are choking Maryland’s native trees, threatening farmland’s, and degrading our natural biodiversity. HB 15, which I was a cosponsor of, requires a necessary update to Maryland’s list of invasive plants, requires a public listing of native species, and prioritizes the use of native plants in public projects.
Ensuring Access to Clean Water - PASSED & On the Governor’s Desk
Access to clean water is an important fundamental right that should be granted to each and every resident. Unfortunately, Maryland has not always done the best job at ensuring this right. That is why I supported HB 649 which gives the Maryland Department of the Environment the tools to improve the water pollution inspection process and end “zombie” permits - water discharge permits that have expired but continue to be used. This will prevent water pollution, ensure the safety of the state’s drinking water system, and prevent water contamination issues seen in places like Flint, Michigan.
Addressing the Conowingo Dam & Taking on Exelon - In the Courts
The Conowingo Dam has not been properly maintained for years, resulting in frequent overflows that release massive amounts of harmful nutrients and dangerous debris into the Bay. We saw this here in the district in 2018 when dangerous debris overwhelmed our shorelines and left waterways unnavigable. Unfortunately, the recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license allows Exelon to continue to operate the Dam without having to adequately address the ecological impacts, leaving Maryland taxpayers to foot the bill. What's worse is that as part of this license, Maryland has waived its clean water rights for the next 50 years, forfeiting over $8.5 billion. This January, I joined three other colleagues in signing onto an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit challenging the FERC decision. I look forward to continuing to fight for what's right and holding private corporations accountable.
Fighting for Equality
Reproductive Health Care Access - PASSED, Veto Override & Enacted into Law
While the right to abortion has been Maryland law since 1992, more than two-thirds of Maryland counties don't have an abortion provider. Qualified providers are prevented from providing abortion care due to outdated language, and across the state, Marylanders are forced to pay out of pocket or seek third-party funding systems to pay for their healthcare. That is why I co-sponsored HB 937, which expands access by lifting restrictions on qualified abortion providers, dedicates funding for health care professionals who want to train in abortion care, and ensures that insurance covers abortion for Marylanders without cost-sharing. With this bill’s passage, Maryland will be the 15th state to allow trained medical practitioners to provide abortion care which is nearly identical to the miscarriage management care these healthcare professionals are already providing in Maryland. There was no opposition to this bill from the public health community, provider groups, state agencies or insurance carriers. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and its Maryland chapter strongly support the bill. The House voted to pass HB 937 with a vote of 89-47 and then later overrode the Governor’s veto of this legislation 90-46. While other states are severely limiting women's healthcare, this Session, Maryland chose to expand it.
Additionally, I supported HB 1171 which would have put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot that would guarantee reproductive liberty in Maryland’s Constitution. Enshrining reproductive liberty in Maryland’s Constitution would ensure that access to reproductive health care can never be negotiated or bargained for. Although the Constitutional Amendment passed in the House, it did not receive a vote in the Senate and will not be on the ballot in November.
Restoration of Honor Act - PASSED in the House & On the Governor’s Desk
Nearly 13,000 service members were discharged during the 17 years the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in place. These military service men and women who were forced to leave the military due to their sexual orientation were not given the dignity of an honorable discharge. HB 1380 would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to adopt regulations to determine whether an individual qualifies as an honorably discharged Veteran. This will ensure that service members who were discriminated against by this policy are able to take advantage of State programs of benefits, rights, and privileges applicable to veterans.
Standing with Ukraine
We have watched in horror and disbelief as Russia has carried out its invasion of Ukraine. This Session, Maryland leaders joined together for a vigil at the State House to stand in solidarity with the country and people of Ukraine. Later, I joined my colleagues in passing House Joint Resolution 8, which declares that the State of Maryland stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine as they resist the unprovoked invasion of their country by the Russian Federation and encourages all Marylanders to assist as they are able in providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine affected by this conflict.
Divestment From Russia - PASSED UNANIMOUSLY & On the Governor’s Desk
I joined my colleagues in co-sponsoring legislation that takes a stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. HB 1482 aids in the process of divesting our state's pension system from Russian assets. I'm proud that the General Assembly took this step to support Ukraine.
With the 444th legislative session behind us, I am looking forward to spending time again engaging directly with you in our community. I will be attending many community events over the next few months, and I will be hosting several public forums in communities throughout the district to give constituents an opportunity to tell us about the issues which matter most to them! You can see our ever-changing schedule of events by going to my website at www.danajones30a.com where I will be adding events weekly.
It is an absolute honor to represent you during this historic session, and I hope to see you around the district soon. Please feel free to sign up for my newsletter via my social media pages or my website and stay in touch with me throughout the year. If you need constituent assistance, please do not hesitate to call or email the office at 410-841-3211 or Dana.Jones@house.state.md.us.
Stay safe & healthy,
Delegate Dana Jones