2023 End of Session Letter
It is an amazing privilege to represent Maryland’s District 30A in the legislature, and this year we have accomplished so much for the District and our State. As I serve you in the General Assembly, my promise to you continues to be driven by my steadfast commitment to promoting, fighting, and advocating for the needs of our community. I’m proud to say that the Speaker’s Office and my fellow colleagues have entrusted me with several new leadership positions. This Session I was appointed to the Appropriations Committee, and to Vice Chair the Sub-Committee on Health and Social Services. Additionally, my colleagues in Anne Arundel County voted me Vice Chair of the County Delegation, my fellow women legislatures elected me First Vice President of the Women’s Caucus, and the Speaker appointed me to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review. These positions will allow me to continue to serve the District more effectively, as you will see in the report below on this 445th legislative session.
This session, as a new member of the Appropriations Committee, I hit the ground running by guiding legislation and participating in budget hearings determining priorities for the State’s Health and Social Service programs and pension system. These policy areas include fully funding some of our State’s most critical departments, including: the Departments of Health, Aging, Medicaid, and the law enforcement pension systems. I want to thank my fellow committee members, from both sides of the aisle, who I have worked with to pass the budget in addition to well-informed, fiscally responsible, and sound legislation that serves the needs of all Marylanders. I also want to thank Governor Moore, who worked closely with my Committee, to pass a budget that meets the needs of our communities and moves Maryland forward while also maintaining healthy cash reserves and a robust Rainy Day Fund.
In the pages to follow, I review this session’s highlights and accomplishments - including the 8 of 14 bills I sponsored which passed the House, and some of the 60 bills I co-sponsored. In addition, I will break down the $27,290,000 million in funding which I and our Senator, in coordination with the Governor, have secured for projects to better the infrastructure and economy of this district. This session was a huge step in safeguarding rights, our safety, and economic security, as The Baltimore Banner described: “...lawmakers have strengthened access to reproductive health care, rewritten rules for carrying guns, raised the minimum wage and created a legal marijuana industry with an eye toward redressing historic injustices from the war on drugs…”.
I was proud to partner and co-sponsor ten critical pieces of legislation with Governor Moore to deliver for our state.
· The SERVE Act will create a first-in-the-nation service year option to boost volunteering among young people to give back to our communities;
· Family Prosperity Act tackles child poverty by permanently extending the Earned Income Tax Credit;
· Fair Wage Act which will raise the minimum wage in the State to $15 an hour benefitting 160,000 workers;
· Innovation Economy Infrastructure Act will provide grants to entrepreneurs to break into new modern industries to help boost the economy;
· Maryland Educator Shortage Act of 2023 will help train, recruit, and retain highly trained educators for our schools and child care facilities as well as help provide better behavior health services to students;
· Office of Statewide Broadband - Study of Broadband Expansion Incentives will be essential to developing data-driven policies to ensure that we close the digital divide in all communities;
· Access to Banking Act will expand access to capital and financial services for individuals and small businesses in low-income communities across the state;
· Clean Transportation and Energy Act takes on one of the largest contributors to climate change, transportation-related emissions, that has a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable residents;
· Healthcare for Heroes Act and Keep our Heroes Home Act provides Veterans under fifty-five with the largest State tax cut in a generation and cuts health care costs for members of the Maryland National Guard.
We crafted and passed a balanced budget that includes $122 million to aid local police departments; $40 million will go toward State support for crime victim services of domestic violence, rape, and other crimes; $160 million toward supporting State parks and forests; $60 million toward Chesapeake Bay restoration; and almost $200 million reserved for tax relief including funding for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and new tax cuts for Veterans.
Funding For the District
Anne Arundel County Joint 911 Center ($10,000,000)
Crownsville Hospital Memorial Park ($5,000,000)
Historic Annapolis ($3,000,000)
Annapolis City Dock Flood Mitigation ($3,000,000)
AACO Food Bank ($200,000)
Woodland Beach Volunteer Fire Department ($1,000,000)
South Shore Park ($1,000,000)
Anne Arundel County Trails ($1,000,000)
AAMC Adult Behavioral Health Suite ($863,000)
Anne Arundel Community College Florestano Building ($720,000)
Hospice of the Chesapeake ($300,000)
Chesapeake Bay Trust Green Campus ($250,000)
Charles “Hoppy” Adams Jr. House Restoration - Annapolis ($145,000)
Anne Arundel County FairGrounds ($152,000)
Stanton Community Center Water Access Dock ($100,000)
William Paca Garden ADA Accessibility ($100,000)
The Bernie House - domestic violence transitional housing ($100,000)
Peerless Rens ($75,000)
Naval Academy Primary School - NAPS ($75,000)
Annapolis Dragon Boat Foundation ($55,000)
Elks Camp Barrett ($50,000)
Chesapeake Bay Foundation ($50,000)
Eastport Veterans Park ($30,000)
HoopBus - Non-Profit Youth Engagement Bus ($25,000)
Delegate Jones’ Legislation - Passed this Session
Library Funding: PASSED Unanimously & on the Governor’s Desk. The library system is a core part of communities across the State, HB 276 will ensure that library funding continues past FY 2027, and safeguards that our libraries are supported with the resources necessary to adequately provide the services that our residents need and deserve.
Tax Relief for Disabled Federal Officers: PASSED Unanimously & on the Governor’s Desk. For two years, I have worked tirelessly with my constituents to expand property tax credits to our disabled Federal Law enforcement officers, and I am proud to say HB 508 has passed and is on the Governor's Desk. This bill will require a county or municipality to define who is a disabled law enforcement officer or rescue worker to expand an already existing tax credit to disabled federal officers. It shows our intent on retaining these brave men and women in Maryland as neighbors, community members, and heroes.
City of Annapolis - Art Establishment Alcoholic Beverages License: Passed Unanimously, on the Governor's Desk. I was proud to sponsor HB 520, which creates an “Arts Establishment” beer and wine license for our non-profit arts organizations in Annapolis – this will save our cherished art establishments, like Maryland Hall, staff time and money which will allow them to host more programming and events for our community.
State Disaster Recovery Fund: Passed and on the Governor's Desk. I’m proud to have worked with the Governor's Office and my partner Senator Elfreth to pass HB 789/SB 650, which creates a disaster recovery fund under the Maryland Department of Emergency Management that will allow City & County Emergency Management to respond more efficiently & rapidly to local disasters. The critical need for this legislation became clear when an EF-2 tornado tore through the district and dozens of businesses sustained devastating damage.
State Administrator of Elections - Term, Vacancy in Office, and Removal From Office: Passed Unanimously and on the Governor's Desk. At present, the State Board of Elections Administrator is appointed to a lifetime term. This arrangement lacks the fundamental accountability needed for any important public office - and is the only office that benefits from a lifetime appointment. I am proud to have partnered with Senator Kagan to sponsor HB 899/SB 863 that reforms the terms of removal for the State Board of Elections Administrator to establish that no one has a lifetime appointment in Maryland, and can be held accountable.
Election Judges Minimum Compensation: Passed with Bipartisan support, on the Governor's Desk.
For multiple elections cycles, we have seen counties across the State struggle to find the required amount of election judges needed to properly run our Democracy. HB 1200 strengthens the backbone of our elections by raising the minimum compensation for our election officials. Considering the significant responsibility and importance of our State’s election judges, we must do better to incentivize and retain them.
Student Telehealth Appointments Access: Passed House, but ran out of time in the Senate. Over the summer, teachers, students, parents, and advocates all came to me asking how to address the issue of telehealth access in our public schools. Currently, it is the policy that students must be signed out of school by parents in order for them to access their telehealth appointments. This arrangement is inequitable, unnecessary, and reduces seat hours. In response, I sponsored HB 878, which ensures our middle and high school students are able to access telehealth services in schools, improving mental health and increasing instructional time. I was thrilled to see this bill pass the House, but unfortunately ran out of time in the Senate. I am looking forward to introducing this critical bill again next Session.
Road Safety - Bicycles, Play Vehicles and Unicycles: Passed House, but ran out of time in the Senate. Tragically, bicyclists continue to be at serious risk on Maryland roadways. Just recently, our community heard the devastating news that a local grandfather died when he was struck while riding his bike home from work. To help address this issue, I sponsored HB 519 that amends State law to allow bikes to ride safely on our sidewalks, unless prohibited by local authority - thus, protecting our children and bikers from these common, preventable, and often deadly accidents.
Declaration of Rights – Right to Reproductive Freedom. HB 705, for which I was the co-sponsor of - the Reproductive Freedom Constitutional Amendment, establishes a constitutional right to abortion and other reproductive health care. It allows Maryland voters to decide in 2024 whether the fundamental right to reproductive freedom should be enshrined in our state constitution, which is the highest level of protection that we can give to Marylanders in the wake of the devastating U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer which overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Public Senior Higher Education Institutions – Reproductive Health Services Plans - Requirements. I was so proud to support HB 477 that focuses on reproductive services at higher education institutions. It requires these institutions in the state, in consultation with their students, to develop and implement a reproductive health services plan. The plan would be designed to refer students to a broad range of reproductive health services, either on-campus or off-campus. Universities and Colleges would be required to provide 24-hour access to over-the-counter contraception.
Health – Reproductive Health Services – Protected Information and Insurance Requirements. I was proud to vote for HB 812, which shields medical records involving reproductive health services. It provides additional privacy protections for medical records relating to abortion services that are legal in the state of Maryland. The bill will protect patients’ reproductive healthcare data from being used in criminal prosecution or civil litigation outside of the state.
Reproductive Health Protection Act. Another critical bill which I supported, HB 808, protects out-of-state patients seeking legally protected abortion care in Maryland. The bill prohibits the court from requiring a person to give testimony or a statement or produce evidence for a case involving an alleged violation of the criminal law of another state relating to abortion care in Maryland.
Civil Actions - Child Sexual Abuse - Definition, Damages, and Statute of Limitations (The Child Victims Act of 2023). House Bill 1 removes the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Data shows that the average age a victim of childhood 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. The Attorney General’s report on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore was released April 2023. This legislation is critical to all the victims of our state, so that they have an opportunity to hold these abusers accountable.
Hate Crimes – Civil Remedy. HB 13 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. Thirty-three states currently have civil action (civil remedy) as part of their hate crime law, and Maryland is overdue to join them.
Public Safety – Regulated Firearms – Possession and Permits to Carry, Wear, and Transport a Handgun. HB 824 strengthens gun safety in Maryland by adjusting Maryland's concealed-carry permitting process to include additional disqualifications to state law. The bill complies with last summer’s Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, which struck down Maryland’s requirement that concealed carry permits could only be obtained by individuals with a special safety need. 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.
Criminal Law - Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting Firearms - Restrictions (Gun Safety Act of 2023). Senate Bill 1 makes communities safer by limiting the circumstances where firearms can be concealed-carried. The bill tightens Maryland state gun laws in an effort to combat gun violence and in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision that rendered some existing Maryland gun laws unconstitutional. It makes the licensing process for wear and carry permits stricter, prohibits an individual from knowingly wearing, carrying or transporting a firearm on private property without consent, and prohibits guns in certain locations, including courthouses, hospitals, schools and areas where alcohol is served.
Firearm Safety - Storage Requirements and Youth Suicide Prevention (Jaelynn's Law). Senate Bill 858 strengthens Maryland’s gun safety laws and reduces children’s unsupervised access to firearms. The bill enhances the penalty for violating the state’s safe storage laws and increases the age restricting unsupervised minors to possess or have access to loaded firearms from 16 to 18. 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.
SB 185 / HB 3 Maryland State Police Gun Center – Firearms Surrendered Under Final Protective Orders. Enabling the Maryland State Police Gun Center to track firearms surrendered under peace orders. This will allow the State Police to collect data on adherence to the requirement, which will allow the police and the legislators to develop more effective policy based on data.
Protecting our Environment
Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act of 2023. House Bill 6 requires the Department of General Services to develop and periodically update standards for energy conservation in State buildings in order to decrease energy use. The bill requires that newly constructed buildings that are undergoing major renovations, and buildings that are over 50% state-owned are compliant with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Pesticide Regulation - PFAS Testing - Study. A growing body of research shows the significant negative health effects of PFAS chemicals, including increased risk of cancer, changes to liver function, and decreases in infant birth weights. Maryland must address the wide-spread use of these chemicals in pesticides and determine the best way to limit their use. That is why I was proud to support HB 319 that will study the impact of PFAS chemicals, certify methods for testing, and efforts to regulate and ban these dangerous “forever” chemicals.
Offshore Wind Energy – State Goals and Procurement (Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources Act). House Bill 793 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.
Electricity – Community Solar Energy Generating Systems Program and Property Taxes. HB 908 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.
Animal Testing and Research - Human-Relevant Research Funding. Maryland should be proud of both its investments in biotech industries, and strong animal welfare protections. That’s why I was proud to support HB 626, which creates a fund to encourage the development of human-relevant research technologies that do not rely on animal testing. This bill provides an opportunity for Maryland to invest in an emerging scientific field, while helping to end abusive animal testing practices.
Department of the Environment – Zero-Emission Medium-and-Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Regulations (Clean Trucks Act of 2023). House Bill 230 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 this year, 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.
HOV Lanes-Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicles. House Bill 123 extends the state program allowing owners of zero-emission vehicles to buy tags to drive in the HOV lane. This will help encourage more consumers to buy electric and cut carbon emissions.
Clean Transportation and Energy Act. I was a proud co-sponsor of HB 550, which is a step in the right direction to electrifying transportation and creating climate friendly transportation infrastructure. This legislation expands commercial truck electrification by increasing the grant fund to $10,000,000 to pay for up to 75% of the cost difference of buying a zero-emission truck versus a conventional model. The bill also increases the electric vehicle charging rebate program from $1.8M to $2.5M to encourage more businesses and individuals to install charging infrastructures at their businesses or homes.
Natural Resources – Forest Preservation and Retention Passed the House. House Bill 723 modernizes our forest preservation strategy, updating forest goals and definitions to provide clarity and to reflect new data. The bill stipulates that all development projects must proceed with no net loss of trees and reauthorizes the practice of forest mitigation banking to achieve this goal. It also ensures local governments significantly greater flexibility to pursue solutions that meet local needs.
Economy - Expanding Tax Cuts – Wages
Fair Wage Act. I was a co-sponsor of The Fair Wage Act, which accelerates Maryland’s $15/hr minimum wage. It moves the state’s $15 minimum wage up from its January 1, 2025 timeline to January 1, 2024. The Fair Wage Act will increase wages for approximately 163,000 Maryland workers, benefitting 120,000 children in Maryland.
Family Prosperity Act of 2023. I was proud to co-sponsor House Bill 547 which will reduce childhood poverty and help Maryland families by making the 2021 expansion of Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) permanent. It expands the state’s Child Tax Credit to cover taxpayers with children 5 and under who have a federally adjusted gross income of $15,000 or less. The bill retains the existing credit for children older than 6, which only applies to children with disabilities and removes the $530 cap for adults without qualifying children. I’m thankful to the Governor for making Maryland’s working-class families a top priority of his legislative agenda.
Economic Development – Build Our Future Grant Pilot Program and Fund (Innovation Economy Infrastructure Act of 2023. House Bill 552, for which I co-sponsored, 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. The bill pairs with the existing Innovation Investment Tax Credit (IITC) and Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit (BIITC) to expand access to capital and bring about significant tech-driven investment in Maryland.
Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act of 2023. I was pleased to co-sponsor House Bill 546 that 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. The service year option will incorporate a flexible design to allow for programs that appeal to a broad spectrum of young people with a wide range of career interests.
Financial Regulation - Maryland Community Investment Venture Fund - Establishment (Access to Banking Act). House Bill 548, that I co-sponsored, incentivizes banks to stay in low to moderate income neighborhoods, provide better access to banking and establish and retain new business. The Governor’s bill establishes the Maryland Community Investment Venture Fund to develop opportunities for banking institutions and credit unions to better serve needs of low- to moderate-income areas and encourage private investment.
Cannabis Reform. HB 556 creates an equitable licensing, tax and regulation framework for the new cannabis industry. The bill incorporates the best recreational cannabis practices from other states and learned lessons from the Maryland medical cannabis implementation. The legislation allows license seekers to apply for the combined medical and recreational adult-use licenses. It includes a low tax rate that will help discourage an illicit market while still helping fund support for social equity applicants and traditionally disenfranchised communities. It also creates a more equitable application process to give those who were disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, an equal opportunity to compete for licensees.
Supporting Education and Families
Higher Education - Maryland 529 Program – Reform. For months I’ve been appalled as I’ve personally spoken to dozens of families who have shared how they have been impacted by the unacceptable failure of the Maryland 529 Board. As a member of the House Appropriation Committee, we held the first hearings to get to the bottom of the collapse of leadership. Senate Bill 959 reforms the Maryland 529 Prepaid College Trust Program to address the program’s ongoing issues. The legislation abolishes the Maryland 529 Board, moves oversight of its programs to the Maryland State Treasurer, and phases out the troubled Prepaid College Trust. It also includes a claims process for those who were impacted and takes effect June 1, 2023. Please note, the Maryland 529 College Investment Plan has had no problems and is still a great way to save for college.
Trans Health Equity Act. As a proud co-sponsor, I was thrilled to see this legislation pass. HB 283 ensures Maryland Medicaid offers the same comprehensive healthcare coverage to the transgender community as private insurers already do! HB 283 reduces the significant health inequities for low-income Marylanders in the transgender community who do not have private commercial insurance, and it prevents state officials from interfering with the patient-provider and/or patient-parent-provider relationship. This is low cost, high impact, legislation which will increase mental wellbeing, reduces suicide, and save lives.
Blueprint for Maryland's Future - Publicly Funded Prekindergarten. HB 770 works to achieve the goals of the Blueprint to ensure that every child has access to high-quality prekindergarten. It expands access to full-day prekindergarten for more students in need 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 Prekindergarten.
Maryland Educator Shortage Act of 2023. I was excited to co-sponsor HB 1219, which addresses the record vacancies in Maryland’s schools by establishing the Teacher Development and Retention Program as a pilot initiative 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 course at certain HBCUs. The bill also enhances existing programs to recruit and retain new educators, including expanding existing teacher scholarships and reforming the way we qualify childcare providers.
Young Readers Program Act of 2023. HB 243 moves the Baltimore City Young Readers Program and the Young Readers Matching Grant Program to the State Library Agency. Additionally, it increases the appropriation for the statewide Young Readers Grant Matching Program which sends a free book every month to children under 5 to enhance reading, literacy and learning readiness at home to families that opt into the program.
Institutions of Higher Education – Transcripts. HB 384 prevents colleges and universities from withholding transcripts because of outstanding debt. Withholding transcripts prevents students from getting jobs or submitting applications to further their education. This bill will allow us to find fairer practices for recovering student debt.
Nonpublic Education - Placements of Children with Disabilities - Teacher Salaries Teacher Pay Parity Act. HB 448 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. These teachers are public school funded and should be paid the same salary as their counterparts who teach in public schools.
Supporting Service and our Veterans
Health Care for Heroes Act of 2023. Supporting the men and women that protect our country is one of the most important priorities we have in the Legislature. That is why I co-sponsored the cross-file of Senate Bill 554 that reimburses members of the National Guard for their health and dental premiums up to $60 dollars per month. This first-in-the-nation program will support our National Guard members and is an important recruitment and retention tool for service members.
Subtraction Modification for Military Retirement Income (Keep Our Heroes Home Act). I was a proud co-sponsor of HB 554 that 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. Currently, retirees under age 55 may exempt up to $5,000 of military retirement income and retirees over age 55 may exempt up to $15,000. The legislation would eliminate the 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.
With the 445th legislative session behind us, I am looking forward to spending time again engaging directly with you in our community. As I have said many times, I don’t take this responsibility lightly or casually. As I carry out my work for you everyday, my motivation and mission is always the same - how can we continue to strengthen the amazing community we all live in. I pledge to continue working in the best interests of the entire district, as I have for the last three years.
I will be attending community events throughout the interim, and I hope to see you around the district soon. You can see our ever-changing schedule of events by going to my website at www.danajones30a.com or my social media (that you can find via my website) where I will be adding events regularly.
To stay up to date on the happenings here in the district, sign up for my newsletter via my website and please stay in touch with me throughout the year! If you need constituent assistance, 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