With a week left in Maryland’s General Assembly session, several key issues are still unsettled. But many others have been decided, and winners and losers have emerged. Here’s who came out on top — and who didn’t — in Annapolis this year.
It’s no secret in Maryland politics that when Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch both want something, they get it.
This year was no different. The Democratic leaders in January announced their seven top priorities — ranging from raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour to banning foam food containers — and all of their proposals have either already passed or likely will before the session ends next week.
The Maryland State Education Association
In March, the state teachers’ union brought an estimated 7,000 people to Annapolis to rally for more education funding.
State lawmakers are listening. In the final week of the session, the General Assembly is expected to pass a bill to increase funding for educational programs in public schools by $1 billion over the next two years and green-light a plan to provide $2.2 billion in bond money for school construction.
A record 72 women are serving in the General Assembly this year and glass ceilings are being shattered. Women now serve as chairs of both powerful budget committees: Baltimore Del. Maggie McIntosh in House Appropriations and Montgomery County Sen. Nancy King in Senate Budget and Taxation. And with Miller and Busch’s health problems (Miller has Stage 4 prostate cancer while Busch has missed time for other ailments), some days women lead both chambers of the legislature, with Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones and President Pro Tem Kathy Klausmeier, both of Baltimore County, presiding.
The billionaire Johns Hopkins University graduate visited the State House in January to advocate for a handful of proposals: two gun control measures — a ban on 3-D printed guns and background checks on private sales of long guns — and authorization of a police force for Hopkins. They are all on their way to passage.
Sen. Jill P. Carter
Marginalized when she was in the House of Delegates, the Baltimore Democrat has had a fresh start in the Senate — and it’s hard to think of lawmaker with a bigger impact this year. Carter’s bill calling for an end to contracting with board members at the University of Maryland Medical System sparked a firestorm and helped expose a growing scandal.
And while some of her policy battles have ended in defeat — she fought against the creation of the Hopkins police force, for instance — several of her progressive proposals have won wide support. Her bills decriminalizing gambling, banning employers from inquiring about an ex-offender’s criminal record before a job interview, and changing state law to make it easier for those convicted of minor crimes to serve on juries have all passed the Senate.
GOP leadership in the House of Delegates announced their policy priorities in January — emphasizing tax cuts and redistricting — but all of them died in committee.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan also announced $500 million in tax cuts over five years — which were promptly stripped out of his budget. Many other Hogan bills met a similar failure. It was a firm reminder about which party really runs Annapolis.
Hogan can take solace, however, in the fact that several of the policies he favors — including increasing so-called P-TECH schools, which blend work experiences into curriculum, and a boosting school construction projects — are advancing in different forms under Democratic sponsors.
The gun lobby
Advocates supporting the 2nd Amendment, however, can cheer the shelving of a bill that would have banned the Colt AR-15 Sporter H-BAR rifle in Maryland.
University of Maryland affiliated boards
It’s not often two major pieces of reform legislation concerning University of Maryland-affiliated boards of directors are advancing in the same session.
Maryland Policy & Politics
The University of Maryland Board of Regents — facing backlash over its handling of the football team scandal and the death of player Jordan McNair — is being revamped, and the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors is being overhauled after allegations of self-dealing and no-bid contracting.
Comptroller Peter Franchot
He’s the highest voter-getter ever in a Maryland midterm election, but Franchot is deeply unpopular in Annapolis. His prized policy initiative — starting school after Labor Day — was overridden this year and lawmakers have moved to strip him of his authority over alcohol and tobacco enforcement.
That doesn’t mean all his ideas are losers. While he couldn’t find a lawmaker this year willing to even introduce his “Reform of Tap” legislation to help craft breweries, similar proposals are advancing under different bill sponsors’ names.
Dels. Mary Ann Lisanti and Jay Jalisi
It’s a rarity that two delegates are publicly disciplined in the same session, but that’s what happened this year. Lisanti was censured after The Washington Post reported she used a racial slur at an after-hours gathering in an Annapolis cigar bar; and Jalisi was reprimanded over the harsh treatment of his staff.
Both have kept a low profile after their public discipline, including missing several days of floor sessions each.