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Maryland Senate leaders release slate of recommendations on racial inequities

Democratic leaders in the state Senate unveiled a package of recommendations Monday aimed at addressing some racial disparities in environmental policy, health and access to government contracts, among other issues.

The report, compiled by a work group led by Sen. Melony Griffith, a Prince George’s County Democrat and the president pro tempore of the state Senate, outlines 47 proposals. Democratic senators plan to include many of the recommendations in legislation during the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly, which begins Wednesday.

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“Remediating systemic and structural inequities requires meaningful, honest, and ongoing conversations and long term commitment to change,” Griffith said Monday, adding that the group’s recommendations “move the needle in this direction.”

The report’s recommendations include extending Medicaid coverage for new mothers, providing prenatal care to undocumented immigrants, launching a state pilot program for mold remediation in schools and public housing, altering the makeup of several state boards and changes to state contract programs for minority-owned businesses. Doula services for expectant mothers might be covered by Medicaid under a proposed two-county pilot program, and the report also called for statewide recommendations on midwife privileges at hospitals in the state.

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Sen. Melony Griffith, a Prince George’s County Democrat and the president pro tempore of the state Senate, leads a work group that unveiled a package of recommendations Monday.
Sen. Melony Griffith, a Prince George’s County Democrat and the president pro tempore of the state Senate, leads a work group that unveiled a package of recommendations Monday. (Mike Dresser/Baltimore Sun)

Several proposals would also add funding to the TEDCO — the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, a state agency that funds tech startups — to invest in minority-owned firms.

It wasn’t immediately clear Monday what the cumulative cost of the report’s recommendations would be. Senate President Bill Ferguson launched the work group in August to draft a slate of proposals around racial equity and inclusion.

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones plans to unveil her owning raft of legislative proposals around racial equity issues — which she’s dubbed the “Black Agenda” — in the coming days. Ferguson and Jones, both Democrats, have listed addressing racial inequities in Maryland among their top priorities for the session.

Del. Darryl Barnes, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, said he hadn’t yet read the work group’s report but was encouraged with the attention leaders in both chambers have placed on issues of equity, diversity and inclusion.

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“I am overjoyed that we are finally having very frank and sometimes unapologetic conversations,” Barnes said.

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