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Maryland General Assembly key issues for 2021

Here are key issues Maryland lawmakers will consider during the annual 90-day General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday.

Police reform

From abolishing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights to banning chokeholds and increasing mental health screenings for officers, policing issues will be a focus of lawmakers.

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“We’re interested in substantive policies that will address police violence, hold corrupt officers accountable and give communities the oversight that is appropriate and that is expected,” said Del. Gabriel Acevero, a Montgomery County Democrat.

Baltimore Sun's politics reporter, Pamela Wood talks with House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones about the upcoming 2021 General Assembly session.

Public education

Democrats plan to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a funding and implementation plan for a series of educational programs developed by the Kirwan Commission.

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They’ll also consider more improvements to public schools, including expanded tutoring for children falling behind their peers.

Pandemic proposals

There will be a raft of proposals spurred by the pandemic, including incentives for companies that offer telecommuting and requirements for more protections for workers during disease outbreaks.

Lawmakers also could make permanent some emergency provisions that proved popular, including making it easier to vote by mail and allowing restaurants and bars to sell packaged cocktails to go.

Sports betting

After voters gave the green light to legal sports gambling, lawmakers will sort out the details of setting up the industry.

They’ll establish where sports betting can take place, how people can place bets and just how much of the money will go to public schools. And they’ll do it with an eye toward ensuring that minority- and women-owned businesses aren’t left out.

Baltimore Sun's politics reporter, Pamela Wood talks with Senate President Bill Ferguson about the upcoming 2021 General Assembly session.

MES reform

The Maryland Environmental Service is set for an overhaul, following The Baltimore Sun’s reporting on a six-figure payout to the service’s ex-director as he left to head Hogan’s staff.

“It was an outrageous abuse of power,” said House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones.

A reform proposal would set limits on executive salaries and perks, sponsors say, and make the agency’s governing board independent from the executive director.

State song

A statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the racist Dred Scott court decision, has been hauled off the State House grounds. An image of the Confederate flag has been covered up on a State House plaque that honors soldiers from both sides of the Civil War.

The next symbol to go could be the pro-Confederacy state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” A bill to remove the state song entirely, without replacing it, has been filed by Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat.

Budget squeeze

Hogan will propose a budget to cover state government operations and construction projects from July 1 through June 30, 2022.

The amount of tax dollars coming into state coffers is less than what was originally expected, due to the pandemic throwing people out of work and causing people to spend less. While the budget outlook isn’t as bad as initially feared, the governor and lawmakers may still be in for some tough choices.

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