Over the past two weeks, the Senate was working furiously towards Monday’s Crossover Deadline. As a reminder, Monday was the day that all Senate bills must pass and “cross over” to the House without having to the extra hurdle of the House Rules committee. The same is also true for House bills. As a general rule, bills that do not make the crossover deadline are dead for the Session, although there are exceptions.
Many big issues passed out of the Senate before the deadline, including SB 1, Reproductive Health Bills, Child Victims Act and others, but our members were extremely disappointed that there was no movement on any public safety legislation that targets repeat violent offenders and the juvenile crime crisis. Measures to make the theft of a handgun a felony, as well as the Violent Firearms Offenders Act (which has passed the Senate twice before) have had hearings but have not yet been voted on.
The Unconstitutional Bills
SB 1 – (Gun Safety Act of 2023)
The Senate gave final approval to SB 1 – The Gun Safety Act of 2023 with three Democrats joining every Republican in voting against the bill. Even though the bill was amended to lessen the effect on law-abiding gun owners exercising their Second Amendment rights, Senate Republicans believed the bill still went too far and remained blatantly unconstitutional.
If the true intent of the General Assembly is to reduce the number of illegal and stolen guns in Maryland, they need to focus on legislation that provides real consequences for stealing a handgun and repeat violent offenders, and not restrict the right of law-abiding gun owners to carry a firearm to protect themselves and their families.
Next up, the Senate and House must work out the differences in similar legislation (SB 1 and HB 824) and the result must be approved by both chambers.
Second Amendment advocates have signaled their intent to challenge the final bill in court once it is signed into law.
Reproductive Health Bills Update
The Senate has approved four Reproductive Health Bills. The bills now head to the House where any differences will be worked out between the two chambers.
SB 798 – Declaration of Rights – Right to Reproductive Freedom puts a question to voters if abortion rights should be enshrined in the Maryland Constitution. Senate Republicans attempted to amend the bill to include language that would ensure that women had the right to safe reproductive health services, but it was defeated, despite having some bipartisan support. A similar bill has also passed the House and the measure is expected to advance to a ballot question in 2026.
SB 341 – Public Senior Higher Education Institutions – Reproductive Health Services Plans requires Maryland’s public, four-year colleges and universities to provide access to a variety of reproductive health services ranging from birth control to abortions. The bill passed with all Senate Republicans voting against. A similar bill is also being considered in the House, and any pending differences in the House and Senate versions would need to be worked out before the bill could go to the Governor and be signed into law.
The following two bills are solutions in search of a problem and preempt the outcome of legislative action in Texas.
SB 786 Health – Reproductive Health Services – Protected Information and Insurance Requirements
provides additional privacy protections for medical records to reduce the risk of criminal prosecution or civil litigation for out-of-state patients seeking reproductive care and abortions in Maryland.
SB 859 – Reproductive Health Protection Act – protects patients, providers, and people supporting out-of-state patients seeking reproductive health care in Maryland from criminal, civil, and administrative actions from restrictive states.
On Thursday, the Senate passed its version of the $62.5 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2024. This vote came after the House of Delegates worked on Governor Moore’s Budget proposal first and passed it over to the Senate last week. Mostly notably, the General Assembly has shifted more money to the Blueprint Education Fund and away from future mass transit projects.
Senate Republicans attempted to amend the budget to phase-in a complete repeal of retirement income taxes, however that effort failed.
The good news on the Senate’s version of the budget is that it includes no new tax increases, makes a solid investment in the State’s Rainy Day Fund, includes tax credits for veterans and spends less money than last year overall.
Passing a budget is the only constitutionally-mandated task of the General Assembly, which must be completed by April 3rd, the 83rd day of Session. The Budget now moves to a Conference Committee where differences between the House and Senate versions will be worked out, and the resulting budget must be passed by both chambers.
Throughout this Session, I want to hear from you. I serve Garrett, Allegany, and Washington Counties and all of your voices are important to me. The best way to represent you is to have your voice heard. Please feel free to contact my Annapolis Office at (410) 841-3565 or my District Office at (240) 362-7040. My public email address is now firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to email me at anytime. I also have a District Office at the Williamsport City Hall. It is on the second floor in the first office. Our mailing address below remains the same however.
I continue to be your voice and advocate in Annapolis so I want to hear from you. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or what I can do to help you. I am on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the Executive Nominations Committee. All of our hearings are streamed live on Youtube and the MGA website.
If you are interested in seeing where my bills are in the process, you can create a MyMGA account or you can click here to view bills I am sponsoring by clicking “Legislation” under my name. You can sign up to testify on any bill you wish.