A Preview of the 2020 Session of the Maryland General Assembly

With the death of House Speaker Michael E. Busch at the end of last session and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s retirement, advocates for progressive policies are optimistic; the Associated Builders and Contractors, however, have adopted more of a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. Over the past few years, Maryland builders have witnessed the passage of a number of measures – an increase in the minimum wage and expanded employee sick leave, to name a few – that have only added to the State’s well-earned reputation as “less than friendly” to the small business owner. This article will serve as a thumbnail sketch of the changes that are occurring in Annapolis and what ABC members should expect during the 2020 Session of the Maryland General Assembly.

The House: Delegate Adrienne Jones (D – Baltimore County) made history in May when she was elected as the first woman and the first person of color to be Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.  For this upcoming session at least, Jones has mostly kept Speaker Busch’s leadership structure intact.  The following highlights changes to the House for the 2020 Session:

  • State Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – Wicomico and Dorchester), a member of the House Health & Government Operations Committee, the committee where procurement related matters are discussed, has been named speaker pro tem, which essentially is the position second-in-command in the House. Sample-Hughes is also rumored to spearhead a lot of the opioid legislation that will be introduced in the House this session.
  • Delegate Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s County), vice chairwoman of the House Health & Government Operations Committee, was one of the main proponents of then-Delegate Jones becoming the Speaker of the House even though Peña-Melnyk, herself, was being considered by her colleagues as a possible compromise speaker candidate.
  • Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D – Montgomery County) has been named the vice chairwoman of the House Economic Matters Committee, where many of ABC’s labor and business-related legislation is heard. Dumais will take over for Delegate Eric Bromwell (D – Baltimore County) who left the legislature to join the Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr’s administration. Dumais is an attorney whose practice concentrates in family law.
  • Speaking of Delegate Bromwell, his replacement, Delegate Carl Jackson (D – Baltimore County) will join the House Economic Matters Committee as a first-time delegate. Jackson, only 34-years-old, is an analyst at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Jackson has stated that his priorities in Annapolis will include investments in technical and construction training and implementing career and technical education programs in high school.
  • Finally, Delegate Jay Walker (D – Prince George’s County) will no longer serve as the vice chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and will instead join the House Economic Matters Committee, replacing Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D – Baltimore) who resigned from the Maryland General Assembly in late December.

The Senate: When presumed Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) takes the gavel in the beginning of the 2020 session it will represent the culmination of seismic shifts that have taken place in the state Senate in just a little more than a year.  With outgoing Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) stepping down after 33 years at the helm, 36-year-old Ferguson will step into usher in a new era in the Maryland Senate.  Notable leadership changes in the Maryland Senate pertinent to MPS include:

  • Senator Melanie Griffith (D – Prince George’s County) will serve as the President Pro Tem to Senate President Ferguson.
  • Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County) will replace Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Baltimore County) as vice-chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee (EHEA), who resigned the legislature earlier this past year. FOR ABC’s purposes, EHEA is the Committee where procurement related legislation is debated in the Senate.
  • EHEA will also get two new members — Senator Katie Fry Hester (D-Howard) and Senator Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City), both in their second year as a Senator and both of whom move over from the Senate Judicial Proceedings.
  • Senator Will Smith (D- Montgomery County) will be elevated from Vice Chairman to Chairman of the high-profile Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Smith will replace Senator Bobby Zirkin (D – Baltimore County), who has led the committee for five years but has decided to retire. The committee reviews legislation related to criminal and civil law, police reform, gun control and other issues.
  • Senator Jeff Waldstreicher (D – Montgomery County) will fill the void left by Senator Smith’s promotion and serve as vice chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee
  • Judicial Proceedings will have three new members — long time Senator Young (D – Frederick County), who moves over from the Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, and the replacement for Nathan-Pulliam, Delegate Charles Sydnor (D – Baltimore County) and the replacement for Senator Zirkin, who has not yet been chosen

Issues ABC members should expect to see debated include:

  • School Construction: The Built to Learn Act of 2020 will be the number one priority bill for both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly. Receiving House Bill 1 (HB 1) and Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) status, the bills would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $2.2 billion in revenue bonds for school construction and renovation projects. This spending would be in addition to the annual state school construction spending of $300 million. Governor Larry Hogan (R) introduced a bill similar in structure last session, which he plans to reintroduce this session.
  • Taxes: While legislative leaders are vowing not to raise income, sales, and property taxes, legislators will nonetheless consider an array of tax code alterations that could include: a millionaire’s tax, combined reporting for multi-state corporations based on the amount of business they conduct in Maryland, a carbon emissions tax, and a mileage-based user fee to supplement stagnant and/or declining fuel tax revenues to name just a few.
  • Transportation: The Hogan administration will continue to push for an expansion of Maryland’s public-private partnership (P3) laws to include the addition of toll lanes to I-270 and renovation of the American Legion Memorial Bridge that crosses the Potomac into Virginia.
  • Heat Related Work Standards: A bill will be introduced this session that will establish heat related labor standards with the goal of keeping workers safe when it’s hot outside. At least three states have such laws on the books.  Beyond announcing the intention to file the legislation, no other specifics have been provided on the bill since it is still being drafted.

ABC plays an active role in advocating on behalf of the organization’s diverse membership in the Maryland legislature. With the help of the ABC Joint Legislative Committee (JLC) and the organization’s lobbying team, hundreds of bills are considered annually, with appropriate action taken to preserve the interests of ABC’s members.  With the substantive leadership changes in the Maryland General Assembly, ABC is anticipating a very active session.