March 6, 2023
March is officially here and today we’re one week closer to the General Assembly’s crossover deadline by which a bill must pass its original chamber to avoid being referred to the opposite chamber’s Rules Committee. This period is always one of the busiest times of year, along with the days leading up to Sine Die, as committees spend late nights in bill hearings and voting sessions. The top priority is passing legislation that instills trust in our government’s capacity to serve Maryland’s residents.

Coming into Session, we knew that one key area where that trust was lacking was in the Maryland 529 Prepaid College Trust. Families who invested in that type of Maryland 529 account received incorrect and confusing information that led many of them to make once-in-a-lifetime college enrollment decisions based on that faulty data. That is why we must address and improve the governance and transparency of the Maryland 529 program.

Last week, Senators Benson and Klausmeier introduced emergency legislation to address these issues and restore trust in the broader Maryland 529 program. The legislation will overhaul Maryland 529 by abolishing the board and transferring administrative authority to the State Treasurer’s Office. In addition, the Treasurer’s Office shall financially incentivize current holders of the Prepaid College Trust accounts to transition to other Maryland 529 plans that have consistently performed without issue. I look forward to supporting this legislation when it reaches the Senate Floor in the coming days.
Reproductive Rights Package Advances in Senate
Addressing the extreme and harmful decisions emanating from the United States Supreme Court remains a core responsibility of the Maryland General Assembly this year. Governor Moore, Speaker Jones, and I announced a series of proposals to expand and protect reproductive rights earlier this Session in light of the Dobbs decision that overturned decades of precedent surrounding abortion rights from Roe v. Wade. Many of those bills were heard in their standing committees last week and are starting to move through the legislative process. 

Last Wednesday, I testified in the Senate Finance Committee on Senate Bill 798, my legislation cross-filed with Speaker Jones, to enshrine the right to reproductive freedom in the Maryland Constitution. Upon its passage, Maryland voters will be able to approve a referendum in the 2024 General Election to strengthen the right to access safe and legal abortion care that was previously codified in State law by making it constitutionally protected. I am grateful that the Senate Finance Committee has already put Senate Bill 798 on an upcoming voting list and expect it to reach the Senate Floor later this week.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Education, Energy, and the Environment approved Senate Bill 341, sponsored by Senator Feldman, to require public colleges and universities to provide students 24-hour access to reproductive healthcare. I expect that Senate Bills 786 and 859, the remaining bills in the package, will also progress through the committee process in the near future.
Clean Trucks Act of 2023 Passes Senate
The climate crisis is one of the most significant and existential problems facing our State, nation, and the entire planet. Implementing meaningful solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been a key issue over the last few years, including the passage of the landmark Climate Solutions Now Act in 2022. The emissions reductions goals laid out in last year’s bill will require bold action, which is why the Maryland Senate is continuing to build on those efforts. 

The transportation sector accounts for the greatest share of emissions of any economic sector, which is why we passed the Clean Trucks Act of 2023, sponsored by Senator Augustine, out of the Senate last week. Medium- and heavy-duty trucks emit the greatest particulate matter of all vehicles within the transportation sector, which is why we must prioritize their transition to zero-emissions.

The legislation advanced to the House of Delegates takes an intentional approach to this conversion by requiring an incremental increase in the number of zero-emissions medium- and heavy-duty vehicles manufactured, conducting a needs assessment to ensure viable implementation of that policy, and providing funding to account for the difference in cost between internal combustion and zero-emissions trucks.
Changes to Federal SNAP Benefits
As the federal emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic nears expiration and expanded benefits wind down, Marylanders are beginning to feel the impact. Increased funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits provided many vulnerable Maryland individuals and families with a lifeline to keep food on the table over the last few years. 

Since 2020, one in eight Marylanders received nutritional assistance through SNAP, with an average increase to households' food budgets of $177 a month. Federal aid to bolster SNAP during the pandemic ended last Wednesday, reducing benefits for over 360,000 Maryland households. The federal budget passed by Congress in December phases out increased SNAP benefits, but continues funding for low-income children to access summer meals while schools are closed. 

At the same time, the Maryland Department of Human Services announced last Monday that the United States Department of Agriculture approved its plan to reimburse SNAP/EBT fraud victims. Maryland was the first state to submit and receive approval for its reimbursement plan, which will result in over $2.5 million in stolen benefits disbursed to more than 3,800 victims.
More News
Governor Moore swore-in his Senate approved cabinet secretaries last Thursday, formally welcoming the most diverse Governor’s cabinet in Maryland history. It was a pleasure to meet these impressive public servants over the last few weeks and I am confident that they will serve our State with distinction in the coming years. 

Please join me in welcoming Senator Ariana Kelly from District 16 to our chamber. Senator Kelly was sworn-in last Monday evening after previous service in the House of Delegates and has joined the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. She replaces Maryland’s new Secretary of State, Susan Lee.

Speaker Jones and I are working with stakeholders to move Maryland’s 2024 Primary Election date due to a conflict with the first day of the eight-day Jewish holiday of Passover, which would prevent many Jewish Marylanders from voting. Expanding access to the ballot box for all eligible voters is a fundamental State value. 

The Supreme Court heard a challenge to President Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for over 800,000 Maryland student loan borrowers. The Court will deliver its decision sometime this summer. The federal student loan payment pause remains in effect until that time.

Comptroller Brooke Lierman released a report Monday to improve the efficiency of the State agency. The information in the report includes her promises and recommendations, such as improving customer service, creating a more intuitive website, and increasing diversity participation for small and minority businesses. 

In Maryland, Black men account for 4% of the public school teacher workforce, though 17% of students are Black, despite research confirming that Black students are more likely to graduate and attend college when instructed by educators who look like them. Diversifying our teacher workforce remains a top priority under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

I am glad that MV Realty of Maryland LLC has temporarily suspended offering its services to homeowners in Baltimore City after its predatory contracts came to light. In addition, legislators have introduced a bill to regulate these exploitative agreements that mislead homeowners. 

Last Tuesday, Baltimore City launched an online dashboard to help residents view important public safety information. The Public Safety Accountability Dashboard will increase local transparency and can be accessed here.
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email,, or by phone, 410-841-3600.