The 445th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly ended on April 10th. We passed more than 800 pieces of legislation. This End of Session Report highlights a selection of the most consequential.
Our primary constitutional duty is to pass a balanced operating budget. We did so, allocating $63 billion towards the following investments and more:
- $900 million to fund education reforms under the Blueprint for Maryland’s
- $41.2 million to increase state worker salaries and fill vacant positions in state agencies
- $100 million to plan east-west rail to replace the Red Line project, and other investments
- $200 million to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit programs for working families
My legislative portfolio protected SNAP and other EBT benefits, and tackled the healthcare workforce shortage, transit service quality, affordable housing construction costs, and collective bargaining rights. It is an honor to be your Delegate. Please contact me if I can be of service.
Delegate Robbyn Lewis
Download a PDF of this report here.
Public Health & Healthcare
Reproductive & Sexual Health & Rights
- Declaration of Rights – Right to Reproductive Freedom HB507 HB507 empowers Maryland voters to enshrine the fundamental right of bodily autonomy in our state constitution. It was introduced in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer, which overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. This bill creates a “ballot question” or referendum that will appear on the November 2024 general election ballot. If approved by voters, then reproductive rights – including abortion – will be protected in our state.
- Gender-Affirming Treatment – Trans Health Equity Act HB285 This human rights and health equity bill requires the Maryland Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid) to pay for medically necessary gender-affirming health care administered by licensed providers, in accordance with current clinical standards.
Mental & Behavioral Health
- Behavioral Health Model for Maryland HB1148 This bill establishes the Commission on Behavioral Health Care Treatment and Access, which will make recommendations regarding improvements to mental and behavioral health services.
- 9-8-8 Funding HB271 Formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 9-8-8 is available nationwide, but each state must fund its operations. This bill requires the Governor to fund this helpline at $12 million dollars per year.
- Prevent Electronic Benefits Theft HB502 In response to the crisis of Electronic Benefit Card (EBT) theft, working closely with Senate colleagues, as well as with experts in the Department of Human Services (DHS), I sponsored and passed HB502. This emergency bill requires DHS to restore benefits, such as SNAP, lost due to EBT theft or fraud. My work helped make Maryland the first state in the nation to fix this serious issue.
Health Care Workforce
I sponsored two bills to tackle Maryland’s healthcare workforce shortage. Although these did not pass, I will reintroduce both next year:
- Higher Pay for Home Care Workers HB489
- Supervised Medical Graduates Pathway to Licensure HB507
- Lawfully Present Health Care Workers HB454 I co-sponsored this bill to address the state’s health care workforce shortage by allowing lawfully present, foreign-trained health care professionals to apply for a license in their field.
Affordability & Quality
- Small Business Health Insurance Outreach HB107 For the past two years, I’ve worked to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses. Following recommendations of the Health Insurance Subsidies Program workgroup, I introduced HB107 to secure $5 million per year for outreach to small businesses. Unfortunately, funding was not available, so instead, I helped secure commitments from the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE), Department of Labor and other state agencies to use existing resources to pay for outreach to small businesses.
- Prescription Drug Affordability Upper Payment Limits HB279 This bill authorizes the Prescription Drug Affordability Board to monitor and constrain the exorbitant prices charged by drug manufacturers for certain medications.
- Maryland Medical Assistance Program Hospitals – Dental Services HB970 I voted for HB970 to improve access to dental care for Marylanders covered by Medicaid. Hospitals frequently deny dental surgeons access to operating rooms, because hospitals find other types of surgery more profitable. HB970 would have required hospitals that take state Medicaid dollars to provide access to operating rooms for dental surgeries. The bill stalled this year, but I will keep working to fix this important problem.
Access & Equity
- Task Force on Reducing Emergency Department Wait Times HB274 Maryland has the longest emergency room wait times in the country. I co-sponsored HB274 to reduce emergency room wait times. The bill did not pass this year, but I look forward to fighting for it next year.
- Step Therapy Fail First Prior Authorization HB785
Step therapy is a process in which insurance companies override their doctor’s recommendations and force patients to accept cheaper, and in some cases, less effective treatments. I co-sponsored HB785 to empower health care providers – not insurance companies – to decide what’s best for patients.
Transit & Access to Opportunity
- Enforcement of Dedicated Bus Lanes HB1027 For the past five years, I have worked relentlessly to improve the quality of bus service in Baltimore City. This year, I sponsored HB1027 to expand dedicated bus lane enforcement statewide. Despite support from the Maryland Department of Transportation and many others, this bill did not move out of committee. I will keep fighting until all Marylanders have access to frequent, reliable bus service.
- E-bike Voucher Program HB1008 and One Less Car Act HB1283 I sponsored these companion bills to reduce our dependence on cars. HB1008 proposed to make e-bikes more affordable for working people; I modeled this bill on similar, successful efforts, e.g., Colorado. HB1283 would have offered tax credits to households that get rid of one car. I will keep working to give Marylanders more sustainable transportation options.
- Health and Human Services Health Transportation Improvement Act HB596 This bill highlights the connection between health and transit. It will increase funding and enhance coordination between agencies serving the elderly, persons with disabilities and those with low incomes.
- Baltimore Regional Transit Commission HB794 This commission will empower Baltimore City and our regional partners to plan, fund and build the world-class transit network that we need to compete in the 21st century.
Zero Waste Highlights
The Zero Waste Communities Legislative Task Force did not advance a package of bills this session. Nevertheless, we did make progress to reduce solid waste with the following bills:
- Producer Responsibility for Packaging SB222 This landmark bill holds polluters accountable. It requires the MDE Office of Recycling to conduct a statewide recycling needs assessment, and then use that data to regulate, and ultimately reduce, polluting materials in our waste stream.
- Waste Authority Evaluation Act HB161 This bill lays the groundwork to reduce solid waste. It requires the state to analyze the failure of the Northeast Waste Authority to reduce trash and pollution. The bill further requires Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to take responsibility to increase recycling and reduce the volume of waste pouring into incinerators and landfills.
Climate & Environment
- Green Space Equity Program Establishment HB503 This bill creates a permanent, multi-million dollar grant fund for projects that enhance health and livability in underserved communities. As House Chair of Maryland’s Program Open Space Committee, I will advocate for this type of investment in Baltimore!
- Baltimore Regional Water Authority Governance Task Force HB843 In the face of last summer’s water quality emergency and the more recent threat of toxic wastewater from Ohio, this Task Force will protect our water quality.
- Other important climate and environment bills that passed this year are:
- Offshore Wind Energy – Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources Act HB793
- Community Solar Energy Pilot Program HB908
- Maryland Native Plants Program HB950
Economy & Workforce
- Walters Workers Rights HB116 I sponsored this bill to secure collective bargaining rights for the hard-working employees at the Walters Art Gallery. As of this writing, it is my understanding that these workers will finally win their union contract in June!
- Multilingualism is an Asset Act HB1098 I sponsored this bill because, as a person who speaks more than one language, I recognize the value that multilingualism brings. This bill would have established a grant program to help school districts set up dual-language immersion programs. It did not pass, but I will keep working on this.
- Maryland Educator Shortage Act HB1219 I co-sponsored this bill to create scholarships and other programs to increase the recruitment and retention of educators.
- Student Debt Tax Credit Relief for HBCU Grads HB680 This bill will alleviate student loan debt for graduates of Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). It requires the Maryland Higher Education Commission to increase the number of tax credits that are available to these graduates.
- Baltimore City School Commissioners HB153 This local bill establishes a process for electing a student member, and studies whether board members should be compensated.
- Affordable Housing Land Trusts HB567 I sponsored this bill to reduce the expense of acquiring/building multifamily housing for land trust organizations, such as the South Baltimore Land Trust.
- Appraisal Gap from Historic Redlining Financial Assistance HB625
An “appraisal gap” is the difference between a home’s value and its sale price; such gaps disproportionately harm African American homeowners, who are more likely to own property in segregated, historically redlined neighborhoods.
Baltimore City Local Bills
The following local bills would have protected homeowners and improved the quality of Baltimore city neighborhoods. Despite a lot of hard work by many legislators and advocates, none became law this session. Nevertheless, we will persist!
- In Rem Foreclosure HB921 I voted for this bill to tackle our vacant property crisis. This bill would enable the city to foreclose on vacant properties that are in tax arrears and simplify the process for making these homes available for purchase. This bill passed the House unanimously, however, it stalled in the Senate.
- Baltimore City – Property Taxes Vacant and Abandoned Property HB231 I co-sponsored this bill to put slumlords on notice: either improve or sell your vacant/abandoned property, or you will be taxed at a higher rate. This bill passed the House 132-1, but stalled in the Senate.
- Unpaid property taxes HB867 I co-sponsored this housing justice bill, because it eliminates the harmful annual tax sale of homes, while also making it easier for homeowners to get out of arrears through a payment plan. This passed the House 132-1, but stalled in the Senate.
Small Business & Retirees
- Sustainable Communities Facade Improvement Grants HB706 I voted for this bill to help small businesses upgrade their appearance to better attract customers.
- Hometown Heroes Retiree Tax Credit HB554 Veterans deserve our support, that’s whyI voted to exempt more of their military retirement income from taxes.
- Cannabis Reform HB556 This bill establishes an equitable framework for our state-wide, recreational cannabis market.Marylanders voted to legalize adult-use of recreational cannabis in November 2022. This bill defines regulations for producing, processing, and selling it. I voted for this bill because it also helps to repair injustices caused by the failed “War on Drugs.”
Public Safety and Criminal Justice
- Child Victims Act HB1 I proudly voted for this landmark legislation that eliminates Maryland’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.
- Police Gun Center – Firearms Surrendered Under Final Protective Orders HB3 This bill requires the Maryland State Police Gun Center to create and maintain a statewide database to track information on firearms surrendered under final protective orders; it further requires each law enforcement agency to report to the Center specified information on firearms surrendered under final protective orders.
- Gun Safety Act SB1 I voted for this bill because limiting the wearing, carrying, and transporting of guns will save lives. This bill responds to the Supreme Court’s misguided Bruen Decision that overrides state laws governing wear-and-carry in public.
- Civil Rights Enforcement by Attorney General SB540 This bill authorizes the Office of the Attorney General to prosecute civil rights violations perpetrated by private entities, and provides funding for enforcement measures and community education.
Human Rights, Democracy, & Elections
- Ballot Pre-processing and Curing HB535 I voted for this bill because it allows election officials to process ballots as they come in during the entire mail-in and early voting period, rather than being forced to wait until after election day.
- Election Reform Act HB410 This bill fortifies Maryland’s democracy by protecting early voting, same-day voter registration, mail-in balloting and other common-sense measures.
Capital Funding for District 46
Working closely with my Team 46 colleagues, I brought home over $5 million in state capital dollars to improve every corner of our district, from Brooklyn-Curtis Bay to Bayview.
|Greater Baybrook Alliance Hanover Street Rehabilitation||$400,000|
|Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation||$43,000|
|Baltimore Museum of Industry||$75,000|
|Baltimore SquashWise Greyhound Bus Terminal Facility Renovation||$1,000,000|
|BCL Business Development and Resource Center||$750,000|
|Curtis Bay Elementary School Playground||$75,000|
|L.I.F.E. Church Ministries Community Center||$150,000|
|Martin Pollack Project Building Improvement||$350,000|
|South Baltimore Land Trust||$25,000|
|Chesapeake Shakespeare Company||$500,000|
|Springboard Community Services||$750,000|
|Renovations at Clay Hill Charter School||$500,000|
|Renovations at Hampstead Hill Academy||$250,000|
|Total State Capital Funding for District 46||$5,368,000|