Maryland Made Progress in the 2017 General Assembly Session

April 12, 2017 by Kali Schumitz in 2017 session, Blog, Budget and Tax, Economic Opportunity, Education, Health

Maryland’s 2017 General Assembly Session came to a close Monday night. While there were also plenty of good ideas left on the table, lawmakers took some important steps that will benefit Maryland families and our state’s economy. Here are some of the ways we are all better off thanks to the work of our legislators this year.


Taking time off when you or a child is sick. Right now, 750,000 hard-working Marylanders don’t have paid sick days. That means they have to give up income and, in many cases, put their jobs at risk when they are sick or need to stay home to care for a sick child. Legislation passed this year would guarantee most Marylanders at least five paid sick days per year, earned based on hours worked. Part-time workers and those who work for very small companies will be guaranteed unpaid sick days.

Governor Hogan has said he would veto the bill, which passed by a veto-proof majority in both the House of Delegates and Senate. If he makes good on his threat, many working Marylanders will face another year without paid sick days. The legislature would need to override his veto next January before it can go into effect. The governor shouldn’t make Maryland families wait any longer and should sign the bill.


New tools to fight drug price gouging. In recent years prices for hundreds of generic drugs have more than doubled. Legislation passed in the General Assembly will allow Maryland’s attorney general to collect information from manufacturers in cases of suspected price gouging and allow him to take legal action, if appropriate.

Prescription drug price hikes are one of the causes of rising health care costs, and sharp price increases can cause people to not be able to afford their life-saving medications. It is essential to ensure that the price hikes aren’t just padding the incomes of executives and shareholders.


More money for schools. Baltimore City Schools was facing the prospect of teacher layoffs and other cuts affecting the classroom to address a $130 million budget gap. Several other school districts were also losing state funds due to declining enrollment. Under pressure from legislators, Gov. Hogan provided additional funds for Baltimore City and Carroll, Allegany, Garrett, Somerset, Harford, Calvert, Kent, Cecil, Talbot, and Queen Anne’s counties.

Providing a good education to all students is one of the most important things the state does, so this step to protect Maryland school districts was important to meet an urgent short-term need. At the same time, significant problems remain in Maryland’s school funding system. A recent MDCEP report found that the state’s chronic underinvestment in schools falls hardest on the districts with the greatest needs. Ultimately, we need a comprehensive solution to ensure that students in every part of Maryland can obtain a first-rate public education.


A step closer to reasonable child care assistance. Parents need high-quality child care in order to stay in the workforce, but for many low- and moderate-income Marylanders the cost of child care is well beyond what they can afford. While there is a state program that helps parents pay for child care, Maryland falls way behind its peers in the rates it pays, potentially forcing parents to use substandard care.

Two bills that passed the General Assembly require state agencies to study the issue and come up with a plan to gradually increase rates closer to market level. Given that there is also a long waiting list for this program, it is clear that more funding will be needed for it to be successful.


Additional steps to fight hunger. One out of every eight Maryland families struggles to afford enough food to eat every day. State policymakers have continued to take incremental steps to help more people get enough to eat, particularly children. However, the four bills passed this year make important policy changes but don’t put much funding behind the effort – something that needs to be remedied in future years.

Two bills address school meals. Renewing the Hunger-Free Schools Act preserves universal free school meals, known as community eligibility, for students at 227 schools in Maryland. This is a federally funded program but the change in state law ensures that school districts don’t lose state funding for participating in the program and accepting the additional federal funds. The General Assembly also made changes to the Maryland Meals for Achievement program, which provides increased access to free school breakfast, that will allow high schools to more easily participate in the program. However, without additional state funds for the program, few schools will be able to join.

Two additional bills will provide benefits to Maryland farms and low-income Marylanders. The Maryland Farms and Families Act allows people who receive food assistance through SNAP or WIC to get a small amount of matching funds when they shop at farmer’s markets. Unfortunately, while it established the program in Maryland, the bill removed the requirement that the governor fund the program. Another bill will allow farms to receive a tax credit when they donate unsold produce to food banks or pantries.