Maryland lawmakers convene for 90-day legislative session

Maryland lawmakers gathered on Wednesday for the start of their 90-day legislative session with an unprecedented budget surplus

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Reform Sasscer) — Maryland lawmakers are gathering in Annapolis for their 90-day legislative session.

They started on Wednesday with a huge budget surplus. That’s because of unexpectedly large revenues resulting from the help of federal pandemic aid.

Democrats, who control the General Assembly, say they will be prioritizing upgrades to parks, bridges, schools and information technology systems to help put more people back to work.

The Democrats have their long list of agenda items, and so does Governor Larry Hogan. There is one thing they may agree on – a tax cut for Marylanders – but a disagreement may arise on how to pay for it.

Other big-ticket items include the legalization of marijuana and how to tackle crime in Baltimore City. This will be the third year in which COVID-19 has impacted the session in some capacity

After being elected twice, this will be Governor Larry Hogan’s last first day of the General Assembly. He has a long list of priorities which include focusing on cutting crime. Senators have supported those crime bills in the past but they failed in the House of Delegates.

In the last week, he announced a $500 million plan to help with additional support for law enforcement . The governor also wants to cut taxes for seniors so they won’t keep leaving for other states.

With more than a $4 billion budget surplus – the governor said now is the time to cut those taxes.

“And so we think it’s the right time,” the governor said Tuesday. “We now can afford to do this. That’s usually the number one criticism we get from our colleagues across the aisle they say, ‘we’d love to help our retirees and our families and our small business we just simply can’t afford it.’ Well, now we can afford to.”

Democratic lawmakers may take a look at issues like legalizing recreational marijuana and whether they will make the decision or leave it up to the voters in a referendum.

They have to continue to focus on COVID-19 with things like testing and keeping the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

Democrats are also in favor of some tax cuts, but it’s just a matter of how to pay for it.

“It’s essential that we be thoughtful about how those dollars get used,” Senator Bill Ferguson said. “Those are not dollars that will come back year after year after year. Some of them may and for the portion that is recurring, where we have a structural surplus, we will entertain conversations about how we can protect what we have and invest in the future.“


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