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Dems Complete Session in Midst of Global Pandemic

Mar 23, 2020

Last week the Maryland General Assembly took the dramatic step to adjourn the 2020 Legislative Session more than two weeks early due to the Coronavirus crisis. We support House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson for making this tough call in the interest of public health.

Though their time was cut short, Democrats in the General Assembly still managed to pass several historic pieces of legislation that will benefit all Marylanders including: a bill to fund Maryland’s public schools; an emergency package to protect Marylanders from the impact of COVID-19; a public safety package; and so much more.

Here’s a brief snapshot of some of the major bills successfully passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2020:

COVID-19 Emergency Package

To protect Marylanders from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, Senate President Bill Ferguson, House Speaker Adrienne Jones, and Senator Clarence Lam led a series of emergency measures that authorized the Governor to use up to $150,000,000 to fund costs related to addressing the Coronavirus pandemic and take actions addressing the economic fallout of the crisis. The measures also authorized the Secretary of Labor to determine eligibility for unemployment insurance for those affected. 

Lower Prescription Drug Costs

In an effort to reduce prescription drug costs, Del. Shane Pendergrass proposed a “reverse auction” to select the pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) for State Employees, Retirees, and Welfare benefit recipients. Vendors would submit their lowest bids in a competition to be selected as PBM for the Maryland Rx Program.  Adoption of this process would limit independent pharmacies from unsustainable reimbursement practices while preventing a reduction in employee benefits. 

Transformational Education Reforms

Democrats hope to dramatically improve our state’s education system with the passage of the Built to Learn Act and the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future by investing record funding levels in school construction, teacher pay, expanded pre-k, vocational training for high school students, and much more. Be sure to thank Speaker Adrienne Jones; Senate President Bill Ferguson; Dels. Maggie McIntosh, Kathleen Dumais, Michael Jackson; Senate President Emeritus Mike Miller; and Senator Douglas Peters.

Speaker Jones and Sen. Charles Sydnor passed a 10-year $577 million funding package for Maryland’s HBCUs. The package is contingent upon the outcome of a pending lawsuit seeking compensation for years of underfunding of the State’s black colleges.

Economic Fairness for Job Seekers

Delegate Karen Young and Senator Susan Lee led the effort to ban employers from seeking wage history information for job applicants and require employers to provide a salary range to job applicants upon request.

Promoting Public Safety

To make our communities safer, Senator Will Smith and Delegate Luke Clippinger led the fight to establish a Law Enforcement Coordinating Council to provide more support for communities with the greatest concentration of crime, develop more effective strategies to fight crime, and increase cooperation across jurisdictions. Senator Susan Lee sponsored a bill to make it easier for prosecutors to bring witness intimidation cases during trials involving crimes of violence and felony drug crimes.

These are a small sample of the 600+ pieces of legislation passed this Session.

We thank our Maryland Democrats for their extraordinary work under these incredibly difficult circumstances. As we adapt to the rapid changes affecting our everyday lives, there is perhaps no time more appropriate than the present to reflect on the important work conducted by our elected officials to keep our citizens safe, rise to the urgency of the moment, and safeguard our collective future.