April 13, 2023
2023 End of Session Report
On midnight April 10th, the 2023 Maryland General Assembly Session officially came to a close. I consider it a great honor and responsibility to serve as your State Senator. This letter highlights major legislative initiatives that were considered over the last 90 days by the 47 Senators and 141 Delegates in the General Assembly.
The only constitutionally mandated task for the Maryland General Assembly to accomplish during the 90 Day Session is passage of a balanced state budget. The governor proposes a state budget and the General Assembly can cut spending, move funds around or – now because of constitutional changes – even add some limited amounts to it. This was one area where I am glad to report a lot of bipartisan cooperation – making fiscal responsibility and no tax increases a top priority. The Fiscal Year 2024 (FY2024) Budget spends about $1 Billion less than the 2023 Budget. Additionally, this year’s budget contributes $2.5 Billion to Maryland’s Rainy-Day Fund, which is about double the requirement. This gives Maryland a good cushion, especially since current economic trends are uncertain. The FY 2024 Operating Budget also carries a $500 million surplus.
High points of the budget include expanding the veteran retirement tax credit and the restoration of the BOOST program, which allows some underprivileged families whose children are in failing schools to be able to access private school. It was a huge fight with Annapolis union special interests to restore this funding that Governor Moore had cut from his proposed budget. Now, there are some big-ticket expensive items from previous sessions, which I opposed, that add significant cost in future years. I will be watching closely in the coming years and fight to maintain spending control in state government.
The Carroll County Delegation and I worked in a bi-partisan fashion to secure key funding for a series of important community projects ranging from helping critical infrastructure upgrades to fixing school playgrounds and improving quality of life resources for veterans in the county. Below are some of the projects that will receive Capital funds.
- Carroll County Sheriff’s Office – $1,000,000
- Westminster Broadband Infrastructure – $1,000,000
- Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department Renovation – $500,000
- Carroll County Schools – Capital Block Grant for Playgrounds – $225,000
- ARC of Carroll County – $100,000
- Carrollltowne Elementary School PTA (for Playground) – $75,000
- Westminster Elementary School PTA (for Playground) – $75,000
- “Nate’s Place” Park & Playground – $75,000
Ready Legislative Priorities in 2023 Session
SB 564 Criminal Law – Felony & Mandatory Sentencing for Theft of a Handgun (Partial form passed as part of HB 135)
Under current Maryland law, stealing a handgun falls under general theft statutes. Unless the handgun is valued at over $1,500, which most handguns aren’t, the crime is only a misdemeanor. SB 564 would have established a new felony theft charge with up to three years in jail for stealing a handgun. The vast majority of murders and shootings are committed with handguns obtained illegally. The bill did not pass out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee; however, HB 135, which did pass, was amended to make possession, trafficking or use of a stolen handgun a felony. The entire proposal wasn’t included but it was progress to see this added.
SB 330 Public Safety – Law Enforcement – Body-Worn Cameras (Body-Worn Camera Appropriation and Financing Act of 2023) (Passed)
This legislation will allow law enforcement agencies across the State of Maryland to negotiate contracts to acquire and maintain body-worn camera equipment, and other technology. I was part of the Body Worn Camera Task Force, which decided that local law enforcement agencies were unable to negotiate the price of technology needed to operate, often forcing them to over-pay. So, I brought this bill forward to assist our law enforcement agencies in getting the resources that they need to keep our communities safe effectively. I was glad that it passed unanimously and will be signed by the governor.
SB 566 Family Law – Fundamental Parental Rights (Did Not Pass)
I sponsored SB 566, which would codify a parent’s right to direct the upbringing, education, care, and welfare of their child. Unfortunately, the bill received no support from across the aisle, and was killed in Committee. All this bill sought to do was keep the State from infringing on a parent’s right to raise their child as they see fit. I will continue to work on this issue in the coming months.
SB 567 Elections – In-Person Voting – Proof of Identity (Did Not Pass)
SB 567 would have required a voter to present identification when voting in person. One of the biggest arguments against this proposal is that under privileged individuals have trouble obtaining a driver’s license, so my bill allowed for several forms of identification to be used. Unfortunately, this bill never received a vote in the Senate Education, Energy and Environment Committee.
SB 329 Election Law – Prohibition Against Casting General Election Ballot in Multiple States – Prohibition (Did Not Pass)
Senate Bill 329 would prohibit a person from casting a ballot in the general election in more than one state. This bill was requested by the Carroll County Board of Elections due to a 2018 case where it was discovered that a Westminster man had voted nine times in both Maryland and West Virginia’s general elections. He was prosecuted in West Virginia and sentenced to 30 days in jail and one year of probation, however he technically did not break Maryland’s law. This legislation seeks to make sure that if this situation occurred again, the individual would be charged in Maryland. Unfortunately, and oddly, the League of Women Voters took a position against this bill and we were unable to overcome it. I will bring this bill back next year.
Good News from the 2023 Session
Restoring School Choice Funding for Low Income Families in Operating Budget
In Governor Moore’s initial budget, $2 Million of BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) funding was eliminated. The Senate’s version of the approved budget restored this funding and a compromise was later agreed to by the House of Delegates. We actually ended up with $1.5 million more in funding to help this school choice program. BOOST helps families send their children to the school of their choice, which is extremely important to many families who live in failing school districts. This was a major victory for conservatives who believe in school-choice.
Several bad bills that received a lot of opposition from the public (and from me as well) were thankfully defeated. These defeats were a victory for the rule of law, public safety, parental rights and/or common sense:
SB 378 Public Health – Vaccinations – Minor Consent (Died – Withdrawn by Sponsor)
This terrible bill would have allowed children 14 and over to consent to vaccinations without parental consent. Thanks to strong opposition by several of us in the Senate and widespread outcry from parents, the lead sponsor withdrew the bill. Parents from all over the state wrote to their legislators expressing concern over this issue, so I give credit to those who made their voices heard for killing this bill.
SB 652 Criminal Law – Felony Murder – Limitation for Youth (Died in Committee)
SB 652 was a terrible bill that would have prevented an individual younger than 25 from ever being charged with felony murder. This bill received a lot of press coverage which generated lots of negative public feedback and was never passed out of committee. A similar bill, SB 850 would have prevented a person under the age of 25 from being charged with first degree murder but was also killed in committee. This is a small victory for Republicans in Annapolis who have been fighting to put violent criminals behind bars.
HB 119/SB 199 County Boards of Education – Curriculum Guides and Courses of Study – Requirements (Did Not Pass)
HB 119/SB 199 sought to require county boards of education to follow a statewide health care framework that taught gender ideology and sexuality to children as young as K-3rd grade with no flexibility. The bill threatened to cut state funds to school systems that didn’t follow this very prescriptive and extreme, liberal version of health care curriculum. The Senate version of this bill did not move, however the House version passed through the House of Delegates but was killed in the Senate. I support local control and final say over curriculum and do not believe we should be teaching radical gender theory – especially to young children.
HB 588 Health Insurance – Qualified Resident Enrollment Program (Access to Care Act) (Did Not Pass)
This bill would have made illegal immigrants eligible for Medicaid (taxpayer funded) health insurance programs in Maryland. HB 588 made it through the House of Delegates but I was able to keep it bottled in the committee without a vote and it died.
SB 260/HB 255 Maryland Paint Stewardship (The “Paint Tax”)- (Did Not Pass)
Would create the establishment of a Paint Stewardship Program by the Department of the Environment to create a uniform paint stewardship assessment (tax) for architectural paint (all paint for houses or businesses) sold in the State. I led the effort to delay and defeat this proposal in the Senate. HB 255 actually passed both the House and Senate but it had been amended differently so it had to go to what’s known as a “conference committee” between the two houses to work it out. Thanks to our delay and fight, this didn’t happen until late the final day of Session so the bill ran out of time and died.
Bad News from the 2023 Session
SB 798 Declaration of Rights – Right to Abortion (Passed)
SB798, which was formerly introduced in the 2022 legislative session, passed through the General Assembly over my strong objections and “no” vote. This bill enshrines abortion into the Maryland Constitution up to birth. If passed by voters, it would make it nearly impossible for any limits on abortion to be put into law in the future.
Many of my Republican colleagues joined me in voicing our strong opposition by offering a slew of amendments – including an amendment to ensure that the word “safe/safely” was included. They were all struck down, mostly along party lines. The Constitutional Amendment will now be on the ballot for approval or rejection by the voters during the 2024 Presidential Election.
SB 1 Criminal Law – Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting Firearms – Restrictions (Gun Safety Act of 2023) (Passed)
This bill was introduced as a reaction to the New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen Supreme Court Decision which made all 50 states “Shall-Issue,” meaning citizens had the right to protect themselves outside of their home using a concealed carry license. Once SB1 takes effect, an individual with a concealed carry license will be prohibited from carrying their firearm to basically any public place. I strongly opposed this legislation, as citizens who possess a concealed carry license are statistically some of the safest people to be around. The General Assembly should be targeting violent criminals, not the rights of law-abiding citizens. The courts will have the final say over this bill, which I believe is unconstitutional.
SB 290 Office of the Attorney General – Independent Investigation Division – Authority to Prosecute (Passed)
This is another bad bill that passed, which gives Attorney General Brown authority to prosecute police-involved incidents resulting in serious bodily harm to an individual. Previously, county States Attorneys elected by local voters had authority to prosecute local incidents at their discretion, however this bill strips that power away and hands it to the Attorney General. Every local States Attorney showed up to testify against this bill and made a strong case as to why they should be able to handle these issues, however the General Assembly was set on giving that power to the State Government and did so by passing this bill.
In closing, my biggest overall concerns from 2023 Session were as follows
1. Democrat Leadership Fails to Act Meaningfully on Violent Crime
Unfortunately, the Democratic majority in Annapolis has refused to act on the Violent Firearms Offender Act, which would implement harsher penalties for repeat violent criminals. With record crime in Baltimore City and spreading to other jurisdictions, the majority party forced through several “soft-on-crime” proposals that make it harder to deal with juveniles who commit serious crimes. My Republican colleagues and I were vocal throughout the entire Legislative Session on the need to act and fought hard for policies that would improve public safety, support our police, and hold criminals accountable. Sadly, these appeals largely fell on deaf ears as the Democratic Majority refused to pass much in the way of common sense, anti-crime initiatives.
2. Attacks on Citizen’s 2nd Amendment Rights
Shortly after the Supreme Court gave a sliver of freedom to law-abiding gun owners in the State of Maryland, SB 1 and HB 834 were crafted to strip that freedom away. I fought hard to protect 2nd Amendment rights and will continue to do so. The Democrat majority has made it a clear priority of theirs to attack that Constitutional right (see “SB 1” on page 3) instead of going after violent criminals. I am confident that the courts will overturn their schemes.
It is an honor and a great responsibility to serve you in the Maryland General Assembly and fight every day for conservative principles. I will do my best to continue updating you with future developments. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to my office anytime.Return To News >