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The 2023 Maryland General Assembly session is nearing the halfway mark. It is an honor to serve our area in the state Senate and I wanted to give an update about vitally important issues I’m working on.

There are three broad areas I and our Senate Republican Caucus are focused on. First is dealing with the high cost of living and tax burden on working families, retirees and small businesses in our state. So a couple of specific proposals we’ve put forward are SB 261, which would end the automatic gas tax hikes that happen every year and are tied to inflation and SB 461, which would eliminate the state’s tax on retirement income. With a huge budget surplus, our fiscal focus should be on concrete action to reduce this cost of living burden. Gov. Wes Moore has recognized that reducing retirement taxes actually can be a net economic and tax revenue benefit to the state, as he has endorsed dramatically expanding tax relief for military retirees. We support that idea and want to extend it to all retirees.

Second, violent crime is out of control in Baltimore and the surrounding region. Many times it’s repeat criminals using illegal firearms to hurt people. So two of the bills I’m working on are SB 564, which will make the theft of a handgun a felony with real jail time in Maryland, and I’ve also co-sponsored SB 744, which focuses on harsher sentences for repeat offenders who use firearms in the commission of a violent crime. A second offense would trigger a minimum 10-year jail sentence. These are part of our Senate Republican crime package and they are critically important. We are glad both of these bills have co-sponsors in both parties.

Finally, transparency and accountability in education, along with supporting parental rights are vital if we are to get the best results for our students and keep our families and communities strong. I’ve introduced SB 566 to make sure that fundamental right is codified in state law, supported by our Senate Republican Caucus. We also have filed legislation to reform the state’s education oversight board and ensure there is regional representation for every area of the state. Finally, we are fighting to restore funding to the state’s BOOST program, which provides a small amount of funding to help disadvantaged students in failing schools be able to attend a private school.

There are many other issues that will be addressed in the 2023 legislative session; however, crime, education reform and the cost of living are top priorities for me. I’m happy to hear your thoughts anytime. Thank you again for the opportunity to serve our community in Annapolis.

Justin Ready