The Maryland General Assembly finds it difficult to conduct elections in the final year of a term. It is tempting to try to solve some of the more complicated and difficult issues that legislators will face in the last year of their term. It is not easy to ask legislators to accomplish this before they face the voters.
Redistricting, legalization of recreational cannabis, and establishment of a paid medical leave program are just a few of the many issues Annapolis faces as the House of Delegates (and State Senate) wrap up their 90-day terms. One quirk in bills passed in an election-year is not to be missed: The following term cannot be used to override gubernatorial rights,
With all this in mind, here’s a list of top urbanist bills and issues that the Maryland General Assembly is likely too take up before April 11, the last day of the 2022 legislative sessions.
It is a transitional year in Maryland’s transit legislation. There are many larger transit bills that have been gaining momentum for years, like the Transit & Safety Investment Act The initial funding for the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project was finally approved in 2021. Now with elections coming up, 2023 offers at least the possibility of a fresh start for public transit in the Old Line State after eight years of less than rapturous reception from the state’s current governor.
However, a closer inspection of 2022’s transit legislation reveals a few recurring themes: electrification, equity, and buses.
After introducing legislation last year to make the MTAs bus fleet mostly electric, Del. Marc Korman and Senator Craig Zucker (Both D-Montgomery), are back this session. Follow-up billMTA staff will need to be trained and protected during the transition to zero emission buses. Del. Robbyn Lewis (D.Baltimore City), holds a pair of bills. One to Baltimore City is authorized to use a monitoring networkTo enforce its ban against cars driving in its bus lanes. the other to authorise its use of speeding and bus-lane violation ticketsto finance its Complete Streets Programs. Another bill, Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick),The State Highway Administration is encouraged to designate shoulder areas at the sides state highways that commuter buses can use to bypass congestion.
Del. Nicole Williams (Both D.Prince Georges), are introducing legislation. Interdict the use state funds on a maglev program. Del. Tony Bridges (D. Baltimore City) stated during a pre-session forum he plans to introduce legislation in order to establish a workgroup to determine the best way to create a regional transit authority for Central Maryland. This strategy is a somewhat indirect route to achieving this increasingly popular goal but it is the best available under the current Governors administration. It could allow for more concrete action under his successor.
The most impactful piece in transportation legislation this session could be “The Assurance Act.” Transportation Equity Act, Del. Sheila Ruth (D–Baltimore County), Senator Jill Carter (D.Baltimore City). This bill, another 2021 resurrection of the bill, would require Maryland’s transportation plans, reports and goals to include equity. It could include situations as diverse as the cancellation and seasonal service changes to MTA’s local bus routes.
Annapolis is set to host a major session on environmental issues this year, especially those that are connected to climate change. Two sets of legislation are worth your attention in 2022. They are slightly modified versions of bills that were introduced in 2021.
The first is a suggestion Climate justice amendment by Del. Wanika Fischer (D-Prince Georges),If passed by General Assembly and approved by voters this November, the bill would guarantee Marylanders the right for a healthy environment, as well as a legal path of action to enforce that right.
The second is Sen. Paul Pinskys controversial Climate Solutions Now package. This legislation was first introduced last year as an Omnibus bill. It would dramatically reduce Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions over a decade (especially in transportation), increase electric vehicles and their infrastructure, and tighten green building regulations, among other ambitious goals. However, a series of very public disagreements between the Senate and House of Delegates regarding the exact mechanism of the bill between Pinsky, Chair of the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee, as well as Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery), chair of the corresponding House Environment & Transportation Committee, slowed down negotiations and the session for 2021 was canceled. It’s the House of Delegates against the Senate, and everyone knows it.
Pinsky and Barve reached an agreement after several months of negotiations. Several timesRest assured Environmental advocates have reached an agreement and are ready to give Climate Solutions Now a second chance, but with a slightly different strategy. Pinsky will again introduce his version of Climate Solutions Now in a single Omnibus bill. Barve will split the House package into smaller pieces this time and work on getting each piece through the lower chamber. Although it is not a common strategy, it was successful in repealing Maryland’s infamous law. Bill of Rights for Law Enforcement OfficersIt was clear that there was a method to this madness last year.
Like last year, Del. Vaughn Stewart (D.Montgomery), is expected to play a prominent role in the General Assembly’s housing conversation. His third edition Tenant Protection ActThis would require landlords give tenants more transparency about their utility bills, allow tenant organizations to meet, and strengthen rent protections to victims of stalking.
Another area to be on the lookout for:In 2021, the General Assembly passed legislation to give tenants of low income facing eviction legal counsel. Not Any legislation that would fund this counsel. You should look for the quest to be Housing advocates should make this their top priority in 2022.
Other urbanist issues that could arise before the General Assembly adjourns are how to deal Maryland’s increasingly neglected and overcrowded state parks. (A recent report by a state commission headed former Gov. Parris Glendening Among other recommendations, suggestsTo establish an MTA pilot program to increase bus access to state parks during summer.