Lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment that will go on the ballot next year to enshrine the right to abortion in the Maryland Constitution. Lawmakers passed legislation to protect patients and providers from criminal, civil and administrative penalties relating to abortion bans or restrictions in other states. They approved a separate data-privacy bill to protect medical and insurance records on reproductive health in electronic health information exchanges that can be shared across state lines. Legislators also passed a bill to ensure public colleges and universities in Maryland have a plan for student access near campuses to birth control, including emergency contraception and abortion pills.
The legislature passed a $62.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year. The General Assembly decided to put aside $900 million to help pay costs in future years of a sweeping education reform law known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. That’s on top of $8.7 billion set aside for pre-K-12 funding in the next fiscal year. The state will have about $2.85 billion in reserves, including about $2.5 billion in the rainy day fund and a balance of $351 million in the general fund.
Lawmakers decided licensing and tax rates needed to open a recreational marijuana market on July 1, after voters approved a constitutional amendment in November. Medical cannabis stores will be able to get a dual license to sell recreational marijuana, and there will be additional licenses made available with an emphasis on equity concerns. The tax will be 9%. Adults 21 and over will be able to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and two marijuana plants.
Maryland will set requirements for vehicle manufacturers to sell a rising annual percentage of zero-emission vehicles like electric trucks, delivery vans and school buses in the state beginning in model year 2027.
Lawmakers passed a measure to end the state’s statute of limitations for when civil lawsuits can be filed against public and private institutions related to child sexual abuse.
The state will expand procedures relating to gender-affirming care that are covered by the state’s Medicaid program. Coverage will expand to cover procedures that include hair alteration, voice modification surgery and therapy, alterations to the abdomen, trunk, face and neck and fertility preservation services. Revisions and reversals of prior treatments also would be covered.
Lawmakers approved new gun laws in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year that struck down a New York law that was very similar to Maryland’s “good and substantial reason” standard for permits to carry concealed handguns. One measure allows private property owners to control whether firearms can be brought onto their private property, including commercial establishments and private dwellings. It also defines sensitive places, where firearms can’t be brought. A separate bill removes the “good and substantial reason” language from the state’s law, while making changes to the wear-and-carry permit process.
The legislature passed a bill to create a nine-member Maryland Thoroughbred Operating Authority that would oversee delayed plans for infrastructure improvements at Pimlico Race Course — home of the Preakness Stakes — and Laurel Park. The measure also creates a backup plan to keep horse racing running, if an operating agreement among the owners expires July 1.
988 CRISIS PREVENTION
Lawmakers passed a measure to set aside $12 million in 2025 to fund the 988 suicide and crisis prevention hotline.
MAIL-IN BALLOTS Maryland will begin processing mail-in ballots during elections eight business days before the start of early voting, though some smaller jurisdictions can get a waiver. The state’s primary will be moved from April to the second Tuesday in May in 2024.
Maryland will speed up its scheduled increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour to take effect in January, rather than waiting until 2025 under previous law.
OFFSHORE WIND Lawmakers passed a bill to expand Maryland’s commitment to offshore wind as part of the state’s efforts to address climate change. It sets a goal for Maryland to generate 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2031. The bill aims to modernize the electricity grid to transmit offshore wind energy from the ocean to land.
PAID FAMILY LEAVE Lawmakers approved a bill to implement the state’s paid family and medical leave law, which was approved last year. It will require the cost of premiums for the program to be split evenly between workers and employers. The program will allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid time off to deal with family health issues.
The Maryland Attorney General will have independent authority to bring criminal charges against police officers after investigating deaths when officers are involved.
The General Assembly passed the governor’s expansion of tax credits that had been set to expire for low-income residents. The legislation will make permanent an expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit approved in 2021 for tax years through 2022. The measure also will expand the state’s child tax credit.
Coverage of telehealth will be extended to June 30, 2025, by the Maryland Medical Assistance Program and certain insurers, nonprofit health services plans and health maintenance organizations.
Lawmakers passed a bill to move oversight of the state’s pre-paid college trust fund to the state treasurer, after hundreds of parents said they could not get access to all of the money in their accounts. The bill would abolish the current board that oversees the state’s 529 college savings program.