Budget Surplus, Pots, COVID-19, Climate, Top Issues in Maryland Before Legislative Session – CBS Baltimore

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – Maryland lawmakers will gather for their annual 90-day legislative session this week with a massive budget surplus, while legalizing recreational marijuana, combating COVID-19 and measures Tackling climate change will be one of the main issues ahead of them in an election year.

The Maryland General Assembly, controlled by Democrats, will grapple with how to best manage more than $4.5 billion in surplus in the current and next fiscal year – a result of federal pandemic aid and state revenue was better than expected.

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“I think people have heard this $4.6 billion like it’s about time we can fund everything we can, but we have to be very, very thoughtful and tempered about how we go about it. close to it, because we don’t want to put ourselves in a financial trouble two to three years from now,” said Senate Chairman Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones said using the surplus to help get more people back to work would be a top priority. The speaker emphasized upgrading parks, bridges, schools and information technology systems as areas that need attention.

“We’re going to focus on making major upgrades rather than creating new long-term spending priorities,” said Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat. “Basically, we wanted to be able to put capital in so we could see results more immediately.”

Lawmakers will also finalize a new map of the state’s legislative districts for the 188 seats of the General Assembly. A panel of lawmakers approved a proposed map last week that they are submitting to the legislature.

Meanwhile, Republican Governor Larry Hogan on Monday announced that he is proposing a three-year, $500 million investment to bolster law enforcement support. Hogan said he will reintroduce the law to tackle violent crime in the upcoming session. Measures would include stronger penalties for violators who illegally use and possess firearms.

Hogan, who is entering his final session as governor, also said he would propose increasing the state’s Rainy Day Fund as well as reducing taxes. The governor has been trying to win tax breaks for retirees for years.

“Our focus for the entire legislative session, as I mentioned, will be crime, cutting taxes and trying to get some fair map in the redistricting process,” Hogan said today. Monday.

As COVID-19 cases increase, pandemic-related expenditures are also expected to be a top issue.

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“I think testing is going to be with us for a while, and so we have to have the infrastructure in place to restore confidence that we can deal with this virus and live a healthy life,” said Ferguson. sustainable living,” said Ferguson.

Senator Bryan Simonaire, the minority leader in the Senate, said Republicans would support tax relief, specifically repealing the digital download tax passed last year and ending tax hikes. State auto gas has been in effect for many years.

“We believe you should lower taxes, give some money back to the people,” said Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican.

One well-known measure also has significant financial implications for the state: how to approach recreational marijuana legalization.

While Ferguson expressed support for moving forward with this year’s General Assembly vote to legalize recreational marijuana, Jones was in favor of putting the issue on the ballot for voters to decide on November.

Lawmakers will also have to grapple with how to tackle climate change. Last year, a sweeping measure stalled, prompting the state to plan to increase its greenhouse gas reduction target from 40% of 2006 levels by 2030 to 60% – albeit with some provisions such as planting 5 million trees. Green in 2031 was adopted.

Juvenile justice reform is also expected to be a priority. A state commission last summer proposed changes including ending the policy of automatically charging youth as an adult for certain crimes.

Legislation to create a statewide insurance plan to provide family and medical leave is also being proposed.

“We are in the process of bringing together the right stakeholders to work with both employers and workers to see what consensus we can reach that makes sense,” Jones said.

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Dustin Huang

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