ANNAPOLIS, Md.– The 438th legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly adjourned its 90-day session on April 9 during which lawmakers considered more than 3,100 introduced bills and approved nearly 900 measures. Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr. (R), along with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D-27) and Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch (D-30A), signed 114 bills into law yesterday during a ceremony in the State House.
The Maryland Catholic Conference advocates the Church’s public policy positions for the more than 1 million Catholics living in the state. Many of the initiatives addressed by the Conference during the 2018 legislative session resulted in a successful outcome.
“As so many legislative leaders have noted, the General Assembly worked in a bi-partisan manner to solve many key issues this session,” said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “As advocates for those most in need, we are pleased that a number of issues passed that will help to improve lives and build a safer and more just society.”
Among the measures the Conference supported that successfully passed both chambers are bills to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (SB 647/HB 856), and to increase funding for child care subsidies (SB 379/HB 430) and Head Start programs (SB 373/HB 547). Additionally, the Conference supported the Tyrone Ray Safe Streets Initiative (HB 113), which requires the Governor to include $3.6 million in his budget each year, allocated to Baltimore City, for the disbursement of grants to violence prevention or intervention programs operated by a community-based organization in a neighborhood affected by violent crime.
The Conference was a lead agent in advocating for the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program, which has been funded at $7.6 million, an increase of approximately $1.6 million for this popular and growing program. For the 2018-19 school year, a portion of funding will be directed to assist students with special needs, while continuing to provide scholarships to low-income students.
In light of the attention paid to school safety this session, the General Assembly also increased funding for the Nonpublic Aging Schools Program to $7 million for capital improvements to Catholic and other nonpublic schools as part of the FY 2019 capital budget. The allocation will continue to provide $3.5 million for deferred maintenance and infrastructure repairs and renovations, as well as an additional $3.5 million to assist schools in making their schools safer for their students.
Students who attend Catholic and other nonpublic schools will continue to utilize the direct savings on textbook and technology costs through the Nonpublic Textbook and Technology Program which was again funded this year at $6 million.
The Conference also supported several measures to reduce gun violence, including a bill passed by the General Assembly (SB 707/HB 888) to ban a rapid fire trigger activator, commonly referred to as a “bump stock,” in the state of Maryland. Additionally, the Conference supported a bill (HB 96) to remove financial barriers that may prevent someone from becoming a living organ donor by creating a subtraction modification against the State income tax for up to $7,500 of the qualified expenses incurred by a living organ donor.
While immigration continues to be a priority issue for the Conference, several bills failed to pass this session that the Conference had promoted, including a bill to facilitate the process through which an immigrant can obtain a U-Visa, and measures to tighten regulations on foreign labor practices and expand the state’s DREAM Act. The Conference also joined other advocates in promoting a bill that failed to receive a committee vote that would have expanded the state’s fetal homicide law.
The Maryland Catholic Conference represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.