2022 End of Session Letter

Charles Sydnor Senate Letterhead

2022 End of Session Letter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

What a difference it was going into the Maryland General Assembly’s (“MGA”) 442nd Legislative Session, compared to the previous year. We held a special session in December to address redistricting of Maryland’s Congressional districts. We entered Session in January under the cloud of the COVID-19 Omicron variant causing massive disruptions throughout our communities and to the Senate’s operations. At the same time, the State of Maryland, for the first time in many years, had a historic budget surplus that allowed the Maryland General Assembly to make strategic and generational investments for our residents.

I am proud of what the MGA achieved in our 90-day Legislative Session. We provided historic tax relief to senior citizens,  and small businesses, new prosecutorial and judicial accountability reforms, passed Congressional and MGA maps, and  passed a budget that erased Maryland’s structural deficit, along with a budget surplus. This session, I continued serving on  the Judicial Proceeding Committee and two statutory joint committees, the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and  Families and the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness. Additionally, this last session my colleagues in the Baltimore  County Senate Delegation elected me to be its vice chair! 

This end of session letter reviews the progress we made during the 2022 Session in which I sponsored 16 bills and co sponsored 34 bills. I will highlight some of the bills, local bond initiatives, along with bills that may impact you, your  families, and/or our communities. 

In 2022 Legislation I was the primary sponsor of the following legislation: 

SB 55: Baltimore County Board of Education – Retention of Counsel. SB 55 puts the Baltimore County Board of  Education on similar footing as other school boards across the State by allowing the Baltimore County Board of Education  to retain legal counsel in legal matters affecting the Board and to contract for the payment of a reasonable fee to the counsel  without prohibition. Current law prohibits the Baltimore County Board from retaining counsel to represent it in legal matters  unless those matters involve disputes with the Baltimore County government. Status: It passed the Senate 46-0 and the  House of Delegates 119-13, and awaits the Governor’s signature! 

SB 350: Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Community Violence Prevention Services Homicides in major  American cities increased in the year 2021 and Baltimore unfortunately, was one of those cities. There were 337 homicides  and more than 726 shootings in total last year. It was the seventh consecutive year that homicides surpassed the 300 mark. Being exposed to this level of violence is traumatic not only for the victims, but for their families, friends and communities  as well. In April 2021, the Biden administration announced several investments in community violence intervention through  the 2021 American Jobs Plan, Medicaid, and existing agency funds to develop local programs led by mediators who work  with those most at risk of violence and connect them to wraparound services. Community violence interventions are proven  strategies for reducing gun violence through tools other than incarceration. SB 350 aims to establish a permanent and  reliable funding mechanism for violence prevention services, training and certification for violence professionals using  Medicaid funding. Status: It passed the Senate 47-0 and the House of Delegates 97-38 and its crossfile await the  Governor’s signature!

SB 557 / (HB1427): Baltimore County – West Baltimore County Redevelopment Authority If Baltimore County residents are to continue to enjoy a high quality of life, the County must be successful in its efforts to  redevelop mature, older communities and local business districts. To spur investments into these communities the federal,  state and local governments have created various programs /designations for which communities could qualify and be  designated. Over the years “West Baltimore County” has had some areas qualify and designated as HubZones, Opportunity  Zones, Sustainable Communities, and Commercial Revitalization zones. Despite these designations, over the years, the  County has not focused its resources in a manner to spur investment in West Baltimore County and has largely left these  communities without the type of quality investment they deserve. Establishment of the West Baltimore County  Redevelopment Authority, as outlined in SB557, will enable the County government to establish the Authority and provide  it the necessary structure to move forward. The Authority will then have a set of tools and authorizations to help spur a  strong partnership between public and private entities, federal, state and local governmental agencies and the community at  large in order to engage and act on the Authority’s sole mission: to bring revitalization and development to the designated  area in western Baltimore County. Status: It passed the Senate 45-0 and the House of Delegates 125-10, and awaits the  Governor’s signature! 

SB 763 / (HB1429): Public Safety and Criminal Justice – Transparency and Accountability SB 763 began as a bill  intended to bring a level of transparency to how prosecutors do their jobs; however the bill was amended to cover broader  areas around public safety, including provisions to increase the availability and transparency of criminal justice‐related data,  as well as data related to sentencing and the supervision of violent offenders. The portion of the bill most closely related to  the originally filed bill, establishes a Task Force to Study Transparency Standards for State’s Attorneys to study the  possibility of establishing minimum transparency standards for State’s Attorneys, and requires the Maryland State  Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy to include in its annual report specified information regarding sentences  involving crimes of violence (disaggregated by judicial circuit) and conspicuously post such information publicly on its  website.  

In addition to the aforementioned, the bill also requires the Division of Parole and Probation (“DPP”) to submit an annual  report on (1) measures DPP will take to improve oversight of offenders under its supervision who are involved in homicides  and (2) the number of offenders supervised by DPP that were victims of or charged with certain crimes and other reporting  requirements for the DPP to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee and repeals a  statutory provision that excludes student criminal records from analysis.  

SB 763 establishes the Independent Investigative Unit within the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) to investigate all  alleged or potential police‐involved deaths of a civilian. In addition to the provisions discussed above, SB 763 also (1)  renames the Independent Investigative Unit as the “Independent Investigations Division”; (2) specifies that the division is  the primary investigative unit for police-involved incidents that result in the death of civilians or injuries likely to result in  death; and (3) specifies that OAG must determine whether an incident is police‐involved and whether an injury is likely to  result in death. Additionally, for the limited purpose of furthering an ongoing criminal investigation, the bill grants the  Attorney General subpoena powers. Finally, the bill makes multiple alterations to certain provisions regarding the discipline  of police officers. Status: It passed the Senate 37-9 and the House of Delegates 105-10 and awaits the Governor’s  signature! 

SB 31: Public Information Act – Inspection of Records From Body–Worn Digital Recording Devices This bill sets forth when a custodian of records, in accordance with Maryland’s Public Information Act, would be required  to deny or allow inspection of recordings from a body-worn digital recording device worn by a law enforcement officer.  The bill’s provisions (1) did not apply to a public record that has been entered into evidence in a court proceeding and (2)  could not be construed to affect the discovery or evidentiary rights of a party to a civil suit or criminal prosecution. Status: SB31 passed the Senate 45-0 but did not receive a vote in the House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee. 

SB414: Baltimore County - Board of Education - Membership and Election of Officers 

It is common sense that a majority of voting members should be able to elect an officer. SB414 was reintroduced to address  an issue that arose in the December 2019 School Board election, in which the chair and vice chair retained their seats in  spite of winning fewer than a majority of votes. They retained their seats because the law stated that new officers could only 

be elected by a majority of available votes. SB414 clarified that leadership could be elected by the majority of votes by  members present. It also sought to add one more member to the Board, to be appointed by the County Executive, so that  the Board would have an uneven number of members (13 instead of 12). Status: It passed the Senate 42-0 and was  amended by the Baltimore County House Delegation to maintain a 12 member board. This amendment stalled the bill  in the House. 

SB413: Voting Rights Act of 2022 – Counties and Municipalities 

More recently when it came to redistricting, a Baltimore County Commission, formed by our County Council proposed a  redistricting plan that would maintain a white majority in six of seven Council districts by “packing” a supermajority of  Black voters (70 plus percent) into its single majority Black district, a tactic the U.S. Supreme Court has counseled  against. I, along with others, advocated for the County Council to amend the map to better reflect the demographics of the  county. The Council ignored our advocacy, leading me and other Baltimore County citizens and organizations file a federal  lawsuit challenging Baltimore County Council’s unanimously approved racially discriminatory and unlawful redistricting  plan. Ultimately, the judge issued an injunction overturning the plan and required the County to redraw its map, which it  did. The judge ruled that the County’s new map was in compliance with her order.  

As a result of this experience, I introduced SB 413 because the task of holding a municipality or county act in accordance  to federal law should not be left to private citizens. So, similar to the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, SB 413 granted  express authority to the Maryland Attorney General to seek injunctive relief, damages or other relief to enforce the bill when  a County or municipality violates the Voting Rights Act of 2022. This is a power that should be in the hands of the chief  law enforcement officer of the state and SB 413 would have placed this authority where it belongs. Status: Unfortunately,  this bill was note acted upon by the Senate’s Education, Health and Environment Committee. I do hope to  reintroduce the bill next year. 

SB 762 / (HB1046): Criminal Procedure – Facial Recognition Technology – Requirements, Procedures, and  Prohibitions. The development of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) began in concept over 50 years ago as a method  of computer application. Facial recognition systems are utilized throughout the world today by governments, law  enforcement agencies and private companies according to the U. S. Government Office of Accountability. 

SB 762 would have set guardrails for the usage of FRT systems by law enforcement. SB 762 also provided that FRT could be used as an investigative tool, and limits the types of crimes that can be investigated using FRT. To limit falsely identifying  someone, SB 762 limited the databases that could be used by law enforcement agencies to those government databases  which were disclosed during the workgroup meetings to motor vehicle identification images and mugshot photos maintained  by local, state or federal law enforcement agencies. Status: Unfortunately, this bill was note acted upon by the Senate’s  JPR Committee. 

Additionally, here is an overview of some of the most important issues the MGA addressed in the 2022 Legislative  Session: 

Targeted Tax Relief to Fight Inflation: The Senate of Maryland, the Maryland House of Delegates, and Governor came  together across party lines to enact nearly $2 billion in economic support for Maryland’s working families, retirees, and  small businesses. At a time when Maryland has a historic surplus and a balanced budget, we invested in vulnerable  populations who have spent a lifetime caring for others in a way that is fiscally sustainable and responsible. That tax relief  package included: $1.55 billion in relief for retirees 65 and older making up to $100,000 in retirement income, and married  couples making up to $150,000. As a result, 80% of Maryland’s retirees will receive substantial relief or pay no state  income taxes at all (SB405/HB1468); $195 million to fund the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to incentivize employers and  businesses to hire and retain workers from underserved communities that have faced significant barriers to employment  (SB598/HB2); $115.6 million in ‘Family Budget Boosters’ including sales tax exemptions for child care products such as  diapers, car seats, and baby bottles, and critical health products such as dental hygiene products, diabetic care products, and  medical devices (SB316/HB282, HB288, SB571/HB492, SB488/HB364, and HB1151); and, $100 million to suspend  Maryland’s gas tax for 30 days to provide short-term relief to Marylanders due to the events in Ukraine (SB1010/HB1486). 

Expanding Access to Mental, Dental, and Other Health Care: Our state’s health care systems have been strained to a  breaking point over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and Marylanders’ health has suffered as a result. One of  the most important roles of government is to ensure care is accessible and of the highest quality.  

Many Marylanders have seen acute challenges to their mental health from the isolation, grief, and stress that the pandemic  continues to cause. The Maryland General Assembly established a 9-8-8 hotline for Marylanders in crisis (SB241/HB293),  created a $3 million Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Support Services Program (HB513), and ensured  unnecessary barriers to entry are removed from individuals on Medicaid seeking psychiatric inpatient care (SB659/HB684).  

At the same time we made key investments in Marylanders’ physical health through the State’s operating budget for Fiscal  Year 2023 (SB290) including a $14 billion in Medicaid to cover 1.5 million residents, an 8% rate increase for most health  care providers, and $202 million in funding for temporary and ongoing funding enhancements for providers serving  vulnerable populations. We also expanded Medicaid coverage to include dental care for adults whose annual income is at  133% of the federal poverty level (SB150/HB6) with $27 million specifically set aside in the budget for that program. An  additional $35 million is provided to clinical capacity for individuals who are experiencing mental health crises.  

Reducing Violence and Enhancing Safety: Addressing the unacceptable level of crime in Baltimore City and across  Maryland is of the utmost importance, especially as incredibly high numbers of homicides and violent crimes continue to  occur. The Senate of Maryland advanced a comprehensive public safety package aimed at addressing every stage in the  justice system including prevention, intervention, criminal justice, and rehabilitation. In addition to a $148 million increase  in crime prevention and victim services funding in the State budget, that package included: scaling up funding for warrant  apprehension efforts throughout the State (SB585); establishing a Maryland State Police Gun Center to track gun crimes  through prosecution (SB861); banning unserialized and untraceable ghost guns in Maryland (SB387); increasing  coordination between the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Baltimore Police Department if a  defendant of a violent crime is released before trial (SB586). 

Balanced Budget for Fiscal Year 2023 that Invests in Maryland Values: The State surplus and fiscal outlook as we entered  the 2022 Legislative Session was unprecedentedly positive. The surplus in State general funds, albeit mostly one-time  funding, allowed the Maryland General Assembly to make transformative investments while saving for the future. We  ultimately enacted a $61 billion budget that invests heavily in Maryland values, including:  

  • $7.9 billion for Maryland public schools, an increase of an estimated 6.8% from last year, in addition to another  $800 million as a down payment on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future; 
  • $14 billion in Medicaid funding to provide health care coverage to 1.5 million residents with $27 million set aside  for expanded dental coverage; 
  • $210 million to improve the cybersecurity of our state systems to prevent future outages; ● $50 million to address the workforce shortages in hospitals around Maryland; 
  • $50 million for grants to arts and tourism organizations disparately impacted by the pandemic; ● $36 million to support local economic development and revitalization efforts; 
  • $25 million to expand workforce development opportunities through apprenticeships; 
  • $2.6 billion in cash reserves, including $2.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and $211 million in the General Fund,  with ongoing general fund revenues projected to exceed ongoing expenditures by over $310 million in FY2023;  and 
  • the HBCU funding bill that I sponsored last session was also included in this year’s budget. 

District 44 projects funded will provide support to institutions in our district that will allow them to better serve others.  Funded projects included in the FY2023 Capital Budget that are specific to District 44 include the following:

Morning Star Family Life Center 

$1,400,000

Studio 541 Museum 

$194,000

Robert W. Johnson Community Center 

$100,000

Mount Gilboa A.M.E. Church - Road Improvements 

$120,000

Catonsville Middle School 

$100,000

Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum 

$3,000,000

 

Woodlawn Library 

$450,000

Sanaa Center 

$100,000

Islamic Society of Baltimore - Smart Playground 

$300,000

Westowne Elementary School 

$150,000

Catonsville Emergency Assistance 

$300,000

Simkins Mill Property adjacent to Patapsco State Park 

$300,000

Giving Marylanders Time to Care: No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and getting treatment  for cancer, caring for their newborn, or comforting a parent during their last days. Soon, Marylanders will no longer have  to make that impossible decision as we establish a system for paid medical and family leave that covers all working  Marylanders. The legislation we passed this Session is cost effective and affordable for workers, employers, and the State.  It also includes well-established reasons people need family and medical leave while ensuring a substantial amount of wages  during the period of leave. Finally, workers will be protected against adverse consequences for taking leave, while  recognizing the impacts employee leave may have on employer operations. 

Urgently Addressing the Climate Crisis and Protecting Our Future: The climate crisis is having drastic impacts throughout  our State as extreme weather increases. We must take bold, but achievable, actions to reduce our emissions as quickly as  possible. That’s why we passed the Climate Solutions Act of 2022 (SB528) to set bold, aggressive, and practical goals for  reducing Maryland’s emissions of greenhouse gasses 60% by 2030 and reaching net neutral emissions by 2045. The  legislation makes Maryland a national leader in curbing emissions by electrifying our State vehicle fleet and local school  buses, financially incentivizing the construction of new net-zero schools, leveraging private funding for green energy  investments, and curbing emissions from large buildings over time.  

Supporting Maryland Families and Childcare Providers: Strong, reliable childcare is a critical piece in addressing the  workforce shortage, but financial hardship and under enrollment resulted in Maryland losing nearly 800 licensed childcare  facilities during the height of the pandemic. Bolstering our childcare ecosystem for Maryland families was a top priority  and we passed a number of bills that remove barriers by improving the childcare scholarship program (SB920/HB995),  allocate $50 million in childcare stabilization grants for providers who have faced financial hardship (SB480/HB89), create  a $35 million revolving loan fund for critical renovations (SB919/HB993), and provide $16 million to support hiring new  employees and retaining existing employees through bonuses (SB806/HB1100). Finally, an additional $3.7 million is  provided to support specialized child care and education to young children with developmental delays and physical  disabilities (SB506/HB725). 

Supporting Maryland Workers and a Living Wage: Rising income inequality, heightened by the pandemic, continues to  be one of the most consequential issues we face. Unions have long been one of the most effective tools for building our  State and nation’s middle class and protecting economic opportunities for all. Collective bargaining is a vital tool in leveling  the playing field, which is why we expanded the ability to collectively bargain to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender 

(SB255/HB90) and supervisors and sergeants in the Maryland Transit Administration Police (SB475/HB580). We also  passed key bills to expand the applicability of a prevailing and family-sustaining wage (SB259/HB611), as well as our  ability to enforce those requirements (SB1/HB145). 

Building World-Class State Parks: Maryland’s state parks are a national treasure, something more of our residents realized  as we spent additional time outside throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, many of our state parks could not accommodate  the increased demand by Marylanders due to a backlog of maintenance issues, inadequate staffing, and transportation  limitations. In response to record levels of attendance at state parks, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Great  Maryland Outdoors Act (SB541) to ensure issues of access are a thing of the past. This critical bill provides funding to  address overcrowding and understaffing, clears a backlog of critical repairs, increases recreational water access, improves  accessibility, and creates new state parks in every region of Maryland. 

Modernizing Maryland’s Juvenile Justice System: As Maryland’s criminal justice system has evolved in recent years, our  juvenile justice system has not kept pace. Too often, when minors encounter the juvenile justice system, they are treated in  ways that are not developmentally appropriate and lead to inequitable outcomes that are punitive as opposed to reformative.  After years of study, the Maryland General Assembly moved forward with reforms recommended by the State’s Juvenile 

Justice Reform Council to protect children’s due process rights when they are taken into custody (SB53/HB269) and  comprehensively overhaul our criminal code as applied to children to reflect national best practices (SB691/HB459). 

Extending Housing and Eviction Protections: Housing insecurity and instability has been at the forefront of our minds  throughout the pandemic. Although federal eviction prevention funding has provided a lifeline, we anticipate a drastic rise  in eviction filings as that funding is eventually exhausted. This Session, we passed a series of bills to ensure an equitable  approach to our housing laws for tenants, including: 

  • Protecting tenants from unreasonable or arbitrary deductions by requiring landlords to provide supporting  documentation (SB6/HB86); 
  • Requiring judges to pause eviction proceedings when the tenant provides evidence that a request for rental assistance  is pending (SB384/HB674); 
  • Ensuring any landlord seeking an eviction order has a valid rental license (SB563/HB703); and ● Providing $14 million to fund the Access to Counsel in Evictions Special Fund that was created last Session to level  the playing field regarding legal representation in eviction proceedings. 

Increasing Access to the Ballot Box: As states around the country move to restrict voting rights, Maryland continued to  focus on making it easier for all eligible voters to have voices heard. Mail-in voting is continuing to gain in popularity and  we made sure that voters who forget to sign their mail-in ballot have the opportunity to fix, or “cure,” it in time for that vote  to be counted. In addition, we allowed local boards of elections to begin canvassing mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day  to avoid delays in communicating results (SB163/HB682). Finally, we codified the cost-split between the State and our  local jurisdictions relating to administering elections to maintain robust access through minimizing expenses. 

Celebrating Black History: Maryland, like the rest of the country, owes an immense debt of gratitude and recognition to  our Black residents. Black History Month is critical, but insufficient, to recognizing those contributions that literally built  our State and nation, as well as the heroic actions of Black servicemen and women who fought and died for our national  interests. It’s rare that the Maryland General Assembly creates new commemorative days in statute, however we codified  Juneteenth National Independence Day (HB227) and Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day (SB5/HB479) in an effort to  acknowledge those legacies.  

Developing a 21st Century Workforce: Small businesses and industries in every economic sector have dealt with workforce  shortages in recent months. Although there is no one cause, we know there is a massive gap between the job requirements  and skills in a 21st century economy, and people trained to meet those prerequisites. To help alleviate those issues, the  Maryland General Assembly passed a number of bills to increase opportunity through drastically scaling up apprenticeship  training programs across the State (SB926) and connect more young people to those experiences (SB420). We also expanded  the applicability of the tax credit to employers who hire individuals with disabilities to make those jobs more accessible  (SB93).  

Bolstering Cybersecurity: The downage on the Maryland Department of Health’s website at the beginning of the Omicron  wave underscored the urgent need to enhance Maryland’s cybersecurity apparatus, funding, and procedures. The Maryland  General Assembly worked with the Governor’s office and State agencies to fund the Cyber Preparedness Unit within the  MD Department of Emergency Management (SB754/HB1202), develop a long-term plan to update IT systems and local  governments pay for upgrades (SB811/HB1205), and centralize authority with the MD Department of Information  Technology including regular risk assessments (SB812/HB1346). In addition, the FY 2023 operating budget includes $570  million for proactive cyber infrastructure investments to immediately fend off potential attacks. 

Finally, HB 632 Baltimore East–West Corridor – Transit Study – Requirements establishes project planning  requirements, contingent on the receipt of federal funds, for the Maryland Department of Transportation for the “Red Line”  and the MARC rail extension to the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. This bill effects District 44 as “Red Line” is defined as  a rail transit facility using one or more vehicles operating in tandem on a fixed rail in a combination of at-grade, elevated,  and underground configurations through Baltimore City and Baltimore County along a generally east to west alignment  between the terminus of Security Boulevard on the west and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center on the east,  connecting as appropriate to other fixed-route transit services. 

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Senator. If I can be of further service, please feel free to contact me or my  Chief of Staff, Gene Clark.

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