2023 End of Session Letter

Charles Sydnor Senate Letterhead

2023 End of Session Letter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Maryland General Assembly recently concluded our 445th Legislative Session and made historic progress for the State as we go through a generational leadership transition. For the first time in decades, Maryland swore in new individuals to every statewide constitutional office. That changing of the guard, including a new Governor, Lt. Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General, has created a more cohesive State government with a level of partnership between the executive and Maryland General Assembly that hasn’t existed for nearly a decade.

As a result of that increased level of collaboration, we were able to truly make the most of our 90- day legislative session despite an increased level of economic uncertainty and difficult budgetary  decisions. Because it is the first year of a term, our goal was to put Maryland on a path to prosperity  and advance issues that will define the next four years. I am incredibly proud to say that we  accomplished those objectives. 

We made historic investments in public education through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,  created a path to economic prosperity for working families by accelerating the State’s $15 an hour  minimum wage, and responded to the recent extreme United States Supreme Court decisions by  safeguarding reproductive health services and increasing public safety by limiting the number of  guns in our communities. 

This session, my leadership roles and involvement across the General Assembly expanded. I  continued my service on the Judicial Proceeding Committee and was appointed to Executive  Nominations Committee, where the Governor’s nominees has to receive the advice and consent of  the Senate. I continued my service on the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Families and  was appointed to the Joint Committee for Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review.  Additionally, I was appointed Senate Chair for the Legislative Ethics Committee, and Deputy  Majority Whip for the Senate. I was also elected Chair of the Baltimore County Senate Delegation! 

Every decision the Maryland General Assembly made this year was from a lens of expanding  opportunity for as many residents as possible. During the 2023 Session, I sponsored 17 bills that 

addressed topics including civil rights, consumer protection, and public safety and I co-sponsored  17 bills. This end of session letter reviews the progress we made and highlights some of those bills,  local bond initiatives, and other bills that passed that may impact you, your families, and/or our  communities. After a hard-fought 90-days in Annapolis, I look forward to serving Maryland’s 

44th District back home until the 2024 Legislative Session kicks off next January. 

This legislative session, I was the primary sponsor of the following legislation which passed  the General Assembly: 

SB 478 / (HB 339): Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission – Reporting  and Sunset Extension In the 2019 Session of the Maryland General Assembly established the  Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission to research cases of racially motivated  lynchings and to hold public meetings and regional hearings where a lynching of an African  American by a white mob has been documented. Senate Bill 478 seeks to extend the commission  for another two years, from June 30, 2024, to June 30, 2026, giving them ample time to continue  the work they are doing. The bill also extends until December 1, 2025, the deadline by which the  commission must submit a final report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor and  General Assembly. Status: It passed the Senate 46-0 and the House of Delegates 135-0, and was  signed into law by the Governor on April 11th

SB 880 / (HB 843): Baltimore Regional Water Governance Task Force The ongoing issues at  the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant demonstrate the urgency in creating a more  collaborative and comprehensive approach to our water utility system. The staffing issues at Back  River and similar treatment facilities impacts customers throughout the entire Greater Baltimore  Region, including Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard, and Harford  Counties. This emergency bill establishes the Baltimore Regional Water Governance Task Force,  which is tasked to review specified findings, assess alternative governance structures for the  Baltimore region’s water and wastewater utility, analyze the fiscal implications and efficiencies of  each alternative governance structure, and make a recommendation regarding the governance  model best suited for water and wastewater systems in the Baltimore region. The task force must  report its findings and recommendations to the Mayor of Baltimore City, the Baltimore County  Executive, the Governor, and the General Assembly by January 30, 2024. Status: It passed the  Senate 43-0 and the House 135-5. It now awaits signature of the Governor. 

SB 106 / (HB 42): Courts – Judgements – Exemptions From Execution This bill exempts from  execution on a money judgment, without election by the judgment debtor, up to $500 in a deposit  account or other account of a judgment debtor held in specified financial institutions. The  cumulative value of cash and property exempted under the bill’s exemption and the existing  election-based exemption may not exceed $6,000 (the current statutory limit). Currently these  protections are not self-executing. Typically, people affected would have no knowledge of the  exemption, leaving them susceptible to the fact that a creditor can take up to 100% of the contents  of their bank account. These issues perpetuate the cycle of poverty, and SB 106 helps alleviate at  least a portion of this issue. Status: It passed the Senate 45-0 and House 102-29. It now awaits  signature of the Governor.

SB 193 / (HB 92): Ground Leases – Collection of Rent, Interest, Fees, and Other Expenses – Registration Requirements Senate Bill 193 addresses a critical issue for those who pay  residential ground rent. It provides a mechanism for the Department of Assessments and Taxation  (“SDAT”) to remove or strike an erroneous document from the Ground Rent Registry. Currently,  SDAT does not have the statutory authority to strike documents from the registry if there is an  error. Senate Bill 193 clarifies that if a ground rent is unenforceable, no attempt can be made to  collect any payment, or expenses related to the ground lease. Senate Bill 193 also clarifies that a  pending application to register a previously unregistered ground rent is not enforceable until the  application is approved. This bill adds important consumer protections for homeowners who have  residential ground rents. Status: It passed the Senate 46-0 and the House of Delegates 130-0, and awaits the Governor’s signature! 

SB 194 / (HB 118): Ground Leases – Notices and Billing – Forms and Requirements Senate  Bill 194 updates the SDAT’s Ground Rent Department’s mission from being a neutral record  keeper to actively assisting homeowners with redeeming their ground rent. It ensures that ground  rent bills are mailed to the same address where a property’s tax bill is mailed; and requires that  ground leaseholders use the sample notices that are on SDAT’s website. SDAT notes that there  are many unregistered and therefore unenforceable ground rents. When a ground rent becomes  registered or has been delinquent, SB 194 ensures that only three years of ground rent can be held  in escrow. Senate Bill 194 provides significant changes that will add consumer protections for  homeowners who have residential ground rents. Status: It passed the Senate 46-0 and the House  of Delegates 134-0, and awaits the Governor’s signature! 

SB 196 / (HB 93): Ground Leases – Notices and Billing – Forms and Requirements Senate  Bill 196 addresses a 2007 drafting error that resulted through the years of the SDAT’s current  practice of rejecting any application for ground rent redemption final payment or final affidavit  received too early being rejected. SB 196 allows SDAT flexibility if a payment or final affidavit  is received too early. Status: It passed the Senate 46-0 and the House of Delegates 130-0, and  awaits the Governor’s signature! 

SB 293: Corrections – Incarcerated Individuals The idea of this bill was brought to me by the  former Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Senate Bill 293 is modeled  on a New York State law passed during the summer of 2022. Similar to New York’s law, SB 293  discontinues the outdated official term inmate with the term incarcerated individual. Status: It  passed the Senate 47-0 and the House of Delegates 102-35, and awaits the Governor’s  signature! 

Additionally, I sponsored other worthwhile legislation that failed to pass the General  Assembly. 

SB 192 / (HB 223): Criminal Procedure – Facial Recognition Technology – Requirements,  Procedures, and Prohibitions Senate Bill 762 would have set guardrails for the usage of Facial  Recognition Technology (“FRT”) systems by law enforcement. The bill also provided that FRT  could be used as an investigative tool, and limits the types of crimes that can be investigated using  FRT. To prevent FRT from falsely identifying someone, SB 762 limited the databases law  enforcement agencies can use to only the government databases disclosed during the workgroup meetings: motor vehicle identification images and mugshot photos maintained by local, state or  federal law enforcement agencies; however, the bill was ultimately amended at the behest of law  enforcement to include additional databases to ensure no possible lead was closed off. Status: It  passed the Senate 46-0 and, after amendment, the House of Delegates 121-9. However, it did  not have enough time for the Senate to take up the amended bill and therefore, died on Sine  Die. 

SB 40: Public Information Act – Inspection of Records From Body–Worn Digital Recording  Devices 

Senate Bill 40 attempted to strike a balance in protecting victim privacy while assuring  transparency in policing. Senate Bill 40 accomplishes this by enumerating the circumstances under  which a records custodian may or may not release police video records. Senate Bill 40 would prohibit releasing video depicting victims of domestic violence, sexual crimes, or child or  vulnerable adult abuse; unless requested by those who were subjects in the video. This bill would  ensure certain individuals access to the footage and allow for copying, it would also ensure that  certain alleged perpetrators would be able to inspect, but not copy, the video. This would ensure  the video could not be used for victim humiliation nor shaming. Status: It passed the Senate 46- 0 and died awaiting a vote in the House’s Judiciary Committee. 

SB 11: Motor Vehicles – Establishment of School Zones Current law allows local governments  to place school zone cameras anywhere within a 0.5-mile radius of schools, which can be up to 10  blocks away. In some instances, cameras aren’t in an area to benefit school children’s safety but  are placed in high traffic areas where speeding is likely, to increase the issuance of tickets. The  Maryland State Highway Administration has a policy for state roads which states that “except in  unusual circumstances and as justified by a traffic engineering study, a school zone adjacent to a  school should not exceed 500 feet approaching or beyond the school or the school activity.” Senate  Bill 11 adopted the language of that policy for all roads to ensure the placement of cameras in  closer proximity to schools to ensure our children and crossing guards benefit from these camera’s  usage within school zones. Children should feel safe getting to school, and not have to worry about  themselves or the adults who serve to protect them in ensuring their safe passage to the building.  Status: While it passed the Senate 43-0 and received an unfavorable report in the House’s  Environment and Transportation Committee. 

SB 47: Evidence – Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance – Fair Housing Testing At the  moment, with current codification covering Wiretapping and Electronic surveillance, fair housing  testers are not able to record their conversations and admit that as evidence. This bill would have  allowed a fair housing testers to intercept to capture audio for the purpose of obtaining evidence  of a fair housing violation under federal, State, or local law. This is a tremendous hurdle in pursing  discrimination cases, making it nearly unenforceable. Status: Unfortunately, this bill was not  acted upon by the Senate’s JPR Committee, but it could be an important tool in combatting  discrimination. 

SB 878 / (HB 1104): Voting Rights Act of 2023 – Counties and Municipalities This emergency  bill establishes various State law provisions relating to voting rights, including provisions (1)  protecting the voting rights and abilities of protected class members in local government elections;  (2) prohibiting voter intimidation, deception, or obstruction; (3) requiring language-related assistance in local government elections under specified circumstances; (4) establishing a  preclearance requirement; and (5) establishing a Statewide Election Database and Information  Office. Status: Unfortunately, this bill was not acted upon by the Senate’s Education, Energy,  and the Environment Committee. 

SB 583: Public Safety – Law Enforcement Agencies – Acquisition and Use of Surveillance  Technology This bill would have prohibited the use of surveillance technology by a law  enforcement agency, except as provided under the bill. The bill establishes the Privacy Technology  Board, staffed by and within the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and  establishes the membership, terms, and duties of the board. Each law enforcement agency must  obtain authorization from the board before accepting funds for, acquiring, using, or entering into  agreements relating to surveillance technology. Before seeking authorization from the board, each  law enforcement agency must submit a surveillance impact report to the board for each  surveillance technology to be used by the agency. By March 1, 2024, and each March 1 thereafter,  each law enforcement agency must report to the board, as a public record, on the operation of each  surveillance technology used by the law enforcement agency in the previous calendar year. The  bill also establishes enforcement provisions. Status: Unfortunately, this bill was not acted upon  by the Senate’s JPR Committee. 

SB 479: Department of Small, Minority, and Women Business Enterprises – Establishment  and Duties This bill creates the Department of Small, Minority, and Women Business Enterprises  (“DOSBE”) as a principal department of the Executive Branch, replacing the Governor’s Office  of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs. It also establishes the State Board of Contract  Preference Appeals, with jurisdiction to decide appeals of agencies’ final actions related to  specified statutory procurement preference programs. The bill creates the Small and Minority  Business Development Program and related fund to help develop, redevelop, or expand small and  minority businesses. Finally, the bill makes several changes to the State’s Minority Business  Enterprise (“MBE”) program, including designating DOSBE as the new MBE certification agency  instead of the Maryland Department of Transportation. Status: Unfortunately, this bill was not  acted upon by the Senate’s Finance Committee. 

Investing in Maryland Values through a Responsible and Balanced Budget for Fiscal Year  2024: The core role of the Maryland General Assembly in any legislative session is passing a  balanced State budget for the next fiscal year. Even as federal funding from the COVID-19  pandemic goes away and the Board of Revenue Estimates projects lower revenue through Fiscal  Year 2024, we were able to make responsible investments to benefit our State’s residents and  economy. We ultimately enacted a $63.1 billion budget (HB200 and HB202) that invests heavily  in Maryland values, including: 

  • $14 billion in Medicaid funding to provide healthcare coverage to 1.5 million residents; $8.7 billion for Maryland public pre-k to 12 schools, an increase of 9.1%, in addition to  another $900 million as a down payment on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future; $250 million to combat the climate crisis, including $160 million to support State parks  and forests, $60 million for Chesapeake Bay restoration, $15 million for tree planting, and  $15 million for projects under the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022; 
  • $200 million available for new mass transit and transportation infrastructure throughout  the State to allow flexibility should Maryland be awarded competitive federal grants;
  • $200 million for tax relief for Maryland’s veterans and working families; $86 million in public safety and victim services enhancements, including an additional $46 million above the statutorily required amount to fund police aid and $40 million in  increases to support domestic violence victims and rape crisis centers; and $2.85 billion in cash reserves, including $2.5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and over $350 million in the General Fund, with ongoing general fund revenues projected to exceed  ongoing expenditures by over $150 million in Fiscal Year 24. 

Funding Our Local Economies and Anchor Institutions: The MGA worked collaboratively to  invest a historic amount of capital funds to stimulate our local economies and provide Marylanders  with family-sustaining jobs (HB201). That funding provides vital support to our local institutions  and invests State dollars in our community. Projects funded in Maryland’s 44th Legislative District  include: 

County Executive and County Council of Baltimore County for the Banneker  Community Center Gymnasium 


Music City Maryland Association Inc. for the Music City Maryland  Amphitheater 


The Islamic Society of Baltimore, Md., Inc. for Phase 2 – Community Learning  Center Outdoor Learning Pavilion and Smart Playground 


Woodlawn Volunteer Fire Company for Outdoor Sign Replacement 


UMBC for Sherman Hall Renovation 


Junior Achievement of Central Maryland, Inc. for infrastructure improvements  facilities located in Halethorpe 


County Executive and County Council of Baltimore County for site  improvement of Woodlawn High School, including exterior lighting


County Executive and County Council of Baltimore County for Catonsville Fire  Department Station


The Children’s Home, Inc. - Youth Learning and Vocational Center Restoration 


County Executive and County Council of Baltimore County for infrastructure  improvements to the Lansdowne Library


West Baltimore County Redevelopment Authority 


General funds for the Family Investment Administration within the Department  of Human Services for the Maryland Food Bank. 



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.