2020 Maryland General Assembly Wrap Up Report

Maryland General Assembly moving quickly to thwart potential Hogan ...

Courtesy Baltimore Sun

The 2020 Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session adjourned early for the first time since the Civil War, ending on March 18 instead of April 6 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Of the more than 3,200 bills introduced, approximately 680 passed. Most of these passed over the last few days of the Session as members worked diligently to pass the State’s operating and capital budgets, emergency bills to guide how the state will operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, major education reform legislation, a plan to generate revenue to fund education reforms, horse racing reforms to keep the Preakness in Baltimore, a referendum on sports betting, and a plan to address crime regionally and in Baltimore City.

All passed bills, except the budget bill and constitutional amendments, must be presented to the Governor within twenty days following adjournment. The Governor may veto such bills within thirty days after presentation. If a passed bill is not vetoed, it becomes law. The budget bill, however, becomes law upon its final passage and cannot be vetoed. Constitutional amendments also cannot be vetoed; they become law only upon their ratification by the voters at the next general election.

General Assembly leadership announced a possible special session in late May to deal with gubernatorial vetoes and any unfinished business. However, a special session is uncertain due to the escalation of COVID-19.

Below is a summary of some of the major issues that passed during the 2020 General Assembly Session. A complete list of all bills that passed during the abbreviated Session can be found on the General Assembly webpage.

Fiscal Year 2021 Budget

The fiscal year 2021 budget as enacted by the General Assembly totals approximately $48 billion, a 1.6% increase from fiscal year 2020. The general fund budget, the portion supported by tax related revenues such as the income tax, sales tax, and state lottery, totals approximately $19.8 billion.

The budget leaves a fund balance of at least $100 million and eliminates the structural shortfall in fiscal 2021. $1.4 billion is preserved in cash resources and state spending increased by $78.6 million or 0.4%. State support for public schools is a record $7.2 billion and total state aid for primary and secondary education will increase by an estimated $236.3 million. The budget dedicates $362 million to support the implementation of The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Kirwan Commission). In addition, $10 million is included in the fiscal 2020 budget to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and separate legislation authorizes the Governor to utilize $50 million from the Rainy Day Fund if necessary. See budget documents below.

Built to Learn Act of 2020 (HB 1 – School Construction)

Provides for an additional $2.2 billion in school construction funding, authorizing the use of bonds that would be paid off from casino revenues.

Tobacco Tax, Sales and Use Tax, and Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax (HB 732)

Makes changes to the tobacco tax, imposes a sales and use tax on electronic vaping devices and vaping liquid, and imposes a tax on annual gross revenues derived from digital advertising services.

21st-Century Economy Fairness Act (HB 932 – Digital Downloads)

Applies the sales and use tax to digital downloads with the proceeds going to The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund to fund Kirwan Commission recommendations.

Prescription Drug Affordability Board and Fund (HB 1095)

Requires the Board to assess and collect an annual fee on manufacturers that sell or offer for sale prescription drug products to persons in the State, pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), carriers, and wholesale distributors that sell or offer for sale prescription drug products to persons in the State. Fees are to be used to provide funding for the Board and related purposes.

Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (HB 1300 Kirwan Commission)

Establishes in law the policies and accountability recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission), including the creation of a new Accountability and Implementation Board to oversee implementation of the policies and funding provided under the Blueprint. Funding for existing education formulas, including the foundation program and targeted programs, is altered and new funding formulas are established for specific purposes, such as the concentration of poverty grant program and publicly funded full-day prekindergarten program.

 COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020 (HB 1663/SB 1080)

Authorizes the Governor for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency to take specified actions relating to health insurance, Medicaid, retailer profits, employer actions, and personnel at State health care facilities.  The bill also authorizes the Secretary of Labor to determine that an individual is eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits under specified circumstances due to COVID-19. This bill is an emergency measure and has already been signed into law.

Sports and Event Wagering Referendum (SB 4)

Approves a voter referendum to authorize sports wagering in the State, including online sports wagering. This will be on the ballot in November 2020.

Maryland State Crime Plan (SB 907)

Establishes the Law Enforcement Coordinating Council within the Department of State Police (DSP) to prevent and reduce crime by coordinating and focusing State resources and providing for interagency communications and intelligence sharing. This is an emergency bill.

Public Resources Organizing To End Crime Together (SB 929 P.R.O.T.E.C.T.)

Establishes the P.R.O.T.E.C.T. Program to maximize the use of State, local, and community resources to combat neighborhood decline in Baltimore City and throughout the State, support comprehensive strategies to reduce crime and fear in those communities, and ensure that Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) sworn officers are utilized in direct public safety roles.

Racing and Community Development Act of 2020 (SB 987)

Provides for the redevelopment of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore City and Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County

Coronavirus – Revenue Stabilization Account Transfer (SB 1079)

Authorizes the Governor to transfer by budget amendment up to $50.0 million from the Revenue Stabilization Account (Rainy Day Fund) to the expenditure accounts of the appropriate units of State government to fund costs associated with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This bill is an emergency measure and has already been signed into law.


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