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The Maryland General Assembly concluded its 2023 legislative session Monday night – celebrating the passage of hundreds of bills throughout the 90-day session.
Gov. Wes Moore and other state Democratic leaders’ priority legislation, including cannabis, gun control and abortion bills, all successfully passed in both chambers of the General Assembly. These bills now sit on Moore’s desk awaiting his signature. Bill signing ceremonies began Tuesday.
A bill that would prohibit police from conducting a stop or search of a person or vehicle solely based on the smell of cannabis triggered contentious debate in the session’s final minutes Monday and led to some Republican delegates yelling and leaving the House floor. The bill ultimately passed out of both chambers before lawmakers celebrated adjournment with confetti and balloons.
Moore visited both chambers Monday evening and commended lawmakers for their work.
“What you did was you showed Maryland that we can do big things again,” Moore told delegates, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Though a few of Moore’s 10 proposed bills were heavily amended by legislators, all passed by the end of session.
Two bills Moore signed Tuesday aim to tackle poverty through accelerating the rise of the minimum wage to $15 an hour and through expanding tax credits for low-income Marylanders.
Other bills Moore proposed aim to help Maryland’s veterans and expand public service in the state.
In a statement to Maryland Matters Tuesday, House Speaker Adrienne Jones expressed pride in the outcomes of the 2023 session.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and proud that Maryland continues to be a national leader in advancing Democratic values,” Jones said. “We’ve taken some of the most significant actions to protect civil rights and expand equity for this generation.”
Some bills — such as one that would legalize medical aid in dying and one that would expand undocumented immigrants’ access to health care — failed to gain enough support to pass.
Here’s a look at some of the legislation that passed this session:
Gun Safety Act
Following intense and lengthy debates in the final days of session, lawmakers passed a bill that would limit where people can carry firearms in public places.
Democrats proposed the Gun Safety Act of 2023 in response to a Supreme Court decision in June that struck down a New York gun restriction similar to laws in Maryland. During the debates, Republican delegates argued the bill would not hold up in court.
Another gun control bill that passed this session would change gun storage laws, so children cannot access firearms.
Following the passage of the Right to Reproductive Freedom Act, Marylanders will be voting in 2024 on whether to add a reproductive rights amendment to Maryland’s constitution.
This bill is part of a larger package of legislation aimed to expand access to reproductive rights in the state. The three other bills in the package were also passed by lawmakers, including ones to ensure privacy for reproductive health records and to protect out-of-state patients.
The final bill in the package requires Maryland’s public colleges and universities to develop and implement reproductive health services plans to guarantee students have access to contraception and abortions.
The General Assembly also passed a regulatory framework for the state’s recreational cannabis industry. This comes after Marylanders voted to legalize cannabis through a November 2022 ballot referendum.
Recreational cannabis will carry a nine percent tax. The framework also establishes a licensing system for businesses seeking to sell cannabis.
Lawmakers prioritized ensuring equity in the cannabis industry, so communities most harmed by disproportionate drug arrests reap the benefits of the new business.
Child Victims Act
Following the release of Maryland Attorney General’s office’s report detailing decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the legislature passed the Child Victims Act of 2023.
This bill repeals the statute of limitations — the time limit someone has to come forward with legal proceedings following an event — so victims of child sexual abuse can sue their perpetrators when they decide to come forward. Moore signed this legislation at Tuesday’s bill signing ceremony.
Trans Health Equity Act
The legislature also passed a bill that would require Maryland Medicaid to expand its coverage of gender-affirming care.
Currently, there are some procedures that are covered by private insurance, but not by Maryland Medicaid. This bill aims to ensure gender-affirming treatments are available to all Marylanders, regardless of their income.
Building off of police accountability legislation passed in the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that gives the charging decision in police-involved deaths to the state attorney general.
Currently, local state’s attorneys make the decision of whether to prosecute officers. The legislation was a key priority for Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown ahead of this year’s legislative session.
“On my first day in office, I promised an ambitious agenda that would enhance our ability to serve the best interests of Marylanders,” Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “Through a strong partnership with the General Assembly and solid support from Governor Moore, we have made real, tangible progress.”