The Maryland General Assembly is nearly a month into its 2024 legislative session and lawmakers are continuing work on key issues from last year while tackling a state budget deficit.
Gov. Wes Moore entered office last January with a surplus in funding due to large amounts of federal pandemic aid. But now, Maryland is facing a budget deficit of approximately $761 million for fiscal year 2025, The Associated Press reported, which could threaten the General Assembly’s ability to fund its legislative goals.
Rapidly rising costs for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future — the state’s education reform plan passed by the legislature in 2021 — is the main contributor to the deficit, The Associated Press reported.
“I believe we have a responsibility to invest in our priorities, but first we need to build a strategy for investment that shows the public that we can deliver results in sustainable ways,” Moore said during a speech to the Maryland Association of Counties on Dec. 7. “The hard truth is that we have spread ourselves too thin.”
Here are some of the key issues facing the Maryland General Assembly this session.
Medical aid in dying
Lawmakers have reintroduced the End-of-Life Option Act, a bill that would allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives with prescribed medicine.
Medical aid in dying has been gaining support in Maryland in recent years, according to Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery County), the bill’s lead sponsor.
“When it comes to options at the end of life, when it comes to providing dignity and bodily autonomy, in the face of a terminal illness, 71 percent of our constituents support the ability to choose medical aid in dying,” Waldstreicher said during a hearing for the bill last session.
Moore has previously expressed support for legalizing medical aid in dying.
Several bills in the General Assembly aim to make Maryland housing more affordable — a top priority of Moore’s this session.
The Housing Expansion and Affordability Act would lessen restrictions for building new housing and allow for denser housing developments if the developments meet certain qualifications, including requirements on the number of affordable units and whether the developments are new or heavily renovated.
Another bill, the Renters’ Rights and Stabilization Act, would increase the cost of serving an eviction notice and limit the maximum cost of a security deposit to the cost of one month’s rent.
“To build a stronger economy and give more Maryland families a fair shot at success, we must address the housing crisis head-on and build a stable housing market that drives long-term economic growth,” Moore said in a Jan. 25 press release.
Moore is also advocating for the ENOUGH Act, which would allocate $15 million in initial grant funding for local communities to address specific causes of poverty in their area starting in fiscal year 2026.
“Leaders in our communities will provide the vision, the state will provide the support. And not the other way around,” Moore said in a speech on Monday announcing the legislation.
In order to apply for a grant through the ENOUGH Act, communities must form a partnership of at least one school, one non-profit organization and one local governmental entity. A community would be able to apply for funds of up to $10 million per year.
Moore also hopes to advance several bills to enhance public safety, including the Victim Compensation Reform Act. This legislation would make it easier for crime victims to receive compensation from the state by extending the time a victim may file a claim after a crime is committed and by allowing victims to receive emergency funds for costs such as funerals or emergency relocation.
Another bill would establish the Center for Firearm Violence Prevention and Intervention within the Maryland Department of Health. This new office would be focused on reducing gun violence across the state.
Juvenile justice reform
Lawmakers are looking to reform previously passed juvenile justice laws and pass new legislation that emphasizes accountability for both offenders and those operating the system.
“We’ve been clear that any juvenile justice bill that comes to my desk must emphasize accountability,” Moore said at a Wednesday press conference announcing new juvenile justice reform legislation. “But I want to be clear, I’m talking about accountability both for those who commit a crime, and also accountability for those who are taking care of our young people.”
If passed, the legislation Moore announced would increase the maximum lengths for detention and probation for juvenile offenders and place juveniles who commit certain serious offenses, such as car theft or gun violence, under the jurisdiction of the juvenile services department.