Archives for June 2022

Sen. Susan Lee Completes Productive 2022 Session

Sen. Susan Lee in MD District 16 near the Potomac River

June 2, 2022

Dear Friends and Constituents:

While we began our 2022 Session under the cloud of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the General Assembly for the first time in many years had a historic budget surplus that allowed us to make transformative and generational investments for Marylanders’ future. I wanted to provide you an overview of accomplishments from this Session.

Budget and Investments in Education, Workforce, and Economic Development: We enacted a $62 billion budget that includes $7.9 B for Maryland’s Public Schools, an increase of 6.8% from last year, in addition to another $800 million as down payment on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future; $50 M to help shore up hospitals from workforce shortages; $50 M for grants to assist the arts and tourism, which are particularly pandemic prone; $36 M to support local economic development and revitalization efforts; $25 M to expand workforce development opportunities; and $2.6 M in cash reserves, including $2.4 B in the Rainy Day Fund and $211M in the General Fund, with ongoing general fund revenues
projected to exceed ongoing expenditures by over $310 M in FY 23.

Tax Relief for Retirees and Families: We enacted nearly $2 billion in economic support for Maryland’s working families, retirees, and small businesses. The Retirement Tax Elimination Act of 2022 provides a tax credit for Retirees 65 and older making up to $100,000 in retirement income, and married couples making up to $150,000, resulting in 80% of them receiving substantial relief or paying no state income taxes. The relief package also included $115.6 million in Family Budget Boosters’ which provides sales tax exemptions for child care products, such as diapers, car seats, baby bottles, and critical health products such as dental hygiene and diabetic care products, as well as medical devices; and $195 million to fund the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to incentivize employers and businesses to hire and retain workers from underserved communities.

Banning Ghost Guns: Along with Attorney General Brian Frosh and Delegate Lesley Lopez, I led efforts to pass a law to ban unserialized “Ghost Guns” in Maryland. These guns are assembled easily without requiring a background check and are the violent criminals’ weapons of choice, including domestic abusers, gangs, and terrorists. Alarmingly, children are also purchasing these firearms. The new law will enable law enforcement and the state’s attorneys’ offices to solve and prosecute more crimes to protect our communities from the harm of accessible and untraceable firearms.

Protecting Child Abuse and Neglect Victims: The legislature passed my bill to allow statements made by child abuse and neglect victims to therapists, social workers, and trained professionals in cases where they are victims or witnesses to violent crimes or crimes of violence. Allowing those statements into evidence is critical for protecting child and domestic violence victims while also prosecuting violent crimes against them.

Combating the Surge in Electronic Stalking: Building on the laws I passed to fight stalking, we passed legislation to include and define “electronic stalking”, a new type of lethal and relentless stalking, that often leads to murder, sexual assault, and domestic violence; and to require training by law enforcement on electronic stalking that will help them identify this new form of vicious stalking and better assist victims and prosecutors.

The Climate Solutions Act of 2022, sets goals to reduce Maryland’s emissions of greenhouse gasses by 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. We also passed a ban on the manufacture and distribution of chemicals with PFAS that are linked to cancer and other
serious diseases.

We passed the Time to Care Act, which creates a paid family and medical leave program that allows Marylanders to be eligible for paid leave for up to 12 weeks to care for a family member with a medical issue and up to 24 weeks after becoming a parent. No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and getting vital medical treatment, caring for a newborn, or taking care of a seriously ill family member.

Expanding Mental, Dental, and other Health Care: As Covid-19 has put a tremendous strain on our healthcare systems, we made key investments in our operating budget for health care, including $14 B in Medicaid funding to cover 1.5 million residents, an 8% rate increase for most health care providers; $202 million for temporary and ongoing funding for providers serving vulnerable populations; expanded Medicaid coverage for dental care with $27 million set aside for that program; established a 9-8-8 Hotline for those in crisis; created a $3 million Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Support Services Program; passed legislation to remove barriers for those on Medicaid seeking psychiatric
inpatient care, and mandated the Department of Health move expeditiously to approve individuals on the waitlist for vital services. We also passed the Abortion Care Access Act to reduce unnecessary barriers to reproductive health care.

The legislature passed my bill, the Self-Direction Act of 2022 to help ensure qualified individuals with developmental disabilities receive quality and effective self-directed care to live with dignity, better quality care and more independence.

Housing: We passed several measures to confront the ever-present issue of housing insecurity and instability enhanced by the pandemic, which includes providing $14 M to fund the Access to Counsel in Evictions Special Fund for those facing eviction; my bill to allow landlords to receive rental payments from local government entities; requiring judges to pause eviction when the tenant provides evidence that a rental assistance request is pending; protecting tenants from unreasonable and arbitrary deductions, unless there is contrary documented evidence presented, and other measures.

Fighting Identity Theft: The legislature passed my bill to update the Maryland Personal Information Protection Act to ensure commercial entities effectively protect our personal data against theft and misuse, timely respond and notify consumers when there is a breach, and other measures to protect consumers against the harm associated with a breach.

Cybersecurity: To help our state and local governments prevent and protect against cyberattacks, we provided $570 million in the operating budget and pass measures to update IT systems and centralize the authority of the Maryland Department of Information Technology, and other related measures.

Cannabis Reform and Legalization: Marylanders will have an opportunity to vote on a Referendum to legalize adult use of cannabis. If voters affirm at the polls, the legislature will finalize the licensing and taxation implementation measures and use disparity study results to seek equitable market access and correct past criminalization disparities.

Capital Budget: The legislature invested nearly $7.8 billion in capital funds to stimulate our local economies and get Marylanders back to work by providing a critical lifeline to our local institutions that invest in our community through funding for construction, renovations, and improvements. District 16 received funding for the Bethesda Metro South Entrance; Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market; Roundtable Theatre; Glen Echo Park; Little Falls Stream Valley Park; Glen Echo Fire Department; Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit; HOC and Montgomery County project at the Metropolitan for flooding control; Montgomery County’s acquisition of zero-emission buses; White Flint infrastructure improvements; and Montgomery County Public Schools construction.

Thank you for the privilege and honor of serving and representing you in the Maryland State Senate.

Paid for and authorized by Friends of Susan C. Lee, P.O. Box 34283, Bethesda, MD 20827. Joseph D. Gebhardt, Treasurer  |  Contact the campaign