And other legislative updates in this week’s Up the Street
Following final action in the House and Senate earlier this week, only the governor’s signature is needed to enact the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future companion legislation (HB 1372). If the governor decides to veto, there should be sufficient votes and time to override such a shortsighted decision. The governor could also decide not to sign or veto the bill, which would enact it by default. As an emergency bill, HB 1372 would take effect on the day of enactment.
The companion bill lays out detailed plans to expand summer school, tutoring, and social-emotional programs that students need because of the coronavirus pandemic. MSEA pushed successfully to amend the bill to speed up funding for concentration of poverty grants, to allow assessments used for summer programs to be selected by the school or local school board rather than be another state standardized test, to clarify that summer pay incentives are available for all school employees, not just teachers, and subject to collective bargaining, and to ensure that reports on tutoring programs will include data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender and disability status, English language learner status, and socioeconomic status. HB 1372 also protects how the American Rescue Plan and previous federal coronavirus relief funds must be spent.
Another bill sent up to the governor for early presentment is HB 894, which would give collective bargaining rights to MSEA’s educator partners at community colleges. If Governor Hogan vetoes the legislation, an override is again within reach given the timing and the strong votes in the House and Senate when the legislation was passed. MSEA has battled for community colleges to gain these rights for years, and this year the legislation has the support of a broad coalition of advocacy groups as well as the elected leaders of the state’s largest jurisdictions. This victory would present educators with an opportunity to grow in strength. The Blueprint’s success in serving every Maryland student depends on community colleges to execute college and career readiness programs and by diversifying the educator workforce. Faithful implementation of the Blueprint makes it critical to empower community college employees, who are delivering vital public services, with the rights of other public employees.
Progress continued this week on HB 1322, sponsored by Del. Alonzo Washington (D-22), to protect educators during the pandemic from being forced to choose between their job and health. The legislation was heard in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and awaits a committee vote to continue advancing. MSEA President Cheryl Bost joined Del. Washington in testifying in support of the bill, which has already passed the House.
HB 1322 prevents retaliation against educators who are 65 or older, have an underlying medical condition identified by the CDC as putting them at greater risk from coronavirus (or who live in a household with, or are the primary caretaker for, an individual who meets either of those conditions), have not been vaccinated, and who choose not to return to in-person instruction. The bill would also prevent the suspension or revocation of certifications should an educator choose not to instruct in-person during the 2020-21 school year. MSEA continues to push for passage of HB 1322 as it makes its way through the Senate; to join the fight, click here to email your legislators.
While conference committee appointments have been made to resolve the $50 billion FY22 budget (HB 588), on Wednesday Gov. Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced agreement on a fifth supplement to the budget made possible by the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan (ARP). The ARP enables deeper recovery from the economic and social effects of the pandemic and targets help for the Marylanders who have suffered the most.
During their joint announcement, Ferguson highlighted the budget’s plan to fund broadband technology so that every Marylander has access to high-speed internet service and no one will be cut off from education and employment opportunities that require it. Those who were able to keep up with work and school via technology during the past year should feel lucky, he said, but luck should not be required to have access to the necessary technology. Jones noted that $500 million worth of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects will stem from the ARP and lead to jobs and investments across Maryland.
Of the $3.9 billion in ARP funding the state is receiving, more than $400 million will replenish the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund, which was tapped earlier in the session to meet education expenses created by the pandemic but that are consistent with the Blueprint’s goals and programs. According to the fiscal analysis provided by the Department of Legislative Services, the budget also includes $80 million for public school HVAC improvements and $46 million for transitional supplemental instruction in FY23. This supplemental budget does not account for the full $3.9 billion the state is expected to receive through the ARP, so more action is expected through the Board of Public Works in the coming weeks and months.
According to the governor’s press release, the ARP and new supplemental budget also fund:
The supplemental budget will also allow the state to replenish the Rainy Day Fund, which was used to fund pandemic-related expenditures, back up to $1.4 billion, or 6.8% of the General Fund.
Both chambers are one vote away from passing HB 1238/SB 779 to close the loophole that allowed at least one family to collect thousands more than the intended state matching funds for college savings plans. The legislation will cap at $9,000 the amount of matching funds per student payable from the state on 529 college savings plans.
Bowie Mayor Tim Adams (D) made it official that he is running for comptroller on Tuesday. A June 28, 2022, primary race is assured at least on the Democratic side of the aisle since Baltimore Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-46) announced her candidacy earlier this year to fill the seat that Comptroller Peter Franchot is relinquishing, after 16 years, to run for governor.
.Expansion of Early Voting Centers Passes, Will Increase Options Next Election
Voters in the next election cycle should have expanded opportunities to cast their ballot early now that HB 745 is on its way to the governor’s desk for signing after a 33-14 vote in the Senate on Wednesday. There is time to override if Hogan vetoes the bill. Sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), the legislation establishes that early voting centers be based on the number of registered voters in each jurisdiction and that they be distributed equitably. While other states are facing legislative proposals to restrict voting, Maryland continues to lead the way to enhance and improve voting rights.