First Look Back at the 2019 General Assembly
There were numerous positive outcomes and achievements in this year‘s legislative session. For many, the lasting memory of the 2019 General Assembly will be sorrowful, because of the passing of Speaker Michael Busch one day before Sine Die. The mood of those at adjournment Monday night was not celebratory, but somber and mournful. It’s been said often in the last few days that Speaker Busch's career impacted Maryland for the better in ways that many don’t even realize, and we agree.
The 2019 General Assembly saw major successes on several of our policy priorities:
- Both major health-related measures passed, and even in their amended forms, they represent significant progress.
- HB 768 will establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, the first in the nation with power to make the pharmaceutical industry justify pricing, if only for purchase under state and local government employee coverages.
- Maryland will also be the first state, under HB 814 and SB 802, to have a health insurance enrollment option linked with its state income tax system. The Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program will give the uninsured the option to see their costs and apply for coverage through a link between the tax system itself and the Health Benefit Exchange.
- The Clean Energy Jobs Act, SB 516, also passed on Sine Die, and requires the state’s electric utilities to acquire at least half of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.
- The initiative we put forward with several partners to study ways to improve access to employment, healthcare, and other critical human services for those without other transit or private vehicle options succeeded with the final passage of HB 923 on Monday night. If your organization serves people who are challenged in reaching your services or employment, please contact Henry Bogdan. We are looking for your stories and suggestions to prepare for the launch of the task force created for this study.
- Earlier in the session, the Fight for Fifteen (HB 166 and SB 280) succeeded, and the Governor’s veto was overridden. Unlike the last minimum wage increase, these bills provide for reimbursement adjustments for most service providers.
- And the most anticipated question of the session, the fate of the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations, got a positive response with the passage of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (SB 1030), committing to the first three years of the Commission’s recommendations and almost $1 billion in added appropriations in FY 2020 through FY 2022.
Speaker Michael Busch will lie in state under the State House Rotunda next Monday and his funeral services will be Tuesday, April 16. The customary initial bill signing ceremonies have been delayed. We will circulate a final review on issues we supported and the priority accomplishments of our advocacy partners in the coming weeks.