Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to deliver his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, highlighting some of his priorities for the General Assembly’s current legislative session. On Tuesday, Democratic leaders in the legislature announced their major priorities.
Maryland voters in November overwhelmingly opted to reelect Hogan, a Republican. But Democrats also retained their super majority in the legislature, even adding a few Democrats to the House of Delegates. Senate President Mike Miller said that gives elected leaders in Annapolis a sort of “dual mandate.”
“We’re going to work with the governor. The governor wants some tough crime bills,” Miller said. “We’re happy to work with him on his issues, but guess what? He’s going to have to compromise in terms of working men and working women.”
To that end, at the top of Democrats’ list is a $15 minimum wage, something that has been unsuccessful in Annapolis for several years but has until now lacked leaders’ full support.
“Folks, its time has come,” Prince George’s County Del. Dereck Davis said of the bill. Davis leads the House Economic Matters Committee, which is scheduled to hear the bill next week.
“We have working families out there every day, trying to send their kids to school, meeting the mortgage, and yet they are still choosing between basic necessities,” Davis said. “A state as wealthy as Maryland, among the top five wealthiest in Maryland, we can do better and we will do better.”
Democrats are also backing the creation of a watchdog to review prescription drug prices and keep costs down.
And they plan to increase the child care tax credit, something Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Delores Kelley, who represents part of Baltimore County, said hasn’t been updated in 20 years.
“If we’re trying to worry about wages for working families and middle class families, it won’t do any good if just to have the kids properly cared for takes almost everything the family has,” Kelley said.
She said Maryland’s child care prices are among the highest in the country.
On non-economic issues, one of Democrats’ top priorities is banning 3-D printed guns and “ghost guns,” said House Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais, from Montgomery County.
“Ghost guns are something you can order off the internet, and as long as the kit will only create 80 percent of the gun, it’s legal. And you can then go to a gun store and buy whatever other little parts you need for that other 20 percent,” Dumais said. “These guns are not regulated, untraceable, no serial numbers.”
Among health-related priorities, the Democratic leadership is backing a major priority of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus: raising the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21.
Davis said the data speak for itself: 7,500 adults die each year in Maryland as a result of smoking cigarettes, and 1,900 minors become addicted to smoking each year. Of those adult smokers, 95 percent began smoking before they were 21 years old.
In environmental priorities, Democrats are supporting a statewide Styrofoam ban. Several jurisdictions around the state, including Baltimore City, already ban the material.
Democrats also said they will seek more money for public schools and health insurance coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions.