Maryland General Assembly Gavels Into Session On Wednesday

Legislators are expected to face budget, public safety and affordable  housing challenges this year.

House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones (Photo from Md. General Assembly website)

Annapolis, Md (KM) The 2024 Maryland General Assembly got underway  in Annapolis on Wednesday. Members of the House of Delegates voted to re-elect Delegate Adrienne Jones as Speaker of  the House. “Thank for electing me to lead to the Maryland House of Delegates. Thanks you for putting your faith and trust in me once again,” Jones said in comments to the House. “I never take  your vote for granted, and I don’t take this position lightly.”

Legislators this year are expected to face several challenges, including a  projected structural deficit of $761-million for the next fiscal year. Speaker Jones made a reference to that during her comments. “Right now, our state is facing difficult fiscal realities. We know we have some tough decisions to make ahead of us to pass a balanced budget as we do every year,” she said.

Speaker Jones told delegates she was a member of the House Appropriations Committee during the Great Recession. at the first decade of the 21st century,   where some tough budget cuts were made. But the panel also funded many things that were necessary for Maryland’s future. “This year, we’re going to fund our Shock Trauma System, improve the availability of workforce housing and keep our commitment to the Blueprint,” she said, referring to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future which is an education improvement program passed by the General Assembly a few  years ago.

One other issue expected to face lawmakers this year is public safety, and Speaker Jones discussed that during her comments. She said Maryland is facing challenges when it comes to juvenile crime. “We have seen a troubling lack of cohesion and coordination between Juveniles Services, state’s attorneys, and law enforcement,” she said. “If we’re going to keep our communities safe, everyone needs to be  held accountable at all levels, including our youth.”

As part of her comments, Speaker Jones also said she will introduce some bills to put safeguards in place to prevent intolerance and hate in the state’s institutions and schools. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen our political disagreements literally pull us apart.  We’ve seen it in our communities, in our friendships and in our families. We’ve seen it  in Annapolis, in the hallways, in the committees, on the House floor,” she said.

She calls her bills the “decency agenda.” “These bills will put safeguards and best practices in place to prevent intolerance and hate from taking further root in our state’s institutions and schools,” Jones said. “We’re at the front lines of protecting our democracy, our schools and our diversity.”

The House also elected Delegate Dana Stein as Speaker Pro Tempore.

The Maryland Senate  re-elected Senator Bill Ferguson as its President.

By Kevin McManus