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Annapolis Summit Series Roundup

The following is a look at some of the top items facing the 2019 Maryland General Assembly. These were featured in longer stories as part of our Annapolis Summit series leading that ran on Mondays leading up to the 2019 session.

Big boost sought in education funding, but how to pay for it and when?

Education fundingMaryland’s public education system is on the verge of major policy changes, but how to pay for those recommendations could elude lawmakers, many of whom ran for election promising to increase school funding.

Recommendations on new funding formulas from the 25-member Kirwan Commission have been delayed once again. Senate and House leaders said there wasn’t enough time for lawmakers to act on recommendations in the 2019 session.

With a price tag estimated around $4 billion over current spending levels, there are questions of how to pay for the recommendations as well as just what the total amount needs to be.

Final recommendations from the commission are expected to help local school systems address achievement gaps, and include plans for expansion of pre-K programs to some 3-year-olds and the hiring of more teachers statewide. Starting salaries for teachers could one day approach $94,000 — an increase over the current average of about $69,000 annually.

Read the full story here.

This article is part of The Daily Record's special publication, Annapolis Summit 2019.
More stories from this publication: Annapolis Summit Series Roundup | 10 to watch in the 2019 legislative session | New faces and new roles bring change to General Assembly
Commentary: Increased education funding — Pro | Con; Maryland health insurance mandate — Pro | Con; Marijuana legalization — Pro | Con; Clean energy
See photos of the governor's cabinet, a list of General Assembly members and a list of registered lobbyists in the digital edition of this publication.

After being sidetracked, juvenile justice reform and cyberbullying return in 2019

After being overshadowed by the record homicide rate in Baltimore in the 2018 session, leaders of the legislature’s judiciary panels list reform of the juvenile justice system and the prevention of online harassment of youngsters as top priorities in 2019.

Returning Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin said he hopes juvenile justice reform in 2019 follows the model set by the landmark 2016 Justice Reinvestment Act, which changed the focus of Maryland’s handling of non-violent offenders from punishment to treatment.

The question legislators must ask is “what are we doing to ensure petty offenses do not become significant offenses,” said Zirkin, D-Baltimore County. “It’s all about public safety.”

A cyberbullying bill died in the House Judiciary Committee last year, but for the first time in 25 years a new chair will lead that committee, giving supporters hope. Zirkin plans to reintroduce the bill that is narrowly drawn to address only speech intended to bully youngsters, which is not protected by the First Amendment, according to the senator.

Read the full story here.

Taking another look at sports betting

sports bettingMaryland lawmakers punted on legalizing sports betting as the clock ran out on the 2018 session. Meanwhile other neighboring states not only legalized the activity, they’re luring gamblers away from Maryland’s six casinos.

While a relatively small number of states have approved sports betting since May, Maryland finds itself behind its regional neighbors on the issue and, because of the need for voter approval, potentially handcuffed until 2020. As lawmakers acknowledge a need for more revenue – particularly if they dramatically expand funding for education — even the relatively small amounts promised by sports betting become appealing.

As a result, lawmakers are talking about a compromise on sports betting for the 2019 session. And some are even quietly exploring whether there might be an end-run around the requirement that sports betting be approved by voters as a change to the state’s constitution.

Read the full story here.

Individual mandate, drug prices focus of health care issues

healthcare_08Maryland legislators will consider several measures aimed at reducing health care costs and protecting the Affordable Care Act in Maryland, but it appears unlikely they will focus on a long-term plan to stabilize the state’s individual insurance market.

Lawmakers will consider a state-level individual mandate, ensuring health insurance for patients with pre-existing conditions, and will address the price of prescription drugs. They may also seek to guarantee long-term funding for the reinsurance program enacted last year.

It seems likely that longer-term fixes to the individual market will not be considered until 2020, at the earliest. Some of the permanent solutions that have been circulated include merging the individual and small group markets, a Medicaid buy-in program and a universal health care option.

Read the full story here.

Legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana use to continue to be debated

Debate over the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana will continue in the 2019 session, though few expect the landscape to change in the near future. Lawmakers will likely consider changes to criminal possession laws and concerns about the medical cannabis program.

With several other states around the country having legalized the use of marijuana recreationally, Maryland has some results to study in regards to any issues and revenue raised from taxes.

As more states continue to address the issue, legalization is likely to be a hot topic and the potential revenue stream could be enticing for different areas.

Read the full story here.

Maryland faces budget challenges in coming years

Maryland fiscal leaders will enjoy a structurally balanced budget projected for the coming fiscal year. But the news is deceptive.

Real challenges lie ahead as Gov. Larry Hogan and lawmakers must plan for projected deficits that will top $1 billion in two years, a potentially budget-busting education spending package to be addressed and the looming specter of a recession.

Read the full story here.

A new look at redistricting

Gov. Larry Hogan is vowing to bring back legislation to create an independent redistricting commission following a federal court’s order to redraw one congressional district by 2020. And while that case is on appeal, lawmakers say the order is vague and leaves the door open for the legislature to have a say.

Having won re-election, Hogan will be in office for the 2020 census and when new district lines will be drawn. As with other states, Maryland’s congressional district map has come under fire for the way boundaries have been drawn.

Read the full story here.

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