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Moore’s first day: New Cabinet department, abortion access funds, ethics rules

Bryan P. Sears//January 19, 2023

Moore’s first day: New Cabinet department, abortion access funds, ethics rules

By Bryan P. Sears

//January 19, 2023

Gov. Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller meet with reporters Thursday. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Wes Moore started his first full day in office creating a new Cabinet position, establishing a set of ethics standards for his administration and releasing nearly $70 million in funds that includes money to expand access to abortion procedures.

Moore, in the first of four meetings with the news media, signed a series of executive orders. One of those orders creates the Department of Service and Civic Innovation — a new Cabinet position. Moore did not discuss funding for the new department or name a secretary. It is believed the new department will subsume some existing agencies within state government.

Moore said the announcements signal a “fundamental shift” in his administration’s budget philosophy and relationship with the General Assembly. And while he never mentioned his predecessor by name, it was clear Moore, a Democrat, intends to contrast himself with Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan and eight years of divided government.

“We view the General Assembly as partners not adversaries in our collective work and our collective effort to produce a budget that thoughtfully, and uses data, to invest taxpayer dollars in programs, services and initiatives that will address the most pressing concerns of communities all over the state of Maryland,” said Moore, adding later: “The rhetoric of divisive politics will come to an end.”

In order to make the department a permanent part of state government, Moore will have to seek legislative approval. The General Assembly has 50 days to approve or disapprove the request.

RELATED: Wes Moore sworn in as Md.’s first Black governor

Moore also announced the release of $69 million in funding in the current budget.

“These funds were authorized by the legislature last year and I’m proud to stand with the legislature as we are directing these direct investments into critical programs and services that are going to impact every single community across the state of Maryland,” said Moore.

The biggest chunk, about $47 million, is earmarked for the state’s nascent recreational cannabis industry, including training for budding entrepreneurs, especially minorities who have been disproportionately impacted by drug enforcement and arrests.

“We as an administration and we as a government are now moving on day one to help create regulatory and taxation frameworks with equity, transparency, accountability, fairness and speed,” said Moore. “We cannot and will not repeat the mistakes the state has made when medical cannabis was legalized.”

Of that money, $40 million goes to the cannabis business assistance fund in the Department of Commerce for grants and loans to minority business owners who want to enter the industry and Historically Black Colleges in Maryland for training and support.

Another $5 million will go to the cannabis public health fund for research and a cannabis public health council.

Another $1.5 million will be used to help identify marijuana possession charges eligible for expungement under the new law.

Moore also announced the release of $3.5 million withheld by Hogan since July that would expand access to abortion services.

“Maryland needs to be a state that is a safe haven for abortion rights,” said Moore.

Other funds to be released include:

  • $3.8 million for the new Climate Catalytic Capital Fund — a green bank that will leverage private and philanthropic investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • $3.8 million for installation of renewable energy generating equipment for multifamily housing units.
  • $1.1 million for the Chesapeake Conservation Corps to support climate mitigation and clean energy projects.
  • $375,000 for the Maryland Health Soils program through the Department of Agriculture.
  • About $10 million for implementation of mandatory paid family leave.

Moore also signed an executive order laying out ethics standards for the executive branch. The governor did not discuss details of those standards, saying they would be available when his executive order is released publicly.

Orders such as this are common. Hogan within hours of being sworn in issued an executive order laying out the ethics standards for his administration.

The signing of executive orders and the creation of a new department was part of a flurry of activities on Moore’s first day in office. The day began with a breakfast meeting that included Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones.

Moore later met with Attorney General Anthony Brown and U.S. Attorney Erek Barron. Following that meeting, the governor again met with the press where he suggested he was supportive of stiffer penalties for violent repeat offenders.

Moore vowed to work with lawmakers on tougher penalties saying “we are going to be very, very clear that our ability to be able to work together to be able to both address the very real fears that people have in communities as we’ve seen over these past eight years a rise in violent crime. This is very personal to the people of this state. And it’s an urgent issue for the people in the state. It’s one of the reasons that people will state and you believe voted for this ticket that we have assembled up here. So we are going to move very aggressively and coordinate to be able to address this issue of removing violence.”

A recent poll found that concerns about public safety are second only to the economy for Maryland voters.

But stiffer penalties may be a tough sell in the legislature. Hogan was repeatedly unsuccessful in seeing similar legislation pass the full General Assembly.


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