2018 Legislative Session
Maryland Family Network had a General Assembly Session of success. The following was written by my colleague Clinton Macsherry, Director of Public Policy for MFN.
By any reckoning, we live in an extraordinary political moment. Turmoil within the White House and the halls of federal government has spilled out onto the nation’s streets, fueling levels of acrimony and activism not witnessed in more than a generation. Long-simmering tensions about issues of race, gender, and violence have again boiled over into cultural discourse. Disquiet is almost palpable.
How this zeitgeist affects Maryland politics in the coming months remains to be seen, but its impact on the 2018 Session of the General Assembly turned conventional wisdom on its head. Election years typically ratchet up partisanship and posturing during Session while suppressing substantive legislative activity. Ongoing upheaval at the national level, one might well have supposed, would only make matters worse.
And yet, with few exceptions, the Governor and the General Assembly conducted the business of Session with a remarkable lack of rancor, reaching agreements on such often-divisive issues as health care, taxes, and gun control. Legislators introduced a record number of bills, and committee workloads were notably heavier than usual. While 30 miles to the west, Washington, D.C. teetered daily on the brink of meltdown, Annapolis again displayed its perennial capacity to confound expectations.
For its part, Maryland Family Network (MFN) pursued an ambitious agenda, perhaps its boldest ever. Some initiatives built upon years of prior work; others took aim at new targets of opportunity. In the end, MFN emerged with an unprecedented string of successes, including landmark child care subsidy legislation that represents the most significant victory for early childhood education in more than a decade. On May 8 and May 15, the Governor signed that bill and four other top MFN priorities into law.
Here are the highlights of our key victories for young children and their families and child care providers.
SB 379 / HB 430 “Education – Child Care Subsidies – Mandatory Funding Levels”
Increases Maryland’s abysmal child care subsidy rates to give parents access to quality care, and establishes a new “floor” so that rates never again fall so low. In terms of investment, breadth of benefit, and lasting impact, the most significant victory for early care and education in more than a decade.
HB 1415 “Education – Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education”
Preserves $22.3 million in pre-K expansion dollars that might otherwise be lost when a federal grant expires.
SB 859 / HB 775 “State Employees – Parental Leave”
In anticipation of future statewide legislation, provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for State employees following the birth or adoption of a child.
SB 373 / HB 547 “Education – Head Start Program – Annual Funding (The Ulysses Currie Act)”
Restores a $1.2 million budget cut imposed in 2009, potentially increasing services for more than 2,100 Head Start children.
SB 912 / HB 1685 “Maryland Prenatal and Infant Care Coordination Services Grant Program Fund (Thrive by Three Fund)”
Creates a grant program to expand the coordination of direct services for jurisdictions with a high percentage of births to Medicaid-eligible mothers.