The 2022 Maryland General Assembly will convene January 12th for an election year legislative session led by the majority’s urgent interest in finishing the four-year term with a transformational legislative package focused on climate mitigation and environmental justice.
Broadening the aggressive legislative scope is a windfall of $6 billion in unanticipated state revenues over the next several years. Federal stimulus, increased personal and business income taxes, and increases in sales taxes from consumer spending are driving the surplus.
Both the House and Senate have been meeting to reach agreement on climate legislation that would establish new economy-wide carbon emissions reductions of 60% by 2030 and an out-year target of carbon neutrality by 2045.
Reaching those targets will include a heavy emphasis on energy and construction codes for new and existing buildings. An all-electric building code for new residential and many commercial building types has broad support. Legislators are also discussing a multi-year framework for systematically improving the performance of existing buildings through insulating and sealing building shells as well as transitioning to electric heat and hot water systems.
A tax on the carbon content of fuels used in buildings and transportation will be back for reconsideration. This year’s proposal, however, is a slimmed down format that is more consistent with the carbon tax proposals championed by economists and some business groups as a less expensive path to deep, economy-wide, carbon reductions. The transition to zero carbon energy generation will require the House and Senate to resolve differences over whether ground-based, utility-scale solar or rooftop solar installations are prioritized. Several proposals that remove barriers to community solar generating systems will also be on the agenda.
Legislation related to parks and open space would establish a goal of permanently preserving 30% of the land area of the state by 2030 and 40% by 2040.
For the third year in a row, the assembly will consider the green constitutional amendment which would amend the state constitution to guarantee clean air, clean water and an individual right to enforce those rights through the courts.
The election year pressure has legislative leaders promising transformational, immediate and sustained action. Some have described their ambitions as changing the paradigm and pushing the public outside of their comfort zone. The House and Senate anticipate gubernatorial vetoes and are laying the groundwork for early passage of climate legislation to provide time during the 2022 legislative session to override.