Members of the Maryland General Assembly convened their 2020
session yesterday with new leadership, new political dynamics and a long roster
of legislative issues on the agenda.
The session opened with a historic change in leadership as
new House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson were
elevated to serve as the presiding officers. The two leaders and their key
staff members have indicated a deliberate and pragmatic approach to decision
making. But they take over at a time when nonprofits, academics and some
legislators are making urgent calls for disruptive, sometimes speculative
change related to education, climate change, transportation, affordable
housing, and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup.
A large number of bills are already in the works that could
impact education funding, environmental initiatives, criminal justice and a
variety of real estate issues.
The headline issue this session is the Assembly’s commitment
to develop a $4 billion funding package for the additional educational spending
recommended by the Kirwan Commission. The plan would also require local
governments to contribute additional funds. The Maryland Association of
Counties recently estimated those local funds would total $1.9 billion. A
separate but complimentary $2 billion increase in school construction funding
will also be on the General Assembly’s agenda.
More than two dozen national, state and local environmental
groups have released a report arguing that Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions
reduction targets are weak compared to other states and inadequate to meet
critical international benchmarks. They
will receive important legislative support for increasing the speed and depth
of mandated greenhouse gas reductions to decarbonize the state’s economy within
15 to 20 years. Some will also seek
adoption of an even broader “Maryland Green New Deal”modeled after
The centerpiece of the Hogan Administration’s climate
agenda in the 2020 session will be legislation setting a path to 100 percent
clean electricity by 2040. The Clean and Renewable Energy Standard
(CARES) would increase the required mix of clean and renewable energy from 50
percent by 2030 to 100 percent by 2040, using nuclear, hydropower, combined
heat and power systems, and carbon capture.
Other environmental issues likely to be considered
include financing for infrastructure resilience, changes to forest conservation
requirements, funding for forest buffer planting, stormwater management and
In 2019, the Assembly did not pass crime and repeat
violent offenders’ legislation. The Governor will return with a package of
crime bills in 2020 just as a recent Gonzales public opinion poll indicates
crime is the most important state-wide issue by a wide margin.
Asset Management, Land Use and Real Estate Taxes
After an increase in the backlog of uninspected
publicly owned elevators, the Assembly will consider delaying the planned
October extension of new inspection procedures to the state’s 20,000 privately
As the state struggles to reach goals for electric
vehicle use, legislation mandating that electric vehicle charging station
infrastructure be installed in certain types of new construction will be
Miss Utility will seek legislation requiring marking
of stormwater facilities and safety measures related to horizontal boring. These items reached consensus in a 2018
working group, but it is unknown whether a controversial expansion of Miss
Utility membership requirements to properties that provide “public
accommodations” will be included in the bill.
Registration of large residential property management
companies will be reconsidered after a bill offered by the Maryland Association
of Realtors failed to pass out of the Senate in 2017.
A trio of bills aimed at affordable housing is
expected to include legislation allowing by-right subdivision of single-family zoning
in locations that meet certain high-income and employment-density criteria.
The Howard County delegation will consider imposing a
commercial real estate transfer tax to pay for deferred maintenance in the
county school system.
The Montgomery County delegation will consider
legislation requiring certification of development plans under penalty of
The 2020 session of the General Assembly is expected to be
especially busy. The second year of a four-year term usually brings a high
volume of legislation, much of it introduced without advance warning. On the eve of opening day, 175 bills had been
pre-filed. Twenty-five of those are on the agenda of the NAIOP legislative
committee. NAIOP will actively engage industry-related legislation throughout
the session until the Assembly adjourns on April 6th.