Governor O'Malley today released details of the Administration's 2014 legislative agenda, focused on boosting efforts to grow the economy from the middle out, create more jobs, support our nation-leading innovation firms, and better prepare our children to compete in the 21st century global economy.
"We're going to forge consensus and increase the minimum wage -- when workers earn more money, businesses will have more customers, and we'll grow Maryland's economy from the middle out," Gov. O'Malley said. "Thanks to the leadership of the General Assembly over the last seven years, we've made better choices and achieved better results for the people of Maryland; we're going to continue making progress this year."
"Under the Governor's leadership, we've made great progress for Maryland families," said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. "This year, I look forward to working with the General Assembly to expand access to high quality pre-k to approximately 1,600 more Maryland children while strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault."
The O'Malley-Brown Administration's legislative package builds on both the investments announced in the FY15 budget, and the better results achieved over the last seven years with proposals centered around key priority areas including:
JOBS/ ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/WORKFORCE TRAINING
The Governor plans to champion hard-working Maryland families with legislation to raise the State's minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016. The legislation secures purchasing power for workers by indexing the rate to inflation beginning in the year 2017, while also strengthening current law with an increase of the cash wage rate for tipped workers from 50 percent to at least 70 percent of the minimum wage. If passed, the increase will benefit 472,000 Maryland workers according to analysis from the National Employment Law Project.
Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown reaffirmed their commitment to Maryland's top ranked schools with the introduction of a bill to expand early childhood education. The bill represents the first step toward expanding pre-kindergarten to all Maryland children by establishing a competitive Pre-kindergarten Expansion Grant Program and Fund through which local school systems and local providers can apply to expand and enhance existing pre-kindergarten programs. The Administration's FY15 budget invests $4.3 million to fund the Program, which is expected to support half-day or full-day pre-kindergarten programs for approximately 1,600 children across the State.
The Administration's proposal would build on the State's existing system of Pre-K by expanding the number of Pre-K slots available to include Maryland children whose families make between 185 percent and 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which was $70,650 for a family of four in 2013. In addition, the bill lays the foundation for expanding access by ensuring that the State's long-term plan for education funding takes into account providing access to pre-kindergarten for all Maryland children.
SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The Governor is proposing legislation to promote a more sustainable future by designating new wildland areas on state lands including State Parks, State Forests, and Wildlife Management Areas. By expanding the number of designated wildland areas in the State, the bill will ensure the protection and preservation of Maryland's unique wilderness character for present and future residents of the State, while encouraging ecotourism to stimulate local economies. Learn more about the Maryland Wildlands Preservation System here: http://dnr.maryland.gov/land/stewardship/wildland.asp.
Governor O'Malley will seek to codify several elements of a 2008 Executive Order establishing the Maryland Statewide Communications Interoperability Program, an effort to strengthen public safety radio communications throughout the State. The legislation creates a Board to oversee the final development, operations and management of this program and advances the State's efforts to create a unified public safety communications network for first responders to better communicate during emergency and extreme weather events.
Lt. Governor Anthony Brown will continue to lead the effort to protect Maryland families and build stronger communities by advocating for three pieces of legislation to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Working with advocates and leaders in the General Assembly, one bill to end Maryland's dubious distinction of being the only State in the nation whose standard of proof to obtain a final peace or protective order is "clear and convincing evidence" to a "preponderance of evidence." Another bill will add 2nd degree assault to the list of crimes for which domestic violence victims can obtain a final permanent protective order and lastly, the third bill gives judges the ability to impose an enhanced penalty for violent crimes when they are committed in the presence of a minor.
Last week, the administration announced its prison integrity and security agenda, which focuses on combatting the introduction of contraband, enhancing investigatory capacity, and rooting out corruption. Click here to see the full agenda: http://governor.maryland.gov/documents/PrisonIntegrityAndSecurityAgenda.pdf.
Maryland recently introduced a health care reform proposal that will reduce healthcare costs for Maryland families by getting away from the "fee-for-service" model and incentivizes health care providers to focus on wellness. To support the establishment of Maryland's new modernized all-payer model -- which received approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently -- the bill introduced today makes several statutory changes. The new model will transition health care in Maryland from a system that bases control of cost on a per inpatient admission to a system that spurs better health outcomes, while encouraging hospitals to help reduce the cost of care.
The Administration's package also includes legislation to provide a bridge to care through the extension of the MHIP program to vulnerable Marylanders. This plan provides an additional safety net to individuals who attempted to enroll in the exchange and who through no fault of their own, are without insurance and facing potentially costly medical bills.