Maryland’s newly energized Democratic state lawmakers said Tuesday that they want to raise the minimum wage, ban Styrofoam and 3-D guns, and rein in the cost of prescription drugs and child care during the current legislative session.
“It’s about helping average working people,” Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) said Tuesday during a joint news conference announcing the Democratic agenda.
The set of seven policy priorities also includes increasing the tobacco purchasing age to 21 and preserving provisions on preexisting conditions in state health plans.
Party leaders in the House of Delegates and the Senate — each of which are more than two-thirds Democratic — called it a “progressive package” designed to “strengthen the middle class.”
The agenda is a response to what Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) described as the mandate voters gave the Democratic Party in November after they flipped eight seats in the House and reaffirmed their veto-proof majority in both chambers.
Last week, the House Republican caucus said it was focused on pushing measures that would cut income taxes, bring about redistricting reform, create a violent-offender registry and increase policing in schools.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who will address the General Assembly on Wednesday for his annual State of the State speech, also is pushing for redistricting reform and has submitted a $46.6 billion budget proposal that includes tax relief for retired military, police and fire personnel, incentives for businesses that locate in poor areas or provide family leave, and pay raises for state employees.
Appearing Monday night on a PBS NewsHour panel discussion, Hogan said he would propose a “major tax cut” during the State of the State speech.
“The governor wants some tough crime bills. He wants some opportunity zones,” Miller said. “We are going to work with him on his issues, but guess what? He is going to have to compromise in terms of the working men and working women.”
Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee, said the ultimate form of the Democratic proposals will shift in coming weeks as bills go through the legislative process.
“Everything is on the table,” said Davis, whose committee will hear the proposal for a $15 minimum wage. “There are no sacred cows.”
He said he would prefer a bill that indexes future wage increases to inflation. Senate leaders, meanwhile, have floated an idea of creating different wage rates for different areas of the state.
Democratic lawmakers want to continue tightening gun-
control measures by closing a loophole that allows consumers to buy firearms known as ghost guns online and 3-D-printed plastic guns that can pass through security screenings undetected.
“These guns are unregulated, untraceable, no serial numbers. We shouldn’t allow them in Maryland,” said Sen. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), the bill sponsor. “They’re controversial, and we’ll have lots of discussion with the NRA about it.”
Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) plans to introduce a bill in the next several days establishing a drug affordability board to review drug prices, asking pharmaceutical companies to justify price hikes for specific prescriptions. This board will also set an upper limit on how much the state will pay for certain drugs. It will be the legislature’s second attempt to create a rate-setting commission for prescription drugs.
Democratic lawmakers will also propose modernizing the child-care tax credit, which has not changed in two decades in a state where the average annual cost for child care is among the highest in the nation, said Sen. Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore County).
“If we are trying to worry about wages for working families and middle-class families, it won’t do any good if just to have the kids properly cared for takes almost everything the family has,” Kelley said.