As articulated in the second episode of the Annapolis Report, ‘A Family Affair’, we can expect a huge week ahead of us, as Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan, and his right-hand man, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, get sworn-in for their second term. As previously stated, Mr. Hogan becomes the first republican to win re-election since 1954, when Theodore McKeldin was able to accomplish the fete; while Mr. Rutherford becomes the first republican LG to ever win re-election – since the office was reestablished in 1970.
On Wednesday, January 16th – the state’s two highest elected officials will begin their inaugural celebration starting at 9:00 a.m. on the north lawn of the State House. The duo will officially be sworn-in at noon in front of the State House, followed by a celebratory public reception inside the State House beginning at 1:30 p.m. This will be followed by an evening reception at the state’s newest and most prestigious gambling facilities, MGM National Harbor Casino in gorgeous Prince George’s. This affair begins at 8:00 p.m. and tickets start at $150.
And one of the main issues this administration may have to deal with this session, or almost certainly have to consider in the next few years, is that of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour – an issue the unions, especially that of SEIU1199 and SEIU500 have been pushing for over the past few years. Having gotten a few of their progressive candidates elected to office on this issue alone, the union looks to have tremendous momentum going into this session, with State Senator Cory McCray, and State Delegate Diana Fennell, introducing the minimum wage increase bills in both chambers. (The union will host a press conference and rally in favor of the minimum wage legislation later today, beginning at 5:30 p.m. outside of the House and Senate chambers.)
The Governor has recently spoken about this issue, stating that he wasn’t sure that it would be a wise move for local businesses, and has seemed to indicate that he would veto any legislation that crossed his desk looking to raise the minimum wage to $15 or more this year. Advocates such as newly elected state delegate Julian Ivey, who is the youngest elected member in the legislature, feels like $15 isn’t enough, and would like to see his colleagues pass something that provides a manageable living wage for hard-working families across the ‘Free State’.
This administration is mandated to introduce their budget sometime this week as well, as the state constitution requires that they introduce the budget within ten days of the start of the legislative session. They’ve already given us a heads up on some of the priorities in this year’s budget, including adding money to combat the growing opioid epidemic by building a new treatment facility in Baltimore, attached to the city’s jail facility; as well as adding millions of dollars to medications such as methadone, to help get people off of heroin.
The Hogan administration has also promised to help fight crime in Baltimore City, by promising to form a ‘Strike Force’ of roughly 200 law enforcement officers coming together from sixteen different agencies, to help combat violence across the city, targeting repeat violent offenders.
We will see a flood of bills being introduced this week, while hearings on legislation pre-filed may start getting assigned hearing dates and times. Other than that, this week should be a light week for committee duties, as most members will continue getting their offices straight while the sixty freshmen legislators continue trying to learn the process and navigate their way through the underground hallways of the statehouse tunnels.