2021 MD Legislature

2021 General Assembly


The Legislative Branch consists of the Maryland General Assembly and its supporting agencies. The General Assembly is the Maryland legislature. Sometimes, the General Assembly is considered the “popular” branch of government, because its members more directly represent the electorate than do officials of either the executive or judiciary.

Legislators are elected to both houses of the General Assembly from legislative election districts redrawn every ten years after the federal census to ensure equal representation, based on the concept of “one person, one vote.” Geographical size of the districts varies according to population density.

The General Assembly passes all laws necessary for the welfare of the State’s citizens and certain laws dealing with the counties and special taxing districts. It also determines how State funds are to be allocated; and adopts amendments to the State Constitution, subject to ratification by the voters. Bills may be introduced in either house. When passed by both houses and signed by the Governor, bills become law. Current laws are compiled in the Annotated Code of Maryland.

From Maryland .gov website


442nd session of General Assembly
Maryland .Gov websiteMay 15, 2021

Broadband access;
Climate Solutions Now Act;
coronavirus pandemic relief; Dignity Not Detention Act;
Governor’s authority over Maryland Parole Commission;
greenhouse gas emissions; health disparities in minority communities;
home detention monitoring fees;
jails banned from leasing beds to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for its detainees;
life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders;
Maryland Environmental Service;
Maryland Police Accountability Act;
Police Officers’ Bill of Rights;
recreational marijuana;
State and local police cooperation with immigration authorities;
State education funding;
State bus fleet conversion to electric vehicles;
State’s historically Black colleges and universities funding; sports gambling;
State Song, “Maryland, My Maryland”;
telehealth options; tree planting;
unemployment insurance;
voting by mail expanded options;
wrongful conviction and imprisonment compensation from State.

Maryland General Assembly 2021: Winners and losers
WTOP NewsApril 19, 2021 (Medium)

During the 90 days the General Assembly was in session, we ran out of ways to say what an unusual, challenging and hard session it was. We overused the word “surreal” to describe the feel of the State House and the legislative campus as lawmakers attempted to do their work with the specter of a COVID-19 hanging over their heads.

But that really was the best way to describe it. We missed all the rhythms and serendipity of a normal legislative session. We missed seeing everybody.

Yet here we are, on the other side, and everyone survived it — and in many ways thrived. It may not have been especially enjoyable for the legislators and other regular State House denizens. But this was one of the most consequential sessions in memory — as lawmakers moved to address the many challenges brought on and exacerbated by the pandemic.

Lots of people did great work this legislative session — and we’re sorry we can’t acknowledge them all. But here’s our attempt to assess the good, the bad and the ugly.

A glance at bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly
AP, Brian WitteApril 12, 2021 (Short)

Maryland lawmakers have their annual 90-day session, working all the way up to the midnight deadline Monday.  See article for details for other measures the General Assembly passed this session.


Maryland voters will have the option to have mail-in ballots automatically sent to them for all elections. The state will increase the number of early voting sites and ensure a minimum number of early voting sites in each county, based on the number of registered voters.

Police Reform

Lawmakers passed an extensive package of police reform measures. It includes repeal of police job protections in the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, a statewide use-of-force policy, limits on no-knock warrants and an expansion of public access to records in police disciplinary cases. It also requires body cameras statewide by July 2025. Hogan vetoed those measures, but the legislature overrode the vetoes.

Digital Ad Tax

Legislation would exempt the news media from a first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising by Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google. It also would prohibit the companies from passing the cost of the tax on to consumers.

Harris, Jones, & Malone 2021 Wrap-Up
Harris, Jones, & MaloneMay 15, 2021

Every year after Sine Die, we at HJM have the pleasure of sharing with our clients and colleagues some of the highlights from the Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the laws that came out of the Legislative Session, but merely a sampling of the legislation most likely to affect our state. We hope you find this a valuable resource.

Despite the “COVID protocols,” the Maryland General Assembly, under the guidance of the presiding officers, fulfilled its constitutional duty of passing a balanced budget which included the allocation of billions of additional federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. In addition, meaningful legislation passed to (1) provide relief to individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic; (2) address systemic racial inequities; and (3) reform the State’s law enforcement system.

General Assembly 2021: a surprisingly big year in Maryland
Baltimore Sun, Editorial BoardApril 13, 2021 (Medium)
Key legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021 

The police reform bills proved as controversial as expected, and whether they go far enough will not be clear for some time. But they are enough to put Maryland at the vanguard of the movement to restore trust in policing and reform criminal justice policies that have disproportionately hurt people of color, such as sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Various government reform measures also hold promise including improving the sort of voter access that helped turnout in the 2020 election and provides a welcome counterpoint to what’s been happening in Red States like Georgia and Texas.

And, while Governor Hogan may well veto once more, we also welcome legislation to protect immigrants, including the Dignity Not Detention Act limiting ICE detention centers.


Source: Wikipedia

The Maryland General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland that convenes within the State House in Annapolis. It is a bicameral body: the upper chamber, the Maryland Senate, has 47 representatives and the lower chamber, the Maryland House of Delegates, has 141 representatives. Members of both houses serve four-year terms. Each house elects its own officers, judges the qualifications and election of its own members, establishes rules for the conduct of its business, and may punish or expel its own members.

The General Assembly meets each year for 90 days to act on more than 2,300 bills including the state’s annual budget, which it must pass before adjourning sine die. The General Assembly’s 441st session convened on January 9, 2020.


The forerunner of the Maryland General Assembly was the colonial institution, an Assembly of Free Marylanders (and also Council of Maryland). Maryland’s foundational charter created a state ruled by the Palatine lord, Lord Baltimore. As ruler, Lord Baltimore owned directly all of the land granted in the charter, and possessed absolute authority over his domain.

However, as elsewhere in English North America, English political institutions were re-created in the colonies, and the Maryland General Assembly fulfilled much the same function as the House of Commons.[3] An act was passed providing that:

from henceforth and for everyone being of the council of the Province and any other gentleman of able judgement summoned by writ (and the Lord of every Manor within this Province after Manors be erected) shall and may have his voice, seat, and place in every General Assembly … together with two or more able and sufficient men for the hundred as the said freedmen or the major part of them … shall think good.
In addition, the Lord Proprietor could summon any delegates whom he desired.

In some ways the General Assembly was an improvement upon the institutions of the mother country. In 1639, noting that Parliament had not been summoned in England for a decade, the free men of Maryland passed an act to the effect that “assemblies were to be called once in every three years at the least”, ensuring that their voices would be regularly heard.

During the American Revolution the colonial Assembly ceased to exist, and was replaced by its modern successor.

Starting in 1867, the Assembly became increasingly unrepresentative. As the population of Baltimore increased, it and other urban areas were not granted additional seats. By 1918, the city’s population had increased 175% while the entire state gained only 46% with no reallocation of political power.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly adjourned early on March 18, 2020 for the first time since the Civil War.

Qualifications and membership

Each senator or delegate must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of Maryland for at least one year preceding his or her election. A prospective legislator must have resided in the legislative district the candidate seeks to represent for the six months prior to election. A senator must be at least twenty-five years of age at the time of election and a delegate at least twenty-one. Military officers other than members of the reserves are not eligible for election to the General Assembly.

Each term lasts four years. However, members of the General Assembly are not term-limited. If a vacancy occurs in either house through death, resignation, or disqualification, the Governor of Maryland appoints a replacement whose name is submitted by the State Central Committee of the same political party as the legislator whose seat is to be filled.

Legislative Districts

The current pattern for distribution of seats began with the legislative apportionment plan of 1972 and has been revised every ten years thereafter according to the results of the decennial U.S. Census. A Constitutional amendment, the plan created 47 legislative districts, many of which cross county boundaries to delineate districts relatively equal in population. Each legislative district elects one senator and three delegates. In most districts, the three delegates are elected at large from the whole district via block voting. However, in some more sparsely populated areas of the state, the districts are divided into subdistricts for the election of delegates: either into three one-delegate subdistricts or one two-delegate subdistrict and one one-delegate subdistrict.


The Senate is led by a President and the House by a Speaker whose respective duties and prerogatives enable them to influence the legislative process significantly. The President and the Speaker appoint the members of most committees and name their chairs and vice-chairs, except in the case of the Joint Committee on Investigation whose members elect their own officers. The President and Speaker preside over the daily sessions of their respective chambers, maintaining decorum and deciding points of order. As legislation is introduced, they assign it to a standing committee for consideration and a public hearing. The president pro tempore appoints majority and minority whips and leaders.

Overview of legislative procedure

The Senate is led by a President and the House by a Speaker whose respective duties and prerogatives enable them to influence the legislative process significantly. The President and the Speaker appoint the members of most committees and name their chairs and vice-chairs, except in the case of the Joint Committee on Investigation whose members elect their own officers. The President and Speaker preside over the daily sessions of their respective chambers, maintaining decorum and deciding points of order. As legislation is introduced, they assign it to a standing committee for consideration and a public hearing. The president pro tempore appoints majority and minority whips and leaders.

Overview of legislative procedure
A bill is a proposal to change, repeal, or add to existing state law. A House Bill (HB) is one introduced in the House of Delegates (for example: HB 6); a Senate Bill (SB), in the Senate.

Bills are designated by number, in the order of introduction in each house. For example, HB 16 refers to the sixteenth bill introduced in the House of Delegates. The numbering starts afresh each session. The names of the sponsor (and co-sponsors, if any), the legislator who introduced the bill, becomes part of the title. Bills listed as “The Speaker (By Request of Administration)”, “The President (By Request of Administration)”, “Minority Leader (By Request of Administration)”, or “Committee Chair (By Request of Department)” are bills proposed by the Governor and his agencies and are not proposals of the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader, or the respective Committee Chair. They are listed with the official title of a legislator rather than the Governor due to requirements in the Maryland Constitution.

The legislative procedure, is divided into distinct stages:

The procedure begins when a Senator or Delegate decides to author a bill. A legislator sends the idea for the bill to the Department of Legislative Services’ bill drafting division, where it is drafted into bill form. The draft of the bill is returned to the legislator for introduction.
Introduction or First Reading. A bill is introduced or read the first time when the bill number, the name of the sponsor, and the descriptive title of the bill are read on the floor of the house.
Committee hearing.
After introduction, a bill is assigned to the appropriate policy committee, appropriate to the subject matter, for its first hearing. Notice of the hearing is published in the Maryland Register to allow for public comment. During the committee hearing the sponsor presents the bill to the committee, and testimony may be heard in support or opposition to the bill from any member of the public. The committee then votes on whether to pass the bill out of committee, or that it be passed as amended. Bills may be amended several times. It takes a majority vote of the committee membership for a bill to be passed and sent to the next committee or to the floor.
Second reading.
A bill recommended for passage by committee is read a second time on the floor of the house. Legislators, not on the committee where the bill received its public hearing, may only offer amendments to the bill at this stage. House bills in the Senate may be amended by Senators on second or third reading and Senate bills in the House may also be amended on second or third reading. After all amendments are considered, the presiding officer orders the bill to be printed for third reading. This printing would include any committee or floor amendments.
Third reading. A roll call vote is taken. An ordinary bill needs a majority vote to pass. An emergency bill requires a three-fifths vote, and a bill requiring the Maryland Constitution to be amended requires a three-fifths vote.
Second house.
If the bill receives a constitutional majority from the first house, the bill repeats the same steps in the other house. If the second house passes the bill without changing it, it is sent to the governor’s desk.
Resolution of Differences (concurrence or conference). If a measure is amended in the second house and passed, it is returned to the house of origin for consideration of amendments. The house of origin may concur with the amendments and send the bill to the governor or reject the amendments and submit it to a two-house conference committee. Appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker, a conference committee consists of three members of each house. The committee sends a report of its recommendations to each chamber which then can adopt or reject it. If the report is adopted, the bill is voted upon for final passage in each house. If the report is rejected by either house, the bill fails.

Governor’s action.
All passed bills, except the budget bill and constitutional amendments, must be presented to the Governor within twenty days following adjournment of a session. The Governor may veto bills within thirty days after presentation. If a passed bill is not vetoed, it becomes law. The budget bill, however, becomes law upon its final passage and cannot be vetoed. Constitutional amendments also cannot be vetoed; they become law only upon their ratification by the voters at the next general election.

Veto overrides.
A vetoed bill is returned to the house of origin, where a vote may be taken to override the governor’s veto; a three-fifths vote of both houses is required to override a veto.

Effective date.
Each bill that is passed by the Legislature and approved by the Governor is assigned a chapter number by the Secretary of State. These chaptered bills are statutes, and ordinarily become part of Maryland law. Ordinarily a law passed during a regular session takes effect October 1 of the same year. Emergency bills go into effect as soon as the governor signs them; these include acts calling for special elections and emergency measures necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety.[10]

Greater Greater Washington article

Source: Greater Greater Washington

The General Assembly and the budget

One week into the session, Governor Larry Hogan will introduce a bill for the annual state budget. Unlike many other state legislatures, the General Assembly cannot add to the budget or even rearrange it very much to spend more in one area or less in another. They can only cut from it.

They can ask the Governor to add or rearrange certain items in a supplemental budget but he has no legal obligation to honor that request. This frequently results in a frenzy of legislative jockeying by the end of the session to make sure each legislator’s local priorities are met.

How legislation gets passed

Beyond the budget, however, most bills only need a majority vote to pass. Emergency bills and bills requiring amendments to the State Constitution, would each need three-fifths votes to pass (The same goes for overriding gubernatorial vetoes).

While legislators can technically introduce bills at any time during the 90-day session, in practice each chamber only has until the 69th day of the session (March 16, 2020), or “Crossover Day,” to pass a bill and send it over to the other chamber. Any later and bills could come under extensive scrutiny by either the Senate Rules Committee or the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.

From that point on, most of the session is consumed with each chamber examining the other’s bills, making alterations as need be, and then reconciling the differences before sending them to the Governor’s desk.

A shake up in leadership

The vast majority of this process hasn’t changed very much since the 19th century, even if some of the districts have. And until very recently, much the same could be said for the General Assembly’s leadership and a great deal of its composition. But starting with the 2018 elections, when 14 incumbents in the House and seven incumbents in the Senate lost their seats, that has quickly changed.

This year’s legislative session will feature at least seven different Delegates and two different Senators who weren’t in office when last year’s session began.

All six of the Senate’s committees have different chairs than they did in 2018, including two new ones this year. Guy Guzzone of Howard County, will take over as Chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee. He will swapping his previous position of Majority Leader with Nancy King of Montgomery County. Will Smith of Montgomery County, will take over as Chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, after the resignation of Robert Zirkin of Baltimore County.

Of course, the two biggest changes to the General Assembly this year are at the top. Last spring, on the penultimate day of the session, Michael Busch of Anne Arundel County, who’d served as Speaker of the House of Delegates since 2003, suddenly died from complications of pneumonia.

After an intense and dramatic battle to succeed Busch between Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore City and Economic Matters Committee Chair Dereck Davis of Prince George’s County resulted in a stalemate, Adrianne Jones of Baltimore County, previously the Speaker Pro Tem (the No. 2 position in the chamber) emerged in May as a compromise candidate, the first African-American or woman ever to hold the position.

Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. of Prince George’s, Calvert, and Charles Counties, served as Senate President since 1987. But Miller had also been battling prostate cancer since 2018. This past October he announced that he’d be stepping down from the top position while continuing to serve out the remainder of his term. Senator Bill Ferguson of Baltimore City emerged as the surprise choice to replace him.

For the first time since 1987, both the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and the President of the Maryland State Senate are from the Baltimore area and that might be the most significant change of all in Annapolis.


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