AFT-Maryland 2020 Legislative Report

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For the first time since the Civil War, the Maryland Legislative Session ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, legislators were able to pass an emergency bill to provide funds to deal with the healthcare crisis before Sine Die.

The early adjournment was only one of the reasons the 2020 session was historical. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (SB 1000/HB 1300), a comprehensive bill to adopt the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, passed and awaits the governor’s signature. The Blueprint, over three years in the making, will establish a world class education system in Maryland, which in turn will help make the state a global economic competitor. Read more about the Blueprint at

Additionally, the Build to Learn Act (SB 1/HB 1) will provide over $2 billion for school construction in the state and bring much needed jobs to Baltimore City and other jurisdictions and will provide the new buildings needed for Maryland students.

Although far fewer bills were passed than in previous years, AFT-Maryland was able to get several big wins for our local unions. As a member of the Fair Funding Coalition, AFT-Maryland worked to pass several revenue bills, which will raise taxes on the wealthy, hedge funds, corporations, select digital downloads, and tobacco products. These additional revenues will help to finance a 2% COLA for state workers and help provide funding for education.

In addition, legislation to legalize online sports betting passed (SB 4), which will bring in revenues after it is signed by the governor and is approved by voters in a statewide referendum in November.

AFT-Maryland partnered with AFSCME to sponsor two bills for workers in state mental hospitals (SB 639/HB 1525 & SB 693/HB 1474). One will equalize pay for positions that were left off the salary increase in 2019. The other would provide members with forensic pay when they have a majority of mental health patients in their facilities.

As a member of the Student Debt Coalition, AFT-Maryland fought for a package of bills to protect Maryland borrowers and we were able to get two of the bills passed in the shortened session. The first is The Veterans’ Education Protection Act (SB 294/HB 593). Maryland is the first state to close this loophole preventing for-profit colleges from getting 100% of their funding from the federal government, and to stop them from preying upon students for their education benefits. And the Disorderly Closure bill (SB 446/HB 469), which protects students when for-profit colleges operating in the state close up shop without warning.

The legislature passed the balanced budget for 2021 and it includes the 2% COLA the state employees negotiated and a $500 bonus based on revenues.

AFT-Maryland worked with MCGEO/UFCW 1994 to get a study required on 911 specialists’ pay and benefits, into the budget. This is the first step in getting the state to recognize 911 specialists as first responders and possibly added to the Hometown Heroes tax reduction on pensions.

Finally, Labor was able to stop the anti-union right to work bill and legislation to allow our public water to be privatized (SB 820/HB 1416). AFT-Maryland works closely with our fellow unions in the state to defeat anti-worker bills.

A list of AFT-Maryland Priority bills is available by clicking here

Denise Riley, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs
March 2020