The 2023 Maryland legislative session held much promise following the tireless get out the vote efforts of AFT-Maryland and our AFL-CIO affiliates. Our dogged canvassing and all-hands-on-deck effort during the 2022 election bore fruit during the legislative session. Following the inauguration of the first African-American Governor in Maryland’s history and newly elected state Delegates and Senators taking their seats, AFT-Maryland got down to business. Despite the amount of turnover heading into the session, one thing remained true: AFT-Maryland would fight for our 18,000 members. And fight we did, racking up impressive wins and commanding the attention of political leaders across the state.
The following bills passed both houses
and have been signed or are currently awaiting
Gov. Moore’s signature:
UNION DUES TAX DEDUCTION
With Governor Wes Moore’s signature, Maryland will become the first in the nation to allow a state tax deduction for union dues. During the 2023 Maryland General Assembly legislative session, the union dues tax deduction was just one of the over two dozen bills AFT-Maryland prioritized because of the direct impact on our members.
AFT-Maryland brought this bill to Del. Jazz Lewis and Sen. Guy Guzzone three years ago after the Republican tax scheme of 2017 took the tax deduction away from union members at the federal level. In 2022, the bill passed both houses in the state legislature but was vetoed by then Governor Larry Hogan. This year, Gov. Moore is expected to sign HB 2 into law and will apply to members’ 2023 taxes.
SUPPORT FOR EDUCATION
The VOices Toward an Elected School Board (VOTES) Coalition, which includes the Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) and community organizations, was successful in passing HB 153/SB 31. The bill sponsored by Del. Melissa Wells and Sen. Jill Carter will allow high school students to elect their student representative on the Baltimore City Board of School Commissions. In addition, it will give the student member of the board an expanded ability to vote on specific issues. Finally, the legislation creates a task force to study school board members’ compensation.
Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel (PSRP) will receive an additional bonus in July. Gov. Moore allocated $22 million in his budget for the remainder of the retention bonus for education support personnel (ESP) in a bill passed last year; however, Gov. Hogan only budgeted $8 million for it.
The second part of the 2022 bill was reintroduced this year (SB 735/HB 1234) by Sen. Craig Zucker and Del. Melissa Wells. It would establish a workgroup to study ESP pay. AFT-Maryland worked with our coalition partners, AFSCME and SEIU on the bill; however, it did not pass. AFT-Maryland is looking at alternative ways to establish the workgroup.
Gov. Moore’s Maryland Educator Shortage Reduction Act of 2023 (HB 1219/SB 893) requires the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to create new pathways for careers in
education including stipends for student teachers; recruitment at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU); student loan assistance programs; and scholarship programs.
SB 610 sponsored by Sen. Mary Washington, requires virtual schools to have protocols and a framework to ensure education standards and employee protections are the same as those in physical classrooms.
PROTECTING STATE WORKERS
State Employee Rights and Protections - Personnel Actions and Harassment Complaints, sponsored by Sen. Karen Lewis Young and Del. Karen Simpson (HB 309/SB 574), extends the time limit for a complaint from 30 days to one year and harassment complaints may be filed within two years.
SB 79/HB 184 provides employees with the same grievance policies and procedures to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and public State institutions of higher education, that apply to all other State employees, and allows a grievance to be filed by an employee or the employee’s union. Sen. Ben Kramer and Del. Jared Solomon are the sponsors.
HB 395/SB 223, will require the state to give notice, hold public hearings, and establish reporting requirements when the state has targeted a facility for closing. This legislation was sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine and Del. Jennifer White will provide a level of protection for state workers.
All three bills have been signed into law by Gov. Moore.
PUBLIC WATER: PROTECTING EMPLOYEE AND COMMUNITY VOICES
The regional water task force bill HB 843/SB 880, sponsored by Del. Stephanie Smith and Sen. Jill Carter will create a taskforce to study the governance structure of Baltimore city’s water system. The water and wastewater utilities are owned and managed by the city and used by both city and Baltimore County residents. Members of the City Union of Baltimore (CUB) and the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees (BCFPE), will be impacted by the task force's recommendations.The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Moore. AFT-Maryland will monitor the task force's activities and provide members with updates.
ONE LABOR BOARD FOR ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
The Public Employee Relations Act (HB 984/SB 367), sponsored by Del. Jazz Lewis and Sen. Clarence Lam, combines Maryland’s three labor boards - the State Labor Relations Board, the State Higher Education Labor Relations Board, and the Public School Labor Relations Board - into the single Public Employee Labor Relations Board. It is the hope that a single board will provide quicker dispute resolutions. In addition, the bill allows card check procedures to make it easier for employees to form a union.
MARYLAND STATE BUDGET
The 2024 budget will include:
- State workers, eligible for a step increase in the 2024 fiscal year, will receive one starting July 1, 2023, or January 1, 2024, depending on their date of hire. Conditional on their position and agency, some members will receive additional pay increases and bonuses. These increases will be added on to the 2% COLA that goes into effect July 1, 2023.
- $8.7 billion for K-12 public schools – with an additional $900 million to fund the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
- The full actuarially required contribution to the state’s pension fund - plus an additional payment.
- The John R. Cade funding formula is Maryland’s pledge to provide one-third of the operating expenses for the state’s community colleges. The 2024 budget will fully fund Cade.
(See the FY2024 state budget documents at DBM.Maryland.gov.)
EXPANDING PAID FAMILY LEAVE
Family and Medical Leave Insurance will provide wage replacement benefits to eligible workers who use the federal FMLA. It will cover up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually and will not require employees to use their paid sick, personal, or vacation time first. AFT-Maryland fought along with other unions to keep the majority of the cost off of the workers – employers were pushing for employees to pay 70%. In the end, the cost was split 50/50; however, the employer may pay the full 100%, and unions will be able to negotiate the cost to employers. SB 828/HB 988, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Hayes and Del. Lily Qi, takes effect on June 1, 2023.
MAKING CORPORATIONS PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE
The Fair Funding Coalition, of which AFT-Maryland is a member, supported HB 191, which would no longer allow businesses to write-off on their state taxes, fines, and penalties, as business expenses. SB 240 will mandate that a Maryland business pass-through entity (PTE), must add back to the Maryland income tax the credit claimed in another state. In other words, a business that exists in Maryland cannot pass off its profits to another state that has a lower tax. Both bills are waiting on the Governor’s signature.
RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE
Gov. Moore introduced - and has signed - the Fair Wage Act of 2023 (SB 555) to move the date to January 1, 2024, for the increase to $15 in the Maryland minimum wage. AFT-Maryland is a member of the Raise the Wage coalition.
STUDENT LOAN COALITION
Del. Stephanie Smith and Sen. Ben Kramer passed a bill (HB 384/SB 248) that will prohibit an institution of higher education in Maryland from refusing to provide a student with a transcript because the student owes a debt to the institution. The bill is on the governor’s desk.
AFT-Maryland supported numerous other labor bills, worked on our coalition’s legislation, and was able to defeat bills our affiliate unions opposed. By the end of session, AFT-Maryland leadership, staff, and members submitted written and/or presented oral testimony in over 60 hearings. The combined efforts of our affiliate unions, labor family, and coalition partners delivered great wins for state and local public employees. In 2023, AFT-Maryland worked relentlessly during the legislative session and elected officials in the General Assembly took notice.