The Maryland General Assembly on Jan. 11 kicked off its annual 90-day session with Prince George’s County lawmakers focusing on budgeting, public safety, health and education.

The General Assembly, the Free State’s lawmaking body, convened its 437th session in Annapolis, Md. The assembly contains 47 members of the Senate and 141 delegates. The session is expected to terminate on April 10.

Angela Angel represents District 25 in the Maryland House of Delegates. (AFRO File Photo)

Angela Angel represents District 25 in the Maryland House of Delegates. (AFRO File Photo)

During the session, the state’s budget, which has a projected $500 million deficit, will be addressed along with other issues such as funding public universities and colleges, supporting public schools and supervising the funding of social services and passing laws that deal with health care, government operations, public safety, consumer protection, environmental protection and economic development.

Prince George’s County has one of the largest delegations in both chambers, with eight senators that represent all or part of the county and 23 delegates that are similarly situated.

The county has long been a power in Annapolis, with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-District 27) serving in his capacity since 1987. Miller is the longest serving presiding officer of a state legislative chamber in the United States.

County Del. Jay Walker (D-District 26) is the chairman of the House delegation while Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-District 21), leads the county’s senators.

Maryland Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) has been in office since January 2015 and sits on the influential Ways and Means Committee. Barnes told the {AFRO} that he has a full plate for the session.

“One of the most important issues that we are going to tackle in the Prince George’s County delegation is the licensing of medical cannabis,” the delegate said. “During the first round of licensing, it has been noticed that not one person or firm of color got a license. We think that this unfair and we will work to change that.”

Barnes said that he and his colleagues representing the county and Black and progressive legislators from other parts of the state will work together on some key issues. He serves as the first vice chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus that is led by Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-District 45) of Baltimore City.

“We will be working on bail reform, regulating prescription drugs better and tackling a $500 million deficit,” Barnes said. “We have to deal with the deficit.”

Del. Angela Angel (D-District 25), who has been in office since 2015, will be working on her agenda to help families that are under distress.

“My biggest priority is to change the language of laws dealing with domestic violence,” Angel told the {AFRO}. “I will work to get the Senate to refine protective orders where harassment and malicious destruction of property will be punished severely. I know of instances where abusers slash the tires of victims so they can’t go to work, flooded homes so that the victim will have to rely on the abuser for shelter and killed victims’ animals out of sheer cruelty. Those instances aren’t covered by the law and I want to change that.”

Angel has established herself as a legislative expert on domestic abuse, a problem that Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III and the county’s state’s attorney Angela Alsobrooks has made a priority in prosecuting. The delegate said she is working in that area because “too many children are dying because of domestic violence.”

Angel also wants to increase mental health services for children in the state’s public schools, saying that schools often have to deal with the consequences of domestic violence and aren’t generally equipped to do so.

Baker is a regular presence in Annapolis, testifying before House and Senate committees on behalf of the county. The county executive has made it repeatedly clear throughout his tenure that he wants state money to fund the new hospital center in Largo and for the school system to receive its share of county funds.

While lawmakers have their projects for the session, Pepper Mill Village resident Emma Andrews told the {AFRO} that she also has an agenda for her county’s state lawmakers.

“I would like for them to make a priority to stop the state money that is going to private schools,” Andrews said, speaking of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) plan to increase money for the Private Voucher Program, which Baker strongly opposes. “That will take money away from the public schools and I don’t support that.”

However, Andrews, who has lived in the county since the mid-1960s, said that she wants her lawmakers to do something else.

“I see my lawmakers as service providers and I would like for them to serve us better,” she said. “They need to have an effective communication system with their constituents so that we can know what is going on in Annapolis. It would seem that they act as if they know what is best for me without asking me.”