By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

On Jan. 11,  the Maryland General Assembly commenced the historic 445th session. 

All Maryland senators and delegates were officially sworn in.

Though delegates and senators are still getting acquainted with each other and the operations of the 2023 session, they are ready to tackle issues of great concern to Marylanders. 

The top of the agenda is regulating marijuana, crime, abortion rights and resources for veterans. 

With Maryland voters making recreational marijuana legal for users over the age of  21 in July 2022, Maryland legislators must create the framework from which residents and businesses can carry and sell marijuana. 

Delegates Regina T. Boyce (D-43A) and Stephanie Smith (D-45) shared the first part of their legislative agenda this year.

“Early on, I will be pushing bills that didn’t pass in the Senate last session,” Del. Regina T. Boyce (D-43A) told the AFRO. “I’ll be pushing environmental, health, and tax bills.”

Del. Stephanie Smith (D-45) will be working on a bill that modifies funding to increase veteran victim protection, and a bill to uplift community schools.

Among issues of concern to Maryland lawmakers and prosecutors, on the federal level, U.S. House Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) is expected to introduce the “Witness Security and Protection Grant Program Act of 2023” in the coming weeks.

This legislation aims to help maintain services that protect witnesses of crimes involving homicides, felonies, serious drug charges, gang crimes or organized crime. Without these protections, witnesses may get discouraged and the absence of their testimony could weaken the prosecution’s case, according to legal experts.

Mfume’s legislation would allocate $150 million, which is $30 million each year for five years. Under this bill, it would be mandatory for the attorney general to create competitive grants for local, state and tribal governments.

This bill is a reintroduction of Mfume’s companion bill with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) during the 117th Congress. These partnered bills await committee and floor consideration. These partnered bills in the U.S. House and Senate did not make it further than the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and Senate Committee on the Judiciary. 

At noon of Jan. 18, Gov.-elect Wes Moore and Lt. Gov.-elect Aruna Miller will be inaugurated. After the ceremony, the “People’s Ball” will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center. 

Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member

A portion of this article involving HB0153 has been redacted. The original version of the article incorrectly stated that Del. Regina T. Boyce (D-43A) sponsored HB0153, which was filed in the 2022 General Assembly. Del. Charlotte Crutchfield (D-19) sponsored the bill. Boyce co-sponsored HB004, the 2023 version of the bill, but it is not a focus of her legislative agenda.

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