The Sine Die 2022 Report

The 2022 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly ended on Monday, April 11 at midnight. This Sine Die 2022 report will share some of the highlights and results of the legislative session on the items of primary interest to the community.

BOOST scholarships – The BOOST scholarship program funds was renewed for its 6th year and funded at $10 million – the same funding as last year when it was increased by $3 million. As expected, the additional funds in last year’s budget proved extremely beneficial for the Jewish day school community. Last year’s Jewish day school BOOST tally came in at nearly $2.75 million – almost double the totals of previous years.

BOOST legislation – We strongly promoted legislation (HB 415 / SB 401) put forth by Governor Hogan’s administration to make the BOOST program and its funding permanent (as opposed to its current status as an annual budget negotiation), but unfortunately the push to get that done while Gov. Hogan is still in office was not successful. We hope to continue the pursuit of a permanent scholarship program with the state’s next top executive next year.

Nonpublic school allocations – The other private school benefit programs in the budget – the textbook (and technology) program ($6 mil), the aging schools facilities grant ($3.5 mil), and the school safety improvement grant ($3.5 mil), were once again level funded – for an additional $13 million dollars.

Security grants – The two security grant programs for entities deemed to be “at risk of a hate crime” were also funded in the state budget – $2 million dollars for schools and day care facilities and $5 million dollars for shuls and other non-profits, a $2 million dollar increase from its previous levels. Notable to these programs is the allowable use to hire security personnel.  

529 state contribution – Following up on last year’s measure to limit the continuous benefits of the state’s 529 contribution program, the legislature passed another bill (HB 444) which limits account holders to those above 18 years old. On a positive note, there was no attempt this year to strike nonpublic schools from 529 benefits as there was in previous sessions.

School nurse funds – Our team strongly promoted a new funding program conceived by the OU’s Teach Coalition to provide a per-pupil allocation for school nurse costs. Despite receiving legislative assurances that the program would be funded, the two respective budget appropriating committees were led to believe that federal COVID recovery funds were available for this use. In truth, those funds are specific in their allowable uses and nursing/medical costs are not among those allowable uses.

COVID recovery funds for private schools – We continue to work with our state and federal partners to ensure that the approximately $60 million already allocated to Maryland private schools from the latter two federal aid packages (EANS / GEER programs) will arrive in a timely fashion and be put to an effective and beneficial use. 

Beyond education, we monitored and/or took positions on numerous other legislative bills during the 90-day session. Among them were:

Child care programs – Over the last several years there has been a robust increase in the general focus on child care programs statewide and nationwide (for example universal pre-K, etc.). During this time we’ve worked on expanding the eligibility threshold and criteria of child care scholarships and assisted countless households in accessing them. There are now more facilities in our community than ever before that participate in the state’s early childhood program, and we are hopeful that it will continue to grow. As usual a number of bills passed during the session related to child care, one of which (HB 1100) is a $16 mil allocation to provide incentives and bonuses to child care center personnel.   

All-year Daylight Savings Time – For the last several years we have advocated against a bill in Annapolis that would end standard time and implement all-year daylight savings time. In past years, our opposition to it (primarily based on concerns of safety of school children and the challenges for morning minyan goers due to late sunrise in mid-winter) has been helpful in preventing its passing. This year the bill passed the state’s House of Delegate (HB 126), but the unexpected action on Capitol Hill in which the U.S. Senate unanimously passed all-year DST, led to the MD Senate taking no action on the bill. Efforts are underway with many members of the U.S. House to oppose any such corresponding House motion to make DST permanent.   

Climate change legislation – The General Assembly took action to implement climate reform in Maryland (Senate Bill 528) requiring buildings to show a significant cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and complete reduction by 2045. The law provided exemptions to a number of different buildings where compliance would pose undue hardships. We were extensively involved in seeking an exemption for houses of worship, similar to some other exempted facilities (including schools). Ultimately an amendment to the bill was made to exempt all buildings smaller than 35,000 square feet, thus exempting all of our houses of worship by default, as there are currently none that have facilities larger than that.

Physician assisted suicide – We have worked for a number of years with groups who stand in opposition of the bill seeking to legalize assisted suicide. This bill was introduced once again in 2022 at a legislative press conference but was not assigned a bill number nor did it have a hearing. The decision to include it in this report is more so to acknowledge the tragic passing of a friend I made while working on this issue. Sheryl Grossman a”h was a person born with numerous health/medical challenges and limitations, yet she rose above those challenges and dedicated her life to be an effective advocate and spokesperson for people with disabilities. I had the distinct honor to be one of her many friends and was asked by those closest to her to deliver a eulogy at her funeral (linked here). May her memory be for a blessing to all who loved her or were better people because of her.

Upcoming elections – Please be mindful that this is indeed an election year with the Primary Election coming up in July for the state offices, congressional races, as well as several key local elections. There will be plenty of information to be shared on that as it gets closer – all of which will be available on our website – Election related content will be added as it becomes available, including candidate profiles/surveys and redistricting info, in addition to the voter registration info which is already there.

Acknowledgements – The office staff of Agudah Maryland has grown in recent years and that has no doubt contributed to the success of our advocacy. Thanks to Mr. Avi Lencz, Mrs. Chani Vilner, and law school interns: Avi Wolasky (fall semester) and Levi Akkerman (spring semester), for enhancing the quality and professionalism of our work output and service to the community.

I am fortunate to be part of a small but very effective team that advocates in Annapolis for the items of our greatest need and interest. I’d like to specifically acknowledge my colleagues at the Maryland Catholic Conference and the Baltimore Jewish Council for this vital partnership.

I’d like to salute the senators and delegates who comprise the Maryland General Assembly and their dedicated staffs for diligently doing the ‘work of the people’. Special mention to those who serve the districts of our community – who do so with great devotion, concern, and attentiveness.

As you all know, we are now coming up on the end of the two terms served by Governor Larry Hogan. My personal – and our communal – appreciation to him and his administration for their eight years of service and support of so many vital areas of life is indeed immense.

Lastly… please check out our website for an abundance of other important info. There are resources there for those seeking to apply for BOOST scholarships, those looking to utilize 529 tuition related benefits, or child care scholarships, as well as all of the security grant programs that your shuls and other nonprofits may be able to access. Once again, that’s