By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO Contributing Editor
Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (LBCM) members from Prince George’s county recently came home to Bowie State to reconnect with residents of Prince George’s County at a fall town hall.
This was an impactful year for the LBCM. The group represents the largest elected state Black caucus in the nation with 64 members.
From Brandywine to Beltsville, Prince Georgians filled the meeting room to celebrate legislative victories sponsored and supported by LBCM members in cannabis legalization, education, health, housing and Black business procurement within Maryland. A list of state appropriations passed as a result of LBCM advocacy was presented and explained by the lawmakers who had a hand in crafting the bills.
“I love the innovation that Chairwoman Wilkins has brought about for the Black Caucus. Prince George’s County is the largest delegation for the Legislative Black Caucus and you can feel the energy in this room,” said Delegate Nick Charles, (D – Prince George’s County-25), chair of the Prince Georges County House Delegation.
Senator Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s County-25) captured the mood of the evening as she explained how LBCM members are working to ensure Black Marylanders will have a seat at the table as the cannabis industry grows. Recreational cannabis was legalized for adults 18 and older in Maryland on July 1.
“ We were one state who decided that we wanted minority participation in this industry,” Griffith said. “We (the LBCM) would not let a bill be passed without taking this into consideration.”
The Prince George’s County Legislative Recap and Town Hall was the final event in a series of four town halls. Other events were held in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Montgomery County.
Lawmakers cautioned there is much work still left to be done to ensure equity for Black Marylanders and appealed to the audience to partner with the LBCM.
“When decisions are being made on budget items that affect Black folks, we need to see you in Annapolis,” said Senator Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s County-24). “We can’t do it without your support. We are pleading with you to work with us,” Benson implored.
LBCM members hope the Town halls serve as a catalyst activating more Black Marylanders to get involved with advocacy.
“At the end of the day we have so much more to fight for,” Charles said.
“Before COVID-19, folks would have to leave their jobs and drive out to Annapolis. The beauty of the internet is now you can be in your house, you can be at your job, you can be anywhere in the world and sign up and testify on these bills. At the end of the day, when you look around and see your community right with you, you know you’re fighting for the right issue,” Charles concluded.
This year, members of the LCBM sponsored or helped along the following pieces of legislation:
- HB 1071/SB 51: Criminal law and procedures cannabis: fines for smoking in public places; conditions for stops and searches.
- HB 556/SB 516: Cannabis reform
- HB 1219/SB 893: Maryland Educator Shortage Act of 2023
- HB 680: Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit
Wealth and Black business
- HB 809/SB 334: State procurement – Minority Business Enterprise Program – Extensions and Reports
- HB 111/ SB 26: Maryland Medical Assistance Program, Maryland’s Children’s Health Program, and Workgroup on Low Income Utility Assistance.
- HB214: Commission on Public Health – Establishment
- HB 376/SB 184: Health Insurance – Diagnostic and Supplemental Examinations for Breast Cancer – Cost Sharing
- HB 815: Cancer Screening – Health Insurance and Assessment of Outreach, Education and Health Disparities
- HB 1217/SB 805: Maryland Medical Assistance Program and Health Insurance – Required Coverage for Biomarker Testing
- HB 669/SB 455: Real Estate Appraisers – Licensing – Qualifications
- HB 826/SB 848: Statewide Rental Assistance Voucher Program- Establishment
- HB 151: Real Property – Residential Leases – Notification of Rent Increases
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