This post is meant to be a 101 explanation of the Maryland General Assembly (MD GA).
Maryland voters across the state elect state senators and representatives to write, discuss & approve new laws for the state.
Just like in the federal or national lawmakers in DC, they are separated into two groups: senators and representatives. Also like in DC, the State Senate has fewer members than the House, and elected officials in both allegedly work in the interests of those who live in particular places. This is how representative democracy "works" here in Maryland & across the U.S.
These elected people only come together for the session. Any new laws - or changes in laws - have to be done in a 90 day window, called the Session.
In Maryland, in 2021, that session began on January 13 and will be over April 12. During that time, legislators read, hold hearings & vote on the bills they've written or sponsored. Anything not voted into law before April 12 has to wait until NEXT January to be considered again. After lawmakers vote to pass a law, it goes to the governor, who must sign it to make it law. See School House Rock, "I'm Just a Bill" for a simplified version of what it's supposed to look like. Just replace "capital hill" with Annapolis, and "president" with "governor".
Right now, the public finds out when a hearing for a bill is scheduled just days before the hearing in a committee, or before the entire body. They have a day, two working days before the actual hearing to submit let legislators know they support or oppose a bill &/or submit or sign up to give testimony. You can do both of those things on the Maryland General Assembly website.
EVERY PERSON IN MARYLAND IS ALLOWED TO GIVE TESTIMONY.
This is also one of the few ways legislators find out what people actually support or oppose.
After the hearing, if a bill does not receive a favorable review, it will not be read or heard by the rest of the General Assembly. This is what is known as "dying in committee". Some bills start with sponsors in both the Senate & the House - called cross-filing.
If a bill is has had a hearing, but hasn't yet received a favorable review, you can still send letters urging legislators to give it one. This is another place where organizing matters.
ANYONE IS ALLOWED TO SEND A LETTER TO THE COMMITTEES THAT HEAR BILLS.
Which is where YOU come in! In the next few weeks, I'm going to briefly describe the bills Communities United supports, & let you know what you can do to help them pass & become laws.
At the state level - now that the veto of the Blueprint for Maryland was overridden - we are primarily interested in four issue areas: - Harm reduction & decriminalization of drugs and drug users - Police reforms (our #Defund2Refund effort is Baltimore city-based) - Housing & renter justice & relief - Fair taxation (#TaxTheRich) - Education equity, bridging the #DigitalDivide & getting an our school board elected (it is currently 100% appointed)