Gov. Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller joined legislative leaders in the State House to sign bills Tuesday, 12 hours after lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session.
Moore applauded the work of lawmakers he described as showing “that we as a state can move differently.”
“It showed that we can move in partnership and showed that once again, Maryland can do big things and Maryland can lead,” Moore told a noticeably more relaxed crowd of legislators, staff, advocates and other guests in the Governor’s Reception room, which was packed to the brim.
Moore devoted the majority of his remarks to two laws that aim to alleviate poverty, the Family Prosperity Act of 2023 and the Fair Wage Act of 2023, by increasing the state’s earned income tax credit and raising the minimum wage.
“I entered office saying that this administration would launch the most aggressive, the most strategic, bipartisan, all out assault on child poverty that this state has ever seen,” he said, “the critics underestimated just how united we were going to be.”
The universality of child poverty is what made the legislation so successful, he reasoned.
“Child poverty is West Baltimore issue, and it’s a West Annapolis issue. Child poverty is an Eastern Shore issue, and it is a Western Maryland issue. Child poverty is a Washington suburbs issue, and it is a Baltimore County suburbs issue.”
Moore spoke of his mother’s influence on the Fair Wage Act, which will raise the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
Joy Moore, an immigrant, raised the governor and his two siblings as a single mother, “She sacrificed her own American dream so I maybe could achieve my own,” he said, gazing at her in the audience admiringly.
“Growing up, I saw the difference that a little extra money in the bank could make,” Moore continued, “This morning, my mom gets to watch her son sign legislation into law that will help other mothers like her in this state.”
Moore then presented his mother with one of the symbolic pens used for signing bills into law.
Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said the legislative session “truly exceeded all expectations.” Citing successes in the areas of cannabis legalization, funding for public transportation and education, gun control, and expanding access to mental and reproductive health care, Ferguson said the previous 90 days in the Senate “fostered an environment of collaboration.”
Speaker of the House of Delegates Adrienne A. Jones, reflected on the trade-offs that must take place for a session to be successful.
“This new partnership shows what we can accomplish when we’re on the same team and share the same goals and values,” Jones said. “I’ve been in the General Assembly since 1997; I’ve been here long enough to know that working together makes a difference.”
Of the more notable bills signed was the Child Victims Act of 2023, which passed last week less than an hour after the release of a report detailing a state investigation into rampant child sexual abuse and torture within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The bill, among other things, eliminates the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse.
The bill eliminates restrictions on adults seeking to sue churches and other institutions that didn’t prevent the abuse.
Moore lauded the work that went into the report, and called the content “sickening,” but added “truth is a prerequisite for healing, and that healing has already started.”
“There is no statute of limitations on the trauma that haunts so many still to this day, and this law reflects that exact truth,” Moore said.
The bravery of people like bill sponsor Del. C.T. Wilson, a Charles County Democrat whose commitment to the bill, which he has attempted to pass many sessions previously, stems from his experience as a survivor “is the only reason we are here today,” Moore said.
Wilson grew emotional as he addressed the crowd, first thanking Jones and Baltimore Del. Luke Clippinger, a Democrat who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee and has long advocated for the bill’s passage.
“As this bill is signed, and I’ll say this, for me, and for so many survivors, there should be so many more people standing up here. Not just those that helped. But in my case, those that endured some part of my hell,” Wilson said.
“This bill at the end will not undo years of suffering. But maybe it’ll give us hope; make us better people,” he said.