Maryland Gov. Wes Moore will hit another key milestone in his nascent administration when he delivers his first State of the State address to the General Assembly — and the people of the state — at noon on Wednesday.
Here are key facts about the State of the State and what to expect.
What is the State of the State anyway?
The State of the State is a tradition in state government that involves governor speaking before a special joint session of the House of Delegates and the state Senate, typically in late January or early February.
The tradition is rooted in the Maryland Constitution, which states that the governor “shall, from time to time, inform the Legislature of the condition of the State and recommend to their consideration such measures as he may judge necessary and expedient.”
In other words: The governor should tell lawmakers how things are going and what he wants them to change.
Past governors have used the address to tout their priorities and urge lawmakers to pass bills that they support.
So it’s like the State of the Union?
Yes, the State of the State is similar to the president’s State of the Union — although it tends to be shorter and less dramatic.
Some governors, like presidents, have invited guests to the speech whom they reference to underscore points that they’re making.
The speeches are generally punctuated by applause lines, and, like State of the Union, sometimes only members of the governor’s party stand and applaud. But typically in Maryland, there are moments where all senators and delegates applaud.
There also are some interesting ceremonial formalities associated with the State of the State, much like the State of the Union. The sergeant-at-arms will make a dramatic, shouted announcement of the governor’s arrival, and the governor and lieutenant governor will be escorted into the chamber by a bipartisan group of senators and delegates selected by General Assembly leaders.
And like the State of the Union, the opposite party — in this case the Republicans — will offer a response to the governor’s speech. Del. Jason Buckel of Western Maryland, the Republican minority leader in the House, will tape a speech ahead of time that will be aired right after Moore’s speech.
What’s different this year?
The last two State of the State addresses from former Gov. Larry Hogan, in 2021 and 2022, were not delivered to lawmakers. Instead, Hogan opted to give a speech via video with no audience present.
Hogan’s 2021 address came as the coronavirus vaccine was just starting to be rolled out and few people were vaccinated. Lawmakers were not holding regular sessions with all their members together as a precaution to limit the spread of the virus.
Moore, a Democrat, will be returning to the prior practice of the General Assembly and convening a joint session in the House of Delegates chamber for the purpose of hearing from the governor.
What will we hear from Gov. Moore?
It’s hard to say. Moore, in his first weeks as governor, has not laid out many specifics of his legislative priorities — though he could finally do so in Wednesday’s speech.
Moore’s team spent a couple of hours Tuesday gathering signatures from delegates and senators who want to sign on to his proposals.
Moore has already announced a bill to further cut retirement income taxes for veterans and help National Guard members pay for health insurance.
And his budget includes money to accelerate the increase of the minimum wage, make permanent expanded benefits under the Earned Income Tax Credit, fund a new state department of service, and pay for teacher recruitment and business incentives. But Moore hasn’t yet laid out the details of those proposals, which would require General Assembly action.
Senate President Bill Ferguson told reporters on Tuesday that he expects to hear details during Moore’s speech.
“It’s not a massive package, which makes total sense,” said Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. “You wouldn’t expect a new governor to have a massive legislative agenda coming in.”
Moore also could lay out a broad plan for his ambitions as governor, not only for this year but for future years.
During a radio interview on Tuesday, Moore said the speech is “a unique chance and a unique opportunity to have a conversation with the whole state about why becoming a state of service is important.” He also told host Dr. Karsonya Wise Whitehead on WEAA radio that he will discuss vacancies in the state government workforce and tax relief for veterans and low-income workers.
What should I listen for?
Governors often use their favorite phrases in their State of the State Speeches.
For Moore, listen for his campaign motto that he continues to use: “Leave No One Behind.” He also frequently talks about improving “work, wages and wealth” for residents and that Maryland should become “a state of service.”
Governors also often — but not always — declare that “the state of the state is strong.”
(In 2021, for example, Hogan deviated from the “strong” phrasing and instead said: “The state of our state is more resilient than it ever has been.” And Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. never uttered the phrase during his term, according to transcripts.)
How can I watch?
The speech will be aired live on Maryland Public Television (on the TV station and online at mpt.org/livestream), with the broadcast running from noon until 1 p.m. Some other TV and radio stations typically carry the speech, and it’s usually streamed on a governor’s social media channels.
All sessions of the General Assembly are public meetings and are streamed on the assembly’s website.
Watching in person in Annapolis, however, is not a good bet. The public galleries overlooking the House of Delegates chamber are likely to be full of invited guests.
Baltimore Banner editor John O’Connor contributed to this report.