Maryland and Virginia senate leadership discuss legislation and policies impacting the Greater Washington region
The Greater Washington Board of Trade’s Regional Policy Leadership Series brought Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and Virginia Senate President pro-tempore Luis Lucas together to discuss a broad range of topics spanning workforce and education, Transit, Economic and environmental sustainability, health and wellness, technology, the threat of government shutdown for the region, and legislative priorities for Maryland and Virginia in the coming cycle. The event, presented by G.S. Proctor and Associates, highlighted the importance of collaboration between jurisdictions in our region and the vital role that the Board of Trade plays in bringing decision makers together.
From a workforce and talent development standpoint, both states are working to reevaluate and rework their education systems to function in the new economic landscape into which young students are graduating. As the cost of higher education continues to soar, Virginia’s focus on connecting higher education institutions with major jobs providers in the region in conjunction with a renewed focus and reinvestment into apprenticeship programs which provide a look into alternative paths not including higher education, ensure that Virginian’s are fully aware of the universe of educational paths before them. In Maryland, the blueprint for Maryland’s future is underway and focusing on every stage of education, investing in early childhood education by ensuring the availability of free or low cost child care for all four year olds and low income three year olds and working to ensure that no children make it through high school without having completed certificate or apprenticeship programs providing a clear career path forward.
WMATA, the connective sinew of the region, was a big discussion point. Both legislatures are committed to solving the funding problems currently plaguing the body and are fully aware of the degree to which public transit in the region provides enormous potential for economic prosperity. Connecting MD, VA, and DC and creating seamless transitions between jurisdictions in the region is a fundamental bedrock of the local economy and as each jurisdiction moves toward electrification and fulfillment of environmental goals, is likely to become more and more important as public transportation must necessarily take a front seat in reaching those ends.
Both states have made historic gains in tax revenue and are being cautious when looking at their budgets in the near future. As federal COVID relief dollars begin to dry up, Ensuring that state budgets are not careening toward a funding cliff is vital for the long term sustainability of the region, leading the states to invest heavily in shorter term projects without substantial long term budgets which were designed to jump start movement toward equity in concert with many of the plans already mentioned in this discussion.
Both senate presidents discussed what their respective states are doing to combat and ameliorate the effects of climate change. With Virginia’s senate resisting Youngkin’s calls for an exit from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and Maryland focusing on a comprehensive set of fairly aggressive climate goals. Both jurisdictions are committed to the sustainability of these efforts and ensuring that the business interests throughout the region are on board and a part of ongoing discussions. Both presidents further concluded that the entire region would need to collaborate on many of these initiatives to ensure viability as both states are on “parallel paths”.
Crime emerged as a discussion topic for both jurisdictions. Both legislatures are committed to addressing the root causes of violence through comprehensive programs including the expansion of mental health providers in the school system in an attempt to head off violent crime with prophylaxis rather than punishment. These efforts are also part of a broader focus on provision of mental health services to residents as we continue to see prolonged impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic especially on the youth of the region.
Technology is taking a leading position in the development of the region as it undergoes an explosion in cutting-edge high-tech positions while struggling to contend with data privacy and potential job loss concerns associated with many of these new disruptive technologies. The entire region is working to utilize new technologies and reap as many benefits as possible from innovators in the region while remaining vigilant about protecting residents who are potentially vulnerable to some of the technologies’ negative externalities.
Both Senate Presidents concluded with discussion of their legislative priorities which focused primarily on environmental sustainability and educational equity for Virginia, and addressing youth violence, creation of affordable housing, and prioritizing transportation investment in Maryland; both further concluding that they look forward to connecting with one another to discuss their plans and how the region can work more closely together on all of these goals.
The Board of Trade will continue to connect the business community to information directly from policy makers through our Regional Policy Leadership Series (RPLS), ensuring that our members have the best up-to-date knowledge impacting regional policies. Stay tuned for our upcoming sessions with regional Senate Presidents, Attorneys General, Comptrollers, and more.
This Regional Policy Leadership Series webinar was presented by G.S. Proctor @ Associates. Supporting Sponsors of the event series are Comcast, Fox Rothschild LLP, Giant Food LLC, G.S. Proctor & Associates Inc., Holland & Knight LLP, McGuireWoods Consulting LLC, McGuireWoods LLP, MGM National Harbor, First National Bank and Uber. Thank you for supporting the Greater Washington Board of Trade and our region’s business community.
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