Skip to main content
Education Government & Politics

Decency agenda, affordable housing package among bills signed into law

House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Before Maryland’s 90-day legislative session began in January, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones urged not only her colleagues, but also the general public, to simply be more decent with each other.

During the session, the Baltimore County Democrat presented a “decency agenda,” a package of five bills that sought to eradicate discrimination and election misinformation, provide leadership training for school officials, and ensure diverse books and other materials are available for everyone.

Those bills were among the 261 that Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed into law on Thursday.

“We need to stop allowing our worst instincts to drive the conversation. Together these bills will help all of us,” Jones said during the bill signing ceremony at the State House in Annapolis.

The legislation that leads the decency agenda is the Freedom to Read Act — House Bill 785 and Senate Bill 738.

Stacks of bills awaiting the signature of Gov. Wes Moore (D). The governor signed into law more than 250 bills April 25. The ceremony was the second since the 2024 legislative session ended. Moore also planned on signing roughly two dozen other bills into law in a non-public event on April 25. Those bills are mostly departmental bills and sunset extensions for various entities. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Both measures reflect a national conversation about what books and materials should be publicly available in schools and libraries.

The act requires local school officials to manage library programs and not exclude or remove materials “because of partisan, ideological, or religious disapproval.”

Local school officials must develop policies and procedures to review objections — made by a student, parent or guardian — about books or materials.

School districts also must establish a reasonable timeline to conduct and conclude a review. Books and materials being reviewed must “remain available” for use by students and school personnel until the review process has concluded.

Under the bill. officials at county libraries, resource centers and a metropolitan cooperative service program must follow state standards such as not excluding materials from catalogues “because of the origin, background, or views of a person who created the material.”

If one of those three library operations fails to adopt policies consistent with state standards, then the state comptroller would withhold state funding until a written policy is certified by the Maryland State Library Board.

The new law will go into effect immediately.

It makes Maryland one of the first states in the nation with strong protections to preserve access to information in libraries, as well as penalties for those who attempt to thwart access. It also prohibits retaliating against employees for doing their jobs.

“I’m proud that Maryland is a place where everyone can see themselves in literature, where that book will remain on the shelves for them to read and see and not feel alone and that people’s history isn’t erased,” said Del. Dana Jones (D-Anne Arundel), who sponsored the House version. “We’re not telling anyone what to read. The readers are choosing. People are choosing. This is a statewide bill for everyone to protect literature, libraries and librarians and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery) sponsored the Freedom to Read Act in the Senate.

Del. Dana Jones (D-Anne Arundel) and Sen. Nancy King during a bill an April 25 bill signing. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Parts of the speaker’s “decency agenda” signed into law include:

  • HB 333 – Requires the state Board of Elections to maintain a portal on its website for the public to report election misinformation and disinformation. The board must conduct a periodic review of all materials submitted, and “to the extent necessary, issue corrective information or refer submissions to the state prosecutor.” The new law goes into effect June 1.
  • HB 602 – Requires that employers not discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation. It goes into effect Oct. 1.
  • HB 1287 – Requires the state Department of Education and Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) to establish a school leadership training program for the state superintendent, local superintendents, chairs and vice chairs of state and local school boards and the Blueprint board. Some other local school board members and school employees are not required, but are encouraged, to complete the training. It is a change from an earlier proposal to require an incoming state superintendent of public schools or local school superintendent to complete a leadership course or training program. It goes into effect June 1.
  • HB 1386 – Requires the Department of Education to develop guidelines for an anti-bias training program for school employees. It sets no deadline but states that it is “assumed” the guidelines would be ready in fiscal year 2025. It goes into effect July 1.

Jones said she plans to work with the governor and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) to present another package of bills next year aimed to promote decency “in our public discourse and help protect the most vulnerable among us.”

The governor, sitting between Jones and Ferguson, also signed dozens of education-related bills Thursday, including HB 1426, which goes in effect June 1 and focuses on provisions of the Blueprint plan

The bill allows the AIB and Maryland State Board of Education, in consultation with local school systems, to limit the number and types of courses a high school students can take in a dual enrollment program for classes at a higher education institution. This would be in effect from fiscal year 2025 through fiscal year 2027 as part of the Blueprint’s post-college and career readiness pathway.

‘Could not wait’

Moore also signed three bills Thursday that were part of his affordable housing package.

HB 538 seeks to incentivize developers to add affordable housing options in future developments and would allow certain development projects to exceed typical density limits if the new development incorporates a certain percentage of affordable housing units. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

HB 599 creates the Maryland Community Investment Corp., a state entity to make loans or investments aimed at developing and improving low-income communities. This goes into effect July 1.

The Renters’ Rights and Stabilization Act, HB 693, seeks to help tenants know what protections and legal options they have under state law. The new law, which takes effect Oct. 1, establishes the Office of Tenant and Landlord Affairs in the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Besides praising legislators and advocates who helped work on the housing package, Moore called out Baltimore City Sheriff Sam Cogen (D), who attended the bill signing.

Gov. Wes Moore (D), hugs Baltimore City Sheriff Sam Cogen before presenting him with a ceremonial pen before the April 25 bill signing. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“We would not be here if it wasn’t for Sheriff Sam Cogen,” Moore said. “Because of your hard work, from today on forward, all the time that you were spending focusing on evictions, let’s get that off your plate.”

After Moore presented Cogen with a first ceremonial pen, the two embraced.

During his remarks, Moore highlighted two statistics that show why housing became one of his administration’s top priorities: a shortage of 96,000 housing units and the fact that 30% of younger Marylanders are considering leaving the state because of housing costs.

“This was a year that we made the choice to put housing front and center because we knew this was an issue that could not wait,” the governor said. “You cannot have a growing and a thriving state if people cannot afford to live here.”

Moore also signed legislation that will expand eligibility for compensation for people wrongly convicted of crimes in the state.

HB 1086 and SB 890, requested by the Office of the Attorney General expands eligibility for compensation from the state to include people erroneously convicted of conspiracy to commit a felony. Current law only covers those erroneously convicted of felonies. The new law, which goes into effect July 1, allows for an administrative law judge to award compensation without a pardon if a judge reverses or vacates a conviction and that order does not include provisions for a retrial.

The governor also planned to sign about two dozen other bills into law during a non-public event Thursday.

Bryan P. Sears contributed to this story.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our website. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

To republish, copy the following text and paste it into your HTML editor.


Creative Commons License AttributionCreative Commons Attribution
Decency agenda, affordable housing package among bills signed into law