2024 First Bill Signing Ceremony

Published: 4/9/2024

Remarks as prepared
Delivered on Tuesday, May 9, 2024​​​

I want to start by saying to the entire General Assembly: Congratulations on another outstanding session.

Today, we celebrate the journey that brought us here.

The stakeholder meetings –

The drafting process – 

The committee hearings – 

The floor debates  – 

And many, many conversations with me and my team.

I want to thank the best legislative office in Maryland history, and I want to thank the best Chief Legislative Officer any governor could ask for, Eric Luedtke.

But today doesn’t belong to a single administration or a single office – It belongs to all of us.

We would not be here without our two extraordinary constitutional officers: President Bill Ferguson and Speaker Adrienne Jones.

We would not be here without the floor leaders, committee chairs, and backbenchers who made sure the legislative wheels kept turning.

We would not be here without all of the activists and advocates who traveled to Annapolis from across the state to make their voices heard. 

To every Marylander who contributed to the last 90 days: You have my deepest gratitude.

Our system endures because of you. And make no mistake: Our system has been tested.

Two weeks ago today, a container ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Today – and every day – we are thinking of the six victims of the Key Bridge collapse and their families.

They are in our hearts, our thoughts, and our prayers.

Están en nuestros corazones, nuestros pensamientos, y nuestras oraciones.

But the people of Maryland rallied.

The members of the General Assembly rallied.

Our federal partners rallied.

I just came from a meeting on Capitol Hill with our congressional delegation and members of the Biden-Harris Administration.

I stressed the importance of bipartisan, federal support in this moment.

But I also made clear that here in Maryland, we are going to do our part.

And today, I will proudly sign the PORT Act into law.

This legislation will support businesses and workers that have been affected by the collapse.

I want to thank President Ferguson and Delegate Clippinger not only for their stewardship of this bill – but also for partnering with our administration in the process. 

Among many provisions our administration helped craft, this bill will create a new, permanent scholarship program for the families of transportation workers who die on the job.

This legislation will also allow for more flexibility in work search requirements for unemployment insurance –

And this legislation will empower our administration to stay nimble in our response to the collapse – even though session is over.

The PORT Act is part of a broader effort to uplift the hard-working people of Maryland and provide them with the support they deserve.

Today, we are joined by my partner in the work: Lieutenant Governor Miller.

Last year, she chaired a special committee tasked with supporting our road workers following the 695 crash that took the lives of six Marylanders.

Together, her team crafted and helped introduce H.B. 513. 

It proposes an expansion of speed cameras in work zones across the state. And in a few moments, I will sign it into law.

Today, we are joined by Kim Simmons, whose husband and son died in the 695 crash. 

Her strength and her advocacy is going to literally save lives.

The PORT Act and HB 513 are very different bills. 

But they share something in common: Both passed with votes from Democrats and Republicans.

In Maryland, we don’t just talk partnership – we move in partnership. It’s a part of who we are.

And today, I am grateful to be joined by one of my predecessors, Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich.

Governor Ehrlich is here to celebrate the passage of legislation to permanently rename the Port of Baltimore after his mentor, Helen Bentley. That bill passed on a bipartisan basis. 

Many other bills I will sign today got votes from Democrats and Republicans too.

Our administration has introduced twenty-six bills since I was sworn in as governor. Today, I’m proud to say that we’ve gone twenty-six for twenty six – with votes from Democrats and Republicans on every single bill.

But going twenty-six for twenty-six bipartisan isn’t just our win. It’s Maryland’s win.

In this moment of political vitriol and division, we’ve decided to do things differently.

And the reason we’re able to work together is because we agree on common principles. 

At the start of this session, our administration said that we would pursue four main priorities…

We were going to make Maryland safer;

Make Maryland more affordable;

Make Maryland more competitive;

And continue to make Maryland the state that serves.

We’ve advanced all four priorities this session. 

And before I finish my remarks, I want to discuss just one of them.

In a few minutes, I will sign four bills that advance our administration’s service agenda.

In the military, we have a mantra: “Mission first – people always.” And that philosophy is at the heart of these four bills.

The Caring for Public Employees in Safety Act will expand current protections for firefighters to cover thyroid, colon, and ovarian cancers. It’s also called the CAPES Act. I want to thank leaders from IAFF for their partnership on this bill.

Mission first – people always.

The Families Serve Act will create stronger pathways to employment for military spouses working in the public and private sectors, and I want to thank our First Lady and our Lieutenant Governor, who have led the charge.

Mission first – people always.

The Election Workers Protection Act will address the epidemic of threats and harassment targeting election officials. I want to thank our State Administrator of Elections, Jared DeMarinis. He has been a key partner in getting this bill across the finish line.

Mission first – people always.

The Time to Serve Act doubles military leave to state employees who serve in the National Guard or military reserves. 

Mission first – people always.

I want to end by talking about the person who helped shape the Time to Serve Act.

His name is Command Sergeant Major Patrick M. Metzger.

He is veteran of the Marine Corps –

A twenty-six year veteran of the Maryland State Police –

And currently serves with the Maryland National Guard.

He spoke with my office last year to highlight a challenge that many had overlooked:

Marylanders who juggle military duties and state jobs often use PTO to meet their obligations to the armed forces – instead of taking time off.

Command Sergeant Major Metzger worked with Secretary Woods and Major General Birckhead to craft legislation to solve this issue. Their work resulted in the Time to Serve Act – and I will proudly sign it in just a few moments. Because of his work, we are making “thank you for your service” actually mean something again.

I tell this story because it speaks to the amount of partnership that goes into moments like today. These ceremonies don’t just happen. They’re made to happen. We make them happen. 

Command Sergeant Major Metzger is in this room with us today. I’d like to ask that he please come up to the podium to receive this ceremonial first pen to mark today’s signing ceremony.