Legislative Hub (orig)
Getting involved in the Maryland General Assembly Legislative Session can be confusing and overwhelming – it goes quickly and there are many moving pieces. It’s also a crucial tool to pass progressive legislation to make Maryland a more just, equitable state. Whether you’re new to legislative advocacy, or a seasoned Annapolis regular, we hope this page can help break down the legislative session and the most effective ways to get involved. We need everyone’s voice to win big for a better Maryland!
This page covers how to find your elected representatives, Maryland General Assembly 101, tips for taking effective action, instructions on how to follow along with legislative happenings, how to testify on a bill, and Annapolis logistics including accessibility, parking, and where to grab food.
Who are your elected representatives?
To find your legislative district, navigate to the ‘Lookup’ tab, and enter your address.
Maryland General Assembly 101
The Maryland General Assembly (MGA) is the legislative body that writes and passes laws for the state of Maryland. The General Assembly passes general and local laws, raises revenue to fund State services, and oversees the operation of the State Executive Agencies.
The General Assembly has two bodies: the Senate with 47 members, and the House of Delegates with 141 members. Maryland is divided into 47 legislative districts. Each district is represented by one senator and three delegates. Each member is elected to serve for four years, with the next election for members of the General Assembly will be in 2026. For more information about Maryland’s electoral process, visit the Maryland Board of Elections site.
Each year, the Maryland General Assembly meets for the 90-day legislative session. The session starts in early-January, and ends in mid-April. During this time, the legislature considers thousands of bills and balances the state’s budget. The legislative session is the only time a bill (a proposed new law) can be considered for passage.
During the session, the General Assembly is required to pass a new state budget that will go into effect on July 1st of that year. Learn more about the budget process here.
In order to become law, a bill has to successfully pass a series of processes and votes. Once a bill is sponsored by a member of the General Assembly and drafted by the Department of Legislative Services, it gets introduced in the legislators respective chamber. Before introduction, the bill sponsor will receive a draft copy of the bill called a “blue back” and can use this to collect cosponsors on the bill. In order to cosponsor a bill, a legislator must initial next to their name on the cover of the blue back.
If an identical piece of legislation is introduced by a member of the House of Delegates and the Senate, it is called a cross-file. Each respective chamber has an introduction deadline, and all legislation must be introduced before this date. Once introduced, a bill is read for First Reader. At this point, the clerk for the respective chamber announces the bill number and the committee the bill will be referred to. Each chamber has committees that handle bills on certain and specific issue areas.
Once referred to a Committee, a bill must have a Committee Hearing. The Committee Chairperson sets the date for the hearing. At the hearing, the bill sponsor has the opportunity to make their case for why the bill is necessary. After the sponsor, members of the public have the opportunity to testify virtually, in person, or with written testimony, for or against the bill. The bill hearing is the only time for public testimony on the legislation. As powerful speakers with personal stories can have a large influence over the Legislators, the hearing is a crucial part of the legislative process. For more information on Committee membership and subject areas, click here.
After the Committee Hearing, the Committee must vote to send the bill back to the respective chamber’s floor. The Committee Chairperson has a lot of authority over if and how the bill will pass out of their committee. The Committee can: vote the bill favorably without amendments, vote the bill favorably with amendments changing the original language, vote the bill unfavorably, or not vote at all. If a bill is voted unfavorably or not voted on at all, it is “dead” in that chamber. If the bill is voted favorably, it heads back to the chamber’s floor for Second reader.
At Second reader, the bill is reported back to the full chamber with the committee’s recommendation. If the committee has amended the legislation, the full body must vote on each amendment, and then subsequently voted on by the full body as a whole. During second reader, any member of the body can offer an amendment to the bill. Each proposed floor amendment is voted on by the full body. If the bill passes Second reader, it is printed with all of the successful amendments and moves to Third reader.
At Third reader, the final bill is voted on. No amendments may be offered. The bill must pass with the majority of the membership. After Third reader, the bill “crosses over” for consideration by the opposite chamber. At a midway point in session there is a Crossover Date – this day is a courtesy deadline for each chamber to pass their legislative priorities out of their chamber with enough time for consideration by the second chamber.
In the opposite chamber, the bill retains its bill number and moves through the same legislative process as the originating chamber. In order to move forward, the opposite chamber must also refer the bill to a committee, pass the bill out of committee, and pass second and third reader. If the opposite chamber makes additional amendments, the originating chamber must vote on the additional amendments. If they vote favorably, the bill is prepared to be sent to the Governor’s desk for signature.
If the originating chamber rejects the opposite chamber’s amendments, the opposite chamber may either withdraw their amendments, or the bill goes to a conference committee where members of each chamber negotiate a compromise. If they reach a compromise the bill must be voted on once more by each chamber. If the vote fails, or the conference committee does not reach a compromise, the legislation is “dead.”
Once a piece of legislation has passed both chambers, it must be presented to the Governor for signature within 20 days of the conclusion of the legislative session. The Governor has 30 days to sign or veto a bill. If the Governor does not sign or veto a bill within 30 days, it becomes law. If the Governor does veto a bill, the General Assembly can pass a veto-override vote at the beginning of the next legislative session. In order to override the Governor’s veto, three-fifths of each chamber must vote in favor.
For more information and to see a flowchart on the legislative process, click here.
To look up your Representatives and get their contact information, click here. Navigate to the ‘Lookup’ tab, and enter your address.
Speaking out to your legislator in support or opposition of a bill is a crucial way to influence the legislative process. Your voice is powerful, and especially so if your representative is in a leadership role, or a member of the committee that the bill you are following is being heard in. There are many ways to share your thoughts. You can call or email your legislators, share on social media about a bill, testify at the committee hearing on the bill, schedule a constituent meeting with your legislators with other concerned community members, or attend events hosted by organizations like lobby nights or rallies. Find your legislators’ contact information here.
During the legislative session, calls are more effective than emails or signing action alerts / online petitions from organizations. Outside of the legislative session, legislators will not likely be in their office, so an email is the best way to reach them.
When you reach out to your elected officials, it is an opportunity to build a relationship with them. Ideally, even if you disagree, you want them to respect and hear your opinion. Do not use offensive or derogatory language or names.
Mention you are a constituent. Legislators want to hear from the people they represent, and your voice will carry more weight. When you call or email your legislators, mention that you are a constituent in the beginning of the note, call, or voicemail, and be sure to include your full name, street address and zip code at the end. If you are a member of a local organization, community association, etc, mention that as well.
When applicable, briefly add your personal story. Share why you care enough about this issue to reach out, and/or what your perspective on the issue is.
Include any credible data and links to resources – but keep it short and sweet! An effective message to a legislator can be a couple of sentences to no more than 2-3 paragraphs, or it likely won’t get read. Stick to the main points, and make sure to include a clear ask of what you are asking the legislator to do. Example: I urge you to vote YES on SB 100. If you are emailing your legislator, put your ask in the subject line.
You can watch all of the Senate and House floor sessions, committee meetings, and committee votes on the Maryland General Assembly website. On the home page, under “Status” you should be able to see if the House and/or Senate are convened on the floor. If they are, click the video camera icon to watch live.
Below the status section on the home page is a section called “Live Media,” where you can click to navigate to the live stream of any committee hearings or votes. If you miss a hearing and would like to watch it after, click the “Committees” tab, and then navigate to the committee the bill was heard in. Open the meetings tab for that committee and scroll to the date of the hearing. You can click the video camera icon to watch the recording of that committee hearing.
To follow along on how to engage on a bill, social media can be a great tool. Twitter is most legislators’ social-media of choice, and therefore the most effective. Figure out which advocacy organizations are working on the bills you care about and which legislators are the bill sponsors, then follow their pages. Through their posts you can see if the bill has an associated hashtag. You can follow that hashtag and include it in your posts. A common hashtag used during the legislative session is #MDGA with two digits of the year, so for the 2024 legislative session, it would be #MDGA24. Another common hashtag legislators use is #Working4MD.
Testifying on a Bill
Tab Content: arly demonstrates that people are paying attention to the issue-area to our legislators. It is an important way to apply pressure to the process and demonstrate the necessity of the bill, and the impact it will have.
A bill’s hearing is a crucial step in the legislative process, and public participation is a vital way to demonstrate your support. You can participate in the hearing in three ways: by submitting written testimony only, by speaking at the hearing only, or by submitting written testimony and speaking during the hearing. As of the 2023 session, you can testify in person, or virtually via Zoom, though in person is preferred.
While speaking at a bill’s hearing is the most impactful way to show your support, it can be challenging for people with work or childcare responsibilities. The hearings start in the afternoon on Tuesdays – Fridays, usually around 1pm, and can go late into the night. You will know how many bills are being heard before the day of the hearing, but the schedule for the bills order is generally not posted until shortly before the hearing. While each person testifying is limited in the time they can speak, there is no limit on how many people can sign up to testify. Uncontroversial bills can have their hearing take less than 10 minutes, but bills with a lot of support or opposition can have their hearing take hours. Therefore, even knowing the bill order, it is extremely hard to predict when the hearing on a specific bill on the list will take place. It can feel like an inefficient waiting game – but your voice is important, and testifying makes a difference. If you have scheduling concerns, it is best to just submit written testimony so that you don’t go to Annapolis, only to have to leave before you can share your thoughts.
If you are interested in testifying in person, or submitting written testimony, we have a few tips to make your testimony as effective as possible.
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to be an expert on the issue-area of the bill! Legislators are hearing the statistics and facts, which are very important, from advocates and lobbyists. However, if you are testifying as an individual, or as part of a grassroots volunteer organization, sharing your personal connection to the bill, and why you care enough to take time to come to Annapolis to raise your voice, is just as important – and can be even more powerful.
It is also important to make your testimony concise and to the point. If you are testifying in person, testimony is generally limited to two minutes – it goes by quicker than you think! If you are submitting written testimony, legislators are more likely to look at it if it is short and clearly states your position on the bill. It is best to keep written testimony under one page.
If you are working with a coalition or organization on a bill, defer to them for any testimony templates or other important pieces to mention in your testimony.
To start your testimony, address it to the Chair and Vice Chair, and members of the committee the bill is being heard in. Start the first paragraph by sharing your name, which legislative district you live in, and your position on the bill – include bill numbers and name. Then, briefly describe who you are, name any organizations you belong to, and any affiliations or titles you have that may be relevant to the bill.
Next, dive deeper into your personal story. Name what connects and motivates you to be sharing testimony on this specific bill. On some bills, this can feel extremely personal and vulnerable and we applaud your willingness to do so. Share as much or as little as you feel comfortable with, while keeping it concise. Also share how you think this bill will improve your life, the lives of people in your community, and across the state, and how the bill could’ve changed the outcome when your personal story happened.
In your closing paragraph, re-state your position on the bill and why you think it is important. End with: I respectfully urge this committee to return a (favorable/favorable with amendments/unfavorable) report on (HB#/SB#). And then thank the committee members for their time and consideration.
Regardless of whether you are submitted written testimony, speaking at the hearing, or both, you will need to register online using the MyMGA portal. You can only sign up to testify on a specific bill during a set time window. For hearings in the House of Delegates, you must sign up two business days before the hearing; between 8am – 3pm. For hearings in the Senate, you must sign up one business day before the hearing; between 8am – 3pm. This is a strict deadline – the website will no longer accept submissions starting at 3:01pm.
To create a MyMGA account, go to https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/ and click on the red “MyMGA” icon in the top right, next to the social media account icons. If you do not have an account yet, click register, fill out the required information and complete any verification instructions. Once your account is set up, or if you already have an account, sign in.
Once you’ve signed in, click the ‘witness signup’ tab on the left hand navigation bar. All of the bills that are taking testimony submissions at that time will appear on a list. You can use the committee drop down bar at the top of the page to navigate directly to the committee you wish to sign up for, or click command + F (Mac) or control + F (PC) and enter the bill number in the search bar to easily find the bill you are looking for.
Once you’ve found the bill you want to testify for, select your position on the bill’s drop down menu, and then what type of testimony you plan to provide. Once you’ve selected written testimony, or oral and written testimony, an ‘upload’ button will appear. Click this button and select your testimony file. Your testimony must be in PDF format in order to be uploaded, and you can add up to ten PDF files. Once you’ve uploaded the files click ‘ok’ – make sure that there is a check mark next to the bill number, scroll up to the top of the page and press ‘save.’ Your testimony / position will not be registered unless you click ‘save.’
You can edit files after you’ve uploaded them by clicking ‘edit files’ next to the bill you’ve signed up for – you can add or remove files until the testimony submission deadline that day. Make sure to click the ‘save’ button any time you make change to any of the bills you are signed up for.
If you want to confirm your submission, click the ‘signed up items’ tab at the top of the page.
To see a visual step-by-step guide of how to sign up and upload written testimony, click here.
Unfortunately, getting to Annapolis from other parts of the state is most accessible via car. Carpooling with other folks going to Annapolis for the same event or hearing – ask around, or if you have a car, offer a seat to anyone who may need a ride! Depending on how busy the day is, finding parking can be a challenge. There are many parking garages in Annapolis, and you can see them all on a map here: https://www.annapolisparking.com/parking-locations/garages-and-lots/
The closest garages to the chambers’ buildings are the Gotts Court Garage at 25 Calvert St, and the John Whitmore Garage at 37 Clay St. The closest garage to the State House is the Noah Hillman Garage at 150 Gorman St. You can reserve a spot online beforehand for many of these garages. We recommend doing this, especially if you have mobility concerns. Reserve a spot here: https://annapolisparking.pmreserve.com/
The House and Senate Office Buildings are directly across the street from each other at 6 and 11 Bladen St, respectively. Bill hearings take place in each chambers’ office buildings. Each committee has their own assigned hearing room. You can find the location of each committee’s meeting room by navigating to the ‘Committees’ tab in the top navigation bar on the MGA website, and then clicking either Senate or House from the dropdown menu. Then click on the committee you are searching for – the meeting room is listed as the first part of the address. https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/
The House and Senate buildings are one block away from the State House, where both chambers’ floor sessions take place, at 100 State Circle. In between the chambers’ office buildings and the State House is Lawyers Mall, where many rallies, press conferences, and events happen during the session.
IMPORTANT: In order to get into either chambers building, or the State House, you will need to go through security where you will pass through a metal detector, show a photo ID, and allow your bag to be put through an x-ray scan. You will not be let into the building without an ID – so don’t forget it!
Visit our Google Map of key locations in Annapolis here.
For more information on navigating the legislative complex and attending various meetings, https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/click here.
While the public buildings are considered accessible, many of the buildings, surrounding sidewalks, and structures are historic and make accessibility difficult. The City of Annapolis and State of Maryland also lack adequate transportation infrastructure to truly make the capital premises accessible.
Buildings and public spaces in the capitol complex, including the lobbies, public meeting rooms, restrooms, and galleries, are accessible to everyone. There are wheelchair accessible entrances and elevators in each respective building.
There is space in the galleries of the Senate and House of Delegates chambers for wheelchair users. The legislature also offers assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired in its galleries, as well as in other public meeting spaces such as committee hearing rooms. Ask a committee staff person to access the listening devices.
Qualified interpreters and other services for individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired are available. Please make requests for interpreters as far in advance as possible. Services for individuals who are blind or visually impaired are also available on request. To request Sign Language Interpretation for a specific meeting, please click here.
For more information about the legislature’s compliance with the ADA or to request an assistive aid, service, or accommodation contact the ADA Coordinator at 410-946-5400, 301-970-5400, or 1-800-492-7122 (Toll Free) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are coming to Annapolis for a hearing, or multiple events, we recommend that you bring some snacks to tide you over! You are allowed to bring food and beverages into the legislative buildings.
If you need to grab something quickly, there are vending machines in the Senate and House Office buildings, and cafeterias in each building’s basement (closed after 2pm). Make sure you have ample time to go and get food before the hearing for your bill starts. Let other people in the coalition know that you are stepping away, and ask them to text you if your bill is up and you need to head back.
If you have time to run out and grab food, we recommend Potato Valley at 47 State Circle. They have gluten free and vegan friendly options, and are generally quick to get your food out. View their full menu here: https://potatovalleycafe.net/