From the Governor's Office

Governor Moore Announces First Items in 2024 Legislative Agenda to Support and Empower Maryland Military Families

Legislative Package Will Make 2024 ‘Year for Military Families’ in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Governor Wes Moore today declared 2024 as the ‘Year for Military Families’ in Maryland and announced a package of legislation that will support and empower Maryland’s servicemembers, military spouses, and caregivers. This is the first legislation announced by the Moore-Miller Administration for the upcoming 2024 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly.

“Our military families sacrifice everything so their loved ones can serve. They are just as much a part of the American story as those in the armed forces,” said Gov. Moore. “States have a duty to answer the service and sacrifice of our military families with strong support. That’s why we’re advocating for this package of legislation in the coming session.” 

Governor Moore delivers remarks during the military families announcement in the Governor's Reception Room on Wednesday, December 13, 2023. 

Next year, the administration will introduce the Families Serve Act of 2024. This legislation will create stronger pathways to employment for military families by allowing private-sector employers to implement preferential hiring for spouses of active duty servicemembers. For the state government, the legislation will expand the preferential hiring process currently in place for veterans to include military spouses. 

The Governor also announced the Time to Serve Act of 2024, which doubles military leave available to state employees who serve in the National Guard or military reserves. This legislation will give servicemembers enhanced flexibility to use their leave for personal purposes like spending time with family, rather than for purposes relating to their service in the Guard or reserves. The bill will additionally expand Disaster Service Leave for state employees from 15 days to 30 days. 

“We have a great responsibility to show our appreciation for those who serve — our veterans, and their families and caregivers — not just in words, but in action,” said Lt. Gov. Miller. “In Maryland, we are taking action, and I am proud to support our administration’s efforts to make the Year for Military Families a reality as the chair of the Maryland Joins Forces initiative.” 

Prior to the announcement, the governor and lieutenant governor met with military families and advocates at the Starbucks in Annapolis – one of over 100 dedicated ‘Military Families Stores’ across the country. 

Governor Moore and Lt. Governor Miller chat with military families in an Annapolis Starbucks. 

Military spouses currently experience an above-average unemployment rate of 21%. Twenty-six percent of enlisted families suffer from low or very low food security. This concerted effort by the Moore-Miller Administration will address the unique challenges military families face, including through increasing opportunities for employment.

In addition to legislation announced by the governor, the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs will introduce legislation to support military families; to add a military spouse representative to the Maryland Military Installation Council, and to waive special license plate fees for Gold Star license plates.

The governor also expressed support for multiple bills proposed by Senator Dawn Gile, Delegate Andrew Pruski, Delegate Stephanie Smith, and Delegate Adrian Boafo. This legislation includes a bill to rename the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs to the Maryland Department of Veterans and Military Families, a bill to designate military status—including being a military spouse—a protected class for hiring purposes, and a bill to establish an Interstate Cosmetology Licensure Compact to reducing unnecessary burdens related to cosmetology licensure – including burdens faced by military spouses.

“As a proud military spouse, I have witnessed the resilience of fellow military spouses as they navigate persistent obstacles in their professional journeys,” said Senator Dawn Gile. “By working with the Moore-Miller Administration to draft legislation aimed at renaming the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and establishing military status as a protected class, we affirm our shared dedication to recognizing the unique challenges faced by military families. This isn't merely the right thing to do; it's a crucial investment in our state's military community and an imperative for the recruitment, readiness, and retention of military servicemembers.”

“This bill will empower and equip our agency to advocate for military families every day, just like we do for veterans right now, and I’m excited to partner with Senator Gile to see this enacted,” said Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Woods. 

In addition to legislative action, the administration also launched the Maryland Joins Forces campaign last month. Chaired by Lieutenant Governor Miller, the campaign supports military families across five key pillars: employment, food and housing insecurity, education, health and wellness, and volunteer service. This initiative is modeled off of the White House’s ‘Joining Forces’ initiative. Maryland is the very first state to implement this program at the state level. 

The Moore-Miller Administration is also supporting legislation authorizing Gold Star Families to apply – at no cost – for special license plates attesting to their status. 

“Gold Star Families have sacrificed beyond compare for our country,” said First Lady Dawn Moore. “This legislation goes a small way toward honoring and recognizing their service.”

“Strong military families will contribute directly to our national security,” said the Adjutant General of the Maryland National Guard, Major General Janeen L. Birckhead. “Maryland is committed to being a national leader in addressing the needs of military families. Making 2024 the ‘Year for Military Families’ provides us with an opportunity to thank them for their sacrifices in service to our country.”​

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