Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signs bills to quell childhood poverty, revamp Pimlico racetrack

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

BALTIMORE — Gov. Wes Moore, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson signed bills Thursday focused on improving Maryland’s economy and advancing the governor’s mission to eliminate child poverty.

“One of the greatest drivers of hardship and heartbreak in our state is child poverty,” Moore said at the third bill signing ceremony of 2024. “The fact is, for so many children, their destiny is written before they even get a chance to have a say.”

Moore, Jones and Ferguson, all Democrats, enacted the Engaging Neighborhoods, Organizations, Unions, Governments, and Households, or ENOUGH, Act, which will provide grants of up to $500,000 for proposals submitted by community organizations located in areas where more than 20% of children live in poverty.

Passing the ENOUGH Act, which the governor first unveiled at LIFE Church Ministries in Brooklyn, was top-of-mind for the Moore administration this session. He called childhood poverty “sticky” and “brutal,” adding that it’s frequently revealed in necessities like the quality of air and access to clean water in communities around the state.

Ahead of the bill’s signing, Moore awarded the ceremony’s first pen to Krystal Gonzalez, who advocated for its passage. Her daughter, Aaliyah Gonzalez was killed during the mass shooting in Brooklyn last July.

The governor discussed a domino effect that childhood poverty starts as a cause for the shooting that killed two, including Gonzalez, and injured 28 others.

According to the governor, one-in-eight children across the state grow up in impoverished households. In Brooklyn, it’s one-in-two.

“You cannot understand what happened the night of July 2 without understanding all of the horrific nights that happened before,” he continued. “Child poverty is not just a consequence — it is a cause.”

Ferguson recalled one of the first times he met Moore and First Lady Dawn Flythe Moore — back when it was “just Wes and Dawn.” He invited them to a 2012 community event in Cherry Hill hosted by the Spelman Road Gentlemen’s Club, and spoke with them about what neighborhoods like Cherry Hill and Brooklyn could offer “if you just have resources, and you build a vision, and you invest in people.”

“We have neighborhoods like that across the city and across the state,” said Ferguson. “And we’re here now, [12] years later, signing a piece of legislation that is going to enable that exact story coming into position.”

Ferguson acknowledged that, though they “may not get the headlines,” a slate of other bills among the 275 signed Thursday also serve to boost Maryland youth and their families by protecting their data from predatory companies online.

Heralded by the Maryland Kids Code Coalition, Senate Bill 571/House Bill 603 will require businesses with online products likely to be accessed by children to undergo assessments that identify how their data is used.

Companies that annually gross over $25 million, have online access to personal data for 50,000 or more consumers, or accrue at least 50% of their annual income by selling consumers’ personal data have until April 2026 to complete their impact assessments. Additionally, they are prohibited from profiling child users in ways that do not serve their best interests, tracking their locations, and using manipulative design techniques to coerce children to sign away the rights to their personal information. Companies must automatically have the most private default settings and alert children when they are being tracked.

Companies found to be in violation of the law will be subject to financial penalties, which can be withdrawn if they correct the error and alert the attorney general’s office within 90 days.

“Kids and parents in Maryland can rest a little easier tonight knowing that help is on the way to make the internet safer for young people and hold Big Tech companies accountable for their actions,” the Maryland Kids Code Coalition said in a statement Thursday.

Also signed Thursday was legislation to renovate the Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore and build a thoroughbred training center elsewhere using $400 million in state bonds. Jones said the bill will “create lasting economic benefits” for the region.

Backers of the bill hope that — after previous efforts failed — this law finally will rebuild the dilapidated track.

“This time, it’s going to happen,” racing authority Chair Greg Cross said.

The law also lays out the framework for a state-created nonprofit to operate thoroughbred racing in the state, rather than The Stronach Group, the Canadian company that has operated racing for years. The new operator will be created by the racing authority by the end of the year.

Over 680 bills have been signed into law in 2024. The governor will hold a fourth bill-signing ceremony next week, when he is likely to address a series of bills that advocates have called for him to veto.


(Baltimore Sun reporter Hayes Gardner contributed to this article.)