2019 Maryland General Assembly Update Week Nine in Annapolis – Debating and Voting Intensifies

The 2019 Maryland General Assembly is building up to Crossover Monday, March 18 when bills from one Chamber are sent over to the other Chamber. This means long hours in our committees and in our respective Chambers as bills are considered, debated, voted on and moved through the legislative process. It’s that point of session where the tough issues are coming to a head including the Kirwan education blueprint bill, minimum wage, physician-assisted suicide, and key public safety legislation.

As a member of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, Senator Carozza participated in a joint hearing on March 6 with her colleagues on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee for Senate Bill 1030, which establishes education policy based on the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (Kirwan Commission).

The Kirwan Commission has made five major policy recommendations including the expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten for four year-olds; elevating teaching as a profession including teacher salary increases; setting a college and career readiness standard by the end of tenth grade; additional resources for students with disabilities and students from low-income families; and a strong accountability system. The legislation also extends the Kirwan’s Commission deadline to submit its final report to December 1, 2019 to determine the appropriate distribution of the total costs between the State and county governments.

After the hearing, Senator Carozza said, “As we move forward with the Kirwan Commission recommendations, I will insist on fair education funding formulas for the Shore, and will continue to engage our local school superintendents, county officials, teachers, parents, students and others on the education priorities in my district. There is a substantial cost to these recommendations, and we will have the hard discussions on affordability and accountability.”

The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday, March 6 approved Governor Larry Hogan’s school safety legislation which has advanced to the full Senate for consideration. Senate Bill 165—Safe Schools Maryland Act of 2019 would solidify the Safe Schools Maryland program within the Maryland Center for School Safety to establish an anonymous tip line 1-833-MD-B-SAFE for students, teachers, and the general public to report behaviors of concern and other threats.

“Keeping our students and all personnel safe in schools is the purpose of this legislation, and the tip line is an important tool to increase school safety,” said Senator Carozza after the vote. “The legislation calls for immediate follow-up to calls made to the tip line, which can help prevent violence and other abuse from occurring in our schools.”

At the request of the Ocean City Mayor and OC Police Department Chief, Senator Carozza introduced Senate Bill 682 which would have increased the penalties for traffic violations in Special Event Zones in Worcester County for negligent driving, driving or participating in a race or speed contest, and other reckless driving. Last year’s bill, which was approved by the Maryland General Assembly, established a Special Event Zone during motor vehicle events in Ocean City and allowed for increased fines for speeding. Since last year’s bill did not include the other violations like reckless and negligent driving, SB 682 was introduced this session to expand the violations covered under the current law. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held a hearing on March 5 but the bill did not receive a favorable report and will not be advancing this year.

“While I believe we made a strong case at the hearing for the need to expand the violations under the current law, the Committee members were not inclined to increase penalties again this year after granting the approval for the Special Events Zone last year,” said Carozza. “We are disappointed with the Committee’s decision, but we have left the door open to go back again next session and push for the increased penalties.”

The full Senate held a debate this week which will go into next on legislation impacting Shore watermen. Senate Bill 448—Oysters—Tributary-Scale Sanctuaries—Protection and Restoration would establish a network of five oyster sanctuaries and establish new regulations on them. Concerns were raised about this legislation because it attempts to resolve complicated ecological questions by legislation rather than allowing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to do its job.

“The frustration you’re hearing right now is that the bill before us untangles the progress that we have begun to make,” Senator Carozza said speaking in strong support of a Floor amendment offered to the bill to provide DNR the flexibility to determine the best areas for oyster growth and restoration in the Manokin River and St. Mary’s River sanctuaries.

“I agree with the concerns that the commercial watermen and DNR have raised about this legislation which would lock each of the five oyster restoration sanctuaries in statute and takes away the State’s flexibility to manage oyster restoration,” said Carozza. “We need all the stakeholders to be working together for a prudently managed fishery, which means including our watermen in the development of these fishery management plans.”

Shore Visitors in Annapolis this week included Somerset County District Court Judge Paula Ann Price of Princess Anne, her husband Tri-County Council of the Lower Eastern Shore Executive Director Greg Padgham, and daughter Samara; Raymond Nichols, Sr. of Berlin; Wor-Wic Community College President Dr. Ray Hoy, Vice President Bryan Newton, and Wor-Wic students; Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan; OC Police Chief Ross Buzzuro; OC Police Lieutenant Scott Harner; Delmarva Now reporter Sara Swann; Somerset County Board of Education Superintendent John Gaddis; Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino; Chesapeake Healthcare Chief Development Officer Joshua Boston; Chesapeake Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Brian Holland; Salisbury University student Jake Burdett, Andrew Likovich from Salisbury; Jay Tawes of Crisfield; Fruitland City Manager John Psota; and Delmarva Discovery Center and Museum President Stacey Weisner and her husband Mike of Salisbury.



Mary Beth Carozza for State Senate