2020 Maryland General Assembly Update Week Nine—Coronavirus, Special Event Zones, and Scholarships
The Maryland General Assembly is one month away from adjourning Sine Die, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done as bills are flying between the House of Delegates and the State Senate. The Maryland General Assembly quickly acted on Governor Hogan’s efforts to combat the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Legislation that would have created the largest tax in Maryland history was considered and quickly voted down. Senator Mary Beth Carozza presented her priority local public safety legislation to increase penalties for traffic violations in Special Event Zones, and announced the availability of her Senatorial Scholarship.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADVANCES HOGAN’S PLANS TO COMBAT CORONAVIRUS
Both the State Senate and House of Delegates quickly moved Governor Hogan’s Senate Bill 1079— State Budget—Revenue Stabilization Account Transfers—Coronavirus out of Committee and on to the chamber floors, where it unanimously passed on Friday, March 6. This emergency legislation authorizes Governor Hogan to transfer $10 million from the Rainy Day Fund to fund coronavirus preparedness expenses.
The $10 million will be used by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to do the following: purchase equipment and reagents to provide rapid diagnosis; increase staffing to conduct disease investigations and maintain an operational response; obtaining and maintaining quarantine/isolation housing; and providing wraparound services for quarantined individuals.
“It’s reassuring that our State’s top leaders are working together on Maryland’s preparedness and response to the coronavirus emergency,” said Senator Carozza. “Governor Hogan has been sharing constant updates with our legislative leaders who have expedited emergency legislation to fund coronavirus expenses.”
SENATE HEARING HELD ON CAROZZA’S PRIORITY LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY BILL
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 4 held a hearing on Senate Bill 878—Worcester County— Special Event Zones – Prohibitions, sponsored by Senator Mary Beth Carozza.
Senate Bill 878 is an emergency local public safety bill that prohibits a person from engaging in “exhibition driving” within a special event zone in Worcester County. Senate Bill 878 strengthens the current special event zone law that passed in 2018 which only covered speeding by defining and increasing the penalties for exhibition driving, such as negligent driving, racing, or skidding in a special event zone.
After Senator Carozza’s testimony, a video provided by the Ocean City Police Department was played highlighting the reckless driving and havoc caused during the unsanctioned H2Oi event in Ocean City held the weekend of September 27, 2019.
“This event wreaked havoc and disrupted our seaside town to a point where locals and visitors alike were captive in their homes and hotel rooms out of fear,” Senator Carozza added.
Locals who traveled to Annapolis to testify in support of Senate Bill 878 included Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, Town Councilman John Gehrig, and Communications Manager Jessica Waters; Worcester County Sheriff Matthew Crisafulli; Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack Commander Lieutenant Earl Starner; Ocean City Chamber of Commerce President Melanie Pursel; and CEO of T.E.A.M. Productions Bob Rothermel, who produces the two sanctioned Ocean City automobile events.
“Senate Bill 878 is a priority local emergency public safety bill that we need to protect our residents and visitors in Worcester County,” Senator Carozza said. “I urge my colleagues to pass this legislation as soon as possible.”
TAX HIKE LEGISLATION CONSIDERED BUT DEFEATED
The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on House Bill 1628-Sales and Use Tax - Rate Reduction and Services on Monday, March 2.
House Bill 1628, which would have been the largest tax increase in Maryland history, was voted down unanimously in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 4, 2020. This $2.9 billion tax would have been applied to services such as barber shops, plumbing, funerals, pet sitting services, and streaming services like Netflix.
“I remain strongly opposed to these proposed tax increases, and would like to thank everyone who rallied and testified against House Bill 1628,” Senator Carozza said. “I will continue to oppose any future measures to raise taxes on hard-working Marylanders.”
CAROZZA APPLAUDS RELEASE OF ADDITIONAL WORK VISAS
A major development at the federal level occurred this week that will greatly benefit Senator Carozza’s district. The United States Department of Homeland Security announced that it will release an additional 35,000 visas through the H-2B Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker Program, protecting Maryland’s $355 million seafood industry in time for the beginning of the harvest season on April 1.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s decision to release the H-2B Temporary Worker Visas is good news for the Shore. It will allow our crab processing houses to remain open and continue to operate during the summer season,” Senator Carozza said. “I also would like to thank Governor Larry Hogan for his continued advocacy for this Shore priority, and Congressman Andy Harris and our U.S. Senators for their strong advocacy at the federal level.”
SENATORIAL SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE
Current high school seniors and full-time or part-time, degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students who reside in Maryland Legislative District 38 (Worcester, Wicomico, or Somerset) are eligible and encouraged to apply for Senator Mary Beth Carozza’s Senate Scholarship. These scholarships must be used toward attending a Maryland college or university or an out-of-state institution only if the student demonstrates that he or she has a unique major approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
All interested students can apply by downloading the application at www.marybethcarozza.com/scholarships.
LOCALS IN ANNAPOLIS
Shore visitors to Annapolis this week included Lower Shore Clinic CEO Dimitri Cavathas; Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Town Councilman John Gehrig, and Communications Director Jessica Waters, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro, and Captains Ray Austin, Elton Harmon, and Michael Colbert; Worcester County Sheriff Matt Crisafulli and Chief Deputy Sheriff Mark Titanski; Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack Commander Lieutenant Earl Starner; Ocean City Chamber of Commerce President Melanie Pursel; CEO of T.E.A.M. Productions Bob Rothermel; Worcester County Clerk of the Circuit Court Susan Braniecki; Poplar Hill Mansion Curator Sarah Meyers of Salisbury; Senate Page Craig Birckhead-Morton from Snow Hill; Small Business Development Center Regional Director John Hickman of Salisbury; and Dr. Mark Edney of Salisbury.
The hearing highlighted strong local support for Senate Bill 878, which increases penalties for traffic violations in special event zones.
Senator Carozza coordinated her testimony with Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan (right) and CEO of T.E.A.M. Productions Bob Rothermel (left).
(l to r): Maryland Rural Health Association (MRHA) Executive Director Lara Wilson; Delegate Mike McKay; Senator Addie Eckardt; Speaker Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes; former Senator Mac Middleton; and Senator Mary Beth Carozza attended the 4th Annual Maryland Rural Health Association Legislative Forum. Speaker Pro Tem Sample-Hughes was presented with the 2020 Thomas ‘Mac’ Middleton Maryland Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award for her outstanding work to expand health care options in rural areas.
Snow Hill High School Senior Craig Birckhead-Morton completed his second week as a Senate Page in Annapolis.