2020 Maryland General Assembly Update Week Ten—COVID-19, Quiet State House, Push to Complete Major Bills and the Budget
Crossover week which already is crunch time in Annapolis became surreal with new procedures and schedules in place to expedite the work of the Maryland General Assembly in the event the legislature adjourns early due to the coronavirus. This is the time during session when bills must move from one Chamber to the other but has become stressed with the uncertainly of the impact of coronavirus on State House operations. This week Governor Larry Hogan and the Presiding Officers of the Maryland General Assembly announced major actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland, including restricting access to the Maryland State House. Also, the Maryland State Senate passed Governor Hogan’s Fiscal Year 2021 Operating Budget, as well as two of Senator Mary Beth Carozza’s bills.
CAROZZA SHARES COVID-19 UPDATES WITH CONSTITUENTS
Governor Larry Hogan and the Presiding Officers of the Maryland General Assembly announced major actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland. Among these actions was the announcement that the Maryland State House is closed to the public and the members of the Maryland General Assembly will be in session through the weekend.
Other actions include the prohibition of gatherings of more than 250 people; the closure of Maryland schools and senior centers; and mandatory telework for non-essential State employees.
“I would like to thank and recognize Governor Larry Hogan and his Administration, Senate President Bill Ferguson and Speaker Adrienne Jones for their leadership and coordination in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ensuring that my constituents have access to the most up-to-date and accurate information is my top priority.”
The Maryland General Assembly has unanimously moved legislation in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes Senate Bill 1079—State Budget - Revenue Stabilization Account Transfers – Coronavirus which allows Governor Hogan to transfer up to $50 million from the Rainy Day Fund to fund costs associated with COVID-19. The Senate also passed Senate Bill 1080—State Government - State of Emergency and Catastrophic Health Emergency - Authority of Governor (COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020) which authorizes Governor Hogan to expand health care access and protections regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
For more information on COVID-19 in Maryland: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/
CAROZZA’S BILLS PASS FULL SENATE
Two of Senator Carozza’s bills, Senate Bill 403— Labor and Employment – Maryland Wage and Hour Law – Agricultural Stands, Retail Farms, and Farmers’ Markets and Senate Bill 477— Public Health - Emergency Use Auto-Injectable Epinephrine Program – Revisions passed the full Senate on Tuesday, March 10.
Senate Bill 403 would exempt farmers markets and produce stands from the Maryland Wage and Hour Law passed in 2019 and is cosponsored by Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. Senate Bill 403 passed the Senate by a vote of 32-15 and will be heard in the House Economic Matters Committee in the upcoming weeks.
Senate Bill 477 would provide restaurants who wish to participate the option to obtain, store, and administer auto-injectable epinephrine. Participants would be required to be trained and certified by the Maryland Department of Health and a certificate holder may administer auto-injectable epinephrine to an individual who is experiencing or is believed in good faith to be experiencing anaphylaxis. Senate Bill 477 passed Senate unanimously and will be heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee in the upcoming weeks.
Both of these bills still need to clear the House of Delegates, which may be challenging given the new tight schedule of the Maryland General Assembly due to COVID-19.
FISCAL YEAR 2021 BUDGET CLEARS SENATE, CAROZZA SUPPORTS
Governor Larry Hogan’s Fiscal Year 2021 $47.9 billion Operating Budget unanimously passed the full Senate this week.
“Governor Hogan’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget holds the line on spending while funding Shore Priorities,” Senator Carozza said after reviewing Governor Hogan’s amended budget.
Shore items included in the Senate-approved budget are $1.6 million for the Ocean City Convention Center; $1 million for Ocean City Beach Maintenance; and $17 million for Holly Center in Salisbury. Also included in the budget is restored funding for developmental disabilities, Medicaid, and behavioral health providers ($39.5 million), and community colleges ($18.2 million) while including $1.2 billion in the rainy day fund and $129 million in cash reserves in the general fund.
“I appreciate that the budget committees requested a briefing on the impact of compensation for correctional officers from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the possible impact on retention and recruitment rates, Senator Carozza added. “I am committed to making sure that we are able to recruit and retain quality correctional officers.”
The Maryland General Assembly remains on track to pass Governor Hogan’s Fiscal Year 2021 Capital Budget.
LEGISLATION HARMING COMMERCIAL WATERMEN WITHDRAWN
Earlier this session, the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee considered Senate Bill 948—Natural Resources - Commercial Oyster Authorizations – Requirements. This legislation would have severely limited the number of tidal fish license (TFL) holders that are authorized to harvest oysters, while retiring unused licenses. On March 10, Senate Bill 948 was withdrawn by the bill sponsor.
“I am grateful that this ill-conceived legislation has been withdrawn by the bill sponsor, and would like to thank the dozens of commercial watermen from District 38 who shared their views with me and testified in opposition to Senate Bill 948,” Senator Carozza said. “While we won this week, the fight continues. I will continue to do all that I can to advocate for our commercial watermen and their families.”
LOCALS IN ANNAPOLIS
With 24 days left of session, the number of Shore visitors in Annapolis has dropped as we move to the end of session and now in light of the State House being closed to visitors during the COVID-19 emergency. Shore visitors to Annapolis this week included Jared Schablein from Pittsville; Seamus Benn from Salisbury; Sam Harvey from Salisbury; the Stephen Decatur High School Varsity Wrestling Team, Coach Todd Martinek, Assistant Coach Josh August, and Principal Tom Sites; Kathy Emmert from Ocean Pines; Joan Roache from Ocean City; and Rebekah Simonds from Ocean Pines.
The Stephen Decatur High School Varsity Wrestling Team, coaches, and Principal Tom Sites were recognized on the Senate Floor for winning the Maryland 2A Dual Meet State Championship. Go Seahawks!