2021 Maryland General Assembly Update Week Eight: Clearing the Committee, Supporting Bills, and Policing and Public Safety
Annapolis, MD—The halfway mark of the 442nd session has come and gone, and the crossover week deadline of March 22, 2021 is coming up. Senator Carozza’s health care legislation received unanimous committee approval and she supported law enforcement during the full Senate deliberation of policing legislation. In addition, Senator Carozza spoke on the Senate Floor in strong support of a rule change to create more fairness in the Senate Standing Committee selection process, and was the Senate Floor leader on a bill to give flexibility to local school systems to provide student transportation.
CAROZZA-SPONSORED PRIORITY HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION CLEARS COMMITTEE
The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee today unanimously approved of Senator Carozza’s Senate Bill 139— Interstate Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact. It is expected to be on the Senate Floor next week.
“I would like to thank my committee colleagues for their sensing the urgency of the passage of this legislation, which will go a long way in allowing our health care providers to continue to serve constituents,” Carozza said after the vote.
Senate Bill 139 would establish an interstate licensure compact for occupational therapists. This means that occupational therapists can work across state lines, just as long as they are licensed by a member state of the compact. The Maryland General Assembly already has enacted similar legislation for nurses, physicians, and physical therapists.
“As I worked with health care providers during COVID-19 during the interim, it was brought to my attention by members of the Maryland Occupational Therapy Association that this interstate occupational therapy licensure compact would have a direct benefit in increasing access to care, especially in districts like mine which are bordered by states, Delaware to the north, and Virginia to the south,” Senator Carozza noted. “Licensure compacts offer an important pathway to ensuring our health care facilities and providers have a sufficient number of qualified providers, making it easier for licensed health care practitioners from neighboring states to work in our hospitals and programs in our communities.”
Also testifying in support of Senate Bill 139 was Occupational Therapist Dorri Gowe-Lambert, who owns Building Bridges Pediatric Therapy Services in Salisbury and Easton. Her practice shifted to telehealth services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to current licensure laws, Gowe-Lambert was unable to provide continuity of care to her clients who technically resided in Delaware or Virginia.
“I had to write to those licensure boards in other states and request special permission in order for those children to continue their much needed services. This took weeks and disrupted their plan of care,” testified Ms. Gowe-Lambert.
CAROZZA HELPS MOVE SHORE PRIORITY LEGISLATION
Senator Carozza served as a floor leader for Senate Bill 448— County Boards of Education – Student Transportation - Vehicles and Report this week. This legislation authorizes a county board of education to provide transportation for specified public school students to and from school using a vehicle other than a school bus when a school vehicle cannot reasonably be provided. Senate Bill 448 would provide critical transportation services to students with disabilities, homeless and foster youth, and students who may not have access to traditional school buses. The legislation was introduced in the House of Delegates as House Bill 72 by Delegate Carl Anderton (Wicomico) and has strong support from Wicomico County education leaders and the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland.
“Senate Bill 448 provides flexibility and options to local school systems so they are able to provide transportation to students that best meet their needs,” Senator Carozza noted.
SENATE CONSIDERS POLICING AND PUBLIC SAFETY LEGISLATION
This week the Senate of Maryland voted to advance a legislative policing package. Republicans worked to balance the need to support and protect good law enforcement and remove bad officers. The package includes components to create increased penalties for tampering with body-worn cameras and eliminating no-knock warrants. More extreme proposals considered included allowing mere accusations, unfounded misconduct complaints, internal affairs reports and disciplinary decisions to become public record and to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
“I did not vote for the proposals to allow false or unsubstantiated allegations against law enforcement to become public record; to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights; and to create a new process for the investigation, adjudication, and remedy of misconduct allegations,” Senator Carozza said. “I do not believe these proposals would lead to reform and safer communities and instead would place new burdens on our law enforcement officers and potentially jeopardize public safety.”
After the votes, Carozza reiterated her support for the Joint Republican Caucus’ substantive violent crime reduction initiative to keep communities safe. Included in this package is legislation to increase penalties for repeat violent offenders, creates a felony charge for the theft of a handgun, and changes from 50 percent to 90 percent for the required time someone convicted of a violent crime is required to serve before being eligible for parole.
“Public safety remains job number one, and with violent crime on the rise, we should do everything we can to ensure that Marylanders are safe,” Carozza stated. “This initiative will crack down on crime and keep violent offenders behind bars.”
CAROZZA SUPPORTS SENATE RULE CHANGE
Senator Carozza spoke out in support of a Senate Rule change proposed by Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire (Anne Arundel). The proposed rule would alter the Majority’s highest elected official, the Senate President, from assigning both the Majority and Minority members to Standing Committees, and allow the Minority members to be assigned by their highest elected member only after the Majority members are all assigned. This would model the Senate of Maryland after the Federal Structure in Congress.
“This issue is just a matter of basic fairness and having a stronger minority voice,” Carozza said on the Senate Floor, noting her experience in the legislative and executive branches of government at both the State and Federal level. “Being part of a system where the minority has had the opportunity to appoint members of the minority party to a committee is something that has worked well at the federal level and in other states too.”
SHORE VIRTUAL VISITORS
The Eastern Shore Delegation was briefed by higher education leaders on Friday, March 5. This included Salisbury University President Charles Wight, who mentioned that Salisbury is a top producer of Fulbright students; University of Maryland Eastern Shore President Heidi Anderson, who highlighted the upcoming groundbreaking of their new Pharmacy and Health Professions Building; and Wor-Wic Community College President Ray Hoy, who provided updates on the school’s reopening during spring semester.
WORCESTER PAGE RECOGNIZED IN SENATE
The Maryland General Assembly Student Page program is virtual for the 2021 legislative session to keep the participating students safe and healthy. Senate Pages are responsible for providing vital services to the legislature and have the opportunity to work directly with elected officials. This week, Mary Sigrist, a senior at Pocomoke High School in Pocomoke City, served as a Senate Page.