This week’s highlights include Senate passage of the Worcester Agritourism bill; Senate hearing on my child custody court proceedings bill; call for the lifting of the school mask mandate; rural and health advocacy days with University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) physical therapy students; and Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week. Also, during Senate Floor proceedings this week, Taylor Gray from Crisfield High School in Somerset County was recognized as a Senate page.
WORCESTER AGRITOURISM BILL PASSES SENATE UNANIMOUSLY
The Maryland Senate voted unanimously on February 10 in support of my Worcester County local agritourism Senate Bill 32. This bill would add Worcester County to the list of 18 other jurisdictions in which farm structures used for agritourism activities are exempted from certain commercial building requirements.
Senate Bill 32 would be a successful tool in giving more local farm families the opportunity to offer agritourism activities on their farms. This legislation is a win-win for both the farm families who may need to diversify and pull in additional revenue just to keep the farm and for tourists who will have more options to explore and experience our local farms.
 
The bill has strong support from the Worcester County Commissioners and its tourism office, Greater Ocean City Hotel-Motel Restaurant Association, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, Maryland Tourism Coalition, Maryland Farm Bureau, and Agriculture Grow and Fortify.  
 
Delegates Wayne Hartman and Charles Otto have sponsored the Worcester Agritourism bill in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Photo courtesy of Sinepuxent Brewing Company in Berlin.
CUSTODY EVALUATOR BILL HEARING
My Senate Bill 336 received a bill hearing in the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee on February 9. Custody evaluators have an important role in assisting family law courts in determining custody outcomes in some of the most sensitive and difficult cases involving allegations of domestic violence and child abuse.
 
This legislation aims to strengthen the current training and qualifications for custody evaluators. I have heard from parents, advocates, and legal child custody experts over the past three years as a part of her membership on the Workgroup to Study Child Custody Court Proceedings Involving Child Abuse or Domestic Violence, that there is no consistent training for custody evaluators in these sensitive cases of domestic violence and child abuse.
 
The bill requires that a custody evaluator meets certain professional qualifications and has completed 20 hours of training and five hours of continued training every two years.
 
During my testimony, I highlighted that this bill can help reduce the trauma on these most vulnerable children by ensuring that child custody evaluators, whose recommendations are given heavy weight by judges, are held accountable by meeting certain qualifications and training requirements. Since the law requires animal control officers to be qualified and to complete 80 hours of training, we should take this same commonsense approach that custody evaluators who are making recommendations affecting a child’s future should meet professional qualifications and training requirements.
CALLING FOR THE LIFTING OF THE SCHOOL MASK MANDATE
I along with my Senate and House Republican colleagues joined in supporting Governor Hogan’s call for the Maryland State Board of Education to rescind its school mask policy, citing the State’s dramatically improved health metrics, the widespread availability of vaccines for school-age children, and the growing consensus among medical professionals, parents, and bipartisan state officials.
 
RURAL ADVOCACY DAYS WITH CONSTITUENTS
This week I met with constituents participating in the Maryland Farm Bureau and Rural Maryland Council advocacy days. During Maryland Farm Bureau day on February 9. I along with Delegate Wayne Hartman and Delegate Charles Otto met with Eastern Shore representatives including Tyler Hough, Eastern Shore Regional Field Manager with Maryland Farm Bureau; Zach Evans, the Community Relations Manager at Mountaire; and Shane King, Somerset County farmer and member of the Maryland Soybean Board. I urge Eastern Shore participation in upcoming in-person Senate hearings on climate change and other bill hearings affecting Shore agriculture and the poultry industry.
 
I also participated in Rural Maryland Council advocacy day and met with Eastern Shore representatives including Grayson Middleton, Governor Hogan’s Eastern Shore Outreach Coordinator; and Mindie Burgoyne of Salisbury, Maryland Department of Commerce’s Eastern Shore Representative.
HEALTH PRIORITIES WITH NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS AND
UMES PHYSICAL THERAPY STUDENTS
I met with Shore representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and University of Maryland Eastern Shore Physical Therapy students on important health legislation. Cynthia Gill, Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, introduced the 2022 pharmacy class. I was able to hear from class members on legislative priorities including the need to reduce the cost of health insurance co-payments for physical therapy.
 
I thanked Professor Gill and students for bringing attention to critical legislation to further address the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our healthcare workers, especially physical therapists.
 
Many of our districts are hard hit by health care workforce shortages, especially in the rural parts of the state. Our hospitals, schools, long-term care facilities, and community providers need our support. I look forward to hearing legislation that will provide this much-needed relief.
EASTERN SHORE DELEGATION MEETING
The Eastern Delegation heard from U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen; Dr. Jana Davis Chesapeake Bay Trust President; and Susanne Richards, Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation during Friday’s weekly meeting. Senator Van Hollen shared that Maryland will receive a total of $7 billion over the next five years through the federal infrastructure bill, and both Dr. Davis and Ms. Richards shared information on grants awarded to the Shore.
 
I specifically asked about ongoing partnerships between the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation and the agriculture industry and higher education. With three technical high schools that have Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs, several major agriculture employers, and three local higher education institutions in District 38, I urged the Foundation members to do all they can to support these key partnerships for our youth to have pathways of leadership in farming and related businesses.
 
We are trying to make sure that once these students have an interest in FFA and agriculture-related activities that we fully support them in becoming leaders and keeping our talent here on the Shore.
HEALTHCARE HEROES APPRECIATION WEEK
I joined with the Governor and Maryland General Assembly colleagues in recognizing the State’s frontline medical workers during Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week in Maryland.
 
Our Shore community is so grateful to all of our frontline healthcare workers across the board. I want to recognize the many sacrifices that our local health department employees; hospital, clinics, nursing home workers, and all health care personnel have made to protect the health and safety of the many thousands of Shore residents and visitors over the past two years.
LATEST COVID-19 UPDATE
On February 11, 2022, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped below 5%.
As of February 11, 2022, Governor Hogan's Office reported substantial declines in key COVID-19 health metrics:
  • Positivity Rate: 4.88%. Since peaking last month just below 30%, Maryland’s COVID-19 positivity rate has declined by 83%. The state is reporting the fourth-lowest positivity rate in the United States.
  • Hospitalizations: 913. Since peaking last month just below 3,500, Maryland’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined by 73%.
  • Case Rate: 16.2/100K. Maryland’s COVID-19 case rate has declined by 92%, and the state continues to report the country’s lowest case rate.
State officials are encouraging Marylanders to get their booster shot this weekend to be eligible for the special $500,000 drawing to kick off the state’s $2 million VaxCash 2.0 Promotion on Tuesday. To date, the state has administered nearly 2.1 million booster shots.
Additional Community Resources
Senatorial Scholarships 2022
I look forward to hearing from you soon! Please contact me on issues important to you.
410-841-3645
Mary Beth Carozza for State Senate