Week Five In Annapolis
February 11, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gabrielle Titow, (410) 841-3645
2022 Maryland General Assembly Update
Week Five- Worcester Agritourism Bill Senate Passage, Child Protection Bill Hearing, Support for Lifting the School Mask Mandate, and Rural and Health Advocacy Days
Annapolis, MD – This week’s highlights include Senate passage of the Worcester Agritourism bill; Senate hearing on Senator Carozza’s 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.
SENATOR CAROZZA’S LOCAL AGRITOURISM BILL PASSES SENATE UNANIMOUSLY
The Maryland Senate voted unanimously on February 10 in support of Senate Bill 32, Worcester County local agritourism bill sponsored by Senator Mary Beth Carozza. 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,” said Senator Carozza.
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.
CUSTODY EVALUATOR BILL HEARING
Senate Bill 336 sponsored by Senator Carozza 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. Senator Carozza has 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.
“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,” said Carozza during her Senate testimony. “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
Senator Carozza joined with her Senate and House Republican colleagues 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.
From the joint Senate-House Republican Leadership statement: “We were glad to see Governor Hogan join calls from our members to lift the mask mandate in Maryland’s public schools. As COVID-19 metrics improve statewide, we need to return to normal in classrooms whose teachers and students can interact and see each other’s faces. Arguable, school children have suffered the most during the nearly two years of this pandemic, and we need to do all we can to help them make up lost ground both academically and socially. We urge the Maryland State Board of Education to rescind the statewide mask mandate at their next meeting.”
CAROZZA PARTICIPATES IN RURAL ADVOCACY DAYS WITH CONSTITUENTS
This week Senator Carozza met with constituents participating in the Maryland Farm Bureau and Rural Maryland Council advocacy days. During Maryland Farm Bureau day on February 9, Senator Carozza 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. Carozza urges Eastern Shore participation in upcoming in-person Senate hearings on climate change and other bill hearings affecting Shore agriculture and the poultry industry.
Carozza 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
Senator Carozza 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. Senator Carozza heard from class members on legislative priorities including the need to reduce the cost of health insurance co-payments for physical therapy.
Carozza 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,” said Carozza.
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 grant awards made on the Shore.
Senator Carozza 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, Carozza 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,” said Carozza.
HEALTHCARE HEROES APPRECIATION WEEK
Senator Carozza joined with the Governor and Maryland General Assembly colleagues in recognizing the State’s frontline medical workers during Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week in Maryland.
Maryland continues to report substantial declines in key health metrics. COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped under 1,400, for an overall decline of 60 percent since peaking last month. The COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped below 7 percent, for an overall decline of 77 percent since peaking last month. Maryland also continues to report the lowest case rate of any state.
“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,” said Carozza.