The Senate returned to in-person hearings this week including my introduction and recommendation of Army veteran Joe Giordano of Salisbury to the Senate Executive Nominations Committee to be appointed to the Procurement Improvement Council, two Somerset County bill hearings, my questioning of witnesses during the Senate climate change bill hearing. I also gave Senate Floor remarks honoring Worcester County hero Jonathan Bauer for his heroic life-saving actions, and requested that the Senate adjourn in memory of a beloved Worcester County leader Fannie Mae Birckhead on February 17th. In addition, I met with several constituents both in person and on zoom to hear their session priorities including Wor-Wic Community College students, Coastal Association of Realtors, and arts advocates from all three counties in District 38 and recognized that Stephen Decatur High School student Chloe Candeloro served as Senate Page.
Senator Mary Beth Carozza pictured with Joe Giordano
JONATHAN BAUER HONORED ON THE SENATE FLOOR AND SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT OF FANNIE MAE BIRCKHEAD
On January 16, the Maryland Senate joined together in honoring Jonathan Bauer of Berlin on the Senate floor for his heroic actions that took place on May 2, 2022. His courageous actions resulted in saving the life of a drowning toddler who was ejected in a car accident from the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City.
 
For five days, no one knew the unknown hero. Jonathan Bauer is a humble man who now has received well-deserved recognition at the local, state, and national levels for his heroic actions in risking his life and saving the life of another. To paraphrase John 15-13, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another.
 
The following day, the Maryland State Senate adjourned in honor of a beloved Worcester County leader — Fannie Mae Birckhead who was laid to rest on February 17th in Snow Hill, Maryland. She led a remarkable life with a heart of service backed by dedicated action and she has made a lasting impact on our Shore community and the State of Maryland. She was the first African American both to be elected to a countywide office in Worcester and to drive the Ocean City Boardwalk train. She always led by example with integrity and compassion, and had a special gift of inspiring young people. Her steady presence and grace will be missed, and her legacy will live on in Worcester County and in the entire State of Maryland. Rest in peace Fannie Mae Birckhead.
SOMERSET COUNTY BILL HEARINGS
Gene Adkins, Somerset Financial Director, testified in support of Senate Bill 439 before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 15th. The purpose of Senate Bill 439 is to bring the specific salaries in line with the salaries of neighboring counties. Legislation is needed as the last changes were made in 2008 and can only be adjusted by law. 
 
This legislation would increase and provide updated salaries for specified elected officials in Somerset County to stay competitive with its surrounding counties including Dorchester, Worcester, Wicomico, Caroline, and Kent, and makes a minor modification to increase the daily allowance for the traveling expenses of the Chief Judge and associate judges of Somerset County’s Orphans’ Court.
 
For the second Somerset bill hearing, Somerset County Administrator, Doug Taylor, and I testified in support of Senate Bill 270 before the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee on February 17th. This legislation makes revision to three of the five County Commissioner districts and Board of Education districts to reflect the 2020 census. SB 270 passed the Committee unanimously immediately after the hearing and is on track for final passage.
 
 SB 270 is a local redistricting bill that is supported by the Somerset County Commissioners and was developed through several public local redistricting committee meetings throughout this past summer.
L-R: Doug Taylor, Julia Cox, Senator Mary Beth Carozza, Audrey Cornelius
CLIMATE SOLUTIONS BILL IN EDUCATION, HEALTH, AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
On February 15, SB 528 – The Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 – received a marathon hearing in Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. This is a reintroduction of last year’s bill that failed to pass with several modifications.
 
My Senate Republican colleagues and I have significant concerns about this bill – namely that it would have far-reaching and devastating impacts by relying solely on electricity and banning natural gas and other fossil fuels, sharply increase costs on new construction,  result in rent increases for those living in apartments and condos, and dramatically increase cost to consumers.
 
A sole-source electric energy policy is dangerous. One cyberattack could leave families, hospitals, students, and businesses without electricity, lighting, or heat. Further, there is no data showing that Maryland’s electrical grid could handle such an increase in demand. Requiring heating with a single source and eliminating customer choice when it comes to heating their homes and businesses drives up costs for families and businesses. It hurts Marylanders across the state.
Somerset County Commission President Craig Mathies testified in person and in strong opposition to SB 528 highlighting that banning natural gas in all new buildings on or before January 1, 2023 will “artificially choke off the ability of customers to choose natural gas and will defeat all of the hard work that Somerset County has expended over the last several years to bring natural gas to the County.”
 
When I asked Commission President Mathies about the impact of SB 528 on future economic development in Somerset County, Mathies testified that “potential employers have been hesitant to locate in Somerset County due to its lack of natural gas service Now that the line is finished, employers and property owners (including certain agri-businesses, the Princess Anne Industrial Park and home builders) are counting on the ability to connect to natural gas. This natural gas line will lower overall CO2 emissions in the County (by replacing dirtier fuels) and will serve as a driver for economic development.”
 
After a four-hour hearing on the climate change bill and follow-up work session, I am convinced we can take a multi-source energy policy approach to reach the emission reductions targets instead of going sole-source electric which is both dangerous and costly for families and businesses across Maryland.
Senator Carozza pictured with President Mathies
SENATE REPUBLICANS ASK FOR REMOVAL OF MASK MANDATE ON SENATE FLOOR AS WELL AS SENATE OFFICES AND COMMITTEE ROOMS
During Thursday’s floor Session, Senate Republicans formally requested that the mask mandate on the Senate Floor and in Senate Offices and Committee rooms be rescinded. The request came after Governor Hogan and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced that mask mandates are being lifted at all state and county buildings, respectively, on Tuesday, February 22nd.
CALLING FOR ELECTION INTEGRITY
I joined with my Senate and House Republican colleagues in announcing and supporting a package of election integrity legislation to establish commonsense safeguards in Maryland’s elections.
 
From the joint Senate-House Republican Leadership statement: “We believe in free and fair elections for all Marylanders. We also believe that confidence in our elections and their validity is the basis of our civil society,” said House Minority Leader Jason Buckel. “With mail-in ballots becoming a larger part of our elections process, this legislative package proactively establishes safeguards to ensure the integrity of our elections.”
 
The election integrity package includes:
  • HB 939, the Ballot Protection Act of 2022 prohibits election officials at all levels of government from the mass mailing of unrequested ballots for any election
  • HB 963, Securing the Vote Act of 2022 requires the State Board of Elections to utilize signature verification software to secure Maryland’s elections and is based on California’s protocols
  • HB 1172, the Mail In Voter Privacy Act of 2022 removes party affiliation from absentee ballot envelopes
  • SB 738, the Secure Elections Act of 2022 that requires the State Board of Elections to coordinate with the local boards of elections during statewide elections to perform a sample audit of mail-in ballots to include signature verification
  • SB 532, Election Law – Polling Places – Proof of Identity (Voter ID) that requires voters to present identification at the polls to verify their name and mailing address with an election judge.
CONSTITUENTS VOICES AND EASTERN SHORE DELEGATION UPDATE
Several groups from District 38 participated in advocacy days this week in Annapolis including Wor-Wic Community College, Coastal Association of Realtors, and arts advocates from counties across the Shore including Worcester, Wicomico, and Somerset. The Eastern Shore Delegation heard from Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill, and representatives from the Maryland Forest Association and Choptank Electric Cooperative.
Senator Carozza pictured with Grace Masten and Chris Jett, constituents and members of Coastal Association of Realtors on Maryland Realtors Advocacy Day
 
Secretary Michael Gill opened up the Eastern Shore Delegation stressing the importance of tourism and broadband on the Eastern Shore. He also shared his concerns about the impact of the climate change bill including the negative impact of banning natural gas legislation and devastating effects on future economic development.
The Maryland Forest Association highlighted the forest industry’s vital impact on Maryland’s economy contributing $3.5 billion per year. MFA officials recognized and thanked Delegate Adams and I for sponsoring Senate Bill 695, which would allow establish a state certification through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to allow Eastern Shore Forest Products to continue to sell firewood out of state.  
Choptank Electric shared several highlights including ongoing broadband efforts, continual upgrades to electric and cybersecurity infrastructure, available energy assistance programs and workforce programs to increase lineman training and apprenticeships.
LATEST COVID-19 UPDATE
On February 16, 2022, Governor Larry Hogan announced continued declines in the state’s COVID-19 health metrics, including hospitalizations dropping below 700—now more than five times lower than the Omicron peak last month.
As of February 16, 2022, Governor Hogan's Office reported substantial declines in key COVID-19 health metrics:
  • Hospitalizations: 677, ICU: 136. Maryland’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are now less than one-fifth of the Omicron peak of just below 3,500. Overall, hospitalizations have declined by 80.3%.
  • Positivity Rate: 3.51%. Since peaking last month just below 30%, Maryland’s COVID-19 positivity rate has declined by 88.2%. The state is reporting the lowest positivity rate in the United States.
  • Case Rate: 11.9/100K. Maryland’s COVID-19 case rate has declined by nearly 95%, and the state continues to report the country’s lowest case rate.
Second VaxCash 2.0 Drawing Next Week 
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
SENATE SCHOLARSHIPS IN DISTRICT 38
Students who live in Legislative District 38 may apply by emailing [email protected] to request a scholarship application. The deadline for submission of the completed application is April 15, 2022. These scholarship funds must be used toward attending a Maryland college or university (or an out-of-state institution if the student demonstrated he or she has a unique major). Please note that the completed application must be returned with the required essay. The student must have also filed their FAFSA online and should include his or her FAFSA summary sheet with the completed application.
The Lower Shore Land Trust is seeking qualified candidates for internship and Chesapeake Conservation Corps opportunities
Applications are due by March 3, 2022 at 4:00 pm and must be submitted through the Trust’s online system.
Mary Beth Carozza for State Senate