February 13, 2023
The second key date of the 2023 Legislative Session, the Senate bill introduction deadline, occurred last Monday and any legislation that is now introduced will be referred to the Senate Rules Committee instead of the standing committee of jurisdiction. 

The Senate now has 890 bills and four resolutions before us for consideration. A large number of those bills were read across the desk on the day of the deadline, meaning committees have an even more condensed timeline than usual to schedule hearings, work through proposed amendments, and ultimately vote on legislation ahead of the chamber crossover deadline in March. Time is always the most critical and finite resource during a 90-day legislative session, and that is doubly so this year with the crush of legislation that came in at the last minute. 

It will be incumbent on the Maryland General Assembly to give every bill introduced its due deliberation while prioritizing the most urgent proposals for Marylanders that absolutely cannot wait for a subsequent year of the term. I have no doubt that the Senate will remain the thoughtful body that identifies creative solutions and pathways for compromise in the coming weeks.
Reproductive Rights Legislative Package
Last Thursday, Governor Moore, Lt. Governor Miller, Speaker Jones, and I came together to hold our first joint press conference of this Legislative Session. It marked a decisive change in the level of partnership between the Maryland General Assembly and gubernatorial administration that was less present in the preceding eight years. The press conference itself was on one of the most important topics for the legislature to address before adjourning sine die in April–strengthening reproductive rights in Maryland following the recent Supreme Court Dobbs decision.

After what I believe was a truly extreme and destructive decision by the Supreme Court last summer, it has been left to the states to ensure that we protect our residents here in Maryland. In a post-Roe world, Maryland has a responsibility to lead and become a beacon of freedom on the national stage. Enshrining the right to reproductive freedom in the Maryland Constitution is the right thing to do to protect privacy over one's own body. I am proud to be sponsoring a bill to give Marylanders the ability to approve that measure in the 2024 General Election alongside Speaker Jones who has been at the forefront of this conversation.

The package announced last week goes beyond amending the Maryland Constitution. As other states move to restrict access to abortion care and criminalize patients and providers, we must ensure that those seeking or performing care in Maryland are protected from interference. Senate Bills 786 and 859 create the necessary data privacy protections to shield information from individuals or entities who would seek to penalize those exercising their right to bodily autonomy. Finally, Senate Bill 341 will ensure greater access to reproductive care on college campuses. I want to thank Senators Hettleman, Feldman, and Smith, who are the lead sponsors of these vital bills. 

You can watch the recording of the press conference here.
Greater Baybrook Alliance's New Headquarters
Communities like Brooklyn in South Baltimore have been underserved and underinvested for far too long. It’s organizations like the Greater Baybrook Alliance (GBA) who are working on the frontlines to bring in vital resources to create corridors of economic opportunity in these neighborhoods and the 46th Legislative District Delegation will do everything we can to further empower the fulfillment of their mission.

When we found out that Bank of America was closing down its Brooklyn branch, creating a banking desert in the community, the Delegation immediately began engaging with GBA and Bank of America to determine equitable next steps. Though we couldn’t keep the bank operational, it was vital that the building not turn into a vacant shell in one of Brooklyn’s main corridors.

Last Monday, we celebrated the donation of the former Bank of America building to GBA for it to become the organization’s new headquarters. There is still much work to do, which is why Delegates Clippinger, Edelson, Lewis, and I are working hard this Session to secure $400,000 in State capital funds to support the building’s renovation for both GBA and a local small business to utilize. I hope to see this approach to civic, public, and private partnerships modeled throughout the City to create robust opportunities for uplifting residents and neighborhoods.
Improvements in Baltimore's Infant Mortality Rate
Maryland and the United States have had an abysmal infant mortality rate, especially in communities of color, that can be improved through targeted public investments. Before becoming Senate President, one of my proudest accomplishments was the creation of our State’s “Thrive by Three Fund” to improve prenatal and infant care by increasing service coordination for low-income Marylanders.

One of the programs that the “Thrive by Three Fund” supports is B’more for Healthy Babies within the Baltimore City Health Department. I was thrilled to see a recent report by the Abell Foundation determine that the B’more for Healthy Babies program has helped lead to a one-third drop in infant deaths over the last decade.

We know that the first few years of a child’s life are formative to their long-term outcomes. The Abell Foundation report and its findings are proof that care coordination that integrates supports for both mother and baby, including home visits and evaluations for maternal depression, interventions related to developmental delays, and linkages to insurance and nutrition programs make a meaningful difference. I am grateful to have played a role in ensuring State support for these critical programs that are closing the gap in disparate infant mortality rates in Baltimore City and the entirety of Maryland.
A Challenging Week for Maryland
I would be remiss not to acknowledge that last week was a particularly troubling one for our State. It began with news of an attempted neo-Nazi domestic terror plot to attack Baltimore’s electric grid, and ended with two Baltimore County police officers being shot by a disturbed individual whose actions led to the disruption of thousands of lives as schools and neighborhoods were on lockdown.

Every one of us should be grateful for the incredible work of federal and local law enforcement to bring an end to both of these events, but there is a common link between them–the use of firearms to create mayhem. We have a massive problem in the State of Maryland and in our country. As a father, as a son, and as someone who cares about this State and world, something needs to change because incidents like these simply cannot keep happening. 

The gun violence that is plaguing this country is unacceptable. We will work to provide as many protections as we can on the State level but there is a fundamental question that we have to ask ourselves: Do more guns make us safer? What happened last week and all the other incidents of gun violence in our communities, makes it clear that more guns is not the answer to keeping us safe. That is why the Maryland Senate is so focused on gun safety this Session in the wake of the recent Bruen decision by the Supreme Court. We should be doing everything possible to prevent the trauma that these incidents inflicted on our State’s residents, and that means limiting the prevalence of deadly firearms in our public spaces.
More News
The Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board’s (AIB) Nominating Committee met on Monday, February 6, to announce a vacancy on the AIB following the resignation of Fagan Harris, who now serves as Governor Moore’s chief of staff. The application window to fill the vacant position through the remainder of Mr. Harris’ term, which expires on July 1, 2024, is now open. You can apply here through February 24.

About half of Governor Moore’s cabinet appointees are soon-to-be confirmed by the Maryland Senate after our Executive Nominations Committee unanimously recommended the secretaries appointments last week. Tonight, those acting secretaries will be voted on by the full Senate body and the Executive Nominations Committee will hear from the remaining nominated secretaries seeking Senate consent for appointment.

In my last newsletter, I noted that legislation to create a legal adult-use market for recreational cannabis was introduced in the Senate and House of Delegates. Thanks to The Washington Post for putting together this helpful explainer on what legalization means for Maryland.

The marble bust of Roger Taney, the Marylander and chief justice who wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, has been permanently removed from the United States Senate. I am thrilled that Taney’s bust will be replaced by a sculpture of Justice Thurgood Marshall, an incredible Marylander whose life’s work undid much of the damage done by Taney’s judicial opinions. 

The second round of applications for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s Black-Owned and Occupied Storefront Tenancy (BOOST) program is open through March 31. The program will support five Black entrepreneurs with up to $50,000 in grants, business development and accounting support, marketing assistance, and an affordable lease at one of five “prime storefronts.” 

Peter Chang, a finalist for last year’s James Beard Award in the outstanding chef category, has relaunched his highly-regarded eatery, NiHao, in the Fightin’ 46th District’s Canton neighborhood. Chang partnered with Karina Hou of Montgomery County, an artist, philanthropist and prominent figure in the area’s Asian American Pacific Islander community. I look forward to visiting this incredible restaurant now that it has reopened.

The “Show Some Neighborhood Love! & FREE SALE” community event will take place at the Brooklyn branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on February 18 from 3:00-5:00 p.m. The event will have food, drinks, and activities for kids. If you are interested in volunteering or attending, or have more questions, please reach out to info@actionbaybrook.org.
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email, bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or by phone, 410-841-3600.