March 26, 2021
Crossover on Monday brought a flurry of activity. We passed over 30 key bills, including an unanimously approved emergency measure for Maryland’s health departments to form a two-year COVID-19 response and vaccination plan and a bill removing politics from the parole process. All of these bills are now in the House of Delegates for further consideration. 

In the midst of the craziness, I am thankful for the moments that remind me why legislators do what we do. On Wednesday, we honored three former Maryland Senators with First Citizen awards, celebrating their legacies of public service. The service of U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, former Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, and former Senator David Craig to the State of Maryland exemplify what it means to be a public servant. All of our residents are better off for their efforts and commitment to improving the lives of all Marylanders.

I was also lucky to have a new intern for one day only, my son Caleb. As I reflected on the paths that former legislators carved out and looked ahead to the work that still lies ahead of us this Session, I felt tremendously thankful that he was with me at that moment, witnessing democracy in action.
FY22 Budget Clears the Senate
Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed a balanced State budget for FY22. The $50.96 billion budget invests $7.5 billion in our K-12 education system to ensure every Maryland student has the tools necessary to succeed, funding to clean the environment, protect our communities, take care of our most vulnerable residents, and ensure Marylanders have easy access to health care. In addition, the budget ensures over $2.5 billion in reserves for long-term fiscal sustainability. 

I am thankful for the hard work of Chair Guzzone and the Budget and Taxation Committee, who thoughtfully shaped the budget to integrate our forthcoming support from the federal government, make targeted investments, and promote Maryland’s long-term fiscal health.
"Blueprint 2.0" Advancing
Last week, I wrote about the emergency bill that Speaker Jones and I have introduced to supplement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future with measures specifically addressing the gaps left in Maryland’s school systems because of the pandemic. I am thankful for the hard work of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs and Budget and Taxation Committees for their tireless work to advance the bill this week. The Committees added amendments to strengthen accountability measures and provide targeted student support. The bill has passed second reader on the floor and will pass the Senate early next week. 

Underscoring the immediate and urgent need for the “Blueprint 2.0” bill, new data released shows dramatically rising failure rates in students’ course grades. Even with the tremendous efforts that teachers and school leaders are putting into supporting their students, both in-person and virtually, it is clear that additional structural supports are needed. This emergency bill will provide these vital resources to serve Maryland’s students’ short-term needs while taking vital steps to bridge the digital divide into the future.
Police Reform Remains a Top Priority
As we head into the last few weeks of this year’s Legislative Session, passing a strong package of police reform bills remains a top priority. We cannot wait another session to bring trust, accountability, transparency to Maryland’s police system. Marylanders - community members and police alike - deserve a system of policing that will keep every person safe. I am continually thankful for the hard work of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, as they work with the House to pass a finalized and cohesive package of bills that can be sent to the Governor’s desk in the coming days.
Maryland Vaccine Updates
This week, Maryland moved into Phase 2A of vaccine eligibility, with all residents over the age of 60 now eligible for their shot. We are slowly making progress. The statewide vaccination rate is increasing, with about 13% of Marylanders being fully vaccinated and nearly a quarter of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine. The State is also anticipating a massive increase in doses in the coming weeks and six new mass vaccination sites opening next month. 

The Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup continues to advocate for greater accessibility on behalf of our most vulnerable Marylanders. During this week’s meeting, multiple Senators expressed concerns around ensuring our older population is vaccinated - less than 40% of residents 70-80 years old have been vaccinated and about 45% of those over 80 have received doses. As additional individuals are becoming eligible for vaccination appointments, we must ensure that no one is left behind and targeted solutions are implemented to broaden access to vaccine appointments for all eligible Marylanders. 

Additionally, our State’s key COVID-19 metrics including daily cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rate have been inching upwards. Yesterday, Maryland reported 1,382 new cases, the most daily infections since early February and today's numbers are similarly above 1,300 new cases with an increasing positivity rate. For all Marylanders, even those who have been vaccinated, we need to continue doing our part with mask-wearing, social distancing, and minimizing gatherings. These more transmissible coronavirus variants are increasingly circulating, likely driving these numbers up.
BCCC Bard Building to Become Green Space
Progress has finally been made regarding the fate of Baltimore City Community College’s (BCCC) Bard Building in downtown Baltimore. While BCCC had originally planned to raze the building and convert the space into a parking lot due to funding constraints, I worked with the Governor’s office to include funding to avoid another parking lot downtown, instead ensuring it will become green space pending future plans.

While not a perfect or permanent solution,, I am thankful that the necessary funding will be set aside as the future of the site continues to be considered. Green space is invaluable in such a key location in the downtown area, not only for promoting residents’ health and well-being, but also for positively contributing to environmental factors such as minimizing air, water, and noise pollution.
More News
On Wednesday, I joined Speaker Jones and Governor Hogan to sign the historic bill providing $577 million to Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) into law. The funds will be given to the schools over the next decade, pending settlement of the ongoing fifteen year lawsuit. I am proud that the State of Maryland has taken a major step in truly bringing equity to our higher education landscape, and supporting our State’s great HBCUs. 

The Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup flagged three proposed contracts multiple times, questioning why emergency contracts were needed as a response to issues that the Department of Health had known about for months. As a result, the Maryland Board of Public Works delayed approving those contracts, with board members citing a lack of transparency around the details and value of the contracts. 

Mayor Scott has named Jason Hardebeck as Baltimore City’s first Director of Broadband and Digital Equity. Mr. Hardebeck will head up efforts in supporting every Baltimorean in being able to access high-quality broadband, which is a key part of our world today.
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email,, or by phone, 410-841-3600.