May 28, 2021
This Monday is Memorial Day, a time to honor and remember the people who gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. I am deeply grateful for these brave men and women, and their dedication to serving and protecting our country. My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone who may be mourning the loss of a loved one this weekend. 

In another moment of honoring those who serve our country, a few days ago, the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels flew precision maneuvers and formations over the Naval Academy in Annapolis. It is always exciting to see this celebration of Commissioning Week and I applaud every member of this year’s graduating class of the Naval Academy for their commitment to excellence and service to our country. Watching the traditional Commissioning Week festivities in Annapolis was a reminder that we have come so far in our fight against COVID-19.

As we all celebrate this holiday weekend, let’s remember that our country was established on the principles of liberty and equality, and the people serving in our military are some of the courageous individuals working everyday to uphold these principles. To every service member who made the ultimate sacrifice - thank you.
Dozens of Bills Signed Into Law; Disappointing Vetoes
Last Tuesday, I was proud to join Governor Hogan and Speaker Jones in signing dozens of bills into law. These measures include getting rid of the Confederate-sympathizing State song, extending restaurants and bars’ pandemic practice of selling to-go cocktails, establishing a framework for Maryland’s sports betting industry, addressing elevated levels of lead in schools’ water fountains, expanding geothermal energy, and strengthening opportunities for foster care and homeless youth to receive college tuition exemptions

However, I was disappointed by Governor Hogan’s decision to veto several bills on Wednesday. These measures would have made a number of crucial reforms, including addressing our broken immigration and parole systems. At a time when many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are advocating for a Maryland where all neighbors have the opportunity to live and thrive, the decision to veto these crucial reforms is antithetical to this vision. I look forward to discussing the vetoed legislation with members of the Senate and House Leadership before the next Legislative Session.
COVID-19 Vaccinations: Progress and Continued Pushes
Last Monday, the Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup met to discuss Maryland’s progress in COVID-19 vaccination efforts. We have seen many successes: despite a slow rollout of vaccines, 44.2% of Marylanders have been fully vaccinated, ranking us 9th of the 50 states. Additionally, our key metrics are down, with health officials reporting the lowest daily cases this week since March 2020. Both hospitalizations and testing positivity rate are steadily decreasing. These improvements have been driven by centralizing distribution and appointment sign-ups, and partnering with community-based organizations - recommendations that the Vaccine Oversight Workgroup has advocated for since it started meeting. 

Still, seeing our vaccination campaign through the end of the pandemic will have its share of challenges. During the workgroup’s meeting, Secretary Schrader said that the next phase of vaccinations will require a focused "ground game" over the next few months to ensure that as many Marylanders as possible are vaccinated. We are continuing to rely on workplaces and churches, community organizations, and local leaders to set up vaccination clinics, including mobile clinics. Equity continues to be a priority, as we focus on expanding outreach and access to under-vaccinated communities. Additionally, Maryland’s $2 million VaxCash lottery is underway to incentivize vaccinations.

Regarding public health ordinances, Baltimore City will lift its mask mandate when 65% of adult residents have received a dose of the vaccine, although capacity restrictions at all businesses and venues have been lifted. As the beginning of summer approaches, please continue to follow local health guidelines, so that together, we can usher in the end of the pandemic.
In Person Learning and the Next State Schools Superintendent
After over a year of the pandemic, I continue to have deep gratitude and appreciation for our City’s educators. During this season, our teachers and school staff have shown tremendous resilience, flexibility, and commitment to supporting our students and families. Earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun published a profile on Roger Lyons, a 20-year veteran teacher who currently teaches sixth grade science at Hazelwood Elementary/Middle School in Northeast Baltimore. Mr. Lyons explained the many hurdles of teaching over the past year, including the present challenge of concurrently teaching in-person and online students during the same class period. His dedication and the impact he is making on his students are self-evident. 

As Mr. Lyons and others teachers across the City have expressed, the return to in-person learning has benefitted many students, who are able to engage more deeply in the classroom and build relationships with their teachers and peers. While we continue to prioritize the health and safety of all students and staff, I firmly believe that the benefits of in-person learning are substantial and that we must continue to push for more students to have this opportunity.  

Yesterday, as many of you may have heard, Mohammed Choudhury was named Maryland’s next State Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Choudhury, like myself, is a former schoolteacher who left the classroom to fight for comprehensive change in the school system. I am tremendously pleased with this appointment and look forward to working with him in ensuring a safe return to in-person learning this Fall for all of Maryland’s students.
Reconnecting Communities Act to Invest in Infrastructure
U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, are co-sponsoring legislation to reconnect and revitalize neighborhoods that were harmed during unfinished interstate highway construction projects. The Reconnecting Communities Act would establish a grant program as part of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan to help communities across the country identify and redress highway infrastructure projects that did more harm than good. In West Baltimore, this measure could allow the unfinished “Highway to Nowhere” strip to be redressed into a space that would bridge communities. 

Investing in our City’s infrastructure is crucial, particularly to correct past projects like the Highway to Nowhere that disrupted low-income neighborhoods by displacing hundreds of families and businesses. We have an opportunity to push for transportation equity at this moment, due to the historic investments of the American Jobs Plan, and I fully support Maryland’s congressional delegation in advocating for the Reconnecting Communities Act.
Remembering George Floyd
On Tuesday, we remembered the one-year mark since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Mr. Floyd’s murder sparked outrage across the country and awoke our collective national consciousness to the injustices in our systems of policing and public safety. In the midst of this massive political and social movement, we also remember that Mr. Floyd was a father, a brother, a son, and a friend. Though a guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed him, provided accountability, we mourn with his family as we continue to advocate for true justice. 

The General Assembly passed historic and comprehensive police reform measures earlier this year, grounded in restoring trust, transparency, and accountability between law enforcement and the people they serve. Still, the Americans killed during encounters with the police in the days since May 25, 2020 soberly remind us that more needs to be done. I am committed to continue building a more safe, just, and equitable State for all Marylanders.
More News
On Wednesday, I was glad to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of Watershed and Atlas Fish Market at Cross Street Market. The restaurants will open today, just in time for the holiday weekend. The Atlas Fish Market will serve fresh oysters and wholesale fresh fish to go, while Watershed will serve traditional seafood dishes, including steamed hard-shell crabs. Be sure to visit them the next time you are in Federal Hill!

After a year of closed doors, the Maryland State House has reopened to the public, with several health protocols in place to ensure safety. I am excited to engage with Marylanders on a more personal level once again, and have the oldest state capitol in continuous use accessible to the public once again. 

YouthWorks will place young adults in worksites to get on-the-job coding and tech experience for the first time ever. Twelve YouthWorks interns, out of the cohort of 6,200, will work at the equity-focused tech workforce coalition Baltimore Tracks, education nonprofit Code in the Schools, technical training nonprofit Pass IT On, and Baltimore City Public Schools.

The B’More Invested initiative, a partnership between Open Society Institute-Baltimore and Baltimore’s Promise, is providing $1.5 million in grants to 10 nonprofit organizations led by people of color. These organizations include Black Male Yoga Initiative, which promotes yoga and mindfulness practices as means of self improvement; Organizing Black, which builds local power through organizing and political education; and MOMCares, which provides birth and postpartum doula care to Black women with high-risk pregnancies. 

After a summer full of cancelled events, Baltimore’s AFRAM Festival will be back this August in a hybrid form, including in-person events. AFRAM is one of the biggest festivals on the East Coast celebrating Black culture and arts. 

Even with the tolls that the pandemic has taken on restaurants and small businesses, Baltimore chefs and bakers continue to innovate. This week, The New York Times highlighted the French and Southern cuisine coming from Harbor East staple Charleston and Baltimore Magazine profiled bakeries including Codetta Bake Shop. These are just two examples of great food and entrepreneurship in the 46th District.
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