February 28, 2022
Saturday marked the halfway point of the 2022 Legislative Session. I am proud of the Senate of Maryland for the accomplishments that we have achieved so far. Last week in particular, I was happy to announce the Senate’s commitment to passing the Time to Care Act for paid family and medical leave insurance. Many parents and children have faced unexpected medical challenges, thus being forced to choose between caring for family members or going to work. However, this year, that will change. I am dedicated to passing this historic legislation in a thoughtful manner so that it is affordable for employers, employees, and the State. 

Last week was not only about new goals, but protecting achievements from last year’s session. After persuasive action from the Senate, we successfully restored education funding for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. In 2021, we passed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation with the intent to provide new programs and resources that would drastically improve outcomes for many of our students. 

Overall, it has been an eventful and memorable week as we close out Black History Month with speeches, events, and performances from talented men and women. I also want to recognize that Black History Month should not be the only period in which we celebrate the Black community, but instead we should continuously remember their stories and sacrifices that helped strengthen America.
Restoring Funds for Blueprint for Maryland's Future
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future is landmark legislation that focuses on Maryland’s students, their future, and their education. As a former teacher in Baltimore City, I know first hand that there is a financial deficit in many school districts, particularly Baltimore City. There is a significant need for new buildings, technology, supplies, resources, and personnel to address the socioeconomic gap that some of our communities experience. I sponsored the legislation for the Blueprint, Maryland’s educational reform plan, because I recognized that it would provide comprehensive changes that would transform education, so all students would be prepared for the future. 

Even after the Senate and House overrode the Governor’s veto of the Blueprint, we faced additional challenges. The Governor did not include $129 million dollars for the fiscal 2023 budget, funds that were stipulated in the Blueprint legislation. More specifically, Prince George’s County was missing $26.5 million and Baltimore City was missing $99 million. The Senate advocated for the restoration of this funding and the Governor released it last week.

As the President of the Senate, my goal is to solve problems and unify the chamber. The Senate is critical to the State and we will do anything to make things right in our government. In a time when the pandemic has further exacerbated disparities in education, I will ensure that our government will be at the forefront of education on behalf of all children from every district.
Commitment to Passing Paid Family Leave
Paid family and medical leave is imperative to the wellbeing of Maryland families and workers. Access to paid family leave ensures that Maryland families have adequate resources to support a new child or other loved one who requires care. 

For over two years, we have suffered through the pandemic - Marylanders are still struggling to support their families. Now, more than ever, Marylanders need to have the support they need to get through their toughest moments. Marylanders should not have to choose between being with a parent during their last days and putting food on the table. We have long waited for paid family and medical leave. In 2018, I sponsored Senate Bill 859, legislation that established paid parental leave for our State employees. This is one of my proudest legislative accomplishments because of the profound and direct impact it had on Maryland families. The question has never been if this is the right thing to do - we know it is. It has been about doing it thoughtfully and in a manner that considers all stakeholders.

We cannot delay having paid family and medical leave any longer, which is why the Maryland Senate democrats announced our commitment to passing paid family and medical leave legislation. Paid family and medical leave continues to be essential for society, the workforce, the economy, and our families. It is an insurance benefit Marylanders need and the Senate is choosing to be at the forefront, leading a policy that represents each individual who works diligently for their families. I know that we can work together with advocates, businesses, and everyday Marylanders to provide a life-changing benefit that is affordable for everyone.
Access to Counsel for Evictions Report
In 2021, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that would provide access to counsel for any resident facing eviction from a landlord. As I have emphasized before, the pandemic was truly unprecedented for the world, our nation, and especially for our Maryland communities. In light of the circumstances, the General Assembly moved forward with an opportunity to do right by our residents–offering free counsel for any renters experiencing eviction. To make certain the effectiveness of this program, we established the Maryland Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force. Their roles included studying potential funding sources and improvements to the access to counsel program and evaluating the services. This past January, the task force released a report with their findings and recommendations. Some of these findings consisted of outreach strategies to centralize access to counsel and increase awareness, but also the need for eviction prevention efforts. 

With unjust evictions causing havoc in many homes, the Senate and I will work hard to ensure that these recommendations from the task force are implemented for all Marylanders.
More News
Since November 2015, the Black Yield Institute has been serving the community of Baltimore as a think tank and collective action network. The institute focuses on Black sovereignty and food insecurity. They are currently seeking research assistants who are passionate about positive change for Cherry Hill. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a research assistant, please visit blackyieldinstitute.org.  

Last Monday, we welcomed Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County to be the guest speaker for the Senate of Maryland’s annual  Washington Day Address. I would like to personally thank Dr. Hrabowski for his powerful and nuanced message as we think about and memorialize our past leaders. 

I want to congratulate all of the athletes that attended the 2022 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament that was held last week. The CIAA conference consists of mostly Historically Black Colleges and Universities and we were excited to host and welcome student athletes. This tournament was an opportunity for Baltimore to honor the legacy of college athletic and academic excellence. 

In conjunction with the CIAA, The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore led a Black Owned Restaurant Tour during the conference for residents and visitors in town. I encourage everyone to continue being patrons to our wonderful Baltimore businesses and consider exploring new restaurants in our City. 

In celebration of Black History Month, the Senate of Maryland invited the Morgan State University Choir to perform last Thursday. The beautiful voices of the students reverberated throughout the chamber and will be an unforgettable performance for all of the senators. 

For many who have been encountering technical difficulties with EZ Pass charges, the MDTA has voted to provide a temporary eight-month grace period for Marylanders to pay their toll fees. Under the customer assistance plan, the State will waive civil penalties for those who pay their unpaid tolls by November 30th.  
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.