December 11, 2020
In a few short weeks, the Maryland Senate will reconvene in Annapolis for the 2021 Legislative Session. I want to assure you that my colleagues and I are laser-focused on helping Marylanders navigate the real, lived consequences of this pandemic from unemployment to food insecurity, and from eviction protection to the widening gaps in learning. We also know that access to quality, affordable healthcare has never been more important than this moment and will be doing everything possible to further expand the market in Maryland.
Thankfully, there is a light at the end of this long 2020 tunnel. A vaccine is soon-to-be approved and the first batch of 155,000 vaccines will be administered in the State as early as next week. The first doses will go to healthcare workers, first responders, and nursing home staff and residents, followed by those in critical and essential jobs, such as teachers and transit workers.
It is great news that a vaccine has been approved and is being distributed, but we are months away from wide-spread vaccinations. We must remain vigilant and committed to social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks to protect ourselves and those around us. 
We have many challenges ahead, but I am excited about the year ahead. I look forward to working with newly-elected Mayor Scott, Comptroller Henry, and City Council President Mosby to lift Baltimore out of this crisis and to build a better, more prosperous City.
New Restrictions to Slow the Spread
This week, more Marylanders were hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any point in the pandemic, with one-third of those patients requiring intensive care. While we were expecting the colder weather and shorter days to impact the State’s positivity rate, the numbers of Marylanders in need of hospital care is truly alarming.
In response to the surging numbers of cases, Mayor Scott made the hard decision to tighten restrictions in the city. Effective today, all restaurants are ordered to end in-person dining. Indoor gatherings at public and private facilities will be capped at 10 people, with outdoor gatherings at public and private facilities limited to 25 people. Carry-out and delivery from restaurants will still be available and I highly encourage you to support our local restaurants, if at all possible. Retail and religious institutions, gyms, malls, and museums will be capped at 25% capacity.
Pleading the 5th
Yesterday, the Maryland General Assembly heard directly from Matthew Sherring, a top aide to Roy McGrath when they were at the Maryland Environmental Service. In addition to the excessive severance package given to McGrath upon his departure to become Governor Hogan’s Chief of Staff, both McGrath and Sherring received irregularly large reimbursements.

Although we hoped that Mr. Sherring would be forthright and help provide answers as to what policies made those payouts using tax-payer money possible, Mr. Sherring instead invoked his Fifth Amendment right over 150 times in just 2.5 hours. It is deeply troubling that Mr. Sherring could not provide information due to fears of self-incrimination.
Roy McGrath is scheduled to appear before the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight next week.
City Schools in the The New York Times
The New York Times visited Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School, one of 27 schools open to in-person learning in Baltimore this month. The schools serve academically at-risk children, such as kindergartners, special education students, and English-language learners.
The article highlights the challenges of in-person instruction, while underscoring its importance in the education and well-being of our most vulnerable students. The article describes the detailed safety measures set in place to protect students and educators, including individual plastic shields around desks, hourly sanitation sweeps, and mandatory masks for students and staff.
Most importantly, the article illuminates the deep dedication and commitment shown by the teachers and staff of these schools as they work tirelessly for their students, often at their own risk.
Remembering Senator Paul Sarbanes
Maryland lost one its staunchest champions this week with the passing of Senator Paul Sarbanes. In his almost four decades in Congress, Senator Sarbanes successfully prioritized cleaning and preserving the Chesapeake Bay, calling it the “soul” of our State. He fought for low-income housing, broad environmental protections, safeguards for investors, and consumer privacy.

Senator Sarbanes embodied the best of public service. His integrity, work ethic, and deep commitment to Maryland and the country will inspire generations to come. Thank you, Senator Paul Sarbanes, for your service; you will truly be missed.
Maryland UI Remains Painfully Slow
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Marylanders have experienced major hurdles in filing for and receiving their unemployment benefits. According to a recent study, Maryland was the state with the third lowest rate of getting unemployment benefits to applicants in October
Early months of the pandemic overwhelmed the system with a flood of new claims as businesses were forced to close their doors. In addition, the new BEACON One-Stop system had a rocky start in September when an unprecedented amount of users tried to log on after its launch. Last week, I had a direct conversation with Secretary Robinson and Governor Hogan about the need to improve the process, and they committed to focus on improvements. We will continue to work with the Department of Labor to demand that the system is running effectively and efficiently.
Changes to Child Custody Proceedings
Cases of child abuse and domestic violence have surged during the past ten months, the most disturbing consequence of the pandemic by far. This week, a Joint Senate and House workgroup released 24 recommendations for legislative action to ensure that cases of abuse and domestic violence in Maryland receive the attention and response they demand.
The recommendations aim to mitigate the trauma that children experience during family court proceedings and incorporate up-to-date science on trauma and the effect of domestic violence on custody cases. The workgroup emphasized the need to reevaluate the roles played by judges, child counsel, and custody evaluators when custody decisions are made so that the best interests of the children remain paramount.
City Residents have Access to Eviction Counsel
The fear of eviction has weighed heavily on many Baltimoreans during this pandemic. Thanks to legislation passed on Wednesday, Baltimore City residents have a legal right to counsel in eviction cases, making the city just the seventh jurisdiction in the country to guarantee that right.

The new law requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to partner with nonprofit legal services to represent tenants in eviction proceedings. A homeowner or renter who comes to the table with legal representation has a far better chance to maintain their housing during eviction proceedings than those without.
More News
The Maryland Board of Canvassers certified the state’s election results during a virtual meeting last Friday, bringing an historic and unconventional election to a close. In the presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Trump 65.4% to 32.2% — a record-setting margin in the modern era.

My District 46 colleague, Delegate Brooke Lierman, published an op-ed in The Washington Post today highlighting the need to bridge the digital divide by expanding broadband connectivity in every corner of the State. As Delegate Lierman points out, COVID-19 has only exacerbated the inequitable outcomes for students, small businesses, and individual health based on access to reliable internet. Bridging the digital divide will be a key issue next Legislative Session and I appreciate her leadership.

Governor Hogan announced a number of measures to spur economic growth despite the ongoing pandemic yesterday, including turning the $75 million in emergency loans to Maryland businesses into grants that do not need to be repaid. Additionally, Maryland is investing $25 million in low-income housing tax credit projects, $12 million to the Rental Housing Works Program, $94 million to help treat Marylanders with diabetes, and $10 million for youth and victim services.

The Baltimore City Council overrode vetoes on two bills this week to protect hospitality workers, an industry devastated by the effects of the pandemic. The first requires hospitality businesses to rehire laid-off workers once they reopen. Thousands of housekeepers, banquet servers and other employees have lost their jobs as the industry suffers from the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns. A second bill requires hotels to retain staff if its ownership changes.
The State of Maryland launched their contact tracing app last week – MD COVID Alert. This new technology alerts residents if someone they have come in contact with recently tested positive for the coronavirus, and it does so while protecting your privacy. For more information and to sign up, click here.
The middle lanes of the 1-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel’s toll plaza will be closed to facilitate the safe and orderly flow of traffic north of the tunnel. Drivers are asked to keep moving through the toll plaza using any open lane on either side of the closed lanes. All electronic tolling is permanent statewide.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if there is anything we can do to help via email at, or phone via 410-841-3600.