January 15, 2021
On Wednesday, the Maryland General Assembly gaveled in our 442nd Session, one that will be markedly different from any other. Hearings will be held virtually, the public will participate virtually, and senators will sit at desks surrounded by plexiglass. Although this will undoubtedly be a challenging Session, every decision has been made with the values of minimizing risk while maximizing productivity.
Every member of the Maryland Senate is acutely aware of the stakes of the 2021 Legislative Session. We must urgently address the devastating health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19. From housing and food insecurity to unemployment and support for small businesses, Marylanders need relief now.
Addressing this moment must also include long term solutions to address the myriad of inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic including disparate educational and health outcomes, environmental justice, and expanding economic opportunity. At the same time, we know that substantive police reform is vital to restore trust in law enforcement, ensure transparency, and create meaningful mechanisms for accountability.
Opening Day of the 2021 Legislative Session
It is an honor of lifetime to represent Maryland 46th Legislative District in the Senate of Maryland and I am humbled by my colleagues' trust as they unanimously elected me to continue serving as Senate President for another year. As I said in my opening remarks, through wars, recessions and depressions, another global pandemic, the fight for civil rights, and everything in between, the Senate of Maryland has continued doing the people's work. Despite the immense challenges of the last year, nothing will change our commitment to solving problems today to expand opportunity tomorrow.

I hope you will take a moment to click the picture above and watch a two minute clip of my Opening Day remarks, or watch it in full starting at minute 23 through the MGA's website.

The General Assembly is committed to transparency and all Floor Sessions, as well as committee actions will be broadcast live from the MGA website. I sincerely hope you will tune in as time allows.
No Time to Waste
The Maryland Senate wasted no time in getting back to work after the 2021 Legislative Session began on Wednesday. By that afternoon, the Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup was receiving a briefing by the Maryland Department of Health on the State’s vaccination distribution efforts. Every Senate Committee held bill hearings yesterday afternoon, and the chamber held our first round of votes on veto overrides of legislation from the 2020 Legislative Session.
The Senate took decisive action to override bills today that will:
  • Build safe communities in every corner of the State;
  • Provide economic support to Maryland families, small businesses, and farmers; and
  • Reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
Every bill the Senate voted to override today passed last Session with overwhelming bipartisan support. Collaboration will be critical over the next 87 days if we are to advance solutions that benefit all Marylanders and demonstrate that our body politic remains united in our State.
MD COVID-19 Stimulus Package Announced
The most exigent priority for the Maryland General Assembly this Session is addressing the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was glad to see Governor Hogan announce his $1 billion stimulus package earlier this week and look forward to the Senate receiving the Administration’s bill in the coming days. 
There is no doubt that much of what’s included to support Maryland families and small businesses is vital. At the same time, a comprehensive COVID-19 package requires overhauling our unemployment insurance system, increasing testing and expediting vaccine distribution, and getting students back in the classroom as quickly and safely as possible. Meeting this moment requires the hard work of providing Marylanders a complete net when extending a rope would be expedient.

I was also thrilled to see that President-elect Biden announced his COVID-19 recovery plan yesterday evening with $1.9 trillion in aid, including $350 billion for state and local governments. That package will ultimately have a drastic impact on our State budget, that Governor Hogan will introduce next week.
Senate Equity Workgroup Releases Report
Last summer, I formed the Senate Advisory Workgroup on Equity and Inclusion to investigate policy solutions to long-standing and systemic racial disparities in our State. The bipartisan workgroup, chaired by Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith, engaged deeply around environmental justice, health disparities, and creating meaningful economic opportunity.
Last week, the Workgroup released 47 recommendations that include extending Medicaid coverage for new mothers, providing prenatal care to undocumented immigrants, launching a pilot program for mold remediation in schools and public housing, and ensuring that at least three minority business owners are included in the State’s Procurement Improvement Council.
I want to thank the members of the Workgroup for their efforts and comprehensive report. Passing legislation that tackle many of these recommendations is a top priority in the coming weeks.
Maryland Updates COVID-19 Vaccination Plan
Governor Hogan announced yesterday that the State will be expediting its COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan. Maryland will move into vaccinating Phase 1B groups this coming Monday (January 18) and 1C groups the Monday after that (January 25).
Phase 1B includes:
  • Assisted living, other congregate settings;
  • Adults age 75 and older; and
  • Education and continuity of government.

Please know that I share your desire to have everyone receive the vaccination as quickly and efficiently as possible. Although the Hogan Administration and the Maryland Department of Health have been working to distribute the vaccine, clearly more must be done to rapidly expand the speed at which the process is being executed. We are equally frustrated with the pace at which vaccine distribution has started in Maryland, as well as the conflicting information regarding eligibility criteria over the last few weeks.

My colleagues and I in the Maryland General Assembly are working diligently to ensure that the vaccine is administered in an apolitical, organized, and expedited fashion. Although we fundamentally believe vaccine prioritization decisions are best left to public health experts as opposed to elected officials, we are doing everything within our power to ensure openness and transparency in the vaccine prioritization and distribution process.
Curbside Recycling to Resume in Baltimore City
Curbside recycling collection will resume in Baltimore City next week thanks to an initiative by Mayor Scott to partner with small waste-hauling companies and City-based organizations that operate job-training programs to connect hard-to-employ residents with opportunities.

Residents can call 311 to check their recycling day or visit DPW’s online Recycling Day Map. Community collection centers will remain open through February with reduced hours (8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays). For questions on what is accepted for curbside recycling, please visit https://publicworks.baltimorecity.gov/recycle-right.
More News
Opening Day of the MGA’s 442nd Session was anything but normal. To get a better sense of the changes this year and our priorities over the next 87 days, I encourage you to read this piece from The Baltimore Sun.
Sen. Paul Pinsky and Del. Dana Stein unveiled their “Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021” this week, an ambitious plan that would put Maryland on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2030. The Act addresses the disproportionate impact of climate change on black, brown, and low-income neighborhoods by concentrating critical resources to those communities.
I am hopeful that bridging the digital divide will be an area of consensus and bipartisanship in the 2021 Session as public education advocates and small business agree that more must be done to expand broadband access across the State.
Baltimore’s Health Department has launched a website to provide residents with the most up-to-date information on the City’s response to the coronavirus, including COVID-19 mandates, vaccine distribution plans, and a weekly schedule of no-cost, no-referral, and no-appointment-necessary COVID-19 testing sites.
A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge upheld Mayor Scott’s current ban on indoor and outdoor dining yesterday. Changes to the current executive order mandates are being reevaluated based on public health data and will continue to evolve as conditions change.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if there is anything we can do to help via email at bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or phone via 410-841-3600.