Week 7: Cutting Through the Noise and Advancing Real Solutions
This week has been one of the most intense of the 2020 Legislative Session between the public hearing on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future on Monday and the increasing war of words around addressing crime yesterday. As I said on the Floor yesterday, the only solutions will be when we come to the table together and solve problems. It’s not about pointing fingers. It’s not about blaming. It’s about taking bipartisan action which will have real results for the lives of Marylanders.

You'll notice this week's newsletter is using the new Legislative Newsletter format being rolled out by the General Assembly this year. Please don't hesitate to reach out with feedback.
This Week In Annapolis
Blueprint for Maryland’s Future - Senate and House committees heard over six hours of testimony for the hearing on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (SB 1000/HB 1300) on Monday. The General Assembly has two constitutional responsibilities, one of which is providing a thorough and efficient system of free public schools. Right now, we are only fulfilling that obligation for some of our students. That is neither acceptable, nor in the best interest of our economic future. Passing the Blueprint into law is just the beginning of investing in classroom instruction, supporting and retaining our teachers, and creating an equitable framework for student success so Maryland’s economy can thrive for decades to come.
Business Leaders Support the Blueprint - Members of the business community, including the leadership of Seawall Development, Southway Builders, and Brightview Senior Living penned an op-ed in support of fully funding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future in Maryland Matters . They make the case that, “As business people, we are often measured by our bottom-line-results. Today the results of current practice, funding and accountability in Maryland fall far short of meeting the demands for our state’s continued success. Those results impede economic productivity while sending large numbers of fellow citizens into prisons and forcing reliance on costly public assistance like Medicaid.”
School Construction Clears First Hurdle - The Maryland House of Delegates has approved a $2.2 billion school construction plan to modernize school buildings in every Maryland jurisdiction . The funding would support projects to build, or renovate buildings based on level of need determined by factors like age of the building, number of classroom trailers in use, and level of poverty of the students being served.
Bipartisan Expansion of Telehealth - One of the real solutions I'm happy to be working on this Session is Senate Bill 502, with Senator Steve Hershey, to expand telehealth services to patients seeking mental health care. SB502 would expand the eligibility of insurance coverage to include the delivery of mental health care services to a patient in their home. This is a common sense solution to issues around access, especially in rural communities.
Aggressive Action on Climate Change - Climate advocates, including Chairman Paul Pinsky and County Executive Steuart Pittman, made a fervent pitch to the General Assembly to pass the Climate Solutions Act of 2020 which would change the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goal from 40% by 2030 to 60% by 2030, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2045. Pittman made the economic case for action as ratings agencies like Standard & Poor’s could negatively impact jurisdictions’ ratings if they do not demonstrate a clear plan to address the impacts from climate change. Climate change is not hypothetical, it is a present crisis, and we must act.
Civil Suits for False Police Reports - Senator Cory McCray is sponsoring legislation which would allow for civil lawsuits against anyone who knowingly files a false police report with the intent of violating someone’s civil liberties. When heard in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, Senator McCray noted that the intent of the bill is, “to discourage racially biased 911 calls where the police are weaponized against people of color.”
Allowing for Behavioral Health Services - Legislation sponsored by Senator Antonio Hayes would allow police to take behavioral health patients to crisis centers instead of emergency rooms to alleviate the burden on hospitals while ensuring those patients get the help they need faster. As described by The Daily Record , “The legislation would allow the Maryland Department of Health to add behavioral health and substance use crisis centers to the list of facilities where law enforcement can take patients with an emergency petition.”
Constituents in Annapolis - It continues to be a pleasure to meet with constituents who are able to take time out of their busy schedules to come to Annapolis and make their voices heard. This week, I had the chance to meet with constituents on a wide range of issues from organizations like Jews United for Justice, the ACLU, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Maryland Physical Therapy Association.
Back In Baltimore
Team46 Town Hall - A final reminder that our annual Team46 Legislative Town Hall will take place tomorrow , Saturday, February 22nd from 11:30am to 1pm at the National Federation of the Blind (200 E Wells St., Baltimore, MD 21230). We hope you can join us and look forward to seeing you there! Please RSVP via this link so we order enough food and coffee for everyone!
Preservation and Reinvigoration - Historic PS 103 in Upton, where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall went to elementary school, will be redeveloped into a multi use space for the community. According to a piece in the Baltimore Sun , the $6 million makeover will include space for “legal advocacy offices, gun violence prevention, work and job training.” It is said to also include space dedicated to the legacies of Marshall and late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Expungement Clinic Next Week - Please share information on an expungement clinic happening next week on Wednesday, February 26th from 2 to 6pm at 720 Rutland Ave. It is a free clinic organized by MD Legal Aid, Out for Justice, JOTF, and Johns Hopkins to help remove expungeable offenses and help with applying to jobs.
Things to do in Baltimore This Weekend - In addition to the Team46 Town Hall, there are a number of other events around town that are worth checking out. Take a look at the list compiled by the Baltimore Fishbowl .
In The News
You can read more about the escalating tensions between the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Hogan over his crime package in this Maryland Matters article . As I said, what we need to avoid is making it personal, about a process or a member of leadership versus identifying solutions.

While testimony from incarcerated witnesses can sometimes be helpful in leading to a conviction, The Baltimore Sun’s Editorial Board has come out in favor of legislation by Senator Will Smith to add additional oversight around the practice to minimize wrongful convictions.

Senator Clarence Lam is sponsoring a bill to permanently ban the practice of ‘lunch shaming’ where students have their lunches thrown away and replaced if they have unpaid bills.

Senator Jill Carter has reintroduced Senate Bill 859 to expand Maryland’s current expungement law to apply to charges which did not end in a conviction even when other charges from the same incident end in a conviction. You can read more in The Daily Record .

Legislation is moving through the State Senate to add citizen members to the Bay Bridge Advisory Committee so that individuals most impacted can provide feedback in a formal capacity.

Multiple rallies were held by organizations like Strong Schools Maryland, IAF, teachers unions, and the Maryland Fair Funding Coalition to support the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future on Monday. You can read a full synopsis of those efforts in Maryland Matters here .

Legislation sponsored by Senator Paul Pinsky would require all first responders to complete a Maryland State Police approved training on mental health awareness to help de-escalate dangerous and sometimes violent resulting situations.
My team is excited to bring you this weekly newsletter. Next week we will look at all the happenings in Baltimore and capture another week of news from Annapolis!

State Senator Bill Ferguson