Week 9: Coronavirus Update and Cherry Hill Town Center Breaks Ground
It is my sincere hope that by the time you read this newsletter next week, the Maryland Senate will have joined with our colleagues in the House of Delegates to pass the Blueprint for Maryland's Future to transform Maryland's public education system for generations of students. The Senate Education, Health, & Environmental Affairs and Budget & Taxation Committees are already considering the amendments made in the House while determining further changes to improve the bill on the Senate side. Codifying the Kirwan Commission's recommendations will dominate the General Assembly's work this week and I hope you will follow along.
This Week In Annapolis
Update on Maryland's Coronavirus Response - Tonight, Speaker Adrienne Jones, Senator Clarence Lam, the only physician in the Maryland Senate, and I announced the introduction of emergency legislation to increase access and reduce barriers to healthcare access and protect Marylanders during this State of Emergency.

Under the legislation introduced, the following provisions would be in effect in a declared catastrophic health emergency:
  • Reduce barriers to screening tests by restricting and reducing costs
  • Improving access to telehealth so all Marylanders can access the needed health care
  • Improve access to the COVID-19 vaccine, when it becomes available
  • Ensuring that people under quarantine or isolation cannot lose their jobs
  • Prohibiting Price Gouging

Governor Hogan also introduced an emergency bill last week to authorize the administration to draw money from Maryland’s Rainy-Day Fund to combat the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the state. The legislature moved quickly, passed the bill unanimously, and the legislation was signed into law earlier today. As of Monday, there have been 73 negative tests for the virus in Maryland, and 5 positive cases. Governor Hogan said the Maryland Emergency Management Agency is ratcheting up to combat the virus across government agencies.

The Maryland Department of Health has created a website dedicated to providing accurate and up-to-date information regarding the novel coronavirus in Maryland. Individuals should rely on the Maryland Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive accurate information related to the novel coronavirus.
Blueprint for MD on the Move - The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, legislation that breathes life into the Kirwan Commission’s proposals to improve the state’s education system, is moving through the legislature. Dozens of amendments were added by the House Appropriations and Ways & Means committees, including a change to the funding formula to alleviate the previous financial burden of the plan on Baltimore City and Prince George’s County.  The full House of Delegates passed the Blueprint bill on Friday evening and it now moves to the Senate where we will see action this week.
Sports Betting Passes Key Committee - Maryland may soon join Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania as states permitting sports betting. Senate Bill 4 unanimously passed the Budget and Taxation Committee last Tuesday and is headed for a final vote in the full Senate. If passed, the measure would be voted on by Marylanders in a referendum in the November election. The bulk of the state’s portion of the proceeds are targeted to implement the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations for the state’s educational system.
Compromise on Public Safety Package - After a week of intense discussions on ways to curb crime in Baltimore and around Maryland, a package of bipartisan bills has cleared the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee . The measure incorporates several of Governor Hogan’s initiatives like making theft of a firearm a felony and increasing penalties for illegal repeated possession of a firearm. It also would provide individuals released from prison with a “reentry kit” and identifies 10 high-crime micro-zones that would receive additional crime-fighting resources. The bill is a comprehensive approach to reducing violence, a top priority this Session.
House Rejects Expanding Sales Tax - The House Ways and Means Committee voted against a bill that would have expanded the sales and use tax to apply to most services not currently taxed, such as professional services. Over the coming weeks, the Senate and House of Delegates will continue to review various revenue bills as the legislature seeks to ensure the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the State’s education reform package, has adequate funding.
Legislative Bond Initiative Saturday - Saturday was the General Assembly’s annual ‘Big Block of Cheese Day’ where organizations doing incredible work all across Maryland come to present their capital needs.  Team46  is sponsoring 11 Legislative Bond Initiatives this year for institutions who want to expand educational opportunities, provide affordable housing, and empower women through economic opportunity. We are grateful for the opportunity to support their efforts and have them in Annapolis this morning to share the vital role they play in District 46 communities with our legislature.
Back In Baltimore
Cherry Hill Town Center Groundbreaking - I was thrilled to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony as renovations to the Cherry Hill Town Center are set to begin. This project at the Cherry Hill Town Center is a new beginning and one I proudly support. Team 46 sponsored a bond initiative last year to secure $250,000 in state funding for this project. This is an investment in this community and way of backing up our words with actions so that everyone knows we believe in the individuals and families, the entrepreneurs and advocates, who work to keep Cherry Hill the extraordinary community that it is.
Changing Climate, Changing Landscape - As the realities of nature change around us, the spaces that we design need to change with them. This conversation on Center Maryland takes a look at how landscape architects are trying to design with nature, and mentions some of the spaces in the city where that is happening, and where they think it could be done better.
Changing the City’s Charter - There will be a lot of choices to make in 2020, each requiring the level of thoughtful analysis that they deserve. In addition to the people that will be on the ballot, there will also be ideas. Changes to the city charter will need to be voted on by the people, and are not always easy to understand. Please read this piece in The Baltimore Sun as a part of your research the potential changes.
In The News
Maryland is close to joining Virginia and other states in banning discrimination based on someone’s natural hair. A House committee heard testimony on Friday on the crossfile of the bill which has already passed the Senate. As reported in Maryland Matters , there is already support from 49 state Delegates.

According to the Garrett County Republican , Maryland has processed over 1 million tax returns since the start of the tax filing season on January 27 th .

Senator Waldstreicher has introduced legislation that would automatically expunge previous convictions for marijuana related offenses where no other conviction took place. The Judicial Proceedings Committee heard the bill last week as reported by MarylandReport.com .

Three recently exonerated men were awarded more than  $8.7 million Wednesday  who spent more than 100 combined years in prison, writes the Baltimore Sun . The Board of Public Works voted unanimously to pay about $2.9 million each to Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart Jr. and Ransom Watkins.

There is significant frustration within the Baltimore City Council about water billing problems by the Baltimore City Department of Public Works . As reported by the Baltimore Sun , members of the City Council are seeking answers around an ongoing audit of that issue.

You can read more about the different campaign finance laws being considered by the Maryland General Assembly this year here , including adding staff to the State Board of Elections campaign finance division.
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