Legislative Update – April 5th

Apr 5, 20210 comments

One week to go until we adjourn after a very busy, very intense session! To all you who celebrate: Happy Passover and Happy Easter! I remember watching Easter mass last year on YouTube – my first experience watching mass online and signaling the beginning of a very difficult year for so many people. My family and I enjoyed being able to attend church yesterday in person, although with masks and with reduced capacity. It was an absolutely beautiful day in Maryland! I hope you were able to get outside and enjoy it in a safe way!  Although vaccination rates are beginning to increase quickly, we are not there yet. Please remember to be careful, wear a mask, and limit social interactions. See information below on vaccinations.

Last week we passed our state’s FY22 nearly $50bn State budget! Also on the budget front, the House, Senate, and Governor celebrated the collaborative effort to approve allocation of the funding from the federal American Rescue Plan- approximately $3 billion for a variety of incredibly important projects around the state. Below I provide an overview of where this money is going!

In the next week, we have so much work to do – finalizing police reform, housing rights and voting rights legislation, and more. The next report I’ll send out will be an End of Session report! In this email you’ll find updates on: 

  • FY22 Budget Update
  • My Work in the News
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Update
  • Changes to COVID-19 Restrictions
  • Resources for You

Thanks for reading and please keep in touch! For session-related inquiries or constituent work, you can email [email protected]us. For all other matters, please feel free to email [email protected]

FY22 Budget & American Rescue Plan

Every year, the Governor sends the legislature a budget (operating and capital) that we can amend slightly and this year it consisted of three separate bills: the Capital Budget, the Operating Budget, and the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA). Last week, the House gave final approval to our state FY22 budget (HB588) and the BRFA (HB589). It’s a fiscally prudent and socially responsible budget, leaving a healthy cash balance, and funding a wide variety of important projects. I’ll provide a detailed overview in my end of session report.

Due to changes in the State’s budget forecasts or Federal funding that occur during the Legislative Session, the Governor needs to make modifications or additions to the budgets that he already sent over. This sort of alteration requires a “supplemental budget” bill which the Governor also sends to the Legislature for debate, review, and approval. 

The American Rescue Act and associated federal funding for Maryland prompted the Governor and Legislature to collaborate over the past few weeks on supplemental budget #5. On Thursday, the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker announced details of the bipartisan supplemental budget based on this newly available funding for Maryland from the American Rescue Act. These funds allow Maryland to provide much-needed relief to families, students, and small businesses. It will build on the support provided in the RELIEF Act of 2021. In short, the funding will go to: 

  • $300m for game changing broadband technology initiative which will enable the State to provide the infrastructure and technical assistance to ensure that every Marylander is connected to high speed internet across the state. 
    • This is a historic, record breaking investment in broadband infrastructure and digital literacy training for our state’s future. This money will be overseen by the new “Office of Statewide Broadband” that I create in the Digital Connectivity Act of 2021 that I have championed all session. This office will be instrumental in deploying funding and resources to local broadband projects across the State, and providing technical assistance as needed
  • $1.1B to replenish state’s UI trust fund to keep it solvent and stable for the next two years
  • $800m added to Maryland Emergency Economic Relief Programs (provide for tax relief and economic stimulus)
  • $600m for safe reopening of schools to address long-term impacts of learning loss and HVAC ventilation and filtration systems for safer buildings
  • $100m towards job training and apprentice programs
  • $100 to support the state employees who have been serving as essential workers
  • $500m for infrastructure and transit improvements (via MTA and Dept of Transportation)
  • $300m towards utility bills, temporary cash assistance programs, and temporary disability insurance payments

My Legislation – Crossover Update!

I’m excited about the bills I was able to pass out of the House this year and hope we can get them through the Senate as well! Here’s a quick breakdown… 

Image lists the bills that Brooke got through crossover, including HB 97 to create an office of statewide broadband

As you may know, this year, all bill hearings and public testimony take place virtually. The “LIVE MEDIA” section of the Maryland General Assembly (MGA) website will send you directly to bill hearings while they are happening. You can also watch hearings later on via the MGA YouTube page. There are new processes for signing up to submit written and/ oral testimony. If you want to learn more about the new systems, please watch this brief tutorial prepared by the Maryland General Assembly.

Most of these bills are now available for viewing here. If you have any questions or feedback, please reach out.

As of last week, ALL Marylanders over the age of 16 can now pre-register for an appointment at a mass vaccination site: www.COVIDvax.maryland.gov. More information and press release here.

*While pre-registration is now open to all Marylanders, individuals who are currently eligible under Phase 1 and Phase 2 but have not yet been vaccinated will continue to be prioritized for appointments.

Mass Vaccination Sites
The state has recently announced several additional mass vaccination sites across multiple counties. Eligible Marylanders may pre-register by visiting GoVax. Once vaccine appointments become available, you will be contacted to schedule your appointment. The current mass vaccination sites are:

  • Prince George’s County: Six Flags America Theme Park
  • Charles County: Regency Furniture Stadium (Blue Crabs Stadium) in Waldorf
  • Wicomico County: Wicomico Civic Center
  • Washington County: Hagerstown Premium Outlets
  • Baltimore City: M&T Bank Stadium

Future (announced) mass vaccination sites will be… 

  • Baltimore County: Maryland State Fairgrounds 
  • Prince George’s County: Greenbelt Metro Station (FEMA-operated site that will primarily serve residents of Prince George’s County)
  • Montgomery County: Montgomery College, Germantown 
  • Frederick County: Frederick Community College 
  • Anne Arundel County: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
  • Harford County: Ripken Stadium 
  • Howard County: The Mall in Columbia 

Local Vaccination Clinics

In addition to mass vaccination sites, pharmacies, local health departments, hospitals, and medical provider clinics are administering vaccines to eligible individuals. To determine locations and appointment availability, visit the state website and search your zip code.  Additionally, Marylander’s can use the VaccineFinder.org tool to search local pharmacies, clinics, health departments and hospitals for vaccine appointments.

Vaccine Progress: As of April 1,  2,760,176 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered. Maryland is on track to meet the Governor’s goal of having all Marylanders vaccinated by Memorial Day.

Testing: Testing has been expanded over the past few months and tests have become readily available. To determine your nearest testing site, visit the state website.

The Maryland Department of Commerce has released additional details about the new economic relief funding made available through the bipartisan RELIEF Act of 2021. This information is available on the Department of Commerce website. In short, the Department of Commerce will provide funding through six new programs targeting specific groups of businesses.

Programs Administered Through the Department of Commerce

  • Small Business COVID RELIEF Grant Program: To support Maryland’s small businesses that face continued financial impacts from the Coronavirus, the state established the new Maryland Small Business Covid RELIEF Grant Program with $10 million in state Relief Act funding.
  • Small, Minority and Women Owned Business Administration COVID RELIEF Program: To support Maryland’s small businesses, the state established the Maryland Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Administration COVID RELIEF Program with $10 million in state Relief Act funding.
  • Commuter and Shuttle Bus COVID RELIEF Grant Program: To support Maryland commuter and shuttle bus companies, the state established the Maryland Commuter and Shuttle Bus COVID RELIEF Grant Program with $8 million in state Relief Act funding. The grant is directed to those companies that were impacted by reduction of routes by the Maryland Transit Administration. 

 

Transparency around Emergency Contracts and Procurement (HB1003 / SB780)
Maryland’s emergency contracts for COVID vaccine rollout to get public review (Baltimore Sun)
State Del. Brooke Lierman, the bill’s sponsor in the House, said the aim is not to stop the Governor from making quick decisions during an emergency…. “It’s about transparency,” Lierman said. “How are our state dollars being spent and what actions are being taken through the procurement process? After the fact, we’ve been able to put together some examples through budget amendments and [Public Information Act requests.] That’s totally insufficient.”

Maryland Board of Public Works delays approval of emergency COVID vaccine contracts amid transparency concerns (Baltimore Sun)
Several bills related to reforming the emergency procurement process have been introduced this year in the Maryland General Assembly. Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore and Sen. Paul Pinksy of Prince George’s County, both Democrats, also introduced a bill to require the governor to tell the General Assembly about any emergency contracts within 72 hours of signing.

Maryland lawmakers want transparency in government proceedings (MDVM)
In the House of Delegates, Delegate Brooke Lierman from Baltimore City has a bill to make state records and government documents more accessible to citizens of the state. Montgomery County State Senator Cheryl Kagan wants that same level of transparency to apply to meetings of public officials, at both the state and local levels.

Addressing the Appraisal Gap (HB1239 / SB859)
As House Pushes Through Dozens of Bills, Lawmakers Temporarily Fall Down a Deep Well (Maryland Matters)
House Bill 1239, sponsored by Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), would create a funding program to incentivize development in historically redlined neighborhoods by helping affordable housing developers overcome “appraisal gaps,” or the cost difference between rehabilitating and selling a house. 

Supporting Student Athletes (HB125 / SB439)
With March Madness afoot, Maryland delegate calls for national student-athlete protections (The Diamondback)
In a press release issued on the first day of the men’s basketball tournament last week, Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) said federal lawmakers need to enact national standards to protect athletes and promote fairness. Lierman said in an interview she hopes Congress will see the state-level action and feel compelled to act. “The ultimate goal should be to make sure that every college student athlete in America has, minimally, the same rights to use their own name, image and likeness to earn income,” Lierman said.

What The Jordan McNair Safe And Fair Play Act Means For Maryland (PressBox)
Sponsored by Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) and Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll County), this piece of legislation would allow student athletes in the state of Maryland to profit off of their name, image and likeness. “To me this legislation, this is about rights for our students, it’s about rights to their name, image and likeness,” Lierman said on GCR March 19. “But it’s also about the right to be healthy and to be in an athletic program that values their health and their safety and looks out for them. This is really about fundamental principles of fairness.”

We have many challenges, but I am excited about the year ahead. My Legislative Director, Dani DiPietro, and I are here to serve you! Have feedback about a bill? Have a question about how something in the Legislature works? Need assistance with unemployment, SNAP, housing assistance, food access? Reach out! Get in touch with me at [email protected]us or 410-841-3319. For campaign related emails, please use [email protected]You can also share this legislative update on social media and with others using this link

Be well and stay safe!

My best,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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