WBAL NewsRadio 1090 AM 101.5 FM
January 12, 2021
Lawmakers gathered January 13, 2021, at noon to start the new Maryland General Assembly session.
Physical changes have already been made in each chamber. Coronavirus is not only driving these precautions, but it’s also the legislative agenda.
The physical changes are dramatic on the Senate floor. New issues this session are also being driven by the coronavirus, but recurring business includes police reform and overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the Kirwan education bill.
The only certainty about the 2021 session is that it will be unlike any other.
“As we enter this 2021 session, we face a once in a hundred year moment,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City.
A maze of plexiglass fills the Senate chamber and floor sessions will be no longer than two hours without a break. Everyone is required to wear a mask.
Air purifiers have been installed in both the House and Senate and public testimony on bills will be done by Zoom.
A lottery determined who out of the 141 members of the House will stay in the chamber and which members will sit in rooms 170 and 180 in the House office building.
All legislators and select staff will undergo mandatory coronavirus testing twice a week. Rapid tests will be available on demand daily. The coronavirus is driving much of the legislative agenda.
“Many people will need long term help to get back on their feet after this pandemic,” said House Speaker Adrienne Jones.
“And the gaps that we all knew existed has simply been exacerbated. They’ve gone from gaps to canyons,” Ferguson said.
Proposed legislation topics included helping tenants at risk of eviction, expanding access to high-speed internet, and more protections for essential workers. A permanent vote by mail option is on the agenda as well as the expansion of voting centers and as always, education will be a priority.
“We will override the veto of the Kirwan bill,” Jones said.
Police reform also tops the priority list. Twenty-three bills, including one to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights have been pre-filed.
Although sports betting is legal in Maryland, legislators still have to come up with a mechanism to do it.
In the coming days, the house speaker will unveil an agenda focusing on racial, economic and justice issues. The General Assembly will also be dissecting the governor’s comprehensive coronavirus relief bill.
Audio: Don Fry, President & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, talks about the COVID-19 recovery bill and other issues facing the legislature
See the complete article here.