Last Monday night we concluded the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly. This Sine Die, the concluding day of the legislative session, marked the third year for which I have served you and our neighbors as the senator representing the 45th legislative district of Maryland. I count this responsibility as one of my great duties and approach it with seriousness and intention. I am encouraged by our office’s productivity, as noted by MD Matters, and our success passing 21 pieces of legislation this session. I previously noted at the midpoint of the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session that its pace was moving as fast as we would ordinarily find it because of the virtual and social-distancing adaptations that were made to meet the challenges cause by the COVID emergency. I proudly report that the sum of our work over the last ninety days will yield remarkable gains for the people of Maryland, especially the working people doing their best to make it every day in the face of great challenges.
My hope for this session was to direct state legislation, policy and budgeting to address the urgent needs created by the pandemic and keep sight of our separate and equally pressing strategic needs—our public investments in education, our HBCUs, workforce development, public transportation, and public safety. Our senate office begins the preparation and legwork for each session many months in advance with detailed research and legislative drafting. I believe this approach is a strong contributing factor to our success and the credit belongs to our office team—Tamika Winkler, Cody Dorsey, and Stephen Michael Thompson.
Below I provide an update on the priority legislation, describe some of the legislation in detail, and highlight our recent public commentary and our work leading the Baltimore City Senate Delegation. Each of the bills I highlight are important and meet a crucial need for our community. However, I am especially proud of our work to pass SB786 which, for the first-time since the civil war, returns the constitutional control of the Baltimore City Police Department to the City of Baltimore City and the direct control of its residents and their local government. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, and the House of Delegates, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature. WBAL discussed the bill and its ablitity to advance public safety in a recent news segment.
In closing, I hope to see you when it’s safe to do so as I return to visiting our community associations and connecting with our communities to hear your thoughts and concerns. I take the privilege of serving you in the Maryland General Assembly to heart and approach each day determined to deliver for our district.
This year marked the end of my first year as the Chair of Baltimore City’s Senate Delegation. The work kept me busy following all Senate activity generally affecting Baltimore. As a reminder, the Delegation is where the six state senators whom represent the City in the Maryland General Assembly gather to discuss the matters affecting Baltimore and act on our agenda. The Delegation is focused on representing the interests, needs, and concerns of the city and its residents. One priority is ensuring that sufficient state funds are appropriated to support Baltimore City Public Schools’ academic, infrastructure, and operational needs. The Delegation holds hearings on important legislation that affect the City, such as those related to public safety and transportation. Each Legislative Session, the Mayor of Baltimore unveils a list of budget priorities for state consideration, which the Delegation works to secure. We have created a new website for the Delegation, please tell us your thoughts so we keep you informed of our work. Below I have also provided a link to our recent weekly briefings.
We hosted weekly briefing to highlight issues of concern for Baltimore. Below is a list of the recent briefings and a link to their video.
- New* April 5, 2021 – Mayor Brandon M. Scott and Comptroller Bill Henry
- New* March 29, 2010 – A Special Briefing, in recognition of Women’s History Month 2021, with Circuit Court Clerk Marilyn Bentley, Register of Wills Belinda Conaway, and Baltimore’s first-ever Chief Equity Officer Dana Peterson Moore to hear about our Court System and Equity, Moderated by Senator Jill P. Carter
- New* March 22, 2021 – A briefing, moderated by Senator Antonio Hayes, on the Pimlico Race Course and Preakness
- March 15, 2021 – A Health Briefing with leading health professionals, and to hear more about Covid-19 vaccine distribution in Baltimore City
- March 8, 2021 – Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises and Baltimore Teachers Union President Diamonté Brown
- March 1, 2021 – Public Safety Briefing
- February 15, 2021 – City Administrator Christopher Shorter
- February 8, 2021 – Baltimore’s Congressional Delegation
- February 1, 2021 – Housing Resources
- January 25, 2021 – COVID’s Impact to our Colleges and Universities with Dr. McCurdy – BCCC, Dr. Wilson – Morgan State University, Dr. Jenkins – Coppin State University, and Ron Daniels – Johns Hopkins University
- January 18, 2021 – Resources for Local Small Businesses
COVID Vaccination Information
If you or a loved one is looking for an appointment, vaccination interest form for older adults is available at the Baltimore City Health Department’s website at coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov/covax. Those older adults without access to the internet can also call the Maryland Access Point hotline at 410-396-2273.
Local area hospitals and medical providers listed on coronavirus.maryland.gov, under Find a Vaccine, have created interest forms for vaccinations when they become available, and residents in eligible Priority Groups are encouraged to visit those websites and sign up. Baltimore-area retailers and pharmacists such as Giant, Safeway, and Rite Aid locations have appointments too.
SB 525 – Centralized Booking Facility – Ballot Drop Box
Senate Bill 525, Baltimore City – Centralized Booking Facility – Voting Information and Early Voting Polling Place, requires the Baltimore City centralized booking facility to disseminate written information on voter registration and instructions directly to each eligible voter incarcerated in the facility. The bill is amended to require the State Board to provide a ballot brop box to the Baltimore City centralized booking facility in time to allow eligible voters an oppritunity to vote. The bill passed the Senate and the House of Delegate, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature. I’m very excited by this work because those whom can, should be provided reasonable access to the ballot box. Maryland must be proactive, and follow the actions of other leading communities, in removing all barriers that stop legally eligible citizens from exercising their right to vote.
SB 199 – Maryland Transit Administration – Funding – Transit Safety and Investment Act
I have previously mentioned this legislation and my belief that our state’s investment in public transportation is crucial to its economic growth and long-term viability. As we approached the end of session, I published an opinion piece with Maryland Matters on the need for updated investment in public transit. The piece titled “Ensuring the Health of Our Public Transit System”, notes “A reliable and efficient public transportation system enables residents – and visitors – to traverse their area with confidence as they visit historical landmarks from those right here in Baltimore to even those right down the road in our Nation’s Capital. Modern public transportation systems enable our people to engage in the full spectrum of a place with ease and security at a reasonable cost”.The bill passed the Senate, the House of Delegate, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature. I am proud of the bold steps Maryland is making with this legislation and was proud to join with public transit advocates, environmentalist, and state business leaders to advance our public transit system with substantive changes that sustain and advance the system’s operation and use.
SB 2 – Maryland Environmental Service Reform Act of 2021
I am proud of our efforts to reform the Maryland Environmental Service since we learned that the agency’s former director spent lavishly and negotiated a significant payout when he left to become the governor’s chief of staff over the summer. The Maryland Environmental Service Reform Act is designed in part to establish stronger oversight of the agency and protect the investment of Maryland’s taxpayers. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, the House of Delegates, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature.
I wrote an opinion piece published in The Baltimore Sun on the work crafting this important reform legislation. The piece notes: “while MES oversight, governance, and accountability attracted attention and concern, the work to find a solution to the problem is not well known — though it should be. We found a viable, bipartisan solution to’ address the issues highlighted by MES and crafted a legislative solution to best govern the organization. It provides a prime example of the success possible when elected leaders act in concert to serve the greater good of our communities.
After many hours of hearings, legislators developed a series of findings to guide our oversight actions and used the information to craft The Maryland Environmental Service Reform Act (Senate Bill 2/ House Bill 2), which establishes stronger oversight of MES and protects the investment made by Maryland’s taxpayers.”
SB 96 – Behavioral Health Programs and Health Care Facilities – Safety and Community RelationsPlans
I’ve previously mentioned our effort to ensure that Behavioral Health Organizations communicate in partnership with their local communities. With SB96, Maryland will require that the regulations adopted by the Behavioral Health Administration governing the licensure of behavioral health programs include a requirement that programs establish and implement a safety plan for the safety of the individuals in the program and a community relations plan before being issued an operating license. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, the House of Delegates, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature.
SB184 – Reduced Fare Program for Opioid Treatment Program Patients
Opioid treatment programs work diligently with their consumers to build productive and healthy lives. Recognizing this, we have charged the Maryland Transit Administration with providing opioid treatment programs with monthly passes for their patients. A concern, however, is how do we hold treatment centers accountable while ensuring that their clients are receiving the best care. The purpose of this bill is to alter the application of the Maryland Transit Administration’s reduced fare program for opioid treatment program patients by prohibiting participation of program centers which are sanctioned or have had their licenses suspended or revoked. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously, but was not moved by the House of Delegates.
SB114 – Expungement of Conviction and Subsequent Offender Penalties – Driving While Privilege Is Canceled, Suspended, Refused, or Revoked
SB114 provides for relief by expungement if a person is convicted of a misdemeanor involving driving while the person’s license or privilege to drive is canceled, suspended, refused, or revoked. This legislation is an important part of eliminating unnecessary burdens that prevent individuals from accessing living wages in sound jobs. I’m very proud that the bill passed the Senate unanimously, the House of Delegates, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature.
Creating Incentives to End Food Deserts
When we recently lost a supermarket in our district due to the Save-A-Lot in Oliver at Church Square closing, I began working on legislation that acts to retain and attract super markets to our area. I introduced a series of proposals to create economic incentives for attracting businesses that retail healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, in an area noted as a food desert. One proposal provides for grocery stores to retail beer and wine in new establishments that are situated in a food deserts so that they are incentivized to open the market.
SB365 – Neighborhood Business Development Program – Food Desert Projects – Business Retention
SB365 expands the purposes of the Neighborhood Business Development Program within the Department of Housing and Community Development to include retaining and creating small businesses that provide access to healthy food in designated “food deserts” by providing loans that are used to cover operating expenses incurred in providing access to healthy food in food deserts. Our state will forgive the loan issued for operating costs after five years if the loan recipient maintains continuous operations at the same location during that time. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, the House of Delegates, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature.
SB913 – Neighborhood Business Development Program – Food Desert Projects – Business Retention
SB913 establishes a Heat and Eat Program within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to expand food access to households that are receiving or eligible for SNAP. A household is eligible to participate in the program if they are eligible for SNAP under State and federal law.The bill passed the Senate unanimously, the House of Delegates, and is awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature.
Listening. Learning. Leading.
Cory V. McCray
Senator, 45th Legislative District