The 2021 Maryland General Assembly session is in full swing. This year’s activities are a marked difference from years past, our interpersonal interaction is limited because of COVID, but we remain attentive to the pressing issues that affect the daily lives of our communities.
My days are similar to our ordinary session routine: each morning we convene in the Senate and use afternoons for our committees as we ordinarily would, but legislative testimony and related activities are limited to video conferencing. A great deal of the work of the Senate is done in the committees that form the body of our legislative work. I serve as a member of Budget and Taxation Committee and its capital budget subcommittee, pensions subcommittee, and Chair the public safety, transportation & environment subcommittee. Our work in the committee is simple in that we work to set the budget of Maryland and the subcommittees set the particular budget for that area of our government. Each of the subcommittees allows me to pay particular attention to the needs of our district and those of Baltimore.
This year, I also began my new role as the Chair of Baltimore City’s Senate Delegation. 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. Additionally, the Delegation holds hearing on important legislation that affects the City, such as those related to public safety and transportation. The Mayor of Baltimore annually unveils a list of budget priorities for state consideration, which the Delegation works to secure. We have also 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 links to our recent weekly briefings.
Baltimore City Senate Delegation Briefings
- January 18, 2021 – Resources for Local Small Businesses
- 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
- February 1, 2021 – Housing Resources
COVID Vaccination Information
We are currently in Phase 1C of the vaccination process. If you or a loved one is looking for an appointment, vaccination interest forms for older adults are available at the Baltimore City Health Department’s website at coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov/covax. You can also call the Maryland Access Point hotline at 410-396-2273 if you are without internet access.
Local area hospitals and medical providers listed on coronavirus.maryland.gov, under Find a Vaccine, have created interest forms for vaccinations as they become available, and residents in eligible Priority Groups are encouraged to visit those websites and sign up. As of February 1, some Baltimore-area Giant, Safeway, and Rite Aid locations have begun posting appointment links on the same website.
Higher Education Scholarships
The application for the annual scholarship awards directed by our office is now open! Please email our office at email@example.com for an application.
Celebrating Black History Month: Honoring Our First Senators
50 years ago, Senator Robert Dalton made history as the first Black State Senator from East Baltimore.
I am humbled to build on the legacies of Senators Dalton, Douglass, Irby, and McFadden.
“When we look at our folks that are in pretrial centers, these are people that are more than likely to have misdemeanors, may not be able to pay their bails, but they have also not been convicted of a crime. We should be making sure that they have the same type of access that myself and you both have because they have the right to vote,” said Sen. Cory McCray.
Among the legislation I am sponsoring this year is a proposal to further protect the voting rights of all Marylanders. On January 25, 2021, I introduced Senate Bill 525 to ensure all Marylanders have fair access to the ballot box and are free from disenfranchisement that is solely determined by a longstanding policy that serves no true public good.
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 legislation further requires the local board of elections for Baltimore City, in collaboration with the State Board and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, to establish an early voting polling place at the Baltimore City centralized booking facility so that individuals incarcerated in a pretrial capacity or serving a sentence related to a misdemeanor violation may still exercise their right to vote as currently provided by state law.
Maryland is the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner and Justice Thurgood Marshall. We see the power and weight of freedom and know all too painfully the pulse of Democracy denied. The events of this month’s insurrection, just a few miles south of us, reminds us evermore that we must be at the forefront of protecting our democracy. 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 previously mentioned that our state’s investment in public transportation is crucial to its economic growth and long-term viability. We recent held the Senate hearing for the bill. ”The state of Maryland had the greatest numbers of bus, Light Rail and Heavy Rail breakdowns in 2019 compared to any other state, said Sen. Cory McCray, D-Baltimore, calculated by major mechanical failures per 100,000 revenue miles.”
The bill requires a minimum level of funding each fiscal year from 2023 to 2028 for “good repair needs” at the transit agency, going from $361 million in 2023 and ending with $531 million in 2028. Maryland’s bus, Heavy Rail and Light Rail breakdown numbers are leading the country “not in a good way,” McCray said on Wednesday. With this legislation, we will make substantive change to sustain and advance the MTA.
SB 2 – Maryland Environmental Service Reform Act of 2021
I previously mention 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. “Sen. Cory McCray, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said during a video hearing on Wednesday that the environmental agency is due for a “course correction” following the revelations of financial issues under McGrath’s leadership. MES provides environmental and public works services such as operating landfills and dredging waterways, primarily for local and state government agencies. It gets 95% of its revenues from other government agencies. “MES serves a very good purpose. It does great good with local and state government,” said McCray, a Baltimore Democrat.
Listening. Learning. Leading.
Cory V. McCray
Senator, 45th Legislative District
Featured Our Start to the 2021 MGA
I hope you and your loved ones are having a restful and encouraging start to the New Year!
The words of Amanda Gorman are ringing in my ears and heart. Wednesday afternoon I watched a video of her poem at President Biden’s Inauguration and it continues to encouraging me. As we embark on the year ahead it is my fervent hope that our work embodies what she describes as light and that we stand bravely and boldly in our work to advance our community’s future.
In the weeks since my last message to you, I have continued the work of advocating for our district, commenced the annual Maryland General Assembly session for 2021, and began my new role as the Chair of Baltimore City’s Senate Delegation. I experience this time as a season of hope, a continuation of the gratitude and faith that I nurtured through the holidays as a part of the time I spend with my family to renew my energy and reflect on the passing year. (Just in case you missed it, here’s my video recap of our work in 2020.) I’m hopeful for the work that we can do in the year ahead and the actions we can take in this legislative session to set forth a bright path forward for the future of our children and grandchildren.
Our office has spent much of its energy over the last few months addressing the urgent needs of our community in response to the COVID-19 emergency, but this time of year, the early days of January and February, we begin applying the research and preparation we started in the summer prior to advance the strategic needs of our community using Maryland’s legislative process. I try to approach the legislative work in a manner reverent of long race rather than a sprint and I am delighted that the Baltimore Business Journal considered that about me when they recently named me as one of the “Lawmakers to know in Annapolis” for the General Assembly’s 2021 session.
Below I highlight a few of our legislative priorities in the 2021 session. I was able discuss my legislative priorities during my recent interview with Fox45. Over the weeks ahead I will share more details about our proposals and welcome your feedback on them or any issue that matters to you and your loved ones.
From my family to you and your loved ones— I wish you a Happy New Year!
SB 199 – Maryland Transit Administration – Funding – Transit Safety and Investment Act
Our state’s investment in public transportation is crucial to its economic growth and long-term viability. As I shared with WBAL-11TV, “I am sponsoring the Transit Safety and Investment Act in the Senate because for too long we’ve allowed our public transit system to be underfunded, failing to meet core infrastructure needs. Our seniors rely on public transit to pickup prescriptions. Our children rely on it to get to school. And it’s become evidently clearer that our region’s frontline workers find public buses and trains a necessity as they meet the essential needs of our neighborhoods.”
On a brisk Monday morning, nearly two weeks ago, Mayor Brandon Scott joined Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball at the Johns Hopkins Metro stop in support of the legislation with fellow co-sponsor, Del. Brooke Lierman, and I. The Baltimore Sun reported that: “McCray and Lierman’s cross-filed legislation would require the state to spend no less than its current funding levels on MTA operating expenses in the 2023-2028 fiscal years.
It also would require maintenance and upkeep funding of at least $361.9 million in the 2023 fiscal year; $414.9 million in fiscal year 2024; $453.8 million in fiscal year 2025; $566.6 million in fiscal years 2026 and 2027; and $531.6 million in fiscal year 2028. Those figures are based on funding needs the agency reported to lawmakers, which was mandated in a law passed by the legislature in 2018.
The additional money would address light rail and subway track maintenance, MARC safety and security system upgrades, bus and bus shelter maintenance, electronic enhancements, software updates, positive train control, Clean Water Act-required upgrades, improved station access, bus shelter examinations, electronic-vehicle charging stations and solar rooftops at bus depots, officials said.”
Minimum Wage Increased to $11.75
On January 1, 2021, Maryland’s minimum wage increased to $11.75 per hour from $11.00 for companies with 15 or more employees. This is a result of legislation, SB280 and HB166, passed in 2019. I extend gracious thanks and appreciation to Ricarra Kyra Jones, Chairman Dereck Davis, Senator Rich Madaleno, and Delegate Diana Fennell. I am thankful for all of my colleagues in the Maryland General Assembly who had the courage to move the needle forward to lift up working families across our Great State. This wage increase is a fantastic way to start 2021. I look forward to the many more accomplishments to come.
“Maryland lawmakers are aiming to reform the Maryland Environmental Service after learning 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 make the agency’s governing board independent from its executive director — who currently is its chair and appoints three of the board’s nine members. The legislation being drafted by top Democrats would also set limits on executive salaries and perks, the bill’s sponsors say. And it would require the agency’s board to undergo ethics training and make its meetings more transparent…Sen. Cory McCray, a Baltimore Democrat, is the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “With anything, there are always opportunities to take a look at it and make it operate better,” McCray said.”
I am very saddened by the passing of Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller. Maryland is better because of his leadership. Senator Miller gave all he had to all he could. I will miss his institutional knowledge and the opportunity to talk with him as we often did because our seats were adjacent to one another on the Senate floor. My condolences are with his family at this very difficult time.
I shared this story with my Senate colleagues as a remembrance Friday afternoon: “Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), who arrived in the Senate from the House in 2019 after defeating a loyal Miller ally in the Democratic primary, said Miller made him feel welcome by discussing family.
Miller once lent his copy of the autobiography of Verda Welcome, the first Black woman to serve in the Senate, to McCray, who couldn’t find a copy of the book online. He said he was enthralled by the former senator and civil rights leader’s story — and decided to ask Miller if he could keep the signed copy.
“I already planned on giving it to you,” Miller replied. (Maryland Matters)
Thank you, Mike!
Listening. Learning. Leading.
Cory V. McCray
Senator, 45th Legislative District
Fall is here, the school year is off and running, and in spite of a rough first game, we remain hopeful for the Ravens season! While we continue to face unique challenges and hardships as result of the COVID-19 emergency, we have many reasons for hope and faith. Much of my activities over the last few weeks flow from the work I began in the spring: keeping our communities safe and healthy; protecting our access to the ballot; guarding our economic well-being; and, remaining focused on the decisions and policies that will determine our long-term wellbeing and quality of life in Baltimore. Sure, the effects of COVID-19, and even the Ravens loss, weight on us some, but I remain steadfast and hopeful that our best days are ahead. I hope my work demonstrates this belief and that you find this update helpful and encouraging.
One of the especially uplifting experiences I cherish is the chance to encourage our students and educators in their efforts at the start of the school year. You can view this year’s video by clicking the image below.
Every election is important! You may recall that during this year’s Primary Election I wrote a series of letters to the Maryland Board of Elections to express my concerns about the Board’ practices for ensuring full access to the ballot. I continue to follow local and state elections practices for fairness and accessibility and was alarmed to learn that Northeast Baltimore has a staggering geographic gap in the placement of ballot drop-off boxes. The problem was acutely demonstrated when considering that the current placement leaves the 13th council district without a single ballot drop-box. I find the matter to be a grave disappointment and wrote to our local board of elections exclaiming the facts: 1) we are without adequate access to ballot drop-boxes, and 2) the problem must be addressed urgently! You can view local coverage about the issue here and review the letter I sent the Baltimore City Board of Elections here. I eagerly await the board’s prompt action to address this very serious problem.
Please Count in the Census!
The U.S. Constitution mandates that we conduct a national census, a measure of our population, every ten years and its results matter greatly to our work in improving the life and well-being of Baltimore. Census results, the final calculation of our nation’s population, determine the rate of federal resources provided to Baltimore and guides reapportionment activities in congressional and state legislative redistricting. As time permits, I try to regularly canvas in our communities to maximize our participation in the count. I generally enjoy canvassing a way to learning from our neighbors and remain abreast in real-time of the needs and opinions of our district. I’ll continue these efforts in the weeks ahead, but I ask that you also be sure to complete the census and ask your loved ones and neighbors to do so too. The census form is easy to complete at its website and you can also see Baltimore’s performance in real-time here.
“Lawmakers Assemble Suggested Reading List for Colleagues, Aspiring Leaders”
A few years ago, as I joined the Maryland General Assembly to represent our district, I sought to learn from experienced people and read from history and past leaders. Overtime, I found few resources to guide me with direct application to governing and Annapolis’ unique practices and policies. My Colleague, Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery), and I began sharing and discussing books we read and we recently joined to craft a list of readings to guide those looking to have a positive impact for Maryland. “We both know that the best experience [for incoming legislators] is to just get out there and swim,” McCray said. “But sometimes I think I’d be able to see things a little more clearly if I was able to read about something similar.” With that goal in mind, we sought input from a bipartisan group of Maryland’s business, civic, and political leaders to craft a list of suggested reading for aspiring leaders and those interacting with the General Assembly in hope to advance issues and causes.
Retired Navy admiral and former NATO supreme commander, James G. Stavridis, who had written several books — including a 2017 tome called “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” helped us think through the process and list, noting: “Perhaps the single best way a leader can learn and grow is through reading”.
We are proud to share the list you and the advocates working to make Maryland a truly thriving place for all people. Del. Korman and I worked together over several months to solicit advice and form the book list for our colleagues, aspiring legislators, interns, advocates, and all those that interface with the Maryland General Assembly. This has presented a pretty cool experience. Please consider taking a moment to hear us discuss of our journey on Center Maryland’s The Conference Call podcast.
I sat with the Maryland Daily Record to share my experience as a part of their “Young, Black, Homegrown and Leading in Baltimore” series. My hope is that young people facing a tough moment know that they too can come out these circumstances.
“I faced many of the same challenges that a lot of young men (and) young women across the city of Baltimore have faced. I went to a number of schools. … The most challenging year that I had was my 12th grade year because I actually failed that grade. …I always say by the grace of God I was able to find the IBEW Local 24 apprenticeship program.
What that did was it took me out of the four-by-four-block radius that I was so familiar with, and so limited to and opened up a vast amount of experiences … while also giving me an education, and also teaching me a trade.
You can view the video of our conversation and interview by clicking the image and link above.
BCCC Improving, But Needs State Funding to Continue Progress
As a husband, father, and small business owner, I work to make good use of every dollar and cent. I use my position on the Senate’s Budget & Taxation Committee to do so for our state government. In an Op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun, I highlight the need for continued state support of Baltimore City Community College as it advances along an improved trajectory of success and positive outcomes for its students and our community.
“Under the leadership of Debra McCurdy, BCCC’s 14th president, the college has experienced an 8% growth in enrollment. It was not too long ago, in 2015, that BCCC saw a great decline in its enrollment and many people publicly questioned the BCCC’s future in our city.”
At the July Board of Public Works meeting, $3.2 million in state funding was cut from BCCC’s operating budget along with $500,000 in very need facilities funding. Only BCCC was singled out for an unwarranted budget reduction. At the most recent budget and tax briefing, I spoke about the injustice of cutting the budget of one of Maryland’s only urban community colleges with a majority minority student population. In response, I received a commitment from the Hogan administration that they would attempt to correct this injustice during the proposed 2021 fiscal year budget.
I am thankful for BCCC’s leadership whom stepped up to shift the direction of BCCC over the past several years. With their support, and the support of so many others who believe in BCCC’s mission, the college has made great strides. As an alumus of BCCC, I hope that my fellow alumni and other community leaders will reach out to the Hogan administration to ensure that their commitment is kept. Baltimore City needs this now more than ever.
Holding Our Government Accountable
You may have read or heard to the story of our neighbor, Mr. Randolph Scott, a senior and retired veteran, whom opened his home to law enforcement officers as they responded to a barricade situation in his East Baltimore neighborhood. When the situation ended, Mr. Scott returned home to find his place seriously damaged without an explanation nor clear recourse for addressing the damage. The City of Baltimore immediately agreed to redress the matter, but further investigation places the cause on Maryland State Police (MSP) Officers offering mutual aid in the incident.
In response, my colleague Chair Maggie McIntosh, and I wrote the MSP seeking clarity on their policies and practices for such situations. Our hope is that all people are treated fairly and that we learn from these experiences to advance our public policies and hold all levels of government accountable to us …we the people. You can read our letter here.
Holding Community-Based Behavioral Health Programs Accountable
I proudly wrote to the Maryland Department of Health to add comments and note my opposition to the proposed CMDS inpatient Treatment Facility at 6040 Harford Road. Baltimore City has the largest concentration of behavioral health services in all of Maryland and for the past two years I have sought to advance improvements to the rules for permitting/zoning of these facilities and how they engage/relate to our communities and their needs. This matter was of the utmost importance to me because of the ill effects the proposed operator has as a part of its track-record of performance. Thankfully the application was withdrawn by the operator! I know that this negative experience does not represent the majority of behavioral health organizations which seek to be of service to the community, but we must proactively address the bad apples that exist in the bunch.
Unemployment Insurance Reminder
If you or someone you know needs help receiving your Unemployment Insurance, please contact our office as soon as possible!. For additional information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 841-3165.
Listening. Learning. Leading.
Senator, 45th Legislative District
While this message finds us at a tough time in our history, I remain steadfast and hopeful. As Congressman John Lewis modeled for us—with hard work and a commitment to justice—this too shall pass and we shall see our best days ahead. Our office is diligently tracking the effects of the COVID-19 crisis in our community, especially the changes and challenges to our schools, public health, and economic well-being. While the COVID-19 virus is demanding a great deal of my attention, I remained focused on the long-term needs and improvement of our community. Below I share a brief update on the activities that I have been engaged in for the last few weeks and hope you find the information helpful and encouraging.