2020 End of Session Letter
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am continually honored by your support. As you know, Senator Shirley Nathan Pulliam retired after more than two decades of service to the citizens of Maryland. I submitted my name to be considered for appointment to serve out her term. I was selected by the Governor and I was sworn in on the General Assembly’s opening day, January 8, 2020. My selection would not have been possible without the outpouring of support from everyone. Thank you.
Upon entering the State Senate, I was appointed to serve on the Judicial Proceeding Committee (“JPR”), akin to the House’s Judiciary Committee on which I was privileged to serve. JPR acts on legislation relating to constitutional amendments; corporations and associations; correctional facilities and services; criminal and civil laws, penalties, and procedures; family law; human relations; judicial administration and court structure; juvenile justice; law enforcement organizations; the legal profession; legal rights and immunities; public safety; real property, including landlord and tenant laws; trusts and estates; and vehicle laws, including drunk driving. Unlike the House’s Judiciary Committee, JPR does not have any subcommittees upon which members serve.
I was appointed to two statutory joint committees, the Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Biotechnology (“JCCIT&B") and the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness (“JCEH”). As a member of JCCIT&B, I will work to broaden the support, knowledge, and awareness of advances in cybersecurity, information technology, and biotechnology to benefit the people of Maryland; evaluate State cybersecurity systems and the adequacy of economic development and job skills training programs to advance cybersecurity in the State. As a member of the JCEH, we are charged with ensuring that public resources, programs, and policies are coordinated and effective in preventing, mitigating the effects of, and ending homelessness. I was also appointed to Law Enforcement Body Camera Task Force, which was created pursuant to House Bill 739.
As you know, the Senate voted to adjourn by Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in light of the COVID- 19 global pandemic and the Maryland State of Emergency. This letter is a look back on the progress we made during the shortened 2020 Session in which I sponsored 27 bills and 2 Baltimore City Delegation bills, and co-sponsored 71 bills for Marylanders. As in years past, a few of the bills were a result of conversations I had with some of you! In this summary I will highlight some of the bills, and what each may mean to you and/or your families.
2020 Legislative Session
Legislation which passed and becomes law without Governor’s signature.
SB 246 (HB499): Criminal Procedure - Cell Site Simulators
A cell site simulator has the ability to mask itself as a cellphone tower and trick all cell phones in the vicinity into connecting and conveying information such as its location, numbers dialed, the content of text messages, phone calls, and more. Often, the collection of personal data by law enforcement is knowingly concealed from judges and even prosecutors in Maryland. Senate Bill 246 will require law enforcement, except under certain circumstances, to seek a court order when there is probable cause to believe a felony or misdemeanor has been, is being, or will be committed by a cellphone user. Under the bill, probable cause is also needed to ensure that the information collected from the cell site simulator will lead to evidence of the misdemeanor or felony being investigated or to the arrest of an individual where an arrest warrant was issued.
SB 475 (HB0447): Health Insurance – Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders - Coverage
Senate Bill 475 was introduced to ensure that Medicaid and other insurers cover treatment for young children suffering from Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections, otherwise known as PANDAS. Currently, parents must pay sometimes tens of thousands, and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket to treat their child afflicted with the condition. For some parents in Maryland, upon learning that their child has the condition, they are forced to wait helplessly for months or even years before they can afford the treatment.
SB0579 (HB0269): Child Support - Shared Physical Custody
Senate Bill 579 proposes the adjustment of basic child support obligations when a parent keeps the child or children overnight for more than 25% but less than 30% of the year. Senate Bill 579 offers a gradual calculation for support based on the number of overnight stays. The gradual decline in obligation is designed to render a more financially accurate and fair child support assessment.
SB0847 (HB0946): Child Support - Guidelines
Senate Bill 847 offers guidance to courts in reaching fair child support obligation decisions through 'self-support reserve' standards. The bill establishes that calculations of the basic child support obligation must be made by considering the earning of a minimum amount of monthly income, after payment of child support, federal and state income taxes, and Federal Insurance Contribution Act taxes, of at least 110% of the federal poverty level for an individual. Senate Bill 847 also offers guidelines for prohibiting self-impoverishment, expanding monthly earning schedules up to
$30,000 and accounts for unemployment, incarceration, and disability in court-ordered support decisions.
SB 859 (HB 200): Vehicle Laws - Registration Plate Frames and Borders - Enforcement Senate Bill 859 reduces the opportunity for unintentional discriminatory traffic stops due to a person driving a vehicle with a license plate frame that can be considered to be obstructing the view of the license plate. It reclassifies an offense for an obstructed license plate, an obscure law as is currently defined, as enforceable for secondary violations. The bill maintains confidence in
law officers' discretion for traffic stops associated with obstructed plates, but ensures a reduced opportunity for bias in these traffic stops.
Legislation which passed and was vetoed by Governor
SB1043 (HB1260): Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Funding
While my SB 1043 stalled, work that I began during my time in the House of Delegates came to fruition with the passage of HB1260. This bill, carried forward by House Speaker Adrienne Jones, creates additional appropriations for each of Maryland’s four historically black institutions, serving as a method of resolution for the long-standing federal lawsuit between students and graduates of Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The bill ensures that the schools receive adequate support for program development, student scholarship and grant resources, and creates more independent review for degree and program creation by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, in order to avoid illegal program duplication between historically black and predominantly white institutions. It is the first legislation of its kind to be introduced in any body of state legislatures and could be a landmark bill to help other publicly-supported HBIs nationwide to set terms of autonomy and growth in years to come.
The Governor vetoed this bill and submitted this letter as a justification for the veto.
SB 314: Juveniles Charged as Adults - Confidentiality of Records
Senate Bill 314 ensures that a juvenile charged as an adult will maintain their confidentiality until they have had a hearing to determine whether they would be charged as a juvenile or adult. This legislation is important to help juvenile offenders receive due process in legal review, and that their future prospects for rehabilitation, education, and employment is not impaired.
The Governor vetoed this bill and submitted this letter as a justification for the veto.
Additional legislation I sponsored worth noting
SB 861: Office of Personnel Services and Benefits – Study of Diversity of Employees in State Agencies
Requiring the Office of Personnel Services and Benefits within the Department of Budget and Management to study the number and salaries of certain employees employed by certain State agencies in a position of grade 19 or above who are African-American, Hispanic, or any other racial minority and report its findings to the Governor and a certain committee of the General Assembly on or before December 1, 2020, and June 1, 2021.
STATUS – This bill was withdrawn after the Secretary of Budget and Management agreed to conduct the studies and perform all of the provisions indicated in the bill.
SB0846 (HB0126): Public Safety – DNA Collection, Records, Analysis, and Reporting
This bill would have (1) establishes prohibitions relating to the collection of DNA samples and searches of the statewide DNA repository and direct-to-consumer genetic genealogy services; (2) expands the circumstances under which specified DNA samples and records must be destroyed or automatically expunged; and (3) expands the information that the Department of State Police must include in the annual report relating to DNA samples.
STATUS – This bill was withdrawn to be worked on via a Workgroup during the interim for the 2021 session.
SB 433: Legislative Department - Eligibility to Serve as Senators and Delegates - Place of Abode
Article III, § 9, of the Maryland Constitution requires that, to be eligible to serve as a member of the General Assembly, a person must have “resided” in the legislative district which he or she has been chosen to represent for at least six months prior to the election or, if the district has not been established for six months, for as long as it has been established. In its 1998 decision, the Court of Appeals held that State Senator Clarence Blount had not abandoned his long established domicile in the 41st legislative district simply because he also maintained a residence in another jurisdiction, where he often slept. There was a long discussion distinguishing the words reside and domicile. The court concluded that the senator was therefore eligible to continue serving as senator for the 41st district. (See Blount v. Boston, 351 Md. 360, 718 A.2d 1111).
I proposed this constitutional amendment because I believe someone running for the office of senator or delegate should actually live in the district he or she is attempting to represent. The bill would have altered eligibility requirements for the office of senator or delegate to require a person to have maintained a place of abode in the district he or she has been chosen to represent for at least six months preceding his or her election or, if applicable, as long as the district has been established. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and the bill died in the Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Legislation I co-sponsored which will become law without Governor’s signature
SB0227 /CH0135 (HB0250/CH0134): Peace Orders and Protective Orders – Extension SB0231 /CH0129 (HB0246/CH0128): Sexual Solicitation of a Minor - Solicitation Through Parent, Guardian, or Custodian - Prohibition and Penalties
SB0305 /CH0547 (HB0607): Public Safety - Crisis Intervention Team Center of Excellence SB0406 /CH0205 (HB0425/CH0204): Criminal Procedure - Sexual Assault Evidence Kits - Privacy, Reimbursement, and Notification
Legislation I co-sponsored which were vetoed by the Governor
Our Legislative response to COVID-19
SB1080/ CH0013 (HB 1663/CH0014): State Government – State of Emergency and Catastrophic Health Emergency – Authority of Governor and Unemployment Insurance Benefits COVID–19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020:
This bill allows the Governor to take specific actions to expand healthcare benefits and protect workers in response to the public health threat.
Around the District
There are ten (10) public schools located within Legislative District 44A (Baltimore City), and twenty-five (25) in Legislative District 44B (Baltimore County). Normally, I would look at the expenditures on education facilities, however, Baltimore City’s budget document that we received does not break out the numbers. In Baltimore County, Chadwick Elementary School received
$16,108,000 towards the completion of its new school building. Campfield Early Childhood Learning Center received $1,198.680, and Western Tech received $1,378.000 for a total of
$2,576.680 for temporary air conditioning systems.
Woodlawn High School: Last year I sponsored a legislative bond bill with Senator Shirley Nathan Pulliam and received for Woodlawn High School $350,000.00 for its athletic facilities, much of which was for the restoration of its baseball fields. I found out late in the process that the fields were in such bad shape because of flooding, in that they were built on a flood plain. While the flood plain issue is being studied, I agreed to reassign $200,000.00 from the baseball fields to fund the restoration of its athletic track, because like the baseball fields the poor track and field meant Woodlawn could not hold competitive events at home. This session, I was able to obtain a
$150,000.00 legislative bond that will be used to restore the baseball fields once the flood plain study is completed.
Funding for Local Project: Baltimore City P.S. 103 I was able to obtain a $150,000.00 legislative bond for the restoration of P.S. 103. The school is also set to receive a $6 million makeover, turning it into a legal resource center and museum space for the surrounding community. Plans for its redevelopment include space for legal advocacy offices, gun violence prevention work and job training, according to partners in the project. It will include interactive exhibits that showcase the history of prominent leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, who attended
P.S. 103 from 1914-1920, as well as a re-created campaign office of the late U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings to serve as a setting for programs to encourage people to vote.
Baltimore County Projects in County Budget. I have been advocating on behalf of Baltimore County’s Western communities for projects that are essential for our continued growth and development. County Executive Johnny Olszewski has taken the first step towards their realization in the County’s 2021 Fiscal Year budget. All of these projects were approved by the Baltimore County Council. They are as follows.
- Western Hills Community Center feasibility study: $100,000.00.
- Windsor Mill Road (sidewalks) Phase 1: $1,000,000.00.
- Woodlawn High School’s Early College Program and Pathway at Dundalk Community College: $250,000.00.
- Woodlawn Senior Center Expansion Feasibility Study: $100,000.00.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Senator. If I can be of service, please feel free to contact me or my Chief of Staff, Gene Clark.
Very truly yours,