December 30, 2020
Today's newsletter will be the last of the year and I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your ongoing support. It's been a whirlwind of a year as I stepped into the role of Senate President and a once-in-a-generation pandemic that has disrupted every aspect of life around the world.

It's safe to say that all of us are ready to leave 2020 behind as we plan for the eventual return to normalcy as vaccine distribution efforts ramp up in Maryland and across the country. I sincerely hope that all of you have a fantastic holiday season and are able to take time to recharge after what has been an immensely challenging year.

From me and my family to you and yours, I wish you all happy holidays and a safe, healthy New Year!
Honoring Senate President Emeritus Miller
Last week, I received a letter of resignation from Senator President Emeritus Miller. Over the last year, my relationship with Senator Miller has evolved in ways that I will be forever grateful, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to rely regularly on his experience and guidance. I am both saddened that he is unable to continue serving the people of the 27th District due to his illness, but honored to be able to celebrate his historic legacy of service to the people of Maryland over these last 50 years. I know how difficult a decision this has been for him to make, yet I also know that it is one based off the interests of his constituents and the people of Maryland, the quintessential trait of Senator Miller. 

While Senator Miller and I had differing views on policies at times over the years, he always had an open door and was willing to hear out the arguments from a differing point of view. Even when we ended up on differing sides of an issue, I knew that his ultimate decision was based on his belief about what was best for the institution of the Maryland Senate and the people of Maryland. Over the last year as presiding officer of this honorable chamber, I have come to appreciate ever more the delicate balance that Senator Miller was required to maintain for 33 years as President of the Senate. His impact on this institution is historic and lasting.
 
Every Marylander, and every Senator for the last 50 years, has been deeply affected by Mike’s leadership and commitment to bettering the lives and opportunities of others. His example of leadership and statesmanship has and will continue to serve as a model for public servants in Maryland for years to come.
Nearly 800 Pre-Filed Bills for the 2021 Session
The upcoming Legislative Session is going to be different from any other Session in recent memory and the number of pre-filed bills and joint resolutions this year is already highlighting that fact. As of this week, there are 358 pre-filed bills in the Senate and 422 in the House of Delegates ahead of the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session. As a means of comparison, there were less than 200 bills pre-filed last Session.

In addition to providing support to our State in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some of our priorities are readily apparent in the pre-filed bills. House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1 provide funding for Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities and House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 will reform the Maryland Environmental Service.
Avoid Nonessential Travel Over the Holidays
I join Governor Hogan in urging all Marylanders to avoid non-essential travel over the holidays. COVID-19 transmission remains unacceptably high as the State continues to see over 2,000 cases per day and hospitalizations are once again rising towards peak levels. If you absolutely must travel, Governor Hogan's latest executive order mandates that you must either obtain a negative COVID-19 test result or quarantine for ten days after returning.

In addition to the increased travel restriction, Maryland is suspending customer-facing operations including the temporary closure of MVA offices, and releasing another $180 million in economic relief for small businesses, temporary cash assistance, and funding for disability care providers.
Vaccine Distribution Begins in Maryland
Maryland has allocated more than 191,000 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Last week's shipments should include enough doses to cover 90% of our State's critical frontline hospital staff. In addition, CVS and Walgreens are current receiving shipments of both vaccines to begin vaccination clinics at nursing homes last week. First responders are also included in Maryland's 1A tier for vaccination and 100-dose shipments of the Moderna vaccine will be shipped to every local health department to help test the logistics chain so they can prepare accordingly.

Vaccine distribution will ramp up in the coming months and I look forward to receiving the vaccine when it becomes available to me. I highly encourage each of you to do the same. In the meantime, I implore all Marylanders to continue taking the difficult, but necessary steps to decrease transmission rates, ensure our hospitals do not become overwhelmed, and protect one another in the meantime. Wear your masks, wash your hands, and watch your distance.
Congressional COVID-19 Relief
Congress passed a long overdue $900 billion COVID-19 relief package last week with necessary and critical supports for a number of sectors. Although the bill is far from perfect and does not do enough to support families or local and state governments, it comes at an urgent moment as expanded Unemployment Insurance benefits briefly expired this week. It was extraordinarily disappointing to see the President delay signing the legislation, but I'm glad that it has since been enacted, and individuals and families are beginning to receive necessary supports.

A brief summary of what's included in the package can be found below:
  • $286 billion in direct economic relief for workers and families;
  • $325 billion in small business support;
  • $45 billion in transit funding;
  • $69 billion for vaccines, testing and tracing, community health, and health care provider supports;
  • $25 billion in rental assistance including an estimated $400 million for Maryland;
  • $7 billion to expand broadband access; and
  • $10 billion to support the child care sector and Head Start programs.
More News
Governor Hogan’s former chief of staff Roy McGrath provided few answers to questions when he was subpoenaed to appear before the Joint Committee on Fair Practices & State Personnel Oversight. Mr. McGrath repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and responded multiple times that he did not recall answers to questions that the legislators asked.

The Maryland General Assembly's bipartisan Spending Affordability Committee voted unanimously on several recommendations for Maryland’s 2022 fiscal year budget, including lowering the recommended level of reserves in the state’s Rainy Day Fund by about $200 million. The committee also voted to support recommendations to cap the structural deficit in the 2022 budget at $700 million, and to prioritize any federal stimulus funding to one-time ― as opposed to ongoing ― expenses.

Mayor Brandon Scott continues to announce key hires, including Jim Shea as City Solicitor and Dana Moore as the City's first Chief Equity Officer. Both appointees will need to be confirmed by the Baltimore City Council and would bring immense experience to our City's operations.

I was glad to see the City announce additional support to our immigrant community that has been disparately impacted by COVID-19 through an economic relief fund. That relief fund is supported by the City, as well as more than 15 foundations and private donors, and will provide one-time payments of $400 for individuals and $800 for families with a priority on those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if there is anything we can do to help via email at bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or phone via 410-841-3600.