February 4, 2022
This week was a busy, yet impactful week. As many know, three Baltimore firefighters passed away last Monday while responding to a fire in a row home. We will always remember their commitment to Baltimore.

We have also seen a rise in violent crime throughoutb the State. My colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus and I understand the urgency and have introduced a collaborative and coordinated plan to improve the safety of our community. Although fighting crime remains a core function of our counterparts in the executive branch, it is important the legislature provides the resources and support necessary for a comprehensive crime plan.

As we begin the month of February, Black History Month, please remember the tremendous contributions Blacks and African Americans have made to every sector of our society. Let's be sure to celebrate this every day.
Community Safety Plan Introduced
This week, I announced, along with my Senate colleagues, Attorney General Brian Frosh, and several Chiefs of Police, the Maryland Senate Democrats' Community Safety Plan, which includes a comprehensive package of bills and initiatives. Crime continues to be a considerable challenge and our now 2-year COVID-19 pandemic has further created an environment where many of our fellow Marylanders are struggling. These solutions require local, State, and federal executives who are responsible for implementing strategy and policy on a day-to-day basis to work together. We recognize that crime cannot be mitigated with one construct. Our initiatives include:

Prevention – Prevention is the most effective strategy and we are committed to prohibiting ghost guns, expanding funding for violence prevention, and implementing facility-based safety plans.

Intervention – Intervention is also an important step to keep situations from needlessly escalating. That is why we are committed to establishing a comprehensive gun analytics center, funding warrant apprehension efforts, and increasing behavioral health resources.  

Criminal Justice We must also acknowledge that transparency and accountability are foundational to a good government. That’s why we will move forward with efforts to increase judicial transparency and prosecutorial accountability this Session. 

Rehabilitation – Rehabilitation for people who deserve a second chance in society and need the help to start again is also crucial. This includes improving Parole and Probation so that supervisees are monitored and assessed comprehensively. Once an individual exits the criminal justice system, we must provide sufficient rehabilitation services to reduce recidivism and potential for victimization.

The Senate of Maryland stands ready to provide the resources and support that are needed so the executives can tackle crime and address violence in our State.
Memorial for Baltimore Firefighters
The loss of human life is never comprehensible and it can feel devastating for those they leave behind. Some say that time is what heals, while others have found that apathy helps suppress the pain.

On Wednesday, when I attended the memorial for our fallen firefighters Lt. Paul Butrim, Lt. Kelsey Sadler, and Firefighter/Paramedic Kenny Lacayo – for that moment, it was not about pain; it was not about the challenges of our City, but the heroes that lived amongst us. I saw all of our communities coming together in unity to memorialize and recognize our firefighters’ brave sacrifices. Remembering and honoring their lives, allowing ourselves to mourn together are what helps us heal. Seeing an outpouring of reverence and love from lives they have saved and people they have never met reminds me of the humanity that still sustains even in dark times.

I offer my deepest gratitude to our firefighters and their families. It is because of their sacrifices that their loved ones are only left with a memory of their lives. May our heroes rest in peace.
Celebrating Black History Month
Black History Month is a celebration of the men and women who have brought forth innovation, creativity, leadership, and sacrifices for our country. The Black community has ignited poignant and necessary social change that was ignored for so long. While the dedication of 28 days does not suffice, we recognize their triumphs and trials as we educate ourselves and celebrate their lives. 

As we pay tribute, we must also stand in solidarity. Within the early days of this year’s Black History Month, over a dozen of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and houses of worship faced bomb threats, two in Baltimore – Coppin and Morgan State University. Students, professors, administrators, and community members experienced fear that no individual should ever know while going to school. 

Black History Month will continue to commemorate the achievements of the men and women who have helped shape our community and country. 
COVID-19 Data Updates
Maryland has thankfully reached a decline in the Omicron surge with hospitalizations and transmission rates waning. Howard County, Anne Arundel County, and Baltimore County have lifted their indoor mask mandates. However, for the safety of our hospital staff, first responders, teachers, and families, Baltimore City's indoor mask mandate remains in place.

Please remember it is vital to maintain low case numbers and hospitalizations amidst nursing shortages. Hospitals need the capacity to care for your families and neighbors who may have comorbidities or other unexpected illnesses. We are grateful to those who have been vaccinated and have received their booster shot. With your help we will reach the end of this pandemic, so we can move forward to a future free of severe illness. 
Applications for Permanent Mail-In Ballot List
Voting is an important part of our democracy, especially during midterm elections. The freedom to elect your chosen local, State, and federal leaders and let your voice be heard on matters that affect our daily lives is the foundation of our country.

That's why last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation to expand access to the ballot box through requiring the State Board of Elections to send mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters in the State. In addition we codified the creation of a permanent mail-in ballot list for those who don't want to sign up again each year.

That application was sent out by the State Board of Elections this week and should be arriving in your mailbox in the coming days. Individuals also can request a mail-in ballot or register to vote online, however they must have a Maryland driver’s license or MVA Identification card.

For voters who would prefer to vote in person, they should not complete the form. Whether you choose to vote by mail or in person, I hope that you all participate in our democratic process.
More News
On Wednesday, Governor Hogan delivered his final State of the State. The Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Senator Will Smith, gave a compelling and complete picture of where we are in the Democratic response, which can be viewed here.

After several months of a cold winter, the Baltimore Orioles released its 2022 spring training schedule. Although warm weather will not be greeting us anytime soon, we can wait in anticipation for Opening Day.  

In response to the passing of the three Baltimore firefighters, Mayor Brandon Scott hopes to reduce vacant homes in the city. Mayor Scott will be requiring a report from all city agencies on their efforts to reduce vacant homes as they remain a danger to first responders.
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email, bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or by phone, 410-841-3600.