March 14, 2022
The past week has been solemn and devastating as we continue witnessing the tragedy occurring in Ukraine. The unprovoked, unjustified, and abhorrent aggression by Russia against its neighbor has caused each of us to take stock of the most fundamental principles of freedom that too often we take for granted. The resolve of the Ukrainian people and President Zelensky is unquestionable as Ukrainians fight to protect their homes and communities.

As a symbolic gesture, Maryland has severed ties by ending our sister-state relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia. Let us all remember that there is immense power in action that is coordinated for the greater good, regardless of ideology or individual interest. As Marylanders and Americans consistently demonstrate in a crisis, there is more that unites than divides us. The world, our nation, and the people of Maryland stand firmly in support of Ukrainians, against all tyranny and oppression. 

On the legislative front, this coming week will be a critical one for the Maryland General Assembly as we approach crossover, the day by which bills must be passed by their chamber of origin to avoid additional hurdles. Since the beginning of the 2022 Legislative Session, I have emphasized that the Senate of Maryland will be focused on our economy and health.

On Thursday, I was pleased to announce a plan to suspend Maryland’s gas tax for 30 days alongside House Speaker Jones and the Governor. This will provide short-term relief to Marylanders as we see prices at the gas pump increase quickly because of the events in Ukraine. During the remaining weeks of session, the Senate of Maryland will continue to focus on short and long-term solutions that ensure the safety and well-being of all Marylanders during these uncertain times.
Senate Community Safety Plan Update
The fundamental purpose of government is keeping communities and people safe, where everyone can raise their families, go to work, and thrive. The Senate has been working on legislation that is a part of a larger statewide safety plan to reduce violence through prevention, intervention, criminal justice, and rehabilitation. As we work on this issue, community safety requires bipartisanship as we listen to our constituents in from across Maryland.
Ghost Guns
(Senate Bill 387)

Crimes perpetrated using “ghost guns”, or untraceable firearms, have drastically risen in recent years as the accessibility of ordering parts online has increased. In Baltimore City alone last year, over 300 ghost guns were seized, accounting for 15% of all firearm seizures. The lack of serial numbers and an ability to sufficiently track their use creates issues both for our partners in law enforcement, and prosecutors who are trying to hold perpetrators accountable.

Senate Bill 387 passed second reading on Friday with a number of amendments to make its implementation easier. That includes delaying the prohibition on possessing a ghost gun to March 1, 2023 so people have time to serialize any guns they assembled through a kit already. Additionally, each time a firearm receives a distinct serial number, it will also trigger a background check by the Maryland State Police to ensure anyone who should not be in possession of a firearm cannot keep it. Senate Bill 387 will pass the Senate early this week and move over to the House to work out differences between the chambers.
Maryland State Police Gun Center
(Senate Bill 387)

Coordinating resources effectively includes gathering intelligence for investigating and prosecuting crimes. Senate Bill 861 establishes the Maryland State Police Gun Center as a “one-stop shop” for screening and vetting gun cases in Maryland will lead to more systemic enforcement and effective prosecution of gun crimes. The research and collaboration at the State-level for any gun-related crime will improve community safety by tracking crimes involving a firearm and holding offenders accountable.

I’m grateful to the Judicial Proceedings Committee for working through this critical legislation in a bipartisan manner. Ensuring that we are collecting and communicating gun crime data between local and State governments will lead to greater sharing of intelligence based on trends, enforcement of our laws, and resulting prosecutions.
Judicial Transparency and Prosecutorial Accountability
(Senate Bills 392 and 763)

Transparency and accountability are foundational to good government, and the criminal justice system is no different. Marylanders should be confident that judges are making decisions in the public interest. Making informed and strategic choices requires access to data. The Senate is committed to increasing judicial transparency and allowing Marylanders to better understand sentencing decisions in our courts. Senate Bill 392 will bring much-needed transparency to our criminal justice system by requiring the State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy to publish case information on how violent offenders are being sentenced across our State.

Our criminal justice system also needs transparency at the prosecutorial level. Senate Bill 763 requires the cooperation of local State’s Attorneys to ensure that criminal sentencing is just and transparent. Marylanders must understand the decisions that prosecutors are making, especially as it relates to violent crime. This bill requires prosecutors to disclose the rationale of their decisions regarding repeat offenders and establishes requirements for the collection and distribution of key information for each jurisdiction.
Baltimore City Public Safety Initiatives
(Senate Bill 586)

Senate Bill 586 addresses public safety in Baltimore City. First, it requires the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) to receive notice when a defendant is released before trial within 24 hours. The bill also establishes a Jobs Court Pilot Program in the District Court in Baltimore City to reduce recidivism by offering defendants an opportunity to participate in full-time jobs training and job placement programs as a part of probation or other court-related programs. Finally, the bill ensures accurate firearm seizure and recovery data in Baltimore City by establishing robust reporting requirements for BPD.

Reducing violence requires a coordinated plan, so that the tools and frameworks are in place to communicate effectively and make communities safe. We must do everything we can to proactively prevent violence.
Climate Solutions Act of 2022
The Maryland Senate was on the Floor for over five hours on Thursday debating the Climate Solutions Act of 2022. This bill sets bold, aggressive, and practical goals for reducing Maryland’s emissions of greenhouse gasses 60% by 2030 and reaching net neutral emissions by 2045. As amended, Senate Bill 528 will electrify our State vehicle fleet, fund the construction of new net-zero schools, leverage private funding for green energy investments, and limit methane emissions from landfills.

The climate crisis is having drastic impacts throughout our State as extreme weather increases. We must take finite and achievable actions to reduce our emissions. Maryland has long been a leader in addressing climate change and the passage of the Climate Solutions Act of 2022 provides a model which other States can and should replicate.
Great Maryland Outdoors Act
Maryland State Parks are a national treasure for all generations to enjoy, but our parks first need financial resources to address the backlog of maintenance issues that have limited families from visiting. As our State parks reach record levels of attendance throughout the pandemic, the Maryland Senate will ensure that there is adequate access to these invaluable resources. To accomplish this goal, the Senate is passing the Great Maryland Outdoors Act (SB 541). This bill will expand access to and the quality of State parks across Maryland. It will provide jobs for all ages that sustain the conservation of our park. It will also increase visitors, thus bringing economic benefits and continuing the expansion of Maryland’s natural beauty. 

Maryland has spent a lot of time investing in other infrastructure and industries; it is time that we begin investing in our incredible natural resources. This week, the Senate will take the final vote on the Great Maryland Outdoors Act before the legislation goes over to the House of Delegates.
More News
Each day in March, we will not only celebrate the women who have made an impact in our world, but also the women who serve Maryland in our Senate. The contributions of women around the world have advanced technology, humanity, and our society. Their identities as leaders, business women, inventors, partners, mothers, sisters, and daughters will be highlighted throughout this month as we recognize their influence in our lives. 

As a former teacher, I enjoy announcing any news about education. The 100% Project, a school initiative from Baltimore City Public Schools System, focuses on improving school performance. I am happy to announce The 100% Project is expanding and hiring! Candidates can RSVP and express interest here.

On March 27 at 2 p.m., Baltimore’s very own Greektown will be celebrating the Greek Independence Day Parade. This will be the 201st year that Greece declared its independence. The parade features dance groups in ethnic costumes, children groups, and Orthodox Clergy from the Baltimore-Washington area. Be sure to catch the parade as it proceeds from Haven Street, up Eastern Avenue, onto Ponca Street, and ends just past the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
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.