March 5, 2021
This week, the Senate of Maryland passed a robust, meaningful, and comprehensive police reform package of nine bills that will fundamentally improve public safety in Maryland. The package is centered on three core values: trust, transparency, and accountability.

From creating uniform accountability standards with meaningful civilian oversight through the repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights to restoring local control of the Baltimore Police Department to creating a statewide use of force standard with criminal penalties for failing to report violations, this legislation will make every single Marylander safer - community members and police alike. I want to note that six of the bills passed unanimously, and some of the others with bipartisan support - a testament to the hard work of the members of the Judicial Proceedings (JPR) Committee.

JPR ultimately voted out a package that thoughtfully incorporated the feedback of civil rights attorneys and law enforcement officers to create the best possible output. I am extremely thankful to Chair William Smith, Senators Jill P. Carter, Charles E. Sydnor III, Michael A. Jackson, Jeff Waldstreicher, Susan Lee, and Shelly Hettleman for their countless hours of work and commitment to this package over the last six months. 

The Baltimore Sun's article summed up the package well at the beginning of their article.
"A slate of legislation touted by supporters as the most consequential law enforcement reforms in a half-century passed the Maryland Senate on Wednesday, moving the General Assembly closer to fulfilling vows from its leaders to tackle such issues following nationwide protests last summer.

Among the nine bills are provisions that would overhaul the disciplinary process for police officers accused of wrongdoing, scrap decades-old job protections that critics claim protect bad cops, create a legal duty for officers to report misconduct within their ranks, levy criminal penalties for officers who use excessive force and put body cameras on every officer in Maryland by 2025."

To read more about the Senate’s police reform package, you can check out some of the articles below:
27,181 Marylanders Receiving Checks Thanks to RELIEF Act and Recovery Now Package
Thanks to the Maryland General Assembly's additions to the RELIEF Act, 27,181 Marylanders who have been stuck in unemployment insurance purgatory for over a month are beginning to receive $1,000 checks. This aid is vital to get people through this unbelievably challenging moment while they wait for their application for unemployment benefits to be approved.

The number of people still in adjudication remains unacceptably high and my office continues to see large numbers of constituents reaching out with new issues each week. The General Assembly will pass a comprehensive Unemployment Insurance reform package this Session, but it was vital to get financial support to these hurting Marylanders as quickly as possible to ensure they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
Climate Solutions Now Act Progresses in Senate
The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs and Budget and Taxation Committees advanced the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021, a sweeping climate bill that would put Maryland on track towards achieving statewide net-zero emissions by 2045. The omnibus bill would require the State to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% and plant 5 million trees by 2030, with at least 10% of those trees in underserved urban areas. It would also reform the State’s environmental justice commission, require at least one of the next five schools built in each jurisdiction to meet net-zero energy requirements, and require new buses that the Maryland Transportation Administration purchases to be zero emission buses by fiscal year 2023.

The Climate Solutions Now Act calls for changes that are ambitious but achievable. Addressing climate change is urgent, as increasing greenhouse gas emissions have caused rising sea levels, warming temperatures, and more extreme weather phenomena in recent years. The bill is also intimately connected to conversations about equity. Because environmental burdens, such as elevated levels of air pollutants, are often disproportionately shouldered by low-income and Black communities, the bill makes targeted investments in these communities. I am thankful for Chair Paul Pinsky, the sponsor of the Climate Solutions Now Act, and the other senators on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, for their dedication to getting Maryland on track to fight climate change while promoting environmental justice so our State can be a healthy place for all Marylanders.
Adult High School Funding Passes the Senate
On Thursday, the Maryland Senate passed Senate Bill 630, which would expand funding for Maryland’s Adult High School Pilot Program. Currently, Maryland has two approved operators of Adult High School programs, including one run by Elev8 in partnership with Baltimore City Community College in Cherry Hill, but they have been unable to secure the necessary funding to open their respective schools and begin serving prospective students. I am proud to sponsor Senate Bill 630 to provide adequate funding to the Adult High School Pilot Program, which has the potential to provide high-quality secondary education and access to career training for an estimated 500,000 Maryland adults without a high school diploma.

A high school diploma can open up new career pathways, with data from Baltimore City showing that an individual with a high school diploma or equivalent credential earns about $7,000, or 33%, more per year than an individual without one. The need for fully operational adult high schools has only become more urgent with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused economic hardship and increased competition for employment. In this moment when the need for adult educational pathways is increasingly critical, we have an imperative to promote access to adult education resources such as those provided through the Adult High School Pilot Program. The bill will move next to the House, where I am hopeful for its speedy passage.
J&J Authorized and Vaccine Equity Top Priority
On Saturday, the Federal Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, making it the third highly effective vaccine that has been authorized for use. This approval is incredible news, highlighting the science that is happening right here in Baltimore. Nearly 50,000 J&J doses were deployed in Maryland this week, and I am hopeful that this boost in supply will support vaccination efforts in our State and across the U.S.

Equity in vaccine distribution and access continues to be a priority. On Monday, the Baltimore City Senate delegation sent a letter to the Governor around the State’s inequitable vaccine distribution strategy. We are disappointed by the Governor’s misleading comments about Baltimore City’s residents receiving more doses than they are “entitled to”, since we know that fewer than 40% of those vaccinated in Baltimore City have been City residents. Additionally, in an op-ed published last weekend, three former Baltimore City health commissioners re-emphasized points regarding the statewide racial disparities in vaccine distribution and the lack of transparent, disaggregated data on the individuals receiving vaccines at each State-run site.

Shortly after our letter’s publication, the Department of Health announced a pilot program being run by the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital to prioritize vaccinating residents of Baltimore neighborhoods where vaccination rates have lagged. The program will partner with community organizations, including senior centers and places of worship, to support registering for vaccination appointments and coordinating transportation to sites. The Senate Vaccine Oversight Group, which continues to meet Mondays at 4 p.m., will monitor the implementation of the pilot program.

Finally, I want to take a moment to remember that today marks exactly one year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Maryland. During a year marked with unimaginable challenges and losses, I want to express my gratitude again for all of our State’s frontline healthcare workers, and the many individuals working day in and day out to keep Marylanders safe and healthy. With developments in vaccine distribution across the State, I encourage us to keep doing our parts by continuing to wear masks, socially distance, and limit in-person gatherings.
School Buildings Reopening for In-Person Learning
With the start of March, many districts in Maryland, including Baltimore City Public Schools, have brought some students back into school buildings for in-person learning. In our District 46, students at Holabird Academy and Graceland Park/O'Donnell Heights Elementary/Middle have walked into new net-zero school buildings for the first time ever. 

I am cautiously optimistic about the resumption of in-person learning because of the thorough safety precautions and the weekly COVID-19 testing that the District is implementing. I want to express my deep thanks for Baltimore’s teachers, staff, and school leaders, who worked diligently over the past year to support students with online learning and are now adapting to some in-person components of school. I will continue to support the District in monitoring the progression of bringing students back to school buildings and advocating for flexible and data-driven learning plans that prioritize the safety and well-being of students, families, and staff.
More News
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is moving through the Senate. House Speaker Jones and I have written an op-ed urging its swift passage, to provide much needed support for families and businesses all over our country.

The Maryland Senate has passed the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) Reform Act of 2021, which would reform the agency so it can truly serve its purpose of protecting Maryland’s environment with integrity and transparency. The bill will now move to the House of Delegates. 

The U.S. House of Representatives has also passed H.R. 1, the “For the People Bill”, which will make drastically needed reforms to elections and campaign financing, including automatic voter registration, increased election security, and transparency in campaign donations and political advertisements. H.R. 1 was sponsored by Maryland Representative John Sarbanes, who has been a continual advocate for equitable election reform. 

The Baltimore Children’s Cabinet, led by the Mayor's Office of Children and Family Success, released its 2021 Action Plan, which has 15 action points for supporting Baltimore’s youth, including improving early childhood development, making trauma-informed care services more responsive, reducing youth food insecurity, and strengthening youth homeless prevention.

Morgan State University will open Maryland’s third Center for Urban Health Equity in 2024. The Center will research how to help Black communities in Baltimore reduce health disparities.
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email,, or by phone, 410-841-3600.