Dear Friends,

We are in the thick of session where I zoom into committee hearings, participate in in-person committee voting sessions, and vote on bills from my desk on the Senate floor. In between, I'm on the phone with constituents, talking with colleagues, and trying to arrive at consensus among stakeholders on legislation.

For the last week or so, along with my colleagues on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, I've been immersed in the details of a package of police reform bills that will likely be considered by the full Senate next week. More on those bills soon.

Last week, the General Assembly passed the Recovery Now package that will provide direct aid to individuals, families, and businesses that are experiencing economic distress. In this newsletter, we'll update you on: 1) how to find out if you're eligible for economic relief; 2) veto overrides the General Assembly considered; 3) my legislative priorities; 4) vaccine distribution.

Along with so many of you, I'm quite disappointed with the state's decentralized distribution process that requires a "Hunger Games"- style effort to obtain a vaccination appointment. The Senate Oversight Workgroup on Vaccines has been meeting each Monday at 4:00 to press the Department of Health on being more efficient, transparent and fair in this process. There doesn't seem to be any magic bullet in obtaining an appointment, but please try to be patient and persistent, and keep trying! We're hopeful that supply will increase soon.

Finally, if you know anyone who could use financial assistance to attend college or graduate school in Maryland, please encourage them to apply for my scholarship. Information is provided below.

As always, if I or my amazing staff - Maura, Janet, Molly, Rochelle or Lily - can assist you in any way, please let us know.

Stay safe & healthy!

Sincerely,
Shelly's Signature
This past week, the Maryland General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, the Relief Act that provides direct stimulus payments to over 420,000 eligible recipients. An estimated 98% of those payments are expected to be processed by Friday, February 19th. Are you eligible? Please check here to find out!

RELIEF Act: Listed below are only some of the benefits of the RELIEF Act. You can also check out this video from the Comptroller's Office for more information.

- Taxpayers who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit in Tax Year 2019 and reside in or have permanent residence in Maryland as of February 12 are eligible for one-time stimulus payments of $300 or $500. Taxpayers can visit the Comptroller's website to see if they qualify and check the status of their payments. They can also call 1-833-345-0787 or email ReliefAct@marylandtaxes.gov for more assistance. No application is necessary. For more information check out these FAQ's

- Marylanders awaiting unemployment insurance adjudication will be sent $1,000 grants. Check out these FAQ's for more information.

- State income taxes on Unemployment Insurance income received during 2020 and 2021 will be waived for single filers who report under $75,000 in income and joint filers who report under $100,000. Taxpayers who have already filed their 2020 State tax returns can file an amended return for a full refund of Maryland state income taxes.
The Senate has recently taken up bills that were vetoed by Governor Hogan at the conclusion of the truncated 2020 General Assembly session. The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated long standing disparities, inequities, and injustices. The bills that were passed focused on creating a safer and more equitable Maryland to reverse those injustices.

Closes a loophole in Maryland and requires that the sale, rental, or transfer of a long gun also include a background check. 

Protects the identity of minors charged as adults until the appropriate time and preserves the integrity of our justice system and ensures impartial outcomes.

Ensures gender parity in pre-release resources and corrects Maryland’s separate and unequal policy between male and female inmates. 

At a time when Maryland’s budget is being impacted in unforeseen and astronomical ways due to COVID-19, this law ensures that big tech and big tobacco start paying their fair share. Increases various taxes imposed on tobacco products. The Digital Ad Tax is about making sure big tech pays their fair share while profiting off our personal data.
 
Modernizing Maryland’s tax code is a necessary step to providing our children the ability to maximize their potential and receive the world-class education they deserve. 

The Blueprint is an investment in a more equitable future for the State of Maryland that allows every single student to maximize their potential. At a time when our students, especially students of color and those living in areas with high concentrations of poverty, are experiencing immense learning loss, the worst thing we can do is reverse course on a plan that was created to help resolve these exact issues. 
If you would like more information about my bills or would like to watch the bill hearings that have been held already, please click here. In addition to the thirteen bills I have already shared, here are my remaining bills for the 2021 session:

Organics Recycling & Waste Bill SB483 This legislation would require large-scale food waste generators within a 30-mile radius of organics recycling facilities to compost their waste. This bill gives waste generators flexible options in order to achieve the goals set. For example, instead of sending food waste to organic recycling facilities, generators could implement their own methods of reducing waste, such as self-management onsite, agricultural usage, or through donations. Click here for the hearing.

Victims of Crime - Private Room SB484 - requires police departments to offer crime victims a private room for reporting issues of a sensitive nature. Click here for the hearing.

Child Abuse- Continuing Course of Conduct SB505 - establishes that when someone charged with the care of a child engages in a “continuing course of conduct” that includes three or more acts of second-degree child abuse, they may be charged with first-degree child abuse. Click here for the hearing.

Body Worn Camera SB583 - requires that new (purchased after Jan. 1, 2022) police body-worn cameras, automatically record and save two minutes of audio and video footage immediately prior to the officer activating the record button on the device.

Waiver Name Change SB581 - removes the antiquated and burdensome requirement to publish name changes. Removing the name change publishing requirement will help keep safe transgender and non-binary people and survivors of domestic violence who wish to avoid risk and stigma, giving them the dignity and privacy they deserve.

Commercial Tenant Liability SB582 - protects individual business owners who have been devastated by the impacts of COVID19 to get relief from personal liability clauses in commercial rental agreements during the state of emergency.

Alcohol Bill SB205 - authorizes restaurants, bars, and taverns to sell and deliver certain alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption or delivery.

Domestic Terrorism Task Force SB864 - establishes a Task Force on Preventing and Countering Domestic Terrorism to consider optimal policies and practices for preventing and countering domestic terrorism.

Reusable Tenant Screening SB691 - allows renters and landlords to streamline the rental application process by requiring a “reusable tenant screening report” and prohibits a landlord from charging fees related to the reports.

Office of the Attorney General Ombudsman SB809 - establishes an ombudsman position in the Office of the Attorney General to investigate complaints, mediate, and report on concerns within the corrections system.
Vaccine Update

Please know that I share your desire to have everyone receive the COVID-19 vaccination as quickly and efficiently as possible. Although my colleagues and I fundamentally believe that vaccine prioritization decisions are best left to public health experts, as opposed to elected officials, we are doing everything within our power to ensure openness and transparency in the vaccine prioritization and distribution process.

We are equally frustrated with the pace at which vaccine distribution has started in Maryland, as well as the conflicting information regarding eligibility criteria over the last few weeks. I urge everyone to tune into the weekly Vaccine Workgroup hearings, held every Monday at 4pm. Simply click the camera icon for previously recorded sessions or the LIVE button on the day of.

You can text MDReady to 89821 to learn when appointments are available at our mass vaccination sites at Six Flags in Prince George’s County and the Convention Center in Baltimore, with another coming to M&T Bank Stadium coming Feb. 25th. Residents can call the Maryland Health Department 877-319-1525 with any feedback and specific questions related to the virus or the vaccine. For individuals who may not be able to access the vaccine registry via computer or who need additional assistance, please call 311 or use the Baltimore County COVID-19 hotline 410-887-3816.

Helpful Links & Information:
Each year, Delegates and Senators in the Maryland General Assembly award thousands of Maryland students millions of dollars in financial aid. Please note that Senatorial Scholarships are awarded for 4 years and are automatically renewed each year. Upon graduation, students may re-apply for graduate studies.

Applications for my scholarship are due on or before April 16, 2021.
Questions? Contact: jeckman@senate.state.md.us
We regularly update our Resource Guide - please check out recently announced programs by clicking on the button below. Please don't hesitate to call or email my office if we can be of assistance.
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