Week 8: Coronavirus Preparation, Preakness, and Long Guns
This Week In Annapolis
Maryland Coronavirus Response - Governor Hogan and leaders in the Maryland General Assembly are working in coordination to ensure that Maryland agencies have the funding and support they need to address the potential spread of coronavirus . The Governor has requested $10 million for these efforts and the state lab is currently working on the ability to test samples from patients who may have contracted the virus. Three more patients are being tested to rule out coronavirus, but Maryland does not yet have any confirmed cases. Please stay up to date through the Maryland Department of Health's website as the situation progresses .
Future of the Preakness - Legislation to invest $389 million into Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park, and Bowie Race Track was heard in the Budget and Taxation Committee on Tuesday. The package is the product of months of negotiation and would allow the Preakness to remain in Baltimore, while ensuring Laurel would remain a year round training and racing facility . The hearing drew significant support from leaders in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, and Howard Counties, as well as Baltimore City. There was no opposition to the bill in the hearing.
HOME Act Passes Senate - After nearly twenty years since Senator Delores Kelley originally introduced the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act in 2002, it passed the Maryland Senate by a vote of 34-12 under a new sponsor, Senator Will Smith. The HOME Act prohibits rental housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income and has been in place in Baltimore City, as well as being recently enacted in Baltimore County.
Closing the Long Gun Loophole - Senate Bill 208, sponsored by Senator Susan Lee to require background checks for all purchases and permanent transfers of long guns, passed out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and will now move to the Senate Floor. Tens of thousands of guns are sold, or transferred each year without background checks in Maryland through private transactions. This bill closes the loophole that allows that to happen without necessary and common sense precautions being taken first.
Taking on Medical Debt - A package of legislation to address the growing issue of medical debt is being closely watched as those bills are heard in front of the relevant House and Senate committees. As reported by the Baltimore Sun , “ Maryland hospitals sued their patients over unpaid bills more than 145,700 times in the 10 years that ended in 2018 , leading to wage garnishments, liens and bankruptcies, according to a new report from a coalition of consumer groups and unions.” Legislation in front of the General Assembly would put in guardrails to protect consumers from these unnecessarily harmful lawsuits.
Protective Orders for Sexual Assault Victims - The Senate passed a bill yesterday to extend the opportunity for sexual assault victims to file for protective orders against their alleged attackers in civil court. The measure helps to clarify what a sexual relationship means as multiple judges have interpreted the language differently. Senator Hettleman made the point that, “This bill is about believing women. This bill reflects today’s reality.” Similar legislation has been passed out of the House already and the two versions of the legislation now need to be reconciled.
Back In Baltimore
Team46 Town Hall - Thank you to everyone who made it out on Saturday for Team46's Annual Legislative Town Hall! It was a pleasure to see so many active neighbors and leaders in one place to talk about the priorities of the 2020 Legislative Session. Your questions and feedback continue to be vital to the work we do in Annapolis and I hope you will continue to be in touch.
A Proud History - As February draws to a close, take a moment to learn about another example of how Baltimore led the way in the fight for civil rights. The Baltimore Sun piece linked here tells the story of the United Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty and it's trailblazing work in the city that helped the better known organizations which followed in their footsteps.
No Surprise Here - The Daily Record put a list together of the “coolest spaces” in Maryland of 30 locations around the state. If you take a look at the list, it will come as a surprise to see so many spaces in District 46 featured on the list including the Filbert Street Garden.
Just Down the Road in D.C. - Baltimore’s own late Rep. Elijah Cummings was honored in DC this week when the committee room he served in was named in his honor. Among other remarks detailed in the article from the Baltimore Sun was the observation that “Cummings is the first African American House member to have a hearing room in the capitol complex named in his honor.”
Things to do in Baltimore This Weekend - In case you didn't realize, it's a leap year! Take a look at what events are happening around town this weekend, and give an extra look at some of the fun being had to celebrate the calendar. Check the list put together by the Baltimore Fishbowl .
National Coalition of School Diversity Conference - Join over 400 people from across the country to discuss and strengthen strategies for promoting racial and socioeconomic integration in elementary and secondary schools at the NCSD's fifth national conference!
In The News
Check out an interview I did with the Hagerstown Herald News last week. I discussed what it’s like to be Senate President following in the footsteps of a giant, Senator Mike Miller, as well as the importance of taking a statewide approach in this new role.

The Baltimore Sun’s Editorial Board responded to Governor Hogan’s press conference on crime last week asking for a serious partner in addressing the City’s violence . They implore the Governor to look past polling numbers, saying, “What we need is help. We need a partner. We need someone on the second floor of the State House who understands our plight.” The General Assembly stands willing and ready to work with the Governor and his Administration to urgently curb the unacceptable levels of violence.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan would allow any Maryland jurisdiction to opt-in to a pilot program currently taking place around the country to test new technology which could detect drugged driving . The technology was designed as more states are moving to legalize marijuana and rates of impaired driving has increased in those states.

While not the sexiest issue, Maryland remains one of only 13 states to maintain a AAA bond rating ahead of selling $800 million in general obligation bonds. The constitutional requirement to balance our state budget every year pays dividends every year.

Walter Lomax, an exoneree and advocate had a heart attack while waiting to testify on that bill. He was saved by the quick action of Maryland State Trooper Luke Rafer and Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins who administered CPR. I am immensely grateful for their heroic action, which saved Mr. Lomax's life.
My team is excited to bring you this weekly newsletter. Next week we will look at all the happenings in Baltimore and capture another week of news from Annapolis!

State Senator Bill Ferguson