As we approach the final days of the 2021 Legislative Session, Senator Bailey’s legislative initiatives continue to move through the General Assembly. On Wednesday, the Senator presented two bills which had previously passed the Senate to the House Judiciary Committee. The first bill, Senate Bill 15, would require the State Police to send all gun permit holders a notice before the expiration of their permit. The second bill, Senate Bill 268, would strengthen Maryland’s laws protecting minors against sexual abuse.
On Thursday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 318, which would affirm the importance of hunting and fishing to Maryland’s cultural and social heritage and economy by stating in law that it is the intent of the General Assembly that Marylanders have a right to hunt and fish in accordance with laws enacted by the General Assembly. This legislation would give formal recognition of these rights, and is intended to help in protecting the balance that is necessary between the rights of Marylanders to hunt and fish and responsible regulation of these activities. Senator Bailey serves as the Senate Chair of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and this legislation has been a priority for the Caucus during this Session.
Today the Senate passed Senate Bill 852, the Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2021. This bill would increase penalties for knowingly selling a gun to someone who commits a crime and create tougher penalties for the use of assault weapons in a crime and illegally possessing and selling firearms. This legislation which addresses the problem of violent crime in our State has been a top priority this session for Senate Republicans, and Senator Bailey was proud to co-sponsor this legislation and vote for it today. The bill now goes to the House for its consideration, and Senator Bailey is hopeful that this important legislation will pass the General Assembly before the end of this Session.
Additionally during the first session for today, the Senate gave final approval to the State’s operating budget for Fiscal Year 2022. This balanced budget will help to address many of our district’s needs as we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic. The final budget does not include the provision that had been added by the House of Delegates to take $1 million in funding away from the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.
Supplemental Budget Update
Also on Wednesday, Governor Hogan introduced a supplemental budget that includes funding for several significant projects in District 29. This supplemental budget includes $200,000 to purchase an ambulance for the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home. The ambulance will help ensure that the veterans who reside at the home continue to receive the best care possible. This resource will also benefit residents who are served by the Mechanicsville Volunteer Rescue Squad, as this ambulance will respond to calls from the Veterans Home that are currently being handled by the Rescue Squad. Senator Bailey has worked with the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and other State agencies to address this issue that is critical to the health, well-being and overall safety of our veterans.
The supplemental budget also includes $450,000 to support Southern Maryland farmers through the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC). This restores funds that were cut from SMADC in this year’s budget so that they can continue their important work for our agricultural community, particularly their progress on the Southern Maryland Regional Agricultural Center (RAC) which is currently being built in St. Mary’s County and will serve all five of the Southern Maryland counties.
Additionally, the Governor appropriated $20 million for a new academic building and auditorium at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, $1.5 million for facilities renewal at SMCM, $1 million in additional funding for the excavation of St. Mary’s Fort, and $1 million for oyster seeding efforts.
This supplemental budget follows the consideration of the Capital Budget in the Senate earlier this week which also includes a number of important projects for District 29. The Capital Budget includes funding for the Third Academic Building at the University of Maryland at Southern Maryland and the Maryland Heritage Interpretive Center at Historic St. Mary’s City. The budget also includes funding for local projects, including $500,000 for the Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, $250,000 for the Innovative Center for Autonomous Systems at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport, $150,000 for the St. Mary’s County Sports Complex, and $100,000 for the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum and Visitor Center.
Last night, following the second late night floor session in as many days, the Senate of Maryland passed House Bill 670, which will make significant changes to policing in Maryland. The most notable of these alterations is the creation of a new disciplinary process for police officers. Rather than making changes to a disciplinary system that had been in existence for years, this bill instead creates an untested, complicated system that includes ideas that never received a hearing in a Senate committee to educate legislators on their implications. This bill has the ability to negatively affect retention and recruitment of public safety officers in our State, which in turn has the ability to negatively impact the safety and security of the citizens of Maryland. Senator Bailey voted against this legislation and spoke about the detrimental effect it will have on public safety during the Senate debate on this bill.
Senior Centers to Safely Reopen
Senator Bailey has been advocating for the safe reopening of our local senior centers on behalf of a number of constituents who have contacted him about this issue. This week, Governor Hogan announced that he has directed state agencies to work with local jurisdictions to develop plans that would allow all senior centers to safely reopen by the end of April. The Governor also said that vaccination clinics will be held at senior centers ahead of their reopening.
Also this week, Governor Hogan announced that pre-registration to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the State’s mass vaccination sites is now open to all Marylanders age 16 and older. More information on this process is available at covidvax.maryland.gov or by telephone at 1-855-MD-GOVAX (1-855-634-6829).