Today is the 45th day of the 2021 Legislative Session, marking the halfway point of the 90-day session. On Tuesday, Senator Bailey presented two more bills to Senate committees. Senate Bill 51 would authorize the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland to act as the property manager for the new Southern Maryland Regional Agricultural Center which is currently being built in Charlotte Hall. The RAC will be a tremendous resource for the agricultural community in St. Mary’s County and the four other counties throughout the region. When completed, the RAC will include a retail storefront, a commercial kitchen, fresh and frozen storage capability, facilities to cut and wrap meats, and space for educational and apprenticeship programs. The facility is an initiative of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, which is part of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland. Senate Bill 51 will institute the technical change necessary to allow the Tri-County Council to act as property manager for the RAC, which will in turn allow SMADC to operate the facility, reflecting how all parties involved want to move forward and putting the statute in line with the memorandum of understanding for this project.
Senate Bill 617 would provide that a person is not entitled to expungement if the court ordered the person to register as a sex offender as a result of the charge on which the petition for expungement is based. This bill would also add individuals who have not satisfied an obligation to pay court costs, fines, or restitution imposed by the court in connection with the disposition of the charge on which the petition is based to the list of those ineligible for expungement. Prohibiting registered sex offenders from having their criminal records expunged is important to ensure that these offenders, particularly those who have committed sexual offenses against our children, cannot circumvent the registry, which is intended to keep our residents safe from these offenders. This is particularly important because those who commit sexual offenses against children have a higher rate of recidivism than those who have committed other crimes. This bill would also ensure that convicted criminals pay their full debt to society before becoming eligible to have their criminal records expunged.
This week, Senator Bailey introduced two more bills for consideration this session. Senate Bill 945 would require the Calvert County Board of Education to allow members of the public to speak at their meetings. This bill was introduced in response to community concerns in Calvert County from citizens who feel that they do not have the opportunity to be heard by their Board of Education since the Board has been holding their meetings virtually. Senate Bill 946 would create the Historic St. Mary’s City Fort to 400 Commission to begin planning events for the 400th anniversary of Maryland’s founding in 2034. By beginning the planning for this important event now, Historic St. Mary’s City and District 29 as a whole can be best situated to take advantage of the opportunities that this event will bring to our region.
Senator Bailey feels extremely honored to be able to represent not only the residents of District 29 but also our State’s great law enforcement officers. The Judicial Proceedings Committee deliberated for over thirty hours to address a multitude of issues involving police and police reform in the State of Maryland. The members of the Committee have worked hard on the bills under consideration, and Senator Bailey greatly appreciates their respect for his experiences as a law enforcement officer. The amendments that have resulted from these spirited discussions have addressed many of the Senator’s concerns about the impact that these bills would have on Maryland’s police officers. Senator Bailey voted for bills to expand the use of body-worn cameras, implement programs to ensure officers are provided with mental health assistance, provide more oversight for no-knock search warrants, limiting the types of military equipment that police forces can buy, and allowing the independent Office of the State Prosecutor under certain circumstances to prosecute cases involving deaths caused by police officers.
While the Senator supported a number of bills in this package of police bills, he could not support other bills because of his concerns for their impact on law enforcement in the State and the outpouring of support for law enforcement from constituents. As mentioned last week, Senator Bailey does not agree with allowing all records of an investigation of misconduct by a law enforcement officer, including accusations and those ruled to be unfounded, to be subject to the Maryland Public Information Act. In two other bills on repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and regulating officers’ use of force, the Senator voted against these bills due to specific concerns. The Senator disagrees with the creation of a three-member advisory board, only one of whom is a police officer and that officer must be of a higher rank and two civilians to advise chiefs and sheriffs in cases of police discipline. Senator Bailey also disagrees in particular with creating additional criminal penalties specifically for police officers for issues that he believes could be solved through administrative procedures. The Committee ultimately passed eight bills on the topic of police reform, and the full Senate will consider these bills next week.
Relief Act Update
The State is working to get economic relief out to Marylanders from the Governor’s RELIEF Act, which the General Assembly passed earlier this month. More information about the distribution of these funds, which includes direct stimulus payments and unemployment insurance grants to qualifying Marylanders, as well as grants and loans to qualifying small businesses, is available from the Comptroller’s office at marylandtaxes.gov/RELIEFAct.
Vaccine Distribution Update
This week, Governor Hogan announced that a mass vaccination site for Southern Maryland will be opening no later than March 11. The site will be located in Waldorf at Regency Furniture Stadium. While it is disappointing that this site will not be located in District 29, this location will be much more convenient to the residents of St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties. More details about this announcement are available at governor.maryland.gov/2021/02/23/governor-hogan-announces-fema-supported-mass-vaccination-site-in-southern-maryland/.
Natural Resources and Hunting Bills
On March 10, Senator Bailey will be presenting three pieces of legislation that would expand Sunday Hunting in Calvert County, ensure a sustainable population of Canada geese, and preserve the menhaden population of the Chesapeake Bay. We will have more on these topics next week in advance of the hearing. Please contact Senator Bailey’s office if you are interested in testifying in support of any of these initiatives.