Today began the 442nd session of the Maryland General Assembly – and the very first one that will be largely conducted remotely. As we begin this session, there is heightened security in Annapolis and in state capitals across the country after last week’s attack on the US Capitol, and there is a deep sense of urgency about the need to rise to this moment and meet the needs of so many Marylanders who are hurting. I am committed to doing just that!
I am honored to be starting my seventh session in the House of Delegates and will again be serving as a Subcommittee Chair on the Environment & Transportation Committee. We will tackle the ongoing challenge of climate change, transportation issues, housing and rental relief, and more.
The Speaker just yesterday appointed me as the new Chair of the Joint Committee on Pensions, and I am deeply committed to ensuring that we are working with our State Treasurer and Comptroller to grow our pension fund, ensure diversity among our investment managers, and begin the process of divesting from fossil fuel companies to ensure the future success of our pension fund.
In the News
- The Daily Record noted my continued call for our Governor to take action to support our struggling businesses and Marylanders with direct payments and grants – see here!
- The Baltimore Business Journal named me one of four “Lawmakers to Know” this session (here)!
- And The Baltimore Sun & Maryland Matters covered the press conference led by Mayor Scott, and County Executives from Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and Howard County supporting more funding for our failing transit system.
General Assembly Information – Get Involved!
The Statehouse complex will largely be closed to visitors, except for appointments. We will miss out on many of the visits this year from school groups, advocacy organizations, and constituents. Those visits are always one of my favorite parts of session, so I will miss seeing you in Annapolis! All Committees will be livestreaming hearings on YouTube! It will make participating and following along extremely easy. Please follow along if you are interested! All of our meetings are public.
- You can find all meeting topics, times, and dates on the Maryland General Assembly (MGA) calendar.
- For information on the logistics of session and participating, visit this website.
This session, I will be tackling legislation to support our small businesses, expand broadband, high-speed internet to every Marylander, reduce waste and clean up our neighborhoods, push for more accessible and affordable housing and homeownership for more Marylanders, support our beleaguered transit system, empower our University athletes to have control of their destiny, increase transparency in government, support our struggling arts institutions, and aid those struggling bills. Please follow me on social media to see more information during session.
This pandemic has crystallized long-standing problems and barriers in our economy. I am focused on policy solutions that will help provide relief to individuals, families, and businesses immediately, and longer-term policy to help the State build back better. My policy agenda will focus on…
Housing & Homeownership
Maryland is facing an affordable housing crisis: we need additional affordable housing. In addition, rates of homeownership are decreasing among some groups, including Black Marylanders. I will be working on three bills which aim to promote fair housing, deconcentrate poverty, increase homeownership rates – especially for people of color – and encourage the development of more affordable housing. These are important prerequisites of thriving, healthy neighborhoods.
In the midst of a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system, it is more important now than ever that we address air pollution. This can be done (in part) by reducing the amount of plastic that we produce, and by reducing incineration required to handle the exponentially increasing volumes of waste (particularly plastic) that our counties are tasked with managing. I will be working on three bills to decrease waste, pollution, and the environmental hazards concentrated in our black and brown communities: 1) the plastic bag ban, 2) a bill that requires producers of plastic and packaging to make their products more readily recyclable, and help counties pay to manage the collection, transportation, and recycling of these products, and 3) legislation to improve transparency and accountability in the way that Maryland’s Department of the Environment investigates violations.
Maryland’s subway, light rail, bus and commuter rail vehicles each have one of the worst breakdown rates in the country. Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA) buses break down twice as much as buses in other major Northeast cities, and the Metro subway and Central Light Rail recently have undergone emergency shutdowns lasting weeks. Increasing public transportation is another way that we can decrease air pollution and, critically, is a way that we can greatly improve access to jobs and ensure that Marylanders can get where they need to go, on time. This is especially important right now, as more than 1 in 3 transit riders in the state work in essential job services. I will be re-introducing the Transit Safety and Investment Act this year which will provide much-needed funding to MTA for maintenance, capital improvements, and sustainability efforts.
Perhaps no divide has become more acute than the divide between those who have access to affordable, high-speed internet and those who do not. As I noted in a Washington Post op-ed I authored that was published this weekend, ten years ago, lack of access [to high-speed Internet] was an inconvenience. Now it’s an emergency. The digital divide is the difference between a student keeping pace with classmates in distance learning or missing out entirely; it means that some Marylanders can safely participate in remote doctors’ visits while other suffer without medical care until they end up in the E.R; and it means that businesses cannot launch in disconnected areas of the state. I will be sponsoring a bill this session to increase the state’s efforts to ensure that all Maryland residents – urban and rural – have access to high speed, reliable, affordable internet and are digitally literate. Read my Washington Post oped here.
Supporting Small Businesses
Small businesses have been hit extremely hard during COVID-19. This session, I will work to support growth of existing businesses and make it easier for Marylanders with new, small businesses to get capital – especially those that have been unable to access traditional financial services in the past. I will be sponsoring a bill that encourages banks, CDFIs, and credit unions to make loans to small businesses that have difficulty obtaining financing. I will also be sponsoring a bill to incentivize more angel investing in start-ups based in Maryland.
In addition, I will also be sponsoring legislation focused on transparency in government; funding for our smaller arts institutions in Maryland; safety, wellness, and economic stability for student athletes; and affordable energy (ensuring that low-income residents are not scammed or taken advantage of by third party energy suppliers).
Most of these bills are now available for viewing here. If you have any questions or feedback, please reach out.
We continue to be in a very precarious situation in Maryland: we have an 8.77% positivity rate, and nearly 2,000 Marylanders are currently hospitalized with COVID.
There is a light at the end of this long tunnel: Marylanders are being vaccinated every day. The first doses are going to healthcare workers, first responders, and nursing home staff and residents, followed by those in critical and essential jobs, such as teachers and transit workers. We are, however, are still months away from wide-spread vaccinations. We must remain vigilant and committed to social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks to protect ourselves and those around us. See the latest information on vaccines at this slide show.