Today was the end of another busy week in Annapolis as this unusual 2021 Legislative Session continues.
On Wednesday, Senator Bailey presented two more bills to the Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 203 would require the Department of Natural Resources to work with aquaculture lease applicants and shoreline property owners to resolve conflicts associated with oyster leases. The Senator testified in support of this bill along with witnesses from St. Mary’s County who know firsthand the effects that these leases have on their property. This bill is opposed by representatives of the aquaculture industry and their supporters, who testified that the objections of our residents occur because they “simply lack an understanding of how an oyster farm works and what can be expected,” and that, despite the extra costs and higher taxes associated with owning a shoreline property, these property owners should not expect to have any say over what occurs in the water that their property is on.
The second bill, Senate Bill 318, 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. Formal recognition of these rights are 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.
This week, Senator Bailey had two bills pass the full Senate, Senate Bill 104 – Public and Nonpublic Schools – Electric Retractable Room Partitions – Operation Requirements and Senate Bill 249 – Higher Education – Senatorial Scholarships – Program Accreditation. These bills now must go to the House of Delegates for their consideration later in the Session.
This week, the General Assembly considered more of the Governor’s vetoes from last session. On Tuesday, Senator Bailey voted to sustain the Governor’s veto on Senate Bill 208, which would require a background check for secondary sales, rentals, and transfers of rifles and shotguns. However, the bill received the votes required to override the veto, and it will become law. The bill still includes provisions to protect the Second Amendment rights of the members of our Amish and Traditional Mennonite communities who are unable to undergo background checks because their religious belief against taking pictures prevents them from having photo identification.
On Friday, Senator Bailey voted to sustain the Governor’s vetoes on House Bill 732 and House Bill 932, which will raise taxes on Marylanders. House Bill 732 significantly increases the State’s tobacco tax and imposes a new digital advertising tax. Senator Bailey spoke on this bill during the floor debate to state his opposition to raising taxes in a pandemic, particularly through a tax hike that will affect small businesses and poorer Marylanders in the tobacco tax. House Bill 932 will expand Maryland’s sales tax to digital products such as e-books and streaming services. While Senator Bailey voted against both bills, these bills received the votes required to override the vetoes, and these tax increases will become law.
Senator Bailey also voted to sustain the Governor’s veto on House Bill 1300, the Blueprint or Kirwan bill. The Senator still believes that there is too much economic uncertainty to be making a commitment to substantially increase spending, and cannot in good conscience support this bill without supporting the tax increases required to pay for it in the future. Senator Bailey understands the importance of having high-quality schools, and he is proud to regularly support the substantial investment in educating Maryland students that the Hogan Administration and the General Assembly make each year. However, this legislation lacks the reforms needed to improve our schools. Again, while Senator Bailey voted against this bill, this bill received the votes required to override the veto, and it will become law.
We have heard from many of you throughout District 29 who are concerned about the recent reductions of vaccine allocations to our area. Senator Bailey shares your concerns about this reduction in vaccine doses being given to Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties. The Senator has been working with the Governor, the administration, and local health officials during the entire vaccine distribution process to ensure that the health departments in both St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties can continue their outstanding efforts in ensuring that our residents get these vaccinations as quickly as possible.
Senator Bailey has contacted the Governor and representatives of his administration to advocate for continued supplies of vaccine doses on behalf of the residents of St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties. In turn, we were informed this week that the Governor has contacted Maryland’s Congressional Delegation to request more vaccines from the Federal government. The General Assembly has no formal role in this process except oversight and advocacy. Senator Bailey has also passed on these concerns to members of the Senate’s Vaccine Oversight Workgroup, which regularly meets to ask questions to State health officials on behalf of the Senate. The Senator will continue to work with representatives of all levels of government to ensure that District 29 residents can access these vaccines as timely as possible.
Federal Disaster Declaration
Last week, President Biden approved a Major Disaster Declaration for three counties in Maryland, including Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties, which were affected by Tropical Storm Isaias in August. This Declaration means that Federal assistance will be made available for repairs for storm damage caused by this storm. It is our understanding that the Federal government can now pay each county 75% of their expenses related to storm damage as a result of this action. This Declaration comes after substantial efforts by representatives at the Federal, State, and local levels. Senator Bailey would like to thank all those who were involved in securing this needed funding for our District. More information on this Declaration is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at www.fema.gov/disaster/4583.
Recognition of Student Page from St. Mary’s County
Each year, the General Assembly is assisted by a group of student pages from all over Maryland. Normally, these students would work for two weeks each Session assisting Senators and Delegates during floor sessions. This year, due to health and safety protocols implemented as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, pages are not in Annapolis this year. However, the page program is continuing this year virtually. Senator Bailey would like to recognize Maria Derisavi, a student at Leonardtown High School, for serving this week as one of the General Assembly’s pages.