Legislators are expected to deal with a COVID Relief bill, police reform.
Frederick, Md (KM) Legislators will return to Annapolis next month for the 2021 Maryland General Assembly. But the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be evident.
Despite that, Frederick County Delegate Ken Kerr says he’s excited about the upcoming session. “We really don’t know how things are going to go; if it’s going to work well; if we’re going to have to make some adjustments. We don’t even know if we’re going to be there the full 90-days yet. So there’s a lot of question marks,” he said.
But Kerr said access to the General Assembly will be restricted due to the coronavirus. He says legislators will hold virtual committee meetings which will be aired on the Zoom platform. But citizens will still have opportunities to testify for and against bills. “I think the testimony will be limited in terms of how much time we cannot allot for citizen testimony,”: he says.
The one disadvantage, says Kerr, is citizens cannot come by to his office before or after their testimony, and discuss with him why they feel the way they do.
Last week, Comptroller Peter Franchot called on the Governor and the Legislature to pass a statewide COVID-19 relief bill, and use some of the reserves the state has to pay for it. Delegate Kerr says a bill like that could come before lawmakers. “I would expect that we will take a look at the money–I think it’s close to a billion dollars in the Rainy Day Fund–and figure out how to best use it to give some relief to Maryland businesses and citizens,”: says Kerr. He also said he would support such legislation.
Police reform is also expected to come up. “We have a police reform study group–mostly the House Judiciary Committee–over the interim, and they have a series of recommendations that are certain to find their way into a bill and be debated on before the House and the Senate,” Kerr says.
“We’ve had our own issues here with some inappropriate behavior with law enforcement in Maryland with Freddie Gray,” Kerr continues. “That was a really high profile incident that happened a few years back.”
Freddie Gray died while being transported by Baltimore City Police. His death caused rioting in the city.
For his part, Delegate Kerr says he plans to be “judicious” this year in that he’s introducing only four bills for this session of the Maryland General Assembly Three are ones he introduced last year, but they didn’t get very far because lawmakers left town before their traditional day to adjourn sine die. One piece of legislation requires teachers to take an on line course in how to deal with a student who has an epileptic seizure in class. “Just a 30-minute training which is done by the Epilepsy Foundation just to tell people what to do if you are in control of the situation where a child has a seizure,” he says.
The 2021 Maryland General Assembly will begin on Wednesday, January 13th.
By Kevin McManus