They’re expected to discuss pandemic relief.
Annapolis, Md (KM) The 90-day Maryland General Assembly Session got underway on Monday. Frederick County Delegate Karen Lewis Young says it’s expected to be unlike any other in the past due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “All meetings were will be virtual except for floor meetings,” she says.
Delegate Lewis Young says the House of Delegates floor meetings will occupy two chambers. “Even with that split, we will be separated by a safe distance. And I understand there will be physical partitions as well,” she said.
Delegate Jesse Pippy of Frederick County says he’s noticed fewer people on the State House grounds this year compared to the past. “Typically, the first of session–a huge event–there’s a lot of folks,” he said. “With the pandemic and some of the restrictions in place, obviously folks were discouraged from coming down.”
Pippy also says there are some restrictions for people entering state buildings. “At each of the state government buildings, there’s a check-in. You’re required to fill out some pertinent health information. Then they check your temperature,” he says.
One of the issues expected to come during the session is relief for residents and small businesses suffering from the pandemic. Earlier this week, Governor Larry Hogan introduced a $1-hillion COVID Relief bill. It would set aside a total $267-million for direct payments to Marylanders in need. That would include $750 for families which have filed for the earned income tax credit, and individuals would receive $450. Also, there’s $180-million in targeted tax relief for Maryland residents in who have lost their jobs. It would repeal state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits. There’s also $300-million for 55,000 restaurants and small businesses which allows them to keep $12,000 in sales tax revenue over the next four months.
“I haven’t’ read it in detail. I saw some of the highlights. I think it’s a good start,” commented Delegate Young, when asked about the $1-billion package.
Delegate Pippy says he’s also read over some of the details. “There are definitely many Marylanders throughout our great state that are still suffering, and relief could be helpful to them,” he said. “I know that the overall package is around $1-billion. So it’s a very large package.”
The Governor said earlier this week he will submit the bill as emergency legislation and hopes legislators will approve quickly so he could sign it, and begin sending out the money to those who need it. Delegate Pippy says this bill will probably go through the same process as other pieces of legislation. “But it’s a bill, and the bill would have to go through the Legislature, both the House and the Senate,” he says. “And I haven’t heard the feedback from any of the leadership in both those chambers.”
Delegate Lewis Young agrees. “First of all, we never vote on anything without added analysis and discussion. So certainly not something that large,” she says.
Senate President Bill Ferguson says the Senate will move quickly to approve this proposal from the Governor, but it will probably have some changes.
By Kevin McManus