Archives for 2021

Sen. Susan Lee Completes Productive 2021 Session

Senator Susan C. Lee (D-MD District 16)

April 21, 2021

Dear Friends and Constituents:

With our state and country dealing with the enormous challenges presented by the pandemic, economic downturn, and the need to address hundreds of years of systemic injustices and inequities, I am proud of what the Maryland General Assembly was able to achieve during our 90-day Legislative Session.

Hitting the ground running, the first bill we passed was the Relief Act of 2021, which provides $1 billion in economic stimulus to vulnerable Marylanders, small businesses, and nonprofits hardest hit by Covid-19; and establishes a Recover Now Fund and other programs that include $83 million to erase household utility debt and $279 million to support small businesses. Nearly 40,000 Marylanders stuck in Unemployment Insurance limbo have received an immediate $1,000 direct payment to get them through this crisis as their cases are adjudicated. While many families are still waiting for their
Unemployment Insurance to process, several laws passed to improve our broken Unemployment Insurance system and ensure our citizens have access to their money, better customer service, and that the Department of Labor is prepared for the next emergency. We also passed legislation to help small businesses defray the cost of paying into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and expanded eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.

Increasing Vaccine Access, Efficiency, and Transparency: As the December rollout and distribution of the vaccine by the Governor and Maryland Department of Health (MDH) was slow in reaching those eligible, the Senate immediately took up an oversight role by creating the Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup, which met weekly with the MDH Secretary. This helped push our state toward a more accessible, efficient, transparent and centralized model, including the launching of mass vaccination sites, statewide phone appointment signups and signup system for mass vaccination sites; the disclosure of county by county and site specific data; release of the Vaccine Equity Task Force Operations plan; and the community-based priority appointments for mass vaccination sites. We also passed the Covid-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Vaccination Act to ensure Maryland’s vaccine program meets its goals during this public health crisis and bills to expand and make Telehealth more accessible, secure, and efficient.

Passing Historic Police Reform and Building a More Equitable Criminal Justice System: With the urgency to address years of systemic injustices and inequities in our criminal justice system, my Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee colleagues and I held briefings and meetings last summer that continued into the session to pass a package of five policing reform bills and increase public safety, trust, transparency, and accountability. After overriding the Governor’s veto of three of the bills, all five will become law. These new laws increase body worn cameras and establish a “Use of Force” policy; create transparency in the disciplinary process and limit “no knock warrants”; demilitarize the police and independently investigate police–involved deaths; ensure local control of the Baltimore City Police
Department; and repeal and replace the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights and create a Law Enforcement Scholarship Program to recruit the best officers who are our guardians working with residents to solve crimes and keep families and communities safe.

Background Checks on Private Sales and Transfer of Long Guns/Shotguns Bill Becomes Law: Early this session, the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto of my bill SB 208 (passed last year) that would require Background Checks on the private sale or transfer of long guns and shotguns. The new law will help fight gun violence and tragedies by preventing violent criminals, domestic abusers, or those prohibited by law from possessing guns from circumventing the law and obtaining them at gun shows or online. Ghost Guns: My bill to regulate the use of Ghost Guns, which are guns that can be assembled from parts that do not require background checks, lack serial numbers, are untraceable, and
used increasingly in violent crimes, was not voted on as time ran out in the session.

Fighting Devastating and Dangerous Ransomware Attacks: The legislature passed my bill to proactively deter, fight, and prosecute the malicious possession or use of Ransomware that can paralyze or shut down state and local governments, the economy, financial and commercial institutions, and critical infrastructures. This law also increases penalties for attacks against government entities, utilities, hospitals, and school systems. Highlighting the urgency of this new law is the recent intrusion and shut down of Baltimore City’s operations, 911 systems, Baltimore County public schools, the
Salisbury Police Department, hospitals, and other entities, all of which have cost millions of dollars to resume operations and recover and restore vital data.

Strengthening Cybersecurity: With a surge in local government entities being attacked, the legislature passed my bill to enable the Maryland Department of Information Technology to provide critical assistance and guidance to localities in developing proactive cybersecurity strategic plans, identification of vulnerabilities, and other measures to prevent, protect, or respond to cyberattacks. As Co-Chair of the Maryland Cybersecurity Council Subcommittee on Law & Policy, I will continue my work to pass the Maryland Online Consumer Privacy Act and bills to update the Maryland Personal Information Protection Act and secure the “Internet of Things” devices.

Protecting Children from Abuse and Domestic Violence in Custody Cases: My bill to require the court to articulate its findings when it grants custody or visitation to a parent who had previously committed abuse, and to provide that a protective parent’s action to protect their child from further abuse does not constitute an unjustifiable interference passed the Senate, but did not advance in the House of Delegates as time ran out in the session.

Expanding Voting Rights: While other states have moved to restrict voting rights, the Maryland legislature passed measures to make it easier for all eligible voters to vote and have their voices heard. Building on last year’s secure and effective Mail-In Voting, we created a Permanent Absentee Ballot List with mail-in ballot applications going out to all registered voters in 2022 and 2024. We expanded the number of Early Voting Sites and included guardrails to ensure those sites and ballot drop boxes are equitably distributed and located.

Education: After overriding the Governor’s veto of the Blueprint for America’s Future, we passed legislation to fund intensive tutoring and summer school to improve educational outcomes, add money to the State’s base education formula for educational technology, support student’s socio-emotional health, and ensure the responsible use of federal funds.

Bridging Maryland’s Digital Divide: Addressing the disparities caused by the lack of access to reliable broadband and devices, Maryland is using $300 million in federal funds to provide internet connection to 567,000 people through infrastructure investments to expand broadband, a monthly subsidy to pay for internet services, and funding for free connection devices. A newly established Office of Statewide Broadband within the Department of Housing and Community Development will be tasked with creating and implementing a statewide broadband expansion plan.

Balanced Budget and Getting Marylanders Back to Work: The legislature passed a $52.4 billion budget that includes $572 million to expand testing, contract tracing and vaccinations; $13.5 billion in Medicaid funding to provide health care to $1.5 million Marylanders; $1.6 billion to ensure the Transportation & Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds’ solvency; $600 million to reopen schools safely, including $80 million for HVAC and ventilation improvements; $371.5 million for Maryland’s community colleges, representing a 9% increase over FY21; $85 million for local parks and playgrounds; and $2.1 billion in cash reserves, including $1.4 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and $696 million in the General Fund, which would erase projected budget shortfalls in FY23 and FY24. We worked with the Governor to invest nearing $4.5 billion in capital projects that will create nearly 30,000 jobs and provide a critical lifeline to our local institutions and invest state dollars in our community.

Thank you for the privilege and honor of representing and serving you in the Maryland State Senate.

Paid for and authorized by Friends of Susan C. Lee, P.O. Box 34283, Bethesda, MD 20827. Joseph D. Gebhardt, Treasurer  |  Contact the campaign