Eastern Shore lawmakers discuss legislative changes following pandemic
MARYLAND – This year’s Maryland General Assembly Session was cut short because of the pandemic. While lawmakers say they’re happy with the progress they made, they’re looking towards next year and they expect things to be quite different.
“The Maryland General Assembly adjourned early for the first time since the Civil War. And then we come back to our districts and see our constituents in so much pain,” says republican Senator Mary Beth Carozza.
“This coming year is going to be really hard. I think there are a lot of unknowns we haven’t faced yet,” says Delegate Johnny Mautz, a republican representing District 37B.
Amidst the pandemic, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the controversial Kirwan Commission school funding bill. Many lawmakers agree that was the right thing to do for taxpayers but they’re determined to find a way to make it work in the future. “Maybe lift out the best of from Kirwan but as far as the current formula, it’s simply unaffordable,” says Sen. Carozza.
Just before the 2020 session ended, lawmakers passed a bill allowing Choptank Electric Cooperative to bring high-speed internet to the Eastern Shore but some say the work to make broadband accessible can’t stop there. “Something we can do as a group is somehow proclaim it or make it an essential utility,” says Del. Mautz.
On a local level, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce says lawmakers need to be prepared to deal with liability concerns that small businesses have as they reopen. “I’m hearing from a lot of businesses that are ready to go but they’re not comfortable without some additional protection on the liability piece,” says Bill Chambers with the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.
Elected officials also expect major budget adjustments and to exhaust their rainy day fund because of the pandemic. Maryland lawmakers also applauded the passing of Senate Bill 121 which exempts aircraft parts from being taxed, something they say will benefit the Salisbury airport.
In the meantime, many elected officials say they’re busy advocating for residents who are currently struggling with unemployment benefits.