MAY 5, 2021 BY DAGGER NEWS SERVICE
From the Harford County Chamber of Commerce:
On Thursday, April 25th, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce hosted its Annual Legislative Wrap-Up in a virtual format, sponsored by Harford Community College, The Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, and The Greater Harford Committee. Dr. Theresa Felder, President and CEO of Harford Community College, said in her introductory remarks, “Harford Community College is honored to have a strong relationship with the business community as well as with our partners in both the public and private sectors.”
The event featured the Maryland General Assembly’s Harford County Delegation which included Senators Bob Cassilly, J.B. Jennings, and Jason Gallion, and Delegates Susan McComas, Lauren Arikan, Steve Johnson, Mary Ann Lisanti, Mike Griffith and Kathy Szeliga. Delegates Teresa Reilly and Rick Impallaria were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
Each legislator discussed their experience during the 2021 Session, and then responded to questions.
Delegate Arikan, Judiciary Committee member, worked with speaker’s office to amend police reform bills. On evictions, Del. Arikan discussed new legislation that will make temporary Governor’s orders law, causing potential problems for landlords and renters.
Senator Cassilly highlighted that 20 million dollars is now set for capitol improvements in Harford, including education and Route 40 revitalization projects. He urged the importance of public safety in Harford, and that local officials fully fund the State’s Attorney and Sheriff’s Office.
Senator Gallion expressed his support for the Governor’s COVID relief bills. He brought up the issue of lack of broadband in some areas of Harford County. Broadband Senate Bill 66 plans to have affordable, reliable broadband across the state by 2026. Gallion supported Governor Hogan’s vetoes on the additional tax of tobacco and digital advertising and downloads-bills that were then overridden.
Delegate Szeliga echoed that the COVID relief bills passed helped local businesses and unemployed workers. She believes students should be back to complete in-person learning as soon as possible, after facing many challenges with virtual learning including internet accessibility issues.
The 2021 Maryland General Assembly Session created new challenges, explained Senator Jennings. The Senate and the House were isolated, there was no outside interaction, and only six individuals were allowed to testify on issues – three in support and three in opposition of a bill.
Delegate Lisanti, also in support of the new relief package, stated that it would help individuals get back to school and work. One size doesn’t fit all for education and public safety, she explained. Curriculums are being micro-managed without taking specific populations needs into account. The new police reform bills take away the ability for local jurisdictions to deal with their officers.
Delegate Johnson agreed that this session was particularly difficult given the lack of opportunities for in-person meetings and conversations that organically happen between legislators and bill supporters/opponents. He also discussed that COVID exposed weaknesses in healthcare and (through necessity) proved that telehealth is a successful adaptation.
Delegate Griffith fought to protect special needs of children this session, getting HB716 passed so that all IEP Evaluations must be conducted in person. He said he also secured additional funding for Harford County, some of which will be used to complete the Ma & Pa Trail.
Sitting on the Rules Committee, Delegate McComas said that much of the legislation she supported did not make it to the floor. She said a lack of representation and testimonies for issues caused difficulty in trying to pass legislation.
In closing, legislators urged local businesses and organizations to share how upcoming legislation would impact them by contacting the committees that the particular bills would pass through.