Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford addressed fellow MSBA members at the Legal Summit Business Meeting on June 11, 2021. He brought greetings and a congratulatory proclamation from Governor Larry Hogan in honor of the MSBA’s 125 years of service to the profession and the state’s citizenry. Licensed to practice in three states, Lt. Gov. Rutherford also expressed appreciation for the profession that helped prepare him for his many years in public service.
The lingering effects of the COVID-19 were apparent as Lt. Gov. Rutherford addressed a virtual conference. He noted that while the pandemic upended the lives of all Marylanders, there is now some light at the end of the 15-month long tunnel. Thanks to what he characterized as decisive steps taken in the early days of the emergency, the state economy has opened up, public gatherings are returning, and there is reason to be optimistic about the future.
The lieutenant governor credited the turnaround to the public’s response to statewide vaccination efforts, noting that 71% of adults and more than half of its total population have been fully vaccinated. The World Health Organization has used a positivity rate of less than 5% as a reopening benchmark. Maryland’s positivity is now at less than 1%, and COVID hospitalizations are at their lowest since the crisis began in March 2020.
Lt. Gov. Rutherford expressed pride in these accomplishments, but noted that there was still work to be done to reach pockets of vulnerable, underserved, and hard to reach citizens who have not yet been vaccinated. As 90% of those now hospitalized due to COVID are unvaccinated, it is imperative that everyone gets the vaccine. The lieutenant governor said that the administration has, therefore, shifted from large, centralized vaccination centers to mobile, targeted, community based distribution efforts designed to serve these populations.
This effort includes the GoVAX Summer (or, as he called it, “the Summer of Love”) Tour that began on Memorial Day and will take mobile vaccination services to breweries, festivals, Ocean City, and other summer attractions. He urged everyone to help get their friends and families to roll up their sleeves. If their own safety and helping keep others safe from variants is not a sufficient incentive, Lt. Gov. Rutherford said to tell them about the Maryland Lottery’s $2 Million VaxCash Promotion that for 40 days will pay $40,000 to a different vaccinated Marylander, culminating in a $400,000 grand prize giveaway on July 4.
The lieutenant governor expressed optimism for an economic recovery, citing a recent monthly jobs report revealing that 28,000 new jobs had been created, for a total of 250,000 new positions and rehires since April 2020. He acknowledged that the 6.2 % unemployment rate is not where the administration would like it to be, but noted that private sector hiring is on the rise. He also took pride in reporting that three Maryland companies—T. Rowe Price, Sinclair Broadcasting and McCormick & Co.—were recently named to the Forbes Fortune 500.
Remote work has presented new opportunities in both the private and public sectors. All state agencies have been tasked with reassessing their office needs and telework policies in light of the lessons of the last year, particularly those that operate from older facilities. Lt. Gov. Rutherford said that the pandemic made clear that modern, functional, and adaptable workspace is a must to attract and retain a capable workforce. In that regard, the state is already relocating 3,300 employees from old and difficult to maintain 1950’s-era offices to more modern leased space in downtown Baltimore. This will result in significant cost savings while at the same time help to revitalize the downtown economy and benefit the entire state.
The lieutenant governor concluded by presenting outgoing MSBA president Mark Scurti with a proclamation signed by the governor, secretary of state, and himself recognizing the work done by the MSBA to foster diversity in the profession, enhance civic engagement in the legal system, and promote legal literacy among the population in general, and young people in particular. He expressed gratitude for the MSBA’s 125-year commitment to the people of the State of Maryland.