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A Safe, Fresh Start

On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the Maryland General Assembly convened in Annapolis for its 442nd Regular Session.  After having adjourned the 2020 session 19 days early in mid-March, due to concerns over the spread of what was then commonly referred  to as the “novel Coronavirus,” the legislature returned to the capital this week. Legislative leaders returned fully prepared to conduct business in ways that seemed unimaginable only a few months ago.  In addition to significant legislation that died in 2020 because of the early adjournment, many new COVID-related measures await consideration. The result is that a near-record number of just under 800 pre-filed bills were requested by members of the General Assembly.

Over the 2020 Interim (the period between sessions of the legislature), Senate President Bill Ferguson, House Speaker, Adrienne Jones, and legislative leadership worked with public health officials, infectious disease experts, and experts in the area of workplace pathogen sanitation to develop reopening guideline first tested during the summer.

The Senate and House Guidelines feature:

  • Legislative Complex closed to the general public and advocacy community (except for appointment-only meetings with legislators);
  • Mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing in the Legislative Complex;
  • Staggered floor sessions to the greatest extent possibly, so that the Senate and House are not in session simultaneously in the State House;
  • New rules that allow for pro forma sessions of both chambers, such that a regular quorum is not necessary for ministerial functions, such as bill introduction calendars, and foregoing floor session for successive calendar days;
  • Half the 141-member House of Delegates meets in the House chamber while the remainder of the membership meets in the House floor “annex” in the House office building;
  • Plexiglass panels surrounding members on 3-sides of Senate members.

New Committee Hearing Processes

While understandably necessary, the new remote bill hearing process may be the most confounding adjustment for people planning to participate in bill hearings in 2021. There will be no legislative hearings conducted in Committee Hearing Rooms during the 2021 session.

 Remote Hearings

            There is a bifurcated remote bill hearing process. Individuals who have signed up to testify before a Committee will testify via Zoom, while those wanting to merely watch the hearing do so by way of a live stream on YouTube. The links are posted side-by-side on the General Assembly website hearing pages. This system was tested over the summer, and worked surprisingly well.

New MSBA Advocacy Page Feature

                Practice Area Pages

                For the past 2 years, the MSBA has posted positions on bills taken by the MSBA Board of Governors on the MSBA Advocacy page of our website. Those bill positions have appeared on our MSBA Legislative Action Center (powered by TrackBill)  During the summer of 2020, the MSBA sought new ways to engage with our members by developing law practice area pages. https://www.msba.org/advocacy/

We hope that MSBA members will benefit from being able to access, in real time, the status of bills introduced before the General Assembly in their practice areas.

The Daily Record “Eye on Annapolis” Event

            Once again, the MSBA served as Presenting Sponsor of The Daily Record signature legislative kickoff event, “Eye on Annapolis.” This year’s event was all-virtual, and was moderated by Bryan Sears, TDR Government Reporter. After an opening welcome by MSBA President, Judge Mark F. Scurti, Mr. Sears began with an interview with Governor Larry Hogan, followed by a joint interview with Senate President Bill Ferguson, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones.

MSBA – A2J Lobby Day 2021

Join us on January 26, 2021, for our second annual Virtual Lobby Day and show legislators in Annapolis the strength of our profession. Attendees will:

  • Help advance the MSBA’s legislative priorities by meeting virtually with legislators,
  • Hear from MSBA leadership, staff, and legislators on key issues impacting the legal profession and Marylanders’ access to justice,
  • Learn about MSBA’s advocacy efforts and ways to get involved, and
  • Hear keynote message from Maryland leaders.

At the MSBA, our highest priority remains the health and safety of our members and our staff. Due to the spread of Covid-19 and current infection rates in Maryland, MSBA’s 2021 Lobby Day will be a complimentary virtual offering to members. The virtual format will give you access to the entire event and allow you to interact with fellow members and legislators from the comfort of your home or office.

Please RSVP by January 21, 2021. We will share MSBA Lobby Day details with registrants via email in the coming weeks, including access information, agenda, and materials.

Register here: https://www.msba.org/product/lobby-day-2021/

Passing of Senate President Emeritus, Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.

            On Friday, January 15, 2021, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., the longest serving Senate President, in both Maryland and U. S. history, passed away at age 78. Senator Miller served as President of the Senate of Maryland from 1987 until October of 2019, when fatigue from treatment of cancer forced him to relinquish the post. Often referred to as “The Lion of the Senate,” it would be impossible to list his innumerable accomplishments in the space allowed here. Yet I would be remiss if I did not at least pay respect to this legendary figure.

The MSBA monitors hundreds of bills each session and advocates on behalf of the profession. The ability to make a difference in Annapolis is just one of the many reasons we need all attorneys to belong to the MSBA to ensure we remain a strong and vibrant association. Please continue to check out this new section of the Eweekly and Weekly Roundup throughout the 2021 legislative session for more MSBA advocacy updates and tools. Thank you for your support.