A New Year, A New Legislative Session












Greetings Friends,


The Maryland General Assembly reconvenes today in Annapolis for the 2021 Legislative Session. Despite challenges due to the pandemic, work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure the safety of legislators and staff so that the State's work can proceed. Members of the House of Delegates will meet in two separate locations to enable proper distancing, but we will be joined virtually for all testimony and voting. See below for additional modifications and how the public can participate in the process.


Almost 800 bills have been pre-filed to date -- an enormous amount. There were less than 200 bills pre-filed last session. Early pre-filing was encouraged because of the necessary procedural adjustments.


While we are all relieved that distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has begun, we are months away from wide-spread vaccinations. We must remain committed to precautions to protect ourselves and those around us. For comprehensive information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please check out Howard County Government's recently-released Vaccine FAQs.


For many, food insecurity has become more acute as the pandemic goes on. If you have the means, please consider donating to the Howard County Food Bank.


Stay well, continue to social distance, wash hands, and mask up!







All House committee work will be conducted virtually for the 2021 legislative session.


HEARINGS


  • Bill hearings will begin on January 14, 2021 on pre-filed bills. Pre-filed bills will be available online in mid-December and the hearing schedule will be available during the first full week of January 2021 on the Maryland General Assembly website. Witness sign-up for pre-filed bills that will be heard on January 14 will be open via the MGA website beginning at 10am on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

  • Every on-time bill will receive a hearing. The standing committee chair continues to have full discretion over the length of the hearing.

  • The hearing schedule for each committee will be posted at the latest during the week before the hearing is scheduled.


WITNESS SIGN-UP


  • Witness sign-up will be opened online through the Maryland General Assembly website 48 hours before the bill hearing beginning at 10am until 3pm. Witnesses can sign up on Thursdays for Monday hearings and Fridays for Tuesday hearings.

  • The specific bill order will be posted on the Maryland General Assembly website the day before the hearing. If a bill hearing is scheduled for a Monday, the hearing order will post on Friday.

  • The House standing committees will cap bill hearings at a maximum of 50 witnesses per bill. As a point of reference, less than three dozen on-time bills during the 2020 legislative session had more than 50 witnesses signed up.

  • The witness sign-up software will not allow witnesses to sign up as a panel. The sponsor may communicate with the committee about other witnesses that the sponsor wants to testify with them and the chairs will make every effort to accommodate those requests

SUBCOMMITTEES: While subcommittees are not subject to the Maryland Open Meetings Act, all subcommittee work will be livestreamed through the Maryland General Assembly website for the 2021 legislative session.

Public Participation for the 2021 Maryland Legislative Session


Voting Sessions: All standing committee voting sessions will be livestreamed through the Maryland General Assembly website for the 2021 legislative session. The vote lists will be available on the Maryland General Assembly website at least two days prior to the voting session.


House Office Building: In-person meetings with legislators are discouraged for public health reasons, but such meetings may occasionally need to occur. If there is a critical need to meet in person, the new rules mandate that the meeting must be scheduled ahead of time and visitors must be escorted to and from offices. Much of the time, my office staff (Terry Chaconas and Cindy Scruggs) will be operating from home, and for at least the first month, I will be as well. We will be able to set up phone calls and zoom meetings to discuss legislation or other issues throughout the session. Send your request by email to courtney.watson@house.state.md.us with the subject line, "CONSTITUENT Meeting Request - (TOPIC)".

State House: It is likely that the State House will be closed to the public for the legislative session to prevent large crowds from congregating inside. Construction on Lawyer’s Mall will be completed in January, so outdoor rallies will still be permitted if socially distanced and masked, based on City of Annapolis guidelines.

District Nights, Legislative Receptions and Committee Dinners: All such events are cancelled for in-person participation for the 2021 session. I do plan to hold virtual Town Hall Meetings throughout the session, with the first meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 26, 2021. More information to come.

CLICK HERE FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY DATES OF INTEREST

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