The Maryland General Assembly convened for the 2021 session at noon on Wednesday, January 13. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things will run differently for the General Assembly this year. The changes are across the board and will include access to the state complex by constituents, lobbyists and special interest groups. Let me explain some of the implemented changes.
The Miller and James Senate office buildings will not allow the general public access during this session. This is also true for the House of Delegates and the Maryland State House. Typically during session, I have meetings in my office on many issues important to my constituents and to Marylanders across the state. Due to constraints in accessing the buildings, the best way for me to continue with these meeting is through internet platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Having said that, there may be some circumstances when I am available to meet with you at another location. If you would like to schedule a meeting, please contact my office through my district email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include information on the date, time of day, and the topic you would like to speak to me about. Include your phone number, and one of my legislative aides will reach out to you for further discussion.
With regard to procedures of the Senate floor sessions, they too will be run differently this year. For the first time in the history of the Maryland Senate, floor sessions will be televised live on the Maryland General Assembly website. You may watch these sessions from your computer by visiting www.mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/flooractions/followbothchambers.
The Senate will hold two to three floor sessions a week: one on Tuesdays starting at 10:00am and again on Fridays starting at noon and 2:00pm. As you may expect, all schedules are subject to change, so I advise you to check the General Assembly website daily if you have an interest in listening to a floor session.
The standing committees will also have significant changes to their procedures in 2021. Hearings are currently scheduled to be held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, starting generally at 11:00am. Of course, checking the committee website is advised in case there are any changes. You will find information on all committees through the following link: www.mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/committees/index/senate.
Committee hearings will be streamed live on the Maryland General Assembly website. All scheduled bill hearings will be posted in the Maryland General Assembly hearing schedule along with the “live” link to go directly to the meeting. Check this schedule daily for the most up-to-date information pertaining to bills in committee. If there is a bill you want to submit written testimony on, you must first create a “My MGA” account on the Maryland General Assembly website. Written testimony must be submitted two business days in advance of the scheduled bill hearing. If you want to offer oral testimony to the committee via Zoom, please follow the committee’s directions on how to sign up for a chance to testify. This link may help understand the committee guidelines: www.mgaleg.maryland.gov/pubs-current/senate%20committee%20guidelines.pdf.
My committee assignment has changed for the coming session. Over the past five years, I have been a member of the Finance Committee. This year I will sit as a member of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
These are just a few of the general changes that the office of Senate President Bill Ferguson has put in place for this legislative session. We will work to the best of our abilities within these guidelines, and we will continue to represent our constituents. Please contact me through email at email@example.com. I am here to represent you as your state senator during the upcoming legislative session.