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Members of Carroll County’s legislative delegation focusing on business, health care, crime, election security bills

The members of Carroll’s legislative delegation are hopeful some of the bills they put in during last year’s session, abbreviated because of the coronavirus pandemic reaching Maryland in March, will make it through to become laws during this year’s session.

“When we left last year, a lot of our legislation didn’t get through,” Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, said Monday, in preparation for Wednesday’s opening of the Maryland General Assembly’s 442nd session. “I had four or five bills last year that passed the House and never got to the Senate. So that’s what we’re going to start with this year.”

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The legislation Krebs, fellow District 5 delegates April Rose and Haven Shoemaker and District 5 Sen. Justin Ready were touting ahead of the session — which will be conducted largely online — includes bills focused on business, health care, crime and election security.

While some of them have been around for a year or more, Krebs called many of them “more timely than ever.”

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Ready said he is reintroducing a bill that would make theft of a handgun a felony. “We need to go after people who use guns to hurt people with real consequences,” he said.

He’s also enthusiastic about a pair of bills related to drunken and drugged driving that he said Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo brought to him last year. One of them makes it more clear to judges that they are authorized to give a warrant to take blood if someone is involved in a fatal accident. The other would give officers who have not trained to become drug recognition experts (DREs) the ability to ask someone if they would like to give blood when they are suspected of drunken driving. It has nothing to do with drawing blood, just asking, and drivers maintain the right to refuse.

He said he is optimistic all three of those bills will pass.

“I can’t imagine for the life of me why a General Assembly concerned about gun violence would not want to make it a felony to steal a handgun,” Ready said. “And the two bills dealing with drunk driving we did get through the Senate, we just ran out of time.”

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Carroll County representatives, from left Delegate Susan Krebs, Senator Justin Ready, Delegate Haven Shoemaker, and Delegate April Rose gather at the opening day of the General Assembly in Annapolis in 2019.
Carroll County representatives, from left Delegate Susan Krebs, Senator Justin Ready, Delegate Haven Shoemaker, and Delegate April Rose gather at the opening day of the General Assembly in Annapolis in 2019. (Joshua McKerrow / Capital Gazette)

He said isn’t sure about the prospects of a voter identification bill, but that he considers it important to keep elections secure. He noted that roughly 30 states require some form of ID. An argument against requiring identification at the polls has been that it disproportionately disenfranchises the poor, who would be more likely to not have a driver’s license or state ID card. Ready said that while those would be accepted, his bill would also outline a number of other forms of identification as acceptable.

“This is more about just giving people confidence,” he said. “I have to show an ID to rent a car, I have to shown an ID to get certain kinds of benefits or to do all kinds of things, so, to me, when you’re going to go vote ... this is just to check and be sure that somebody is who they say they are.”

Rose said one of the bills of hers that passed the House of Delegates last year but ran out of time before making it to the Senate would allow a computer science class to count toward the math credits required for graduation from high school. She noted the importance of computer skills in the work force, that this is a nationwide initiative, and that workforce education is something she’s been passionate about since taking office. Another of her bills has to do with submitting a report each year to see what computer science classes are being offered and who is taking them.

“We want to make sure we get more young women involved in computer science,” said Rose, who served on an education subcommittee.

As for bills regarding businesses, one that she and Ready have gotten behind was spurred by looking at lessons learned regarding Maryland’s reaction to COVID-19.

“I’ve talked to so many businesses and restaurants that are pretty frustrated with the executive order that gave the health department complete control over citing them or closing them,” Rose said, noting that she doesn’t think there has been rampant closure in Carroll and that she isn’t knocking Health Officer Ed Singer. “Everybody’s doing the best they can, but there aren’t transparent procedures in place. I think there should be an oversight board and an appeals process for business owners.”

She said a bill still being drafted would protect businesses from liability in the event of someone contracting COVID-19. “Nobody can control COVID 100 percent, we’ve certainly have learned that,” she said. “Some liability protection needs to be put in place.”

Krebs, who is on the health and government operations committee, said one of her bills proposes a technology platform for health occupations boards. “Right now, each board does their own thing,” she said, advocating to consolidate them “for transparency reasons.” She said the common website could standardize the look of the various sites, provide information and host, among other things, portals for licensing and for meetings, all headed up by the state department of information technology.

She said she is also working “scope of practice” bills, to make sure that all health care providers are operating to the fullest extent of their skills.

“Dentists and dental hygienists, doctors and nurses and nurse practitioners and assistants, podiatrists and physical therapists, who can do what? All of that is outlined in the law with scope of practice,” she said, noting how a previous scope of practice bill gave pharmacists the ability to vaccinate those over 12 and that she would like to expand on that as well as defining and perhaps expanding on what other occupations can do. “You have to really make sure you’re not constraining our work force when we need all the work force we can get.”

Krebs said she is also working on a bill to provide more funding for next generation 9-1-1 and to put the system, which currently operates under the Department of Corrections, under “more of a homeland security platform,” as well as a bill that wold allow dental students to offer services to kids who would be billing to medicaid.

Shoemaker plans to introduce a bill that would require the governor to seek the approval of the legislature before extending a state of emergency, according to a news release from his office.

This bill would allow for the governor to initially execute a state of emergency, and to extend it one time for the following 30-day period after the original state of emergency would expire, according to the release. Should the governor find it necessary to extend the state of emergency further, they would need to look to the delegates and senators of the Maryland General Assembly for approval to do so.

“We are obviously in unprecedented times. During such times, we need to consider our citizens and prioritize them higher than they are currently,” Shoemaker said via the release. “As such, we need to invoke this check in power to help the citizens of Maryland return to normalcy.”

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