Last weekend, the NFL season ended with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning Super Bowl LV. Meanwhile, in Annapolis, the 2021 Legislative Session of the General Assembly is kicking off. Carroll County’s District 5 Delegation, Sen. Justin Ready, and Dels. Susan Krebs, April Rose, and Haven Shoemaker, are taking the field with bills that they plan to carry into the end zone before the clock runs out on the session, April 12.
The NFL played a full season including playoffs and its championship game despite the COVID-19 pandemic. High school sports in Carroll and the rest of Maryland did not fare as well. Shoemaker’s House Bill 817, cross-filed by Ready in the Senate, will provide the Class of 2021 high school seniors a chance at overtime by adding an extra year of eligibility for them to play sports. The bill would allow athletes who graduate the ability to participate in high school athletics, only at the school from which they graduated, for one additional year. The pandemic has robbed student-athletes of many opportunities over the last year, and this legislation will give young folks one more chance to earn a scholarship or simply compete with their peers.
Shoemaker also introduced HB476, which will make it easier for a court to grant visitation rights to a grandparent. Currently, Maryland law mandates that a court may grant a grandparent visitation rights if the court finds it in the best interests of the child. If this bill passes, courts may grant grandparents visitation rights if both living parents consent to visitation; one living parent consents to visitation and the other parent is unable to consent; both living parents are unable to consent to visitation; or exceptional circumstances exist that demonstrate current or future detriment to the child absent visitation with the grandparent. Let’s hope this common-sense measure sails through the uprights of the goalpost.
Rose has her own starting lineup of bills that I believe are destined to be winners. HB823 will allow high school students to satisfy one of their three math credits by completing an Advanced Placement computer science or computer programming course. Substituting one math class for a computer related course makes perfect sense in 2021, as our world becomes more dependent on computers each and every day.
Rose also has a bill that aims to keep flags from being thrown at churches, schools, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses for minor infractions during the pandemic. HB1084 would grant immunity from civil suits to those who fail to comply with the numerous and often confusing State or county Pandemic orders unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that noncompliance was committed with malice or gross negligence.
Like Tom Brady, Krebs will attempt to make history with HB990 which will take the Maryland Emergency Management Agency out from under the Maryland’s military department and establish it as its own department of the executive branch of state government with a secretary appointed by the governor.
The Super Bowl’s halftime entertainment was provided by musician The Weeknd, who performed many of his hit songs including “Can’t Feel My Face” — a term dentists hear often. Krebs’ HB710 will reimburse dental providers under Medicaid for services rendered by a student of dentistry who is engaged in a specified dental education program and providing services under the supervision of a licensed dentist.
As hard as it is to believe that Brady has more Super Bowl wins than any other player or single organization, it is even more difficult to comprehend that it is not a felony to steal a handgun in Maryland. According to the FBI, from 2012–2017, an estimated 16,000 firearms were stolen in our state. Ready’s SB560 will make the theft of a handgun a felony and establish penalties.
Ready deserves the Vince Lombardi Trophy for SB838 which would require an election judge to establish a voter’s identity by requiring the voter to present certain proof of identity which includes a current government-issued photo ID, voter notification card, utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or any other government document that shows the voter’s name and address and is dated within three months before the election. “We require identification to rent a hotel room, apply for a job, enter state government buildings, or even to purchase certain types of medication,” said Ready. “This proposal lays out several forms of identification that can be used to add a layer of assurance at the polls that people are who they say they are.”
There will be several fumbles and interceptions between now and when the final whistle blows ending the 2021 session, but I predict our District 5 team will be named MVP after passing these proposed pieces of legislation.
Christopher Tomlinson, third vice chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, writes from Melrose. Find him on Facebook at ColumnistChrisTomlinson or email him at CCTtomlinson@gmail.com.