Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson kicked off the 90-day General Assembly session from the floor of the State House with a recognition of the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on Marylanders and his colleagues in Annapolis.
Speaking from the floor of the Senate chamber, Ferguson said Marylanders have been dealing with the impact of the coronavirus in almost every aspect of their lives.
“They have faced mental health crises and emergencies in ways that I think people have never thought would happen at this scale,” Ferguson said, adding that lawmakers, their staff and the people who support them have faced the same challenges, as well.
Ferguson said working through a legislative session for the third year in a row also comes during an election year.
“A year from today, where will we be? We’ll have a different governor; we’ll have a different lieutenant governor; we’ll have a different attorney general,” and he added, other contests at the Congressional and state legislative level loom.
With election year politics ahead, because “the temptation for politics to play out as we have seen in other places may be there again,” Ferguson asked for a “spirit of generosity,” as lawmakers debate bills, including those on redrawing legislative maps.
He said his colleagues will get through the session, but “We have to give each other a bit of grace.”
While there are no longer plexiglass barriers separating lawmakers, they are wearing masks and keeping Senate floor sessions short, in a “pro forma” mode. On the House side, where there are 141 members to the Senate’s 47, there won’t be full sessions for a few weeks.
The public is allowed in the State House complex, but committee hearings and meetings will be carried out on Zoom again.
Two lawmakers missed out on the opening day of the session. State Sen. Michael Hough, a Republican representing Frederick and Carroll Counties, tweeted on Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m fully vaccinated and my symptoms are mild. I will be missing the first week of the legislative session as I quarantine,” Hough said.
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins was also absent after testing positive for COVID-19 Monday. She said that she was vaccinated and had received a booster.
“Unfortunately I will miss the Opening Day of the 2022 session, but will plan to join all virtual meetings,” Wilkins said on Twitter.