A St. Mary’s delegate last week held a virtual town hall where he discussed the state’s budget, as well as upcoming bills he plans to bring forward in this year’s legislative session, some which address issues such as daylight saving time, early voting location requirements and voting in commissioner districts.
Del. Brian Crosby (D-St. Mary’s) said during the meeting the $50 billion state budget “drives most of the policy that we have here in the state of Maryland and it really determines what we can do moving forward.”
While the spending affordability board came up with current end-of-year projections, he said the state is looking at a $778 million surplus.
“We’re going to be almost $800 million in the green this year, largely due to the federal government passing the” Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, as well as the fact that many employees in the region, including those at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, were able to achieve work remotely during the pandemic.
The delegate said there will be a structural deficit of $650 million in 2021 and $812 million in 2022, however, that does not factor in another stimulus bill passing or the state tapping into the rainy day fund, which was “one of the first recommendations of the spending affordability board.”
He said “each and every year we take money from the budget and set it aside in case it rains and certainly it is raining right now … we should be able to use those funds to cover any kind of structural deficit going forward.”
Regarding legislation, Crosby said he was proposing 12 bills this year, one which would maintain Eastern Daylight Time year-round here.
“I truly believe in the benefits of this,” he said, claiming “car accidents, heart attacks and strokes are all up the day after we move the clocks.” He also said rather than being tied to agriculture, the bill is linked to energy efficiency.
A compact would be set up, the delegate claimed, so when the bill passes in Maryland it would not go into effect until “all these other states along the eastern seaboard pass the bill as well.”
Another one of Crosby’s bills would require county commissioners to win the plurality of their vote in their respective districts.
“The whole county votes for commissioners in each district and in my mind that is undemocratic,” he said. “You should vote for commissioners in your district and not have your vote diluted by another end of the county.”
He continued, “What I would say to opponents is this is how it is done at a state level and at a federal level. ... I run in District 29B and only 29B residents can vote for me.”
Crosby mentioned as far as early voting centers, there is an “ongoing battle to get a second” location “here in St. Mary’s County.” He mentioned under the current law, “You need 100,000 registered voters to qualify for a second early voting center.”
St. Mary’s County has 73,000 “but yet the only early voting center is stuck 20 minutes away from our drive down here,” he said of areas such as Lexington Park, Ridge and St. George’s Island.
In turn, the delegate said he is introducing a bill which would say if a county has over 70,000 registered voters then they must open a second early voting center.
“This would only impact two counties in the whole state,” he said, adding places like Garrett County only have 20,000 registered voters but provide two locations. “We should be giving people more access to cast their ballots, plain and simple.”
A bill which would establish full faith and credit of military spouse licensure for health professionals in the state of Maryland is also on Crosby’s radar.
“If someone gets assigned from China Lake, Calif., and their spouse is a nurse,” the spouse would not be able to be a nurse in Maryland, he said. “All this bill would say is if you can prove your spouse is an active duty service member and you have a license in a different state, we are going to honor that license temporarily until you leave or transition” out of active duty.
The delegate said “nationwide, both red and blue states are really realizing the value of this and the immense talent that military spouses possess.”
Other bills included the requirement for Maryland State Police to wear body cameras and several bond bills; one for the Patuxent Naval River Museum to implement upgrades; a bill to get the Ridge Volunteer Fire Department a new rescue boat; and one which would allow a health clinic to be homed in an old PNC Bank building in Lexington Park.
Health and road updates provided
Earlier in the meeting, Dr. Wilbur H. Chen, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, and Dr. Meena Brewster, health officer for St. Mary’s County, provided health updates regarding COVID-19 and vaccine distribution. As of Thursday, Jan. 7, Brewster said, the health departments data showed 1,793 individuals have been vaccinated in the county, but because of information delays, that number is actually significantly higher.
Jason Ridgeway, deputy administrator from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, provided updates on the Route 5/Great Mills Road project, which Crosby had been advocating for since the start of his time in office two years ago.
“Improvements include additional lanes in each direction including turn lanes, a bridge replacement and some bicycle and pedestrian accommodations,” Ridgeway said. “Currently we are fully funded for design in right-of-way and we are currently progressing our design, at about 60%.”
He claimed they are also making progress with right-of-way acquisitions needed for utility relocation and construction.
“Unfortunately, those at this time are not funded,” the administrator said, but added they can start relocating utilities next summer which would take about two years, then roadwork would follow-up right after that.