Members of Calvert County’s delegation to Annapolis met Tuesday with the county commissioners to review requested legislation and provide insight into what might transpire during the 90-day General Assembly session that began Wednesday.
Two of the lawmakers — delegates Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) and Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) — attended the meeting in person, while other delegation members were on Zoom.
The Calvert County commissioners voted last month to support seven requests for legislation. The package included the annual request for added bonding authority, although at this time the amount of the request is unknown since the commissioners have yet to finalize their capital projects plan for fiscal 2023. County attorney John Norris stated that this year’s requested bonding authority amount will be “significantly lower” than in previous years.
One of the proposed measures — adding Calvert to the list of counties the Maryland Department of Natural Resources may allow hunting of game birds and game mammals in season on Sundays — appears to have the passionate support of Commissioner President Earl F. “Buddy” Hance (R). Despite reports of a dwindling deer population in certain Maryland jurisdictions, Hance believes a few extra days for hunters would be great for agriculture.
“As a farmer, there are always too many deer,” said Hance. “They are eating my crop.”
According to Sen. Michael A. Jackson (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s), the expansion of hunting on private property in many rural areas of the state is being driven by “crop damage and danger on the back roads.”
Other legislative requests include authorizing an individual who is employed by a county or municipality to perform marine contractor services while in the performance of the duties of their employment without having to obtain a marine contractor license, directing and allocating the Calvert County hotel tax revenue to a tourism grant fund that may be used to cover county special event fees and authorizing the commissioners to establish a local preference when awarding procurement contracts.
There was brief discussion about a measure to be submitted by Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles) to divide the College of Southern Maryland, a bill Jackson stated does not have the backing of the rest of the Charles County delegation. According to Sen. Jack Bailey (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert), there is no support for Ellis’ proposal in St. Mary’s either. He labeled Ellis’ measure “a shot in the dark.”
The ongoing controversy of legislative redistricting in Maryland brought some mixed comments from the lawmakers who live in Calvert.
“Calvert County again has been chopped up,” Clark said of one of the proposed maps. “We’re being overlooked. We’ve put a lot of money in the state coffers.”
Clark, who announced he would not be running for re-election this year, noted that a substantial amount of the state’s electricity is generated at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and Maryland has benefitted from the revenues yielded by Cove Point’s liquefaction unit. He said Calvert should have its own senator and a minimum of two delegates residing within its borders.
Fisher concurred with Clark’s criticism.
“We have the perfect population to have two delegates,” said Fisher. “It’s long overdue.”
Fisher added that the legislative maps proposed by Maryland Democrats bode ill for Calvert.
“They are going to try to chop Calvert County up more than they ever chopped it up before, and that’s wrong,” he said, adding that a proposal to mandate Calvert’s election district commissioners be elected solely by residents residing within that district is also an overreach.
“There are folks in Annapolis who want to divide Calvert County because that’s how they will conquer us,” said Fisher. “I say, ‘Over my dead body.’”
“We may be neighbors, but there are extreme differences in our demographics and just our way of life,” Hance said.
Offering a differing opinion on the legislative redistricting issue, Del. Rachel Jones (D-Calvert, Prince George’s) stated, “We are going to have to share. Calvert doesn’t have the population.”
Jones stated that a state Senate district needs a population of 141,000. The county’s population was 92,783 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census.
“We don’t have the numbers to stand alone,” said Jones, who added, “We’ve had good representation.”
The 2022 Maryland General Assembly session began Wednesday and will conclude on April 11.