UPDATE: On Thursday, March 19, 2020, Gov. Hogan imposed further restrictions on Marylanders, after announcing the first coronavirus-related death in our state. The administration continued to expand its closures, adding all indoor malls and arenas to the growing list of businesses and public places that have been closed to slow the spread of the virus. Among other measures, the administration also banned gatherings of more than 10 people in close proximity, and is actively working to increase the number of hospital beds available across the state by reopening closed facilities. For the latest on the coronavirus in Maryland CLICK HERE.
On Wed. March 18, 2020, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned the legislative session, nearly 3 weeks ahead of schedule. The abbreviated session left many pieces of legislation unresolved but legislative leaders have said they are planning to return in the end of May for a special session. Read more about the end of session HERE.
Our Catholic churches remain closed in light of the state's actions, but our Catholic Charities continue to work to serve our communities, particularly those who are deeply impacted by these closures and restrictions. Baltimore Archbishop Lori addressed the faithful about the pandemic on March 18. Read his statement HERE.
MARCH 13, 2020 — As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Maryland continues to rise, our state's Governor and General Assembly have established new social distancing mandates, many of which impact the work of the Maryland Catholic Conference and our Catholic faithful.
The Conference is monitoring the situation and will work to keep our network abreast of changes as they unfold.
What do we know so far?
Governor Larry Hogan announced Thursday numerous actions his administration has taken to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the coming weeks, including closing schools and senior centers, banning gatherings of more than 250 people — including religious gatherings — and limiting access to state buildings.
On Friday, leaders of the General Assembly extended these restrictions, banning access for the time being to the State House, the Senate and House office buildings by the public, advocates and lobbyists. This directly impacts our staff who frequently enter these buildings to meet with legislative and administrative staff, and legislators.
Additionally, the General Assembly will now only accept testimony in writing and encouraged testimony to be submitted to a member who will ensure it is placed in the bill file, as advocates no longer may enter the buildings to submit testimony. As of Friday, only a bill's sponsor is permitted to testify in person.
With just 25 days remaining in the 2020 legislative session, many bills have yet to receive full consideration. We do not know yet if the General Assembly will continue through its scheduled Sine Die of April 6, or end early.
Both chambers announced they will work through the weekend of March 14 and 15, holding floor sessions on Sunday — something neither has done in decades.
Both chambers also instructed their leadership to prioritize, where possible, outstanding legislation to focus on the most important bills.
The majority of the bills the Conference has been working on this session remain outstanding and it is unclear which, besides the budget, will be resolved before the General Assembly adjourns. Any bill that fails to pass both chambers before midnight on Sine Die is dead and must be reintroduced in a subsequent legislative session.
By law, the General Assembly is only mandated to pass two pieces of legislation each session: the operating budget and the capital budget. As of Friday, the Senate has passed its version of the operating budget and the House was expected to bring its to the floor during a session on Friday.
Our state's BOOST Scholarship Program funding is part of the operating budget and the Senate version of the budget includes $10 million for BOOST for the upcoming school year. The House Appropriations Committee, however, voted to phase out the BOOST program in the version of the budget it sent to the House floor for consideration. Both chambers must agree on the final budget for it to pass onto the Governor for a signature. The budget would take effect July 1, 2020.
As of Friday afternoon, the crossover deadline for legislation remained in place at March 16 — this is the deadline by which any bill must pass out of its original chamber and move to the other. Those which pass out of their originating chamber after this deadline are assigned to the Rules committee, which will determine if the bill may proceed or if it dies.
What does this all mean?
The Conference staff continues to work on outstanding legislation in the ways we can, including reaching members by phone and email, submitting testimony in writing, and watching or listening to committee and floor sessions online.
We are aware that many advocates and some individuals were planning to testify on Friday in favor of numerous bills that would protect women and the unborn or attend the hearing, and were unable to do so.
We encourage those who have not yet already done so, to consider sending a message to their lawmakers about these and other outstanding bills.
Please visit our Action Alerts page to find the current actions available through the Maryland Catholic Conference.
The executive orders from Gov. Hogan have impacted Catholic parishes, schools and parishioners across Maryland. Catholic social service agencies that serve vulnerable Maryland residents are making changes in programs and volunteer services during this time. We encourage anyone who is concerned about how these changes impact them to visit the diocesan websites for more information.
Finally, we encourage all Catholics in Maryland to pray for our state, those across the world who have been infected by this virus, the medical teams working to treat the sick and stop the virus' rapid spread, and our communities as a whole.