One of my top priorities as an elected official is to keep you informed on your state government's interworking. Therefore, I will send out a weekly email on important topics before the legislative session, and I encourage and welcome your feedback.
School Mask Mandate
As many of you are aware, I have been on the frontlines arguing for the State Board of Education to end the statewide mask mandate in our schools immediately. But, unfortunately, for nearly a month, the State BOE dug in their heels and resisted, citing their unattainable and unscientific "off-ramps."
As my office fielded many emails and phone calls during this time, we encouraged hundreds of phone calls and emails to the State BOE.
I am happy to report that the State BOE finally reversed its early position and voted on February 22 to lift the statewide mandate.
Later today, the AELR, the joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review, will vote to make face-coverings optional. After the vote today, the decision to mask children in our school will be a local school board decision.
Superintendent of St. Mary's county schools, Dr. Scott Smith, announced that St. Mary's County Schools would lift the mandate pending that vote. I have it on very good authority that AELR will vote to return the mask issue to the local boards. Hopefully, our children will have the option to mask by March 1.
Thank you to all the parents who have spoken out about this issue.
*** I have received emails from constituents who disagreed with removing students' masking requirements. I am happy to say that today's masking policy change coincides with the news that the CDC will significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines today. I am glad to see the federal medical and scientific community supporting a return to normal. Link to the AP story: https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-health-pandemics-centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention-0be4f20f94f125c511dbca42ae317546
Sexting Bill HB-194
I agree with the provisions of this bill, which was to include education regarding the dangers of "sexting" into the sex education curriculum in school. However, I held the bill on the house floor for possible amendments. My colleague, Delegate Szeliga, introduced an amendment to the bill to allow for the new curriculum to be posted online, providing a high level of transparency and access for parents. Strangely, the Democrats vehemently opposed the amendment. I believe this speaks to the more significant problem in our state education system: parents need to be informed and have more control over their children's education.
Home School Bill HB-832
Another concerning bill was introduced that seeks to regulate homeschool education. The bill would create a "homeschool advisory council," adding an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to homeschool regulations. There is no need for an additional board of individuals who are not involved in homeschooling and do not homeschool their own children.
I signed on to the letter requesting the sponsor to withdraw the legislation.
Abortion bills HB 1171, HB 937, and HB 952
This week in my HGO committee, we heard three concerning pro-abortion bills Democrats are looking to pass in the coming weeks.
This bill enshrines abortion within the State Constitution in the Declaration of Rights. If this bill passes, it would guarantee abortion on demand and would be very hard to restrict even late-term abortion.
The legislation requires the governor to include annually $3,500,000 of taxpayer dollars in mandated spending to train abortionists and expand the list of medical professionals that can perform an abortion.
This bill mandates abortion services coverage by insurance.
HGO Republicans have held these bills from their committee vote for the maximum time. But, unfortunately, they will be on the voting list next. I will continue to stand on the side of LIFE and vote to oppose each of these bills.
Good news regarding EZ pass billing issues
Many citizens, including myself, have continued to experience problems being billed for tolls by MD EZPASS.
MDOT announced yesterday that they would waive all civil penalties for anyone owing tolls due until November 30, 2022.
If you owe EZPASS bridge or tunnel tolls and have a fine or penalty attached, you may take advantage of the civil penalty grace period if you pay the toll portion of the bill by November 30, 2022.
Customers should note the following key dates:
- Payments made/postmarked before February 24, 2022: Civil penalties that are already paid will not be reimbursed.
- Payments made/postmarked February 24 – November 30, 2022: For every unpaid toll transaction paid in full, the corresponding civil penalty will be waived. Additionally, no toll debt will be referred to CCU or MDOT MVA.
- February 24 – Mid-March 2022: Civil penalties will be waived for each paid toll, but civil penalties remain on accounts until the software changes are in place to reflect the waiver.
- Mid-March: The system functionality for the waiver grace period will be completed, allowing customers to confirm online that their penalties are being waived following full toll payment.
- November 30, 2022, at 11:59 p.m.: Civil penalty waiver grace period ends.
- December 1, 2022: All unpaid tolls AND civil penalties are due based on the printed due dates, and toll debt referrals to CCU and MDOT MVA resume.
- Visit https://driveezmd.com/faq/ to view our Frequently Asked Questions.
Customers with unpaid Video Tolls can pay by the following methods:
- Visit https://csc.driveezmd.com/pay-tolls-now.
- Mail the bottom portion of the notice(s) along with your check/money order payable to:
MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY
P.O. Box 12853 Philadelphia, PA 19176-0853 (Do not send cash)
- Use the automated call system 24/7 at 1-866-320-9995 (select Option 1 for Notice of Toll Due, then enter the mailing number on the notice when prompted).
- Visit an in-person Customer Service Center.
Also, customers who pay their Video Tolls before the notice is mailed will save 15% (maximum of $5 per transaction). You can pay your Video Tolls at https://csc.driveezmd.com/pay-tolls-now.