This week I presented five pieces of legislation that would expand voter access, strengthen accountability, better support our small businesses and non-profits, and expand fairness in our tax code.
On Tuesday, I had three election bills heard in my home committee of Ways and Means that would help remove certain restrictions on polling locations, raise the pay for election judges, and strengthen our campaign finance laws.
HB 327 would raise the daily wages for election judges. Ensuring that our election judges are paid a minimum wage is the least we can do for those who facilitate the very foundation of our democracy.
HB 328 is a bill that would help our State and local boards of election make voting more accessible to voters.
HB 340 would strengthen our campaign finance laws and give prosecutors the tools they need to hold those who maliciously break those laws accountable.
Then on Wednesday, I presented HB 386 which would expand and streamline the ability of local governments to distribute relief money to small businesses and non-profits in need after a natural disaster. The critical need to support our small businesses in the wake of natural disasters became clear last Fall, when an EF-2 tornado tore through the City of Annapolis and parts of Edgewater leaving an immense amount of destruction in its path. Dozens of businesses sustained devastating damage, some completely destroyed. Unlike the response to the October floods, there was not a declaration of a State of Emergency, therefore our State was unable to receive a FEMA Disaster Declaration. This meant that our businesses suffered for months without knowing whether or not their State was going to come through with desperately needed support.
HB 386 would fix the problem seen in the aftermath of the tornado by creating a process in which local SMWOB fund managers can issue grants in the case of a *local* emergency declaration - rather than just in Federal or State. If this legislation had been law when the tornado hit, we would have been able to immediately distribute funding to businesses & nonprofits in the greater Annapolis area.
Finally, I presented my bill HB 502 that would expand the annual sales and use the tax-free period to sewing items used to make clothes such as fabric, thread, zippers, bias tape, and elastic. Simply put, this bill would create parity in the items we choose to include in our back-to-school tax-free week. Whether a family chooses to purchase pre-made, manufactured clothing or make their own, they should be able to enjoy the same tax benefits.
Honoring Our Black Families of Eastport: Past & Present
On Sunday, February 27 at 11:00 AM, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, in partnership with the Annapolis Maritime Museum, will be hosting a Black Eastport history event “Honoring our Black Families of Eastport: Past & Present.” The event will include speaker panels about what life in the Black community of the town was like for our families. In addition to a gallery of photos, there will be moderated discussion panels, selected statements, and memories shared by descendants.
Register for the event here.
Honoring our Healthcare Heroes
Earlier this week, Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed this week Healthcare Heroes week in appreciation for all the hard work health care workers from doctors, nurses, EMTs, and beyond have done to protect Marylanders from COVID-19. I can not express my deep personal gratitude for the sacrifices and hard work that all of our front-line workers have undertaken over the past 23 months throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. As a part of this appreciation week, submit your story of a healthcare hero you know: https://governor.maryland.gov/healthcareheroes
Get Your COVID Booster Vaccine
More than 95% of Maryland adults have now been vaccinated against COVID-19. We know that vaccine effectiveness wanes as time goes on. That’s why getting boosted maximizes protection against the virus and its variants.
You can find a vaccine clinic for your booster at: covidvax.maryland.gov
Energy Tax-Free Week
It's almost that time of year again! This year's #ShopMarylandEnergy weekend is February 19-21, 2022.
#ShopLocal and save when you buy a qualifying Energy Star product sales tax FREE! Energy-efficient appliances are good for the environment and for your energy bill. This is a great time to upgrade outdated appliances with something that is more efficient. Additionally, many retailers and manufacturers offer additional up-front savings and/or rebates. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3uDRCMy
Call for Artists!
On behalf of Anne Arundel County and the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, the Annapolis Arts District is seeking an artist, designer, or team to design and execute a mural upon the southeastern, parking lot facing side of the Arundel Center, located at 44 Calvert Street, Annapolis, MD 21401.
This project is part of a series of creative, place-making enhancements Anne Arundel County is pursuing to beautify its properties through public art. This wall represents just one opportunity planned for the Calvert Street corridor and it is intended that this mural will create a major, positive impact on the existing streetscape. The Phase 1 deadline is next week on February 18, 2022. Get information and start your application here.
Free African American Annapolis Heritage Tours
Join Watermark Tours every Saturday in February to trace the journey of African Americans, and explore their impact both nationally and internationally. This free, 2-hour walking tour, offered in partnership with the Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation and named a “Heritage Award Winner” by the Four Rivers Heritage Area, starts at Market House Park across from Annapolis City Dock, where slave ships entered 300 years ago. Get details and tickets here.
Free Clean Water Initiative Environmental Seminars
The Maryland Clean Marina Initiative, coordinated by the Department of Natural Resources in partnership with the marine industry, recognizes and promotes environmentally responsible boating facilities. Certified Clean Marinas enjoy cleaner water, cost savings, more responsible customers, and positive publicity.
This spring, Marinas, boatyards, and yacht clubs are invited to attend a free seminar to learn about becoming certified Clean Marinas, hear about storm water management projects and funding, and learn about proposed Maryland regulations. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) staff will also discuss the 2022 reissue of the General Discharge Permit for Marinas as well as new fuel tank storage regulations. Additionally, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff will explain grant funding available for pump-out stations, storm water management, and more.
Learn more or register for these free webinars here.
Anne Arundel County Board Vacancies
The Anne Arundel County Government is currently filling vacancies for fourteen boards and commissions and is looking for residents who want to make a difference in their communities and get involved in local government.
The vacancies are on the following boards: Laurel Race Course Impact Fund Committee, Inter-faith Advisory Council, Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board, and eleven more. Learn more about each board and commission and apply here!
Love Our Libraries
In-person story times are back! Find an event near you: http://aacpl.net/events
Join AACPL for a Virtual Valentines Scavenger Hunt on Monday, February 14, at 5:30 pm. This fun, family-friendly event challenges players to find specified items according to the answer to a puzzle or riddle. You get 30 seconds to answer and retrieve the item before any other team. Registration is required, which you can do here!
I would encourage everyone to follow the Anne Arundel County Public Library’s Facebook page to get updates on programs and new resources. You can check out their calendar to find the perfect event for you and your family to enjoy!
Go Navy, Beat Army!
Congratulations to the men's and women's track team, the men's Navy Gymnastics, AND Navy Rifle for defeating Army this weekend! You can check out some of their victory highlights here!
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or visit my new website to learn about volunteer opportunities, community resources, COVID-19 updates, and much more. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always contact my office by email at Dana.Jones@house.state.md.us or by phone at 410-841-3211.
Stay safe and healthy,