The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Maryland legislature must call a special session

The Maryland State House in Annapolis. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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Julian Ivey, a Democrat, represents Prince George’s County in the Maryland House of Delegates.

As eviction cases resume in Maryland, the hardships that many Maryland families have been facing for the past several months are only getting worse. And, with the killing of Jacob Blake and Rittenhouse massacre in Kenosha, Wis., people are righteously indignant about the state of race relations and police brutality across the country. The coronavirus pandemic is devastating families across this country. We cannot count on President Trump or Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to meet this moment.

At the same time, the Maryland General Assembly’s leaders have been missing in action. The General Assembly has watched Trump and the Republican-majority U.S. Senate obstruct Democratic congressional efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis stemming from this public health crisis. Our elected leaders have watched Hogan sell books and reject public health experts’ advice as he ramps up for a 2024 presidential run.

And yet, legislatively, the Maryland General Assembly has done nothing.

Hearings are not enough. Letters are not enough. As legislators, we must legislate in this moment of extraordinary crisis. There are many issues that we should be addressing. I will highlight just four that must be addressed in a special session: the housing crisis, labor issues related to the pandemic, the HBCU lawsuit and police reform.

If we don’t act, we will see scores of Maryland renters and homeowners drown in increasingly deep debt, and some will face eviction. The Trump administration’s “national eviction moratorium” announced on Tuesday has loopholes as gaping as the Grand Canyon. It doesn’t provide financial relief. And, even for those it purports to protect, it does nothing to address the financial issues accumulating for renters that will hit them like a brick when the moratorium expires and back rent, fees, penalties and interest payments come due.

If we don’t act, we will continue to see courageous Maryland workers — front-line workers — exploited by a lack of employee protections, by unsafe conditions, by a lack of personal protective equipment, by a lack of hazard pay and by the threat of retaliation from managers who don’t heed their concerns. We should be passing statewide emergency legislation to address these issues, including through reforms to the Maryland Healthy Families Act and reforms to the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Division.

If we don’t act, we will see Historically Black Colleges and Universities languish for several months before they get a long-overdue settlement of Maryland’s infamous HBCU case. We should be overriding the governor’s veto of the HBCU funding bill.

And, if we don’t act, we could see yet another Black victim of police brutality become a hashtag in Maryland under the state’s existing legislative framework, which provides special protections to officers who may use excessive force or engage in other forms of misconduct. We should be repealing the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights immediately. That alone won’t solve all the problems in Maryland policing, but it would undoubtedly address one of the biggest.

When I first called for a special session, General Assembly leaders argued against a special session, citing safety concerns. But now all we hear is crickets, even though the attorney general’s office recently provided a legal road map for us to reconvene remotely. The U.S. House is doing remote voting. Why can’t we?

Even if we had to temporarily reconvene in person to change some rules before switching to remote voting, that is not a reason for us not to reconvene now. More than 40 percent of Maryland state workers are working in person in service to the people of Maryland. We don’t just represent these essential workers; in times like these, we are essential workers. How can we tell people that it’s essential that they vote for us if we don’t acknowledge that it’s essential that we work for them at one of the most critical times in modern American history?

Read more:

Cathryn Parul: Maryland legislators must reconvene now. Our lives depend on it.

Letter to the Editor: Rather than wait for Larry Hogan, Maryland Democrats need to act

Larry Hogan: I’m a GOP governor. Why didn’t Trump help my state with coronavirus testing?

Larry Hogan and Gretchen Whitmer: What governors need from Washington during this health emergency