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Maryland General Assembly Session Begins With Changes Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Wednesday marked day one of the new session of the Maryland General Assembly.

Lawmakers have big items on the agenda for the 90-day session; top of mind is providing financial relief to Marylanders hit hard amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 442nd legislative session began at noon in the Senate and 1 p.m. in the House of Delegates. After members were sworn in and some appointments were made, lawmakers adjourned until Friday morning.

Many proceedings will move online to allow for social distancing, and the look inside the chamber was markedly different due to the pandemic.

Glass barriers towered over lawmakers, one of many new safety protocols. The number of people allowed inside various parts of the State House will also be limited.

maryland state house coronavirus restrictions 1.13.21
Glass barriers separate lawmakers' seats at the Maryland State House on the first day of the new General Assembly session.

Near the top of the agenda is a $1 billion proposal from Gov. Larry Hogan to ease financial pain during the pandemic.

That legislation includes a sales tax credit for businesses and stimulus checks for low- to moderate-income Marylanders of $450 per individuals or $750 for families.

"This relief will go directly to Marylanders in need and no application of any kind is necessary," Hogan said Monday as he announced the legislation.

Senate President Bill Ferguson said some elements of the plan may change but lawmakers will move quickly.

"We are here to do work," Ferguson said. "There are vulnerable Marylanders who are struggling in ways we never could have expected, and we have an urgent responsibility to get support to those most vulnerable as quickly as we possibly can."

As most Maryland students maneuver virtual learning, House Speaker Adrienne Jones said education is a top priority. Police reform is also a top agenda item.

And with more than 314,000 Marylanders having tested positive for COVID-19, there will be a push to expedite vaccinations.

"There is nothing more important in government right now than getting these vaccines distributed and administered," Ferguson said.

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