Lawmakers in one committee are being reminded not to operate a vehicle while attending virtual briefings.
House Health and Government Operations Committee Chair Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s) issued the reminder during a Thursday briefing.
During the meeting, two delegates could be seen in vehicles — one driving and one, Del. Robbyn Lewis (D-Baltimore), a passenger.
“I just want to clarify for the record that Delegate Lewis was in an Uber and not driving,” said Peña-Melnyk. “The other ones that are driving pulled over. So, we’re very safe here, ok?”
Lewis, an advocate for public transportation and bike use, does not own a car. In a video of the hearing, she can be seen wearing a seatbelt in a passenger area of a vehicle.
Peña-Melnyk spoke of a committee member who was driving but did not name the lawmaker.
Del. Jamila J. Woods (D-Prince George’s) can be seen in the meeting putting on her seatbelt. The camera for the device she used appears to be mounted behind the steering wheel.
Woods, using a virtual background, can then be seen operating the vehicle including turning the steering wheel. That continues for about 80 seconds.
Woods can then be seen looking directly at the device before switching it off. She is not visible for the balance of the nearly 2-hour briefing.
Woods did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Maryland Matters could not identify any other lawmakers operating a vehicle while on camera.
The attention to Woods’ driving while legislating comes as a task force convened by Gov. Wes Moore (D) is reviewing highway and work zone safety. The panel, chaired by Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, is expected to make recommendations later this year on changes to state law that could lower roadway injuries and deaths.
The state is currently on pace to reach if not exceed 600 crash-related fatalities this year.
A spokesperson for Miller did not respond to a request for comment.
This is not the first time lawmakers have been admonished for attending virtual hearings over the last three years when their attention should have been directed elsewhere.
Del. Terri L. Hill (D-Baltimore and Howard) was reprimanded by the Maryland Board of Physicians in 2021 after she twice performed surgery while attending virtual legislative hearings.
Hill, a licensed physician, could be seen in two online hearings of the House Environment and Transportation Committee during the 2021 session. In both, she could be seen wearing a surgical mask and scrubs while treating or operating on patients.
As part of her reprimand, Hill, who is also a member of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.
Baltimore County man charged with illegally voting
A 54-year-old Baltimore County man faces charges for falsifying a voter registration and illegally voting in 2018.
Francis G. Bagnall registered to vote in Maryland in March of 1996. A statement issued by the Office of the State Prosecutor said Bagnall registered even though he was not a United States citizen.
In 2018, Bagnall allegedly cast a ballot in the 2018 election even though he was not legally allowed to vote.
Neither a statement issued by State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard, III nor charging documents filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court provide additional details. Online court records do not list an attorney for Bagnall.
If convicted, the charge of voting without legal authority carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and or a $5,000 fine. The charge of false voter registration carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.
“Election integrity is of the utmost importance to the survival of our democracy,” Howard said in a statement. “Our office will continue to investigate and take legal action as appropriate where an individual is alleged to have voted in Maryland without the legal authority to do so.”