In a minutes-long ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, the first bill of the 2019 General Assembly session was signed into law.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) was joined by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Pro Temp Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) in signing the Federal Shutdown Paycheck Protection Act. Jones was filling in for House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard), would establish a Federal Government Shutdown Employee Assistance Loan Fund, to allow “essential” government employees – those who must report to work without pay and, as a result, aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance – to receive temporary assistance through the state during future shutdowns.
The fund could be activated by Maryland’s governor during any federal government shutdown to give no-interest loans to federal employees with worksites in Maryland who are forced to go to work without pay.
The bill is an emergency bill, meaning it takes effect immediately.
The bill also contains a contingency to allow essential federal government employees to receive state unemployment insurance if the federal government changes guidance that prevents those payments now; to date, the Department of Labor has refused to change guidance to allow states to provide benefits to essential employees.
The measure was the first bill sponsored by Feldmark, a freshman, to pass the House chamber earlier this session.
Jones invited Feldman and Feldmark to join the lawmakers at the signing table as the bills were autographed into law. The measures passed the House and the Senate earlier this session by wide margins.
“I think this is a great step in the right direction,” a raspy Hogan said during the three-minute signing ceremony.
Miller said he’s been together with Hogan three times in the last week or so and used the moment to stress bipartisanship.
“It’s about cooperation. Coming together and staying together, Democrats and Republicans,” said Miller. “This is about protecting federal employees. This is a good bill to sign.”