Maryland Lawmakers Draft Emergency Law After Bridge Collapse

Maryland lawmakers are fast-tracking legislation aimed at supporting port workers and businesses impacted by the shutdown of the Port of Baltimore following the March 26 collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, CBS News reported.

With the 2024 legislative session about to end, state lawmakers are working quickly to ensure the “Protecting Opportunities and Regional Trade Act,” or PORT Act, is passed by April 5.

State Senate President Bill Ferguson, who introduced the PORT Act last Friday, testified before the Senate Finance Committee on April 2 advocating for the bill’s immediate passage.

Ferguson said the bill would enable the state to provide temporary relief to workers and businesses until the channel is cleared of debris.

The PORT Act has bipartisan support, with Baltimore County Republican state Senator Johnny Ray Salling co-sponsoring the legislation. Salling said the legislature needed to work “together as a team” to get the measure passed.

If the bill is passed and signed into law by Governor Wes Moore, it would use the state’s rainy day fund to provide support for port workers who do not qualify for unemployment. It would also ensure that businesses at the port can retain and pay their employees while the Port of Baltimore is closed. The bill would also provide incentives for companies to return once the port reopens.

During the April 2 hearing, Senator Ferguson also listed some proposed amendments to the PORT Act, including one that would create a scholarship fund for the children of the six construction workers killed in the bridge collapse.

Scott Cowan, the president of the local International Longshoreman Association’s chapter told WJZ that he was hopeful the bill would reach Governor Moore’s desk for his signature.

The Senate was expected to vote on the bill on April 3, after which it would move to the House of Delegates for a vote.