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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signs bill to support workers, businesses affected by Key Bridge collapse – Baltimore Sun

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Returning to Annapolis after pleading with members of Congress for federal funding, Gov. Wes Moore signed legislation Wednesday to support workers and businesses affected by the partial closure of the Port of Baltimore, two weeks after a container ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge collided and six people died.

“We must understand that what happened two weeks ago was not a Maryland disaster,” Moore, a Democrat, said as he signed his first bill of 2024. “This was a national disaster.”

Before signing the bill Tuesday, Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore, recalled the moment he saw the emptiness that was once the Key Bridge.

“In moments like this you have two options: you can either shut down, wallow, be afraid – afraid of the future – or you can act,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Clippinger — both Democrats who represent Baltimore neighborhoods directly affected by the bridge collapse — voted to legislate to deal with the disaster less than 24 hours after the bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River.

The governor signed his bill, known as the Maryland Protecting Opportunities and Regional Trade (PORT) Act, into law on Tuesday. The legislation, which took effect as soon as Moore's pen touched paper, will create economic relief funds for thousands of workers and many businesses that rely on operations at the port, and provide financial incentives for companies that shift operations to other ports must return to Baltimore as soon as the canal reopens.

The bill also establishes an educational scholarship program for the children of transportation workers killed on the job.

Moore arrived in Annapolis on Tuesday afternoon for the bill signing ceremony after meeting with members of Democratic President Joe Biden's administration and Maryland's congressional delegation to call for bipartisan federal support to support the state's debris removal efforts , to fund reconstruction of the bridge and reopening canals for ship traffic back into the Port of Baltimore.

“We had the opportunity to stand with every single member of the Maryland delegation from the 1st Congressional District [Republican U.S. Rep.] Andy Harris, for 8th Congressional District of [Democratic U.S. Rep.] Jamie Raskin,” Moore said Tuesday afternoon. “Democrats and Republicans stand together and say Maryland will do its part in this moment.”

There are questions about what the bridge will be called after reconstruction. House Commerce Committee Chairman CT Wilson, a Democrat who represents Charles County, said Monday that there is “no doubt” it will be called the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Among the dozens of other bills signed Tuesday was a law that would formally name the Port of Baltimore in honor of former Republican U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley of Maryland. Although this law was named in her honor in 2006, it guarantees that any reference to the port in state law or documents will refer to it as the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore. Former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich showed up to the ceremony on Tuesday.

Aside from the port legislation, Moore signed bills to expand protections for firefighters suffering from certain types of cancer, increase employment opportunities for military spouses, protect poll workers from threats and harassment, and increase military leave for National Guard employees.

Moore repeated a mantra from his time in the military several times before signing the bill Tuesday: “Mission first, people always.”

“That philosophy is at the heart of these four bills,” he said.