Maryland lawmakers may consider whether to create a new form of a state of emergency to handle long-term infrastructure disasters like the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge earlier this week.

A bill was introduced in the state Senate on Thursday that would create a “critical infrastructure state of emergency” that the governor could invoke for long-term situations like rebuilding a bridge.

“There’s going to be a tremendous economic impact and we need to get the critical infrastructure back up again,” said Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican who introduced the bill on Thursday.

The full text of the bill was not yet available, but Simonaire said that it would create a state of emergency that could be used for months or years, if needed.

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Read more: Full coverage of the Key Bridge collapse

Maryland’s current state of emergency is capped at 30 days at a time, and targeted toward shorter-term emergencies. The state of emergency also has vast powers — not only the ability to quickly deploy money and state resources, but also a rarely invoked authority to use private property for emergency needs.

Simonaire said the existing state of emergency doesn’t fit the needs Maryland is facing now.

“What we have here is critical infrastructure — it’s not going to be a 30-day or 60-day [emergency]. It could be potentially years,” Simonaire said. The bill “works to create a limited state of emergency power just for critical infrastructure so they can expedite certain processes and we can get that bridge up quicker.”

A governor can, however, issue successive declarations to keep a state of emergency going beyond 30 days. Then-Gov. Larry Hogan issued successive emergency declarations for the worst parts of the coronavirus pandemic, with changes lasting in some form from March 2020 through August 2021.

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Simonaire’s district in northeastern Anne Arundel is along the Patapsco River, and many of his constituents used the Key Bridge regularly.

He’s jointly sponsoring the bill with Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, a Baltimore County Republican whose district is across the river on the other side of the bridge.

Lawmakers are in the final days of their annual 90-day legislative session, and senators agreed to bypass procedural rules to introduce the bill and send it straight to a committee for consideration. A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning.

Simonaire noted that high-priority bills have been passed in quicker timelines than this bill is facing.

“We have time if there is a will,” Simonaire said.

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Lawmakers also soon will consider a bill to offer financial aid to workers and businesses affected by the closure of the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, which has shut down all shipping traffic for the foreseeable future.

That bill was announced Wednesday by Senate President Bill Ferguson and Del. Luke Clippinger, both Democrats who have part of the port and the bridge in their Baltimore district. It hasn’t yet been officially introduced.

The General Assembly session concludes at midnight on April 8.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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