State Roundup, March 20, 2018

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BUMP STOCK BAN: Maryland is poised to ban bump stocks — rapid-fire gun accessories like the one used in a massacre at a Las Vegas concert — after a state Senate vote Monday night. The bill passed 35-11, with the support of three Republicans — Sen. Robert Cassilly of Harford County, Sen. Stephen Hershey of the Eastern Shore and Sen. Edward Reilly of Anne Arundel County, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

PREDATORY HISTORY: The House of Delegates unanimously approved long-sought legislation Monday that will allow judges to admit evidence of a defendant’s past behavior in trials for sexual assault, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. Passage of the bill sets up a conference committee with the Senate, which has passed a different version of the bill. In previous years, similar legislation failed in the House Judiciary Committee.

HARASSMENT LEGISLATION: A bill that would significantly overhaul how the Maryland General Assembly deals with allegations of sexual harassment passed the House of Delegates on Monday, but its fate in the Senate remains unclear. The legislation was not expected to advance when the General Assembly session opened in January, reports Rachel Chason and Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. But a detailed report by the Women Legislators of Maryland caucus that described specific incidents of harassment and called it a persistent problem in the State House, along with personal published accounts appear to have given the bill momentum.

HOUSE BILL WHACKS FRANCHOT: Dealing a rebuke to Comptroller Peter Franchot, the House of Delegates approved legislation Monday to set up a task force to study whether his agency should continue to be Maryland’s chief regulator of alcoholic beverages. The bill comes in response to Franchot’s public campaign for broad changes to the state’s laws governing craft breweries — an effort some legislators saw as an intrusion into their policy-making role. The same House committee that approved the task force bill voted down the comptroller’s proposed “Reform on Tap” legislation last week.

CROSSOVER FRENZY: In a frenzy of activity, General Assembly lawmakers gave a nod to hundreds of pieces of legislation over the weekend and Monday, the legislature’s crossover deadline, reports Danielle Gaines for the Frederick News-Post. Lawmakers introduced 3,118 pieces of legislation this year — 1,279 bills and resolutions in the Senate and 1,839 in the House of Delegates. That’s more in one year than in any other session dating back to 1987.

OIL SPILL LIABILITY: Moving to discourage drilling for oil and gas off Maryland’s coast, both chambers of the General Assembly voted Monday to make companies responsible for offshore spills easy targets for lawsuits, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. The proposed legislation comes in response to the Trump administration’s decision to open up 90% of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration and drilling. The bill seeks to impose what is know as a “strict liability” standard on companies that drill off Maryland’s coast.

PROFILE OF PAROLE COMMISSION CHIEF: Ann Marimow of the Post profiles David R. Blumberg, the long-serving chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission. Most days, he is making life-changing decisions for many of the 3,000 or so Maryland prisoners typically released on parole each year. But he’s also a man whose recommendations most governors haven’t heeded when it comes to lifers.

TOKING WHILE DRIVING: Marylanders stopped by police could carry up to an ounce of marijuana and only face civil fines under a bill the state Senate passed Monday night, writes Scott Dance for the Sun. But it would be a crime to smoke while driving or riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle. Sen. Bobby Zirkin called it “a push and a pull” policy change, as it nearly triples the amount of marijuana that would trigger criminal charges but also puts marijuana on par with alcohol when it comes to concerns about driving under the influence.

RX POT SHOPS OPEN: Just over three months since the first few medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors amid a shortage of products and some technical difficulties, more than 30 cannabis outlets have opened in Maryland, Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports. The 34 dispensaries are maintaining regular hours and are located in all corners of the state, according to a review by The Sun. They are in a dozen counties and Baltimore City, with five more dispensaries licensed but not yet open in five jurisdictions.

PRIDE OF BALTIMORE FUNDING: The Maryland Senate voted unanimously Monday night to dedicate $500,000 a year for the operations of the Pride of Baltimore II, a replica version of a 19th century Baltimore clipper that has sailed the world to promote the city, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

McDONOUGH BILL TARGETS CAMPAIGN FOE: Pamela Wood of the Sun writes about Del. Pat McDonough’s bill that, if passed, could impact the campaign of his political opponent for Baltimore County executive. The bill would require state cabinet secretaries and anyone who is “head of a governmental unit” — including the state’s insurance commissioner — to resign if they wanted to campaign for office.

GERRYMANDERING RELIEF: Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said legal challenges to redistricting schemes like Maryland’s provide the Supreme Court an opportunity to erect “guardrails” limiting the use of partisan map-making, and he expressed “cautious optimism” that the court will do so, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.

BIDEN AIDS HOYER; GANSLER BACKS MADALENO: Among Josh Kurtz’s Political Notes for Maryland Matters: Former VEEP Joe Biden will be attending a fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. (and House Minority Whip) Steny Hoyer and former gubernatorial hopeful Doug Ganzler has come out for Richard Madaleno for governor.

RESIDENCY CHALLENGES: The two attorneys challenging Marilyn Mosby to be Baltimore’s next top prosecutor are due in court this week to argue they have lived long enough in the city to hold the office, Tim Prudente reports in the Sun. Maryland law requires state’s attorneys live at least two years in a jurisdiction before taking office there. The plaintiffs are asking judges to ban the two men from the ballot. Such orders would clear a path for Mosby to breeze to her second term in office. All are running as Democrats, and because there is no Republican candidate in the race, it will be decided by the June primary election.

CONSULTANT TO AID IN CAMPAIGN: Anne Arundel’s top prosecutor announced Monday that a consultant who left his job at the State’s Attorney’s Office amid legal and ethical questions will help run the day-to-day operations of re-election campaign. Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital writes that Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams issued a statement that Lawrence Scott, a top GOP consultant and lobbyist, will assist him “with both strategy and daily campaign operations.”

FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE? Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said Monday he wants to make community college free to some recent high school graduates, following the lead of the city and other regions around the country trying to make college more accessible to modest-income students, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun.