State Roundup, April 10, 2018

Print More

BILL ROUNDUPS: Maryland lawmakers will leave Annapolis today having resolved some of the costliest and most controversial issues of their four-year term — setting aside election-year politics to pass gun-control legislation, stave off the potential collapse of the state’s Obamacare market, deliver targeted tax relief and become the first state to regulate political ads on Facebook, reports the Sun.

SCHOOL SAFETY: The General Assembly passed two of the most closely watched bills of its 90-day session on Monday, giving final approval for legislation to improve school safety and address crime in Baltimore, Ovetta Wiggins and Rachel Chason report in the Post. Hours before the session ended at midnight, lawmakers passed a bill to provide police coverage or school resource officers in every public high school.

CRIME BILLS PASS: With Baltimore reeling from a homicide epidemic, the General Assembly passed legislation this session aimed at preventing and stiffening penalties for repeated gun offenders, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record. If enacted, the legislation will impose mandatory minimum sentences on repeat gun offenders, broaden police wiretapping authority in firearms investigations, stiffen punishments for witness intimidation and call for greater funding of witness-relocation and community-based educational, vocation and social programs that offer alternatives to gangs.

POLICE CORRUPTION PANEL: A state commission with subpoena power came one step closer Monday to begin investigating allegations of Baltimore police corruption, if Gov. Larry Hogan supports the idea, Scott Dance of the Sun reports. The panel, which Mayor Catherine Pugh has said is unnecessary, would examine revelations from the recent trial of two city police officers who served on the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.

RAISING MARRIAGE AGE FAILS: Legislation that would have raised the minimum marriage age in Maryland above 15 died in the final hours of the General Assembly session Monday night as the Senate and House of Delegates failed to reach a compromise. Maryland law sets a minimum marriage age of 15 — if the teen’s parents or guardians consent and if the female to be wed is pregnant or has given birth. The Senate passed a bill raising the age to 16. The House said 17. Neither side would budge, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

UNPAID WATER BILLS: A proposal to temporarily end a process that has allowed Baltimore homes to be seized and sold over unpaid water bills passed in the final 90 minutes of the Maryland General Assembly’s 90-day session, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

HOGAN’s DISAPPOINTMENT: Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday the bill stripping the Board of Public Works of its role in school construction funding is the “biggest disappointment” of the just-concluded 2018 session, and he vowed to “repeal” the legislature’s action in a second term, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. Talking to reporters outside Government House hours before the General Assembly adjourned for the year, Hogan said the session was, on balance, a great success.

ELECTION SECURITY: With the close of the legislative session on Monday, all eyes are turning to the 2018 elections — and election security. On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 1331, which requires the state administrator of elections to report security breaches and significant attempted violations within a week of their discovery to the State Board of Elections, governor, legislative leaders and attorney general, Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News-Post writes.

REDISTRICTING REFORM FAILS: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan voiced dismay Monday that the Democratic-led General Assembly let die his annual proposal for an independent commission to redraw Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional districts, saying he retains hope the Supreme Court will rule partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports. “I think the Supreme Court is going to act,” Hogan said. “I think we’re going to win that case.”

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Maryland lawmakers on Monday approved legislation that expands the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry in a way that gives minority-owned companies a better shot at opening a new cannabis business, Erin Cox reports for the Sun.

BAN OF RX POT IN JAIL DIES: A bill to prohibit medical marijuana in local jails died in the House Health and Government Operations Committee on Monday, the last day of this year’s Maryland General Assembly. Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that the bill, requested by Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore, had been stalled in that committee since March 27 despite considerable support in the Senate, which approved it last month 40-5.

TESTIFYING DOCTORS: The House of Delegates on Monday resoundingly defeated a proposed repeal of a decades-old rule requiring that doctors be barred from testifying in medical-malpractice cases if they have spent more than 20% of their professional time as expert witnesses, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.

WINNERS & LOSERS: In an analysis for MarylandReporter, Len Lazarick writes that Gov. Larry Hogan won this legislative session by not losing too much and not giving Democrats ammunition against his reelection campaign. Hogan also won with success on issues where he cooperated more than usual with Democrats, and by choosing to fight them, and lose, only on issues where he held the high ground.

REST AREA NAMING RIGHTS: Weary travelers in need of a bathroom break and some coffee may one day find themselves pulling into the “Esskay Franks Rest Area” along Interstate 95. Despite the warnings of a legislator who warned of potential “embarrassment,” both chambers have approved a measure allowing the state to sell “naming rights” to rest areas and welcome centers, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.

SINE DIE: Staff at the Sun explain what sine die actually means. It can be a stressful and contentious occasion, but the tension is almost invariably mixed with an air of festivity and frivolity.

PHOTO GALLERIES: Here’s a small gallery of photos from sine die in MarylandReporter. For at least nine senators and 29 delegates, it will be the last session in their current posts. Except for retiring legislators, the rest will hit the campaign trail as soon as they can for June 26 primary.

‘TAKE A HIKE MIKE:’ They are calling it “Take A Hike Mike.” Several progressive leaders who have been frustrated for years with the way Senate President Mike Miller, D-Calvert, wields his power in Annapolis announced on the final day of the 2018 legislative session that they have launched a campaign to oust Miller and other members of Senate leadership in the upcoming 2018 primary, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post.