IT’S A WRAP: By the time confetti fell in Annapolis on Monday night, state lawmakers had loosened marijuana laws, made Maryland the second state in the country to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and whittled their way through more than 2,600 bills considered during the 434th legislative session, Erin Cox, Michael Dresser and Tim Wheeler write in the Sun.
- The Sun wraps up the session by looking at bills that covered broader topics that the General Assembly had to consider, including the environment, marijuana use and criminal justice.
- In the Washington Post, John Wagner lists key bills acted on by the legislature including decriminalizing marijuana, raising the minimum wage, stiffening penalties for causing an accident while using a cell phone and allowing judges to add to the sentences of domestic abusers who use violence in the presence of a child.
- Nick Tabor and Brian Witte of the AP also follow up on a bunch of bills that passed the General Assembly this session. The story appears in the Cumberland Times News.
- Here’s Red Maryland’s wrapup of the legislative session.
BILL SIGNING STARTS: Gov. Martin O’Malley will kick off a series of bill signings today when he signs legislation that supporters say will offer prekindergarten to nearly 1,600 more Maryland children, reports Alex Jackson for the Annapolis Capital. O’Malley told reporters on Monday night he would sign Senate Bill 332 and several “departmental bills” on Tuesday at a 10:30 a.m. bill signing at the Maryland State House.
MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: The House of Delegates gave final passage to legislation raising the Maryland minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018, sending it to the governor for his certain signature, MarylandReporter.com’s Margaret Sessa-Hawkins reports.
- Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital reports that President Obama issued a statement in regard to the wage hike: “The Maryland Legislature did the right thing for its workers today by increasing the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Maryland’s important action is a reminder that many states, cities and counties – as well as a majority of the American people – are way ahead of Washington on this crucial issue.”
- For Gov. Martin O’Malley, the vote is a checkmark in the victory column. O’Malley identified raising the wage his top legislative priority this session, Kate Alexander writes in the Gazette.
MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION: The General Assembly OK’d the measure to decriminalize marijuana on the last day of 90-day session Monday. With no debate, the Senate voted Monday 34-8 to approve the bill, SB 364. The House of Delegates already approved the bill Saturday, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf writes in MarylandReporter.com.
- Adults caught with less than 10 grams of pot will get a citation that will be treated like traffic ticket and pay a fine, but they could no longer be sent to jail, Erin Cox and Michael Dresser report in the Sun.
- Frederick Kunkle and John Wagner of the Post quote a statement from Gov. O’Malley: “As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety. I now think that [it] is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health.”
- Both Frederick County senators helped give the bill final approval, sending the proposal to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. Further down in her article, Rodgers writes about changes in the makeup of Frederick’s delegation.
- Sen. Christopher Shank, who voted for the bill, said he started the session planning on voting against it, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. “If you want to let yourself be guided by the evidence, then, to me, the evidence didn’t support the current approach. I don’t think it supports legalization. But I thought this was a middle-ground approach,” Shank said.
MEDICAL POT: Marylanders with serious medical conditions that could be alleviated by marijuana would gain access to the drug with a physician’s consent under legislation passed by the General Assembly Monday, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.
- The General Assembly voted to revise its relatively new but flawed medical marijuana law to make the program workable and ease access to the drug for patients who need it, writes Frederick Kunkle for the Post.
- The House and Senate approved a compromise between their differing versions of the bill just hours before the end of the 2014 General Assembly session Their action sends the measure to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is expected to sign the bill, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.
FILM TAX CREDIT: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that the potential pool of cash available for the film industry shrank by $3.5 million in the final minutes of the General Assembly session, leaving lawmakers asking: Is $15 million enough for “House of Cards” to stay?
- It was a scene worthy of “House of Cards,” a drama of hardball, in-your-face politics on Capitol Hill. Six lawmakers – from the House and Senate — standing in a ring in the House of Delegates lounge at a half hour before midnight, vehemently haggling over a single bill, writes Jeremy Bauer-Wolf for MarylandReporter.com.
- The two chambers ended up failing to reach an agreement when lawmakers could not agree regarding a House-added provision to allow the state to revoke money from a film production company if the company moved its film production activity outside of the state. The Senate did not like the clause and wanted it cut out of the bill, but the House wasn’t willing to let it go, writes Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital.
DISTRACTED DRIVING: Jenna Johnson of the Post writes that the General Assembly approved legislation Monday that will stiffen penalties for drivers who cause fatal or serious crashes while talking on a cellphone or texting. The legislation now goes to the governor to be signed.
WHISTLEBLOWER BILL DIES: The Senate rejected legislation Monday night that would have expanded the Maryland False Health Claims Act to cover all state contractors, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record. On a 27-19 vote in the 2014 session’s waning hours, the Senate voted to postpone indefinitely the proposed Maryland False Claims Act. Sen. David Brinkley moved to postpone Senate consideration, saying the bill’s “impact on business is certainly not clear.”
BAIL REFORM: One of the thorniest issues members of the General Assembly have had to deal with this session is fielding a response to a controversial decision handed down by the Maryland Court of Appeals, reports Christopher Connelly for WYPR-FM. With just hours left before the session, lawmakers have responded with a handful of smaller measures they think will satisfy the court. But the ruling has also spurred a debate about what can be done to reform Maryland’s bail system.
GROUND RENT REFORM FAILS: Ground-rent tenants will get no reprieve from the General Assembly this session, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.
A WIN FOR POLLUTERS: Last week, the same lawmakers who passed the stormwater fees last year to help protect the Chesapeake Bay caved in, sticking into the state’s $39 billion budget an exemption for two counties, Carroll and Frederick, that allows them to use a portion of county property taxes to pay for stormwater control projects instead. The exemption, opines the editorial board of the Sun, was not vetted in a public hearing, nor even proposed as a piece of legislation, but added as so-called “budget language” out of the blue by a handful of lawmakers during conference committee negotiations.
LOWER SHORE BILLS: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times quotes Sen. Jim Mathias as saying: “I’m not leaving here happy about everything, but in our country, majority rules.” Mathias was talking specifically about a divide between Southern Maryland and Eastern Shore lawmakers over a bill that delays construction of a multi-million dollar wind farm in Somerset County. The bill was introduced because of concerns about how spinning turbines would interfere with the Pax River Naval base in Southern Maryland.
- More than a dozen bond bills to bolster construction on the Lower Shore were introduced this year in the Maryland General Assembly. Nearly all did not pass, writes Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.
AA SHERIFF SALARY HIKE: The General Assembly has passed legislation to raise the pay of the Anne Arundel County’s sheriff, reports Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. Lawmakers on Saturday approved House Bill 1381, which will raise the county sheriff’s salary from $128,657 in 2014 to $133,000 in 2015. A sidebar to the left lists county sheriffs salaries from around the state and the population of each county.
CARROLL BILLS: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times writes that the majority of local bills introduced by the Carroll delegations to the General Assembly passed during the annual legislative session in Annapolis. The bills cover a wide variety of topics, including casino night fundraisers, sheriffs’ and judges’ salary increases and liquor licenses.
BLOODY FIGHT: An altercation on the fourth floor of the House of Delegates office building left an aide to a Harford County delegate in a bloodied suit being taken to the hospital Monday on the last day of session. The altercation was apparently between the aide and his brother, according to a Maryland Capitol Police officer who was on the scene, reports Margaret Sessa Hawkins for MarylandReporter.com.
- Sean Walsh of the Sun writes that, in a memo, Maryland Capitol Police Chief Michael Wilson said, “There was an altercation in the House Office Building this evening. Two adult males were arrested by the Maryland Capitol Police and offered medical treatment. No elected officials were involved. The investigation is ongoing.”
- Emergency medical personnel took a stretcher to the fourth floor of the House Office Building just before 7 p.m. where minutes earlier a man with bloodstains on his suit was led away by police, writes Kate Alexander for the Gazette.
- Here’s Bryan Sears’ story for the Daily Record, complete with an AP photo of an injured man on a stretcher.
CITY JOBS: Supporters of a proposed law before the Baltimore City Council to help more ex-convicts land jobs in Baltimore City scored a victory Monday when they fended off efforts by the business community to block the measure indefinitely, Yvonne Wenger reports in the Sun.