State Roundup, March 7, 2019

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ASSISTED SUICIDE BILL IN HOUSE: The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to vote by the end of the week on a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to obtain a prescription to end their lives. Without debate, delegates on Wednesday moved the bill ahead in the process to the final vote, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG BOARD: Legislation that would make Maryland the first state in the nation to regulate rising prescription drug prices was heard by legislators Wednesday, a month after the courts killed a Maryland law regulating generic drug prices, Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports. The death of that generic drug law hung over the hearing as lawmakers wanted to make sure they passed a bill that the courts would uphold.

MINIMUM WAGE BILL: An effort to increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 per hour could receive a key Senate Committee vote as soon as this morning, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to meet Thursday morning in what is billed as a work and voting session on the House version of the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. It will be the first time the committee has worked on the issue — a departure from previous years — since a hearing two weeks ago.

NON-MARYLAND TOLL SCOFFLAWS TARGETED: Out-of-state drivers have racked up $102 million in unpaid video tolls and fines in Maryland, and lawmakers pushing a bill through the General Assembly want them to pay up, reports Diane Rey of MarylandReporter. HB105, debated in the House of Delegates Wednesday, would enable the Maryland Transportation Authority to hire an outside debt collection agency to collect the unpaid bills and associated penalties. The agency requested the bill, which would take effect June 1.

BILL WOULD SHIELD KIDS CHARGED AS ADULTS: Jessica Anderson reports in the Sun that the Maryland House of Delegates has passed a bill that would shield from the public the names and photographs of youth who are criminally charged as adults until a judge has determined whether the case should be moved to juvenile court.

JHU POLICE PLAN GETS KEY SUPPORT: Key Baltimore senators on Wednesday voted to endorse a series of legislative amendments designed to win the Maryland General Assembly’s approval of an armed Johns Hopkins police force, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

SCHOOL FUNDING LAGS, ADVOCATES SAY: Liz Bowie of the Sun reports that across Maryland, there’s an outcry from public school advocates that funding isn’t keeping pace with the needs of children. Classes are too large, buildings are deteriorated and there are too few guidance counselors, nurses, social workers and other specialized help for students. This week General Assembly leaders proposed adding $1 billion in state funding for schools over the next two years. School system administrators say that would help fill some gaps.

REDUCING LEAD IN SCHOOL WATER: A state lawmaker from Chevy Chase hopes to replicate an effort in Montgomery County to reduce levels of lead in school drinking water by sponsoring a bill that would establish statewide standards. Del. Jared Solomon, a Democrat, has introduced a bill that would set the standard for lead in drinking water at all public schools at 5 parts per billion —stricter than the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of 15ppb, writes Dan Schere for Bethesda Beat.

BILL WOULD FORCE TESTING OF RAPE KITS: Four years after Maryland lawmakers passed legislation requiring police to count untested rape kits, they are now discussing a proposal that would require authorities to test them, Catherine Rentz of the Sun reports. The bill, discussed at the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, comes after the mandated statewide audit found more than 3,700 untested rape kits in 2016 — a number that has since grown to more than 6,500.

LIST OF JAIL HOUSE WITNESSES PROPOSED: Recent exonerees and Innocence Project attorneys told a Senate committee Wednesday that more transparency and scrutiny of so-called jailhouse witnesses is needed to prevent wrongful convictions. The Daily Record’s Heather Cobun reports that Senate Bill 769, as amended, would require a central list of in-custody witnesses who testify in criminal trials and any benefits they receive in agreements with prosecutors. The list would be maintained by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

RAISING THE SMOKING AGE: Maryland could become the next state to raise its smoking age to 21 as new data shows tobacco use among teens is on the rise, NBC4 TV in Washington reported. The Centers for Disease Control reported last month that a long decline in youth cigarette smoking appears to have stalled, and e-cigarettes are to blame. About 4.9 million middle and high school students used some type of tobacco product in 2018, according to CDC data. That number is up from 3.6 million in 2017. Hearings on the two bills, HB1169 and SB895, were held by House and Senate committees last week.

CLEAN ENERGY BILL DOOMED THIS YEAR? In an analysis for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz writes that while passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act should be a no-brainer – it has strong support from business and the environmental world — the way that Annapolis works may be dooming the legislation for this year.

FREDERICK LAWMAKERS EYE 2020: Frederick County state lawmakers have begun to let go of bills they once hoped would pass, as the days left in the 2019 legislative session count down. Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick) said he plans to come in 2020 with four bills that have already been voted down. He was surprised, however, by the outcome of one, which would have allowed fraternal organizations to lease and operate lottery machines to benefit veteran programs, Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News Post writes.

OPINION: PASS ‘TIME TO CARE ACT:’ Margaret Williams of the Maryland Family Network, in an op-ed in the Sun, opines that no one should have to choose between caring for family and economic security. That’s why the General Assembly should stand with working families and pass The Time to Care Act of 2019 (House Bill 341/Senate Bill 500).

ARUNDEL KIRWAN BENEFIT: Laura Lumpkin of the Annapolis Capital writes that Maryland senators are reviewing legislation that could drive millions to Anne Arundel County — including a $5.4 million grant for teachers’ salaries and $1.2 million for young students who struggle in English language arts or reading. Proponents say the money will incentivize the school district to get a jump start on recommendations set forth by the Kirwan Commission.

FREEZE ON SEISMIC TESTS SOUGHT: Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Wednesday that a coalition of nine states that joined a federal lawsuit to prevent underwater seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean is asking a judge to freeze the practice while the case proceeds, Doug Donovan of the Sun writes.

HOGAN PREZ WATCH: After traveling to Iowa and sparking more media speculation about whether he would challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 GOP primary, Gov. Larry Hogan returned Wednesday to Maryland and said he was no closer to making a decision about his future. While in Iowa for a National Governors Association event, Hogan was featured in 2020 campaign coverage from at least six media outlets — both national news organizations and ones based in that state, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

TUBMAN ON $20 IN 2020? It’s still not clear whose face will be on the $20 bill in 2020. Last month, a bipartisan pair of lawmakers, Elijah Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, and John Katko, a New York Republican, reintroduced legislation to require the Treasury Department to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Tubman would replace President Andrew Jackson’s portrait, Christina Tkacik of the Sun writes.