Another Maryland General Assembly session has come and gone with Gov. Larry Hogan proclaiming victory and legislative leaders breathing a positive sigh of relief. There were no big wins for Hogan but no shocking defeats, either. His agenda may sell well with die-hard Hogan backers but it was a non-starter with Democratic lawmakers.
The Maryland Senate on Wednesday passed, HB913, the Maryland Defense Act of 2017 – mandating that the administration fund five new attorneys in the Office of the Attorney General to sue the federal government — at a cost of $1 million annually. The measure passed the Senate 30-15, a veto-proof majority. It is one of about two dozen bills delivered to Gov. Larry Hogan yesterday. He has only six days, not counting Sunday, to sign, veto or let the bills become law. Hogan has criticized the new powers for the attorney general, and is generally opposed to spending mandates.
The Maryland House of Delegates on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a Senate bill that would fill any funding shortfalls to Maryland Public Television if the Trump administration succeeds in major cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Final vote on SB1034, was delayed until Thursday.
The Maryland Senate on Friday adopted the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act to monitor congressional plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that could cost the state billions to maintain current coverage.
Starting next year live C-Span style deliberations of the Maryland House and Senate could be televised and live streamed during the last two weeks of each session, under a provision in a bill to support Maryland Public Television should Congress cut funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as President Trump has proposed.
The House Appropriations Committee on Friday sent Gov. Larry Hogan’s $43 billion budget to the House floor for votes this week. It made $90 million in trims to general fund spending while adding back $74 million in other areas, including $8.4 million more to fund a 3.5% pay hike for caregivers of the developmentally disabled and $15 million restored for a Prince George’s regional hospital. The longest and most substantial debate occurred over a nearly $5 million cut in Hogan’s proposed funding of the BOOST Program to pay for scholarships of low-income students to private schools, including religious ones.
As the cost of college has skyrocketed, students and parents could soon get relief on expensive textbooks under the Textbook Cost Savings Act of 2017 that would provide funding to develop free open source learning materials.“The state is moving rapidly towards free textbooks online,” said the bill’s sponso rSen. Jim Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, in an interview. “If the bill passes it will be state policy that we want to move in that direction as much as possible.”
Maryland retailers are again pushing for the state to collect sales taxes from online merchants not based in Maryland, helping them and potentially raising hundreds of millions for the state. Brick and mortar stores are struggling to compete with online sellers in other states, retail business interests testified in Annapolis on Wednesday in support of the Main Street Fairness Act of 2017.
A bill to pre-fund future pension and health insurance liabilities for state workers passed overwhelmingly in the House of Delegates last week in a 130-5 vote — and now waits in the Senate Budget and Tax Committee for a hearing. The bill, HB28, sponsored by Del. Carol Krimm, D-Frederick, would require 50% of the general fund balance in excess of $10 million be split equally between the pension system and the Postretirement Health Benefits Trust Fund, up to $25 million for each fund.
Several hundred rallied in Annapolis Thursday in support of the Keep The Door Open Act, a bill that would increase funding for mental health and addiction treatment and tie the reimbursement rate for service providers to the Consumer Price Index. A few hours later, the Senate Finance Committee voted to send the bill, SB 476, to the full Senate after 16 groups representing hospitals, service providers and nonprofits spoke in support of the bill. Opposition from two cabinet officials at the hearing won a small concession from Finance Chair Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles, who added an amendment that would sunset the act in five years.