Status of Priority Issues
Here is where we stand at the close of the session.
Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2018 – House Bill 1453 received an unfavorable report on March 15 in the Economic Matters Committee and was withdrawn by the sponsor. It’s companion bill, Senate Bill 732 had a hearing in the Finance Committee but was never been brought up for a vote.
U.S. Climate Alliance – both houses passed identical versions of the same bill (HB 3 and SB 138) that would require the Governor to include Maryland as a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance by July 1, 2018, and stipulates that withdrawal from the alliance is conditional on statutory approval from the General Assembly.
Offshore Wind Energy – The House Economic Matters Committee voted down House Bill 1135 which would have required Maryland’s already-approved offshore wind farms to be moved further offshore, thereby making them infeasible. It’s companion Senate Bill 1058 also failed due to inaction.
Healthy Working Families Act – Early in the session, the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto of House Bill 1, the 2017 legislation that assured that 750,000 hard-working employees in Maryland will have the right to earn sick leave to care for themselves or family members.
Minimum Wage (“Fight for Fifteen”) – Maryland’s effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, House Bill 664 and Senate Bill 543, were heard in their respective committees but were never brought to a vote.
Rapid Fire Trigger Activators – Both Houses passed identical versions of a bill (SB 707/HB 888) to ban the sale or possession any device, part, or combination of devices or parts that is designed and functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a firearm beyond the standard rate of fire for firearms that are not so equipped.
Handgun Permit Review Board – Appeals – Both Houses passed identical versions of a bill (HB 819/SB 741) to abolish the Handgun Permit Review Board which has been used to overrule the decisions of the State Police denying handgun carry permits. In its place, a person whose permit is denied may request to appeal the decision to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) instead of the board.
Saving the Affordable Care Act – House Bill 1167 and Senate Bill 1011 were introduced in an effort to replace the expiring federal mandate with a state mandate for residents to purchase health insurance or face a fine that could be used as down payments to help the uninsured get coverage. While UULM-MD supported these bills, the General Assembly came to agreement on other measures SB 387/HB 1782) to stabilize the individual insurance market for one year only, imposing a premium tax on insurers in place of the repealed federal provider fee and using that money to stabilize premiums. The state’s Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission will also study and make recommendations for individual and group health insurance market stability, including a possible state mandate like the one we supported.
Drug Prices – Senate Bill 1023/House Bill 1194 would have created a Prescription Drug Cost Review Commission to determine how to make prescription drugs more affordable and report to the General Assembly with recommendations on how entities within the prescription drug supply chain can improve access to affordable prescription drugs by State residents. The House Bill passed the House but it failed to reach a final vote of approval in the Senate.
Maryland Supporting All Families Everywhere “SAFE” Act – House Bill 1461 would clarify that the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would do their job without the assistance of our local police, and the local police would not be co-opted into serving as ICE’s agents. The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee but was never brought to a vote.
DREAM Act – House Bill 1536/Senate Bill 546 would have made it easier for an individual to be exempt from paying the out-of-state tuition rate under the Maryland Dream Act. The House Bill passed the House but failed in the Senate.
“Ban the Box” – Early in the session, both Houses overrode the Governor’s veto of 2017 legislation that prohibited state colleges and universities from requiring applicants from checking a box indicating that they have no criminal history. This information may be considered in admission decisions later, but it does not prevent them from initial consideration.
Prison Education – House Bill 295 and Senate Bill 1113 were introduced to award a one-time diminution credit to reduce the term of confinement of an inmate if the inmate successfully obtained an educational certificate, diploma, or degree. However, both bills received an unfavorable report from the House Judiciary and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committees.
However, both Houses have passed a related bill, HB 291/SB 1137 to require the Division of Correction (DOC) to conduct, for each inmate, as soon as feasible after the individual is sentenced, an educational, vocational, and job history interview. DOC must include the educational, vocational, and job history of the inmate and the results of the interview in the case record for the inmate. In the final days, SB 1137 was also amended to include the sentence diminution credits from SB 1113, plus some other provisions originally in the Governor's "tough on crime" bills. In this form, the bill passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor's signature.
Also in the final hours, SB 101, a positive bill to facilitate expungement of criminal records was further amended to include other provisions from the Governor's crime bills, including:
- Creating a Task Force to Study Maryland’s Criminal Gang Statutes,
- Modifying the drug possession laws to exclude items used to test drug samples,
- Allowing law enforcement to apply for wiretaps for crimes involving a firearm, and
- Increasing the maximum penalty for threatening or intimidating a witness from 5 years to 10 years.
While we opposed these provisions, the bill passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor's signature.