The Maryland General Assembly enjoyed a productive 2017 session, with lawmakers from both parties working across the aisle and with Gov. Larry Hogan to craft new laws shaping Maryland’s environmental, school funding and even cownose ray-hunting policies. However, there were some notable fallen soldiers.
One of the top issues heading into this year’s session was medical marijuana licensing reform. Leading black lawmakers in particular had targeted the nascent industry as ready for revamping even before it opens for business, citing concerns about diversity in licensing of growers, processors and dispensaries.
At the midnight deadline on Monday, the House of Delegates failed to vote on the proposal to expand the number of licenses and require the state’s medical cannabis commission to conduct more outreach to minority entrepreneurs. The voting record shows that after being amended multiple times in the last two weeks in the Senate, the bill never reached a full vote in the House of Delegates.
Another major proposal that didn’t arrive at Hogan’s desk was a bill that would have banned internet service providers from selling customers’ information to other companies without their permission. The Senate passed the bill in a full vote yesterday, but the House sent it to die in a committee.
In the criminal justice realm, a measure pushed heavily for a fourth straight year by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby would have let prosecutors introduce prior sexual assault allegations into criminal cases, even if the defendant had never been convicted, in order to more easily target repeat sex offenders in court. Identical bills didn’t get very far in either house.
Also meeting its death last night was the Maryland Trust Act, which would have imposed restrictions on law enforcement across the state for asking law-abiding people about their immigration status. The House of Delegates sent shockwaves through Annapolis by passing the bill 83-55 late last month, but it remained stuck in a Senate committee at midnight.
A final noteworthy proposal that was buried was one from Baltimore and Montgomery County lawmakers to ban polystyrene (more commonly known by its brand name, Styrofoam) packaging for food businesses. As with the bill Mosby had pushed, it never escaped the clutches of its committee.
Some of the high-profile bills that did become law: A statewide fracking ban, a partial funding fix for Baltimore City Public Schools’ looming deficit, a measure to boost reimbursements (and thus, resources) for Maryland behavioral health clinics fighting a scourge of opioid addiction, a mandate to lower the number of hours devoted to standardized testing in some Maryland schools and stricter ethical requirements for elected officials and their staffers.
By this afternoon, Hogan had signed these and more than 100 other bills into law, capping the end of a historic session.
One measure the General Assembly passed that remains in purgatory: A mandatory sick-leave policy for small businesses with 15 or more full-time employees. Despite approval from both houses, Gov. Hogan has promised to veto the measure. Last we checked, lawmakers who voted for the new requirement hadn’t met the necessary support threshold to override Hogan’s assured nixing.