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Bill would allow support dogs for children in courts

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Members of the Caring Canines Pet Therapy Program pose in the lobby of Dogwood Acres Pet Retreat. Caring Canines has provided dogs for juveniles in court since the pilot program began in February 2018. (Photo courtesy of Caring Canines Pet Therapy Program)

By Alex Murphy
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation that passed in the Maryland Senate would establish statewide an initiative to provide therapy dogs to child witnesses in circuit court hearings and proceedings.

Children who have to appear in court can feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially when recounting tragic events or similar instances, proponents said. A handler would accompany each dog, under the bill.

Cybersecurity bill would create defense plan for local agencies

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Photo by Martin Falbisoner, via Wikimedia Commons

By Wesley Brown
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — A new Maryland bill would ask the state’s Department of Information Technology to develop a baseline plan for localities within the state to help battle cyber attacks.

Senate Bill 120, introduced by Sen. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery County), would give the Maryland Department of Information Technology the expanded responsibility of developing a cybersecurity strategy and helping agencies within the state implement it at their discretion.

Bill would make helmets optional for most motorcyclists

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Lawmakers in a Senate committee meeting on Feb. 4, 2020, expecting testimony on Senate bill 237. The bill would exempt many motorcyclists from the state’s current helmet requirement. (Jeff Barnes/Capital News Service)

By Jeff Barnes
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Helmets would no longer be mandatory for most motorcycle riders in Maryland under a bill expected to be heard in a state Senate committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 237 would make motorcyclists and their passengers exempt from wearing a helmet if the motorcycle operator is 21 or older, has at least two years of riding experience and has completed an approved safety course.

Maryland bills aim to restrict kratom, a pain treatment substance

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The dome of Maryland’s State House rises above buildings in Annapolis, Maryland, on Nov. 5, 2019. (Capital News Service photo by Elliott Davis.)

By Kevin Brown
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Kratom, a substance that users told lawmakers they take as a pain and addiction treatment, would see more stringent regulation in Maryland under legislation making its way through the General Assembly. Some government agencies advise against using the substance, calling it dangerous—while opponents of the bill are advocating for safety standards instead.

Originating in southeast Asian countries, including Thailand and Indonesia, kratom is an herbal substance that comes from evergreen trees and has similar effects as opioids.

Lawmakers override several bills Hogan vetoed last year

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Photo by Martin Falbisoner, via Wikimedia Commons

By Ryan E. Little
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes five times on Thursday, but had to give up on three other bills, including one designed to make freight rail safer.

A major economic development project played a role in that bill’s doom.

The concurrent votes in the two chambers of the Maryland General Assembly were the first time this session Democrats have exercised their veto-proof majorities after postponing these votes several times this session.

The votes passed generally along party lines.

Bill allows motorists to keep driving past Real ID deadline

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Courtesy: Motor Vehicle Administration.

By Jeff Barnes
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland drivers who have their licenses confiscated due to Real ID non-compliance would be protected under legislation being heard this week in the General Assembly.

In 2005, the federal Real ID Act mandated that all U.S. residents obtain an updated identification card in order to travel on commercial aircraft and access federal facilities. The rule, which goes into full effect on Oct. 1, requires states to verify documentation that proves name, birth date and residence.

Lawmakers look to repeal ‘archaic’ sex laws in MD

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The dome of Maryland’s State House rises above buildings in Annapolis, Maryland, on Nov. 5, 2019. (Capital News Service photo by Elliott Davis.)

By Jeff Barnes
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers hope to repeal “archaic” provisions in the state’s spousal defense for sex crimes and sodomy laws with the reintroduction of legislation this session.

Lawmakers on Jan. 30 expect to hear Senate Bill 230, which would repeal the use of marriage as a defense to prosecution of some sex crimes and, earlier this week, introduced House Bill 81, which would repeal the crimes of sodomy and unnatural or perverted sexual practice.

Among bills for small business, ‘big lemonade’ stands out

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Photo by Julie Depenbrock/Capital News Service

By Ryan E. Little
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — State legislators always want to support small business. But one bill introduced this session aims to help the smallest of businesses.

A bill introduced in the Maryland House would protect lemonade stands from local authorities who might want to enforce local permit laws that could shut them down.

Bill would make possession of ransomware a crime in Maryland

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Photo by Martin Falbisoner, via Wikimedia Commons

By Wesley Brown
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — State lawmakers heard arguments Tuesday on a bill that seeks to add criminal penalties for knowingly possessing ransomware with the intent to use it in a malicious way.

Ransomware is a type of malware that can impede the use of a computer or computer network indefinitely until a ransom is paid. It is already a crime in Maryland to use the malicious technology in a way that costs victims money—this bill would criminalize mere possession of the software.

Returning bill to require background checks on transfer and sale of rifles and shotguns

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Members of the House Judiciary Committee hear testimony on legislation that would regulate the sale and transfer of shotguns and rifles in Maryland. (Capital News Service Photo by Fatemeh Paryavi)

By Fatemeh Paryavi
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — A bill returning to the Maryland legislature this session aims to regulate certain sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns.

Maryland law requires the regulation of the “sale, transfer, rental, and possession of regulated firearms, which consist of handguns and assault weapons,” according to a state analysis. However, this regulation does not currently apply to rifles and shotguns, which lead sponsor of House Bill 4, Del. Vanessa Atterbear (D-Howard County), has been striving to pass.

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