ANNAPOLIS — In a flurry of weekend and Monday floor sessions, lawmakers in Annapolis took hundreds of votes on pending legislation, including a number of measures put forward by Frederick County lawmakers.
After “Crossover Day” on Monday — the traditional General Assembly deadline for a guaranteed hearing in the opposite chamber — the number of bills likely to pass this session dwindles, while the speed of hearings is picking up.
During the 90-day session, more than 2,800 measures have been before lawmakers so far, including the state’s budget.
Hearings in the opposite chamber are limited to sponsor testimony as lawmakers further cull pending legislation with just 20 days remaining in the session.
Among the measures are unlikely to advance are a pair of competing ethics reform bills that drew support from different corners of Frederick County.
One bill, originally introduced by County Executive Jan Gardner (D), was on campaign finance rules that currently apply to her post and the County Council. The same rules also would apply to Frederick County Planning Commission members running for office.
Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, sponsored the other measure, which Republicans said expanded on Gardner’s proposal, but the second bill faced legal questions about its scope.
House and Senate committees, which generally steer clear of intracounty disputes, did not take action on either bill.
Bills that still need the approval of one chamber or the other still have a chance, if they go through an additional hearing hurdle.
Heres a quick look at local bills that moved through the General Assembly over the weekend of Crossover Day:
Youth Ranch could see help
The House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill to help The Youth Ranch in Frederick County reach more adolescents who need an intensive outpatient treatment program.
The bill, sponsored by Delegate Karen Lewis Young, D-District 3A, would treat such programs similar to inpatient treatment centers.
Currently, minors can consent to inpatient substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment. Parents also can compel treatment when it’s medically required.
Facilities like The Youth Ranch — which offers residential placements for adolescents coupled with intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment — were not available when state law was originally written.
Other legislation from Lewis Young also passed. One of her bills that advanced would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to develop a list of biosafety level 3 laboratories operating in the state. Another allows terminally ill patients expanded access to experimental medical treatments through the Right-to-Try Act.
Housing counselor bill clears House
Lawmakers approved a bill from Delegate Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, that doubles the state’s funding for the Housing Counselor and Aftercare Program in the Department of Human Resources. The program assists families and individuals who are experiencing, or in imminent danger of, a housing crisis.
The program receives about $258,400 and offers counseling in six counties. Through the bill, funding would rise to $516,828, subject to state budget limitations, starting in the 2019 fiscal year.
Krimm wants Frederick County to attract one of the counselor positions if her bill becomes law.
Veterans bill gets broad support
A bill from Delegate David E. Vogt III requires each unit of state government to designate an employee as “veterans’ services specialist.” Duties would include coordinating veterans’ services with the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill passed by a unanimous 139-0 vote.
Another Vogt bill — to extend credit monitoring to students who have their identities stolen through school system data breaches — was referred to an “interim study.” That means lawmakers will examine the issue and make recommendations for the 2018 General Assembly session.
Fentanyl penalties move forward
A bill from Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, that would establish a 10-year criminal sentence for those caught knowingly distributing fentanyl did not pass. But the language of his bill was drafted into a measure originally introduced by Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
Hogan’s bill aimed to establish criminal penalties for distribution of opioids resulting in death. When that measure seemed like it would not pass the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Hough suggested amending the governor’s bill to address fentanyl distribution instead.
The measure applies to distribution of fentanyl, synthetic fentanyl or other drugs mixed with fentanyl.
Bill aims to drop mercury levels
A bill from Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, that passed in the Senate prohibits future sales of electric switches, relays or gas-valve switches containing mercury.
Mercury switches and relays — frequently found in gas ranges and space heaters — are still the largest tonnage of mercury used in the United States, according to Clean Water Action.
Twelve states have implemented similar bans.
The Senate also passed a bill from Young that would curb scholarship award displacement — when colleges pull back institutional financial aid awards if a student receives private scholarships.
The bill applies to public four-year colleges and would let students keep institutional awards and private scholarships up to their federally defined level of financial need.
Moving over, moving forward
One of the last bills to be debated in the House of Delegates on the last floor session late Monday night was designed to move fast — but instead went slowly.
Delegates debated for more than 10 minutes a bill from Delegate William Folden, R-District 3B, that would reserve the far-left lane on Maryland’s three-lane highways for passing only.
After a spirited debate, the bill passed 73-66, dividing the right and the left.