ANNAPOLIS — In a frenzy of activity, General Assembly lawmakers gave a nod to hundreds of pieces of legislation over the weekend and Monday, the Legislature’s crossover deadline.
Lawmakers introduced 3,118 pieces of legislation this year — 1,279 bills and resolutions in the Senate and 1,839 in the House of Delegates. That’s more in one year than in any other session dating back to 1987. More than 700 bills were passed through at least one chamber, including about one-quarter of the bills introduced by Frederick County lawmakers.
Delegates got their first glimpse of the House Appropriations Committee’s work on the state budget on Monday; the measure will come to the floor for debate and amendments on Wednesday. In the Senate, the state’s capital budget bill reached the floor and is scheduled for the debate on Tuesday. In its current form, the bill does not include state bond funding for a proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center.
Several pieces of legislation from county lawmakers saw success on Monday:
Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) sponsored House Bill 512, which would keep an employer from asking the wage history of an applicant and require the employer to provide a pay scale for the position on request.
The goal of the legislation is to address the wage gap between white men and women and minorities by taking past pay rates out of the equation when coming up with a salary offer for a new hire, though salary history can still be voluntarily provided. The bill passed the House in an 88-47 vote.
A similar bill passed through the House last year, but it didn’t make it out of Senate committee.
In a close vote on Monday night, the Maryland Senate approved Senate Bill 555, the Safe Neighborhoods Act, from Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4).
The bill expedites the eviction process when a tenant breaches their lease through dangerous behavior that poses imminent danger to themselves, other tenants or the landlord.
The bill was opposed by some lawmakers, who said they feared it would allow discriminatory practices by landlords.
The bill passed 26-21.
Delegate William Folden (R-District 3B) introduced House Bill 1091, which would set aside a fund for the Department of Natural Resources to buy land to construct and maintain trails for the use of off-road recreational vehicles. Revenue for the fund would come from titling fees for off-road vehicles. In July 2017, the Maryland Forest Service opened an off-road trail and campground at Savage River State Forest in Garrett County, the first in the state.
Folden’s bill passed unanimously.
House Bill 9 from Folden tweaks state law to amend the Hero’s Highway Act of 2015, limiting dedications of highways and transportation structures to honor state residents who were military personnel killed in the line of duty. The bill passed unanimously.
House Bill 1419 from Delegate Kathy Afzali (R-District 4) extends an income tax credit to Maryland Transportation Authority police officers, under certain circumstances, and passed the chamber unanimously.
Other bills did not find success this year:
For the fourth year, a measure from Delegate David E. Vogt III (R-District 4), Ben’s Rule, failed to pass the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would allow the parent or guardian of a child with a disability who is nonverbal to refuse to allow the child to participate in standardized testing.
The measure did not get a vote in the committee this year. A key concern is the bill’s potential to jeopardize federal funding. The Every Student Succeeds Act allows states a limited ability to opt out from testing, but they must test 95 percent of students, as well as 95 percent of special education students, to keep their funding.
Another bill that failed to make the cut this year was Senate Bill 369 from Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3), which would have allowed public school students to opt out of animal dissection lessons.
A measure from Folden that drew a close vote at the crossover deadline last year failed to move forward this year.
Folden’s House Bill 965 would have restricted the far-left lane of certain roads for passing only. This year, the bill stalled in the House Environment and Transportation Committee without a vote.
Young made a motion to postpone debate on Monday on Senate Bill 610, which would give the state’s Forest Conservation Act more teeth. Young said lawmakers are working on compromise legislation with advocates who oppose the current version of the bill.
Though passage by Monday guarantees an opposite chamber bill hearing, those measures that cross over after the deadline could still see passage this session, but they face the added hurdle of passing through the House and Senate rules committees.
There are three weeks left in the 90-day session, which is scheduled to wrap up April 9.