Emergency measures to provide better legal protections for poor people that could have wide-reaching effects on Maryland’s penal system remain mired in negotiations with less than a week to go before lawmakers are supposed to wrap up business in Annapolis.
The bills were born out of a Maryland Court of Appeals decision that people arrested in the state should be entitled to have lawyers present when they appear before court commissioners to determine bail. The bills would also reduce the number of people going to jail for petty crimes.
House and Senate lawmakers have three times tried to strike a deal. The latest problem appears to be centered around the powers of court commissioners to issue arrest warrants.
The bills are just two of hundreds that have uncertain futures with the clock ticking toward a scheduled adjournment on April 9.
The fate of one — an anti-smoking measure that passed the Senate after fierce debate — turned grim Tuesday in the House.
The measure would prohibit smoking in cars when a child younger than 8 is a passenger.
After passing the Senate last month, the bill moved to the House Environmental Matters Committee where a subcommittee “doesn’t seem too favorable,” said committee chair Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore) on Tuesday.
Also in limbo is a bill that would reduce prison sentences for inmates who earn academic degrees or certificates.
The bill — which passed the House over the fierce objections of opponents who claimed it would allow some of the worst criminals to get out of jail early — is now in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery), committee chair, said Monday he is not sure when the panel might vote on the legislation.
The Senate also delayed a vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow criminals sentenced to prison to be relieved of their responsibility to pay child support while incarcerated.