Five things to watch as another week gets under way in Annapolis

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the title of Sanjay Rajagopalan. Hei s head of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The story has been corrected.


Sen. Brian E. Frosh speaks with Sen. Joan Carter Conway. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
March 3

With only five weeks to go, the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly has entered the back stretch — which means there should finally be some movement on some major bills.

The state budget is expected to start taking shape in the Senate this week. And look for floor debate in the House on domestic violence legislation and in the Senate on a bill offering protections to transgender people.

And there’s another snowstorm.

Here’s a look at just some of what to watch during what should be a busy week.

Will there be movement on minimum wage legislation?

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has said raising the wage is his top legislative priority during his final year in office. His bill would increase the current minimum of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2016.

Democratic legislative leaders share the goal of an increase. But so far, they haven’t tipped their hands as to how closely they’ll hew to O’Malley’s proposal. That might soon change.

A House work group that’s been studying the issue could share its plan by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation in that chamber, has scheduled a work session Monday looking at several issues related to O’Malley’s proposal. Those include how to treat tipped workers and the interaction between the minimum wage and the higher “living wage” that Maryland pays its contractors.

Also on the table: whether lawmakers should make an adjustment to the Earned Income Tax Credit, another measure that benefits low-income workers.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) has repeatedly said it will be challenging to come up with a bill acceptable to lawmakers across the state. He wants the House to move first.

Is this the year lawmakers will embrace protections for transgender people?

A bill that would guarantee civil rights protections for transgender people in the areas of jobs, housing and public accommodations appears poised for passage this week in the Senate. Similar legislation passed the House three years ago.

This year’s Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which is backed by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) and 24- co-sponsors, was advanced last week with Republican-sponsored amendments intended to tighten the definition of transgender people protected by the bill.

Sen. Joseph M. Getty (R-Carroll) said the amendments were intended to prevent a sex offender or someone else who might pose as a transgender person from taking advantage of the law to enter a restroom or other restricted area for the opposite sex.

Will Maryland adopt the same standard as all other states for victims of domestic violence seeking a civil protection order?

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would lower the standard of proof when seeking such an order from clear and convincing evidence to the preponderance of evidence. Maryland is the only state in the nation that has the stricter standard. The House panel rejected a similar bill when it last considered the issue in 2010. This year, the Senate has already passed legislation lowering the standard.

The bill is one of three backed by O’Malley on the issue of domestic violence that appears on track for passage.

The House Judiciary Committee also approved a bill Thursday night that will allow judges to impose harsher sentences on abusers who commit acts of violence in the presence of a child.

A third bill approved by the committee adds assault in the second degree to the list of crimes which can subject an individual to the issuance of a permanent final protective order. As amended by the committee, the bill also lowers the minimum number of years of incarceration before such an order can be issued.

Will lawmakers curb teens’s access to energy drinks?

The House Economic Matters Committee will hear testimony Friday about a measure that would ban the sale of energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster Energy to minors. The bill, sponsored by Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), would also ban minors from possessing the stimulative beverages.

Kevin Goldberg, an attorney who is handling litigation filed against the makers of energy drinks by the family of a Hagerstown teenager who died of heart problems after consuming them, said some key figures in Maryland’s medical community have rallied around the proposal.

Those include Geoffrey Rosenthal, a pediatrician who is director of the University of Maryland Medical School’s children’s heart program; Jane E. Crosson, director of pediatric electrophysiology at the Helen B. Taussig facility at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center; and Sanjay Rajagopalan, head of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Will Mother Nature interfere with the Maryland legislature?

Legislative leaders loathe canceling floor sessions, and as of 9 p.m. Sunday night they had not done so on Monday despite the latest threat of snow.

According to announcements posted on the General Assembly Web site, only one hearing on Monday had been postponed as that hour: one on whether the legislature should recommend that the Washington Redskins change the team name.

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