With two weeks remaining, a crush of bills remains on the General Assembly’s agenda. Among them: high-profile gun-control legislation, a measure that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and an attempt by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to take over the county’s public schools.
“I think we all anticipated a fairly low-key session, but several hot-button issues have emerged that we’re dealing with, and there’s more to come,” Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. (D-St. Mary’s) said about this year’s session, during which lawmakers also repealed the death penalty and are close to passing the state’s first gas tax increase since 1992.
The activity Saturday came in advance of a Monday “crossover” deadline for bills to pass in at least one legislative chamber; otherwise, they face a procedural hurdle that often means defeat. The Senate, which did not meet Saturday, is scheduled to return Monday.
During the House’s long Saturday meeting, takeout food piled up in the chamber’s lounge, and Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) wore tennis shoes with his business suit to make the hours of standing at the lectern less uncomfortable.
The medical marijuana bill, sponsored by Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), would allow a small number of academic medical centers to distribute marijuana to patients beginning in 2016. The centers would be required to monitor patients and publish their findings, an approach that officials in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration have characterized as cautious enough to win their support.
The legislation is expected to get a final vote in the House on Monday before moving to the Senate. “Hopefully it will pass and will help sick people in Maryland who need compassionate care,” Morhaim said.
Some lawmakers, including Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Dorchester), said they remain uncomfortable with the idea, however. “I don’t want us to end up like California,” Eckardt said. “We’re trying to teach people alternatives from a . . . substance-using society, and this goes against that whole argument.”
Legislation passed last week by the Senate would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, making violators subject to only a $100 civil fine.
The House also unanimously approved a measure Saturday designed to make cyber-bullying a crime. The bill was introduced after the suicide last year of a 15-year-old Howard County girl. The girl’s family said she took her life after being harassed online.
The case sparked international interest. American Idol stars sent out tweets of support, and Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice campaigned on behalf of the measure.