Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Maryland General Assembly adjourned at midnight at the conclusion of its annual 90-day session. Here's what happened to legislation addressing key issues:
Domestic violence: Passed two bills giving judges more authority to take firearms from people accused of domestic violence.
Speed cameras: Passed a bill authorizing speed cameras statewide in work zones and school zones.
Death penalty: Amended a bill to repeal the death penalty, instead passing legislation that limits capital cases to those with DNA or biological evidence, a videotaped confession or a videotape linking the suspect to a homicide.
Energy re-regulation: Killed a bill to give state regulators new tools to order utilities to build power plants, which would have moved the state back toward a more regulated system for residential customers.
Climate change: Passed a bill that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions thought to contribute to global warming; passed measure requiring owners of waterfront homes to upgrade failed septic systems to curb nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
Preakness Stakes: Passed a bill to authorize the state to purchase or take by eminent domain the Preakness Stakes and horse-racing tracks owned by Magna Entertainment, which is in bankruptcy proceedings.
Texting while driving: Passed a bill to make it a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, to write or send a text message while operating a vehicle.
Teen driving: Passed legislation requiring teens to hold a learner's permit for nine months instead of six and a restricted provisional license until age 18.
Unemployment insurance: Passed a bill extending unemployment insurance to part-time workers.
University tuition: Included funds in budget to allow a fourth consecutive year of a tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates at public universities; final decision rests with university regents.
Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants: Approved a compromise bill eliminating illegal immigrants' access to driver's licenses; allows undocumented immigrants holding licenses to get a limited driving permit that would expire in 2015.
Police surveillance: Approved curbs on law enforcement authority to open undercover investigations of political activists, requiring credible evidence of criminal plans.
Porn on campus: Inserted language in the budget requiring university policies on screening pornographic films by Sept. 1. State funding is not contingent on the report.
Medevac: Efforts to dramatically overhaul or privatize the Maryland State Police helicopter program largely fizzled as a House task force recommended modest changes and lawmakers agreed to start replacing state police's fleet with three new helicopters next year costing $52.5 million.
Prince George's school headquarters: Restricted the county's Board of Education from spending any money on a 10-year, $36 million lease for new office space signed in June.
D.C. United: Decided not to pursue legislation to allow the Maryland Stadium Authority to float bonds for a new soccer stadium in Prince George's or study the economic benefits of a stadium.
Voting issues: Implemented an early-voting program approved in a November referendum and facilitated the state's move to voting machines that offer a paper trail by next year.
Tax exemption for domestic partners: Extended the same exemption from the inheritance tax on primary residences to domestic partners, including same-sex couples, that is now provided spouses, children and other family members.
Worker rights: Passed a bill that fines and penalizes employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors. Applies to construction, landscaping and package delivery business.