Maryland lawmakers on Monday approved two top priorities of the late House Speaker Michael E. Busch — overturning Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill to create oyster sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay and passing an overhaul of the University of Maryland Medical System board — on an unusually somber final day of the annual legislative session.
The Democratic-majority General Assembly also voted to require that 50 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources and, in the final hour of the session, worked out a compromise on legislation that will create the nation’s first prescription drug affordability board.
But it was passage of the oyster-sanctuary bill and the UMMS legislation — both strongly championed by Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who died unexpectedly on Sunday — that stirred special emotion in the chambers.
“You know who sponsored this bill,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said with a sad smile before the Senate took up the veto override. The vote was 29 to 16.
When the UMMS legislation came to the House floor, Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) pointed out that it was the last bill Busch had sponsored. Delegates stood and applauded.
Environmentalists heralded the sanctuary bill as key to helping revive the bay, but watermen said it would jeopardize their livelihood. Republican lawmakers were muted in their criticism of the measure in deference to Busch, who led the chamber for 13 years.
“Obviously with the events of yesterday, we are going to temper our opposition to this legislation,” Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Queen Anne’s) said quietly. “The caucus is certainly in support of the governor’s veto of this bill.”
The final-day pace was less frenzied than usual as lawmakers grieved. Lawmakers had finalized several major pieces of legislation earlier in the session — including bills to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025, increase the smoking age to 21 and pour hundreds of millions of dollars into a remake of Maryland’s education system.
“In terms of where we started out and where our goals were, we’ve achieved every single one in terms of health care, in terms of public safety, in terms of education, in terms of balancing the budget with no new tax increases,” Miller said.
Bills passed will go to Hogan, who can veto them, sign them into law or allow them to become law without his signature.
The UMMS legislation would bar board members from holding single-source contracts with UMMS and require stringent financial disclosures, a response to revelations that several members — including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) — benefited from lucrative contracts with the system they oversaw. The bills would also dissolve the board in several stages.
The drug affordability board would cap the costs of certain prescription drugs when purchased by state and local government employers. If successful, it could be expanded to other employers. The board’s decisions to set caps would have to be approved by the Legislative Policy Committee, a panel of top state lawmakers.
Lawmakers approved a bill that would tighten regulation of for-profit colleges, countering a rollback of federal regulations by the Trump administration. They also decriminalized public consumption of alcohol and approved a measure to add more speed cameras on Indian Head Highway.
Flood-prone areas could be eligible to receive money for repairs under a bill approved Monday. The bill puts $8 million over three years into a flood mitigation grant fund that prioritizes historic areas such as Ellicott City, which was devastated by floods in 2016 and 2018.
A bill that would have used bond funds to pay for repairs at several racetracks across the state failed Monday, after lawmakers from Baltimore City refused to support it over the weekend.
Baltimore officials raised concerns that the bill would lead the Stronach Group to pull the Preakness out of Pimlico, a Baltimore racetrack that has hosted the second leg of the Triple Crown for decades. But Miller, who supported the bill, said it would have required Pimlico’s owners to deal with repairs there before the other tracks.
A bill to create a two-year period in which adults sexually abused as children could file civil lawsuits against institutions that protected their attackers, even if the statute of limitations had long expired, also did not advance. The bill had passed the House but was rejected by a Senate panel. A last-ditch effort to resurrect it was not successful.
Lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on legislation that would have required background checks for private sales of rifles and shotguns. Different versions of the measure passed each chamber, with the Senate bill exempting gun transfers that don’t involve money.
Outside the State House on Monday morning, gun-control activists wearing red “Moms Demand Action” T-shirts pushed for the House version of the bill, which was introduced after five employees were killed at the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.
“We want the House version,” said Andrea Chamblee, widow of Capital Gazette journalist John McNamara. “That’s the one Mike Busch wanted.”