The just-completed legislative session in Annapolis was dominated by the debate over whether to fully fund schools, shore up the pension fund or pay for other priorities. But budget negotiations were not all that happened over the past 90 days in the General Assembly.
Lawmakers passed 652 bills, including legislation to protect abused children, help criminals turn their lives around and improve the state’s business climate. Here are some of the bills awaiting the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
“Anayah’s Bill” — Named for Anayah Williams, a Frederick toddler who died after Child Protective Services returned her to her parents’ home even though there was suspicion of abuse. The bill gives authorities more power to keep children out of potentially dangerous homes by expanding the instances in which social workers would not be required to try to reunite parent and child.
Artificial insemination — Gives female couples the same health benefits for artificial insemination as heterosexual couples.
Augustine Commission — Five bills designed to improve the state’s business climate. Among them are measures to review new state regulations and assess their impact on small businesses; require some state employees to take customer-service training and examine how public universities might make money by selling the findings of their researchers; restructure the state’s economic development efforts and expand apprenticeship programs.
The package of legislation is referred to by the name of a commission, led by retired Lockheed Martin chief executive Norman R. Augustine, that studied what is holding the state back economically.
Body cameras — Exempts the wiretap rule to allow police departments across the state to wear body cameras. Legislation lays out the policy for counties and cities.
Charter schools — Hogan wanted a massive reform of charter school laws. He got small changes that allow charters to have a say on who attends the schools and permits some charters to be exempt from specific requirements about scheduling, curriculum and professional development.
Voting rights for ex-felons — Provides voting rights for an estimated 40,000 ex-felons who are on probation or parole. Maryland will join the District and 13 states, including Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, where former felons can vote after they are released from prison.
Film tax credit — TV shows, such as “House of Cards,” could continue to receive a tax credit for filming in Maryland under a bill that allows the state to fund the film tax credit. The bill establishes a reserve fund that could be used for the credits. The governor decides how much the production companies would get.
Hotel tax — Online travel services that offer discounted hotel-room prices — like Expedia, Orbitz and others — will have to pay the same amount of state sales tax — 6 percent — hotels do when they charge rooms directly to consumers.
Hydraulic fracking — Imposes what amounts to a 21/2-year ban on natural-gas drilling in the western part of the state. The practice could provide jobs but raises questions about environmental and health impacts.
Mandatory minimum sentences — The bill repeals mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders who have committed their second offense.
Marijuana paraphernalia — Last year, Maryland decriminalized the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. This year, lawmakers said it should no longer be a crime to have such paraphernalia as bongs.
Primary date — This bill changes the primary date for the 2016 elections from the first to the last Tuesday in April to avoid the launch of early voting on Easter weekend.
Second Chance Act — People with certain nonviolent misdemeanor criminal records will be able to have their records blocked from public view after three years, under specific conditions. The bill is designed to help those with criminal pasts get jobs. Hogan said he supports the measure.
Speed limit — Drivers may soon be able to drive 70 mph on some interstate highways and expressways. The bill gives state transportation officials the authority to raise the limit from 65 mph to 70 mph.
Standardized tests — A bill creates a commission to study how many tests students take and how often they take them.
Storm-water management — The bill removes the requirement that the state’s largest jurisdictions charge a storm-water remediation fee, which critics call a “rain tax.”
Tort liability — Increases the maximum payouts to those who have successfully sued a local government, raising the top award from $200,000 to $300,000 per individual claim and from $500,000 to $600,000 per total claims.
Transgender birth certificates — This bill requires the state’s health officials to issue new birth certificates for transgender and intersex individuals after a documented sex change. It simplifies the process for individuals who undergo a sex change but may not have had sexual reassignment surgery. Citizens need a doctor’s note or court order testifying to the change. The new certificate cannot have any markings indicating any change in the requestor’s identity.
Uber — The bill makes Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing booking services legal in Maryland, shortly after the District and Virginia approved frameworks for the app-based car services. The legislation also sets rules related to insurance coverage and requires the companies to conduct criminal background checks on drivers.