Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) plans to sign more than 250 bills into law on Thursday, including one of the most sweeping gun-control packages in the country and a plan to raise taxes on gas to yield more money for transportation projects.
The signing ceremony in Annapolis will be the last in the wake of the 2013 legislative session, which lawmakers have called their most productive in years.
Other bills expected to be signed Thursday will make talking on a cellphone while driving a primary offense, criminalize the use of synthetic marijuana and allow same-sex couples to file joint state tax returns.
According to a list of bills released by his office, O’Malley also plans to sign a controversial bill that would exempt Lockheed Martin from paying about $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County related to a training center that the giant defense contractor operates in Bethesda.
Aides to the governor also indicated Wednesday that he does not plan to veto any bills on policy grounds from the session that ended last month. In most previous sessions, O’Malley has objected to a small number of bills produced by the Democratic-led legislature.
The gun-control legislation, which takes effect Oct. 1, will ban magazines that hold more than 10 bullets and will ban 45 types of semiautomatic rifles, classifying them as assault weapons.
It also will require those seeking to buy any gun other than a hunting rifle or shotgun to obtain a license, a process that will include submitting fingerprints to police, passing classroom and firing-range training and undergoing more extensive background checks.
The transportation bill is intended to replenish a fund that is rapidly running out of money for highway construction and long-planned mass-transit projects.
Under the bill, motorists can expect to pay 13 to 20 cents more per gallon by mid-2016, according to legislative analysts. The increase would be phased in, with the first bump of about 4 cents a gallon coming in July.
Transportation officials say the measure would yield $4.4 billion for new projects over the next six years.
Under current Maryland law, motorists are not supposed to use cellphones while driving, but law-enforcement officials can only cite them if they are pulled over for some other reason. The law O’Malley plans to sign will change that.
Montgomery County leaders were divided over the bill exempting Lockheed Martin from a local hotel tax.
Supporters of the measure argued that the lodging facilities at the center are not a hotel and that the action was consistent with a decision the General Assembly made in 2010 to exempt it from state sales taxes.
But opponents said the action by the General Assembly defied the will of a majority of the Montgomery County Council, which is on record opposing the tax break.
As written, the bill applies to any company that operates a lodging facility in Maryland solely to support a training or conference facility that is not open to the general public. But no other facility currently qualifies for the relief.
Staff writer Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.