Gov. Martin O'Malley signed more than 300 bills into law Wednesday, including measures hailed by environmentalists as providing new protections for the Chesapeake Bay.
Flanked by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, O'Malley said that as a result of the General Assembly's actions this year, Maryland now has legislation in place addressing each of the four most important sources of water pollution in the bay watershed.
He identified those sources as septic systems and wastewater treatment plants — both addressed in bills he submitted this year – along with stormwater and agricultural runoff.
O'Malley signed a landmark bill Wednesday that will require 10 local jurisdictions to take steps to improve their stormwater systems to prevent excessive runoff and to impose fees to pay for the upgrades. He gave credit to the bill's sponsors, Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Tom Hucker, both Montgomery County Democrats.
"This was not an administration bill, but it was very much a needed bill," O'Malley said.
The stormwater bill was the last bill approved in the Senate on the final night of the session after Miller beat back a Republican filibuster protesting the potential cost to homeowners. Maryland already has a law in place addressing farm runoff.
The administration's septics bill will require local jurisdictions to adopt plans to curb the growth of large developments that rely on septic systems in environmentally sensitive areas. Another O'Malley measure will double the "flush tax" that pays for upgrading sewage treatment plants to protect the Chesapeake and coastal bays.
He also signed a bill designed to improve coordination between law enforcement and community groups when a child disappears.
Named after Phylicia Barnes, a North Carolina teen who disappeared in 2010 while visiting Baltimore and was later found dead, the bill requires state officials to publish a list of missing children and annual statistics. Last week, police made an arrest in Phylicia's case, charging Michael Maurice Johnson, the ex-boyfriend of her older half-sister.
Other bills O'Malley signed Wednesday will:
•Prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or job applicant to provide a user name or password to a personal email or social media account.
•Establish a Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to provide a market for health insurance for an estimated 350,000 Marylanders under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
•Create a mediation process for homeowners and lenders to be used before foreclosure proceedings are instituted.
•Reduce penalties for use or possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.
•Allow the use of money from the state's Purse Dedication Account to be used to provide operating funds to support racing days at Ocean Downs and Rosecroft racetracks.
•Require campaigns for state and local office to seek and disclose information on the occupation and employer of donors who give more than $500 in a four-year election cycle.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun