Among the 144 bills that Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law Thursday morning were more than a few major initiatives.
At his last scheduled bill signing of the legislative session, Hogan gave his blessing to measures that bring sweeping change to the state's criminal justice system, ensure pay equity and require convicted drunken drivers to use ignition interlocks.
But first, he recognized some of the people behind the initiatives.
Sitting in the front row of the governor's reception room were Rich and Marcia Leotta, the parents of Noah Leotta, a Montgomery County police officer who was killed by a drunken driver last December.
Leotta's death sparked a renewed push to expand the state law related to the use of ignition interlocks, devices that require a driver to blow into a breathalyzer to prove sobriety before starting his or her car. The General Assembly passed a measure on the last day of the legislative session that will place interlocks in the cars of all convicted drunken drivers in Maryland for a period of time.
Hogan said he was "very proud" to support both that bill and one that renames a portion of Route 924 in Harford County "Heroes Highway," after two Harford County Sheriff's Office deputies, Mark Logsdon and Patrick Dailey, who were killed in February in the line of duty. He said the designation honors Logsdon and Dailey's "incredible legacy and sacrifice."
Hogan also signed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which he called the "largest and most comprehensive criminal justice reform in Maryland in more than a generation." The bipartisan initiative, which took months of negotiation to craft, dispenses with some mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers, favors drug treatment over incarceration and expands the list of offenses that can be expunged from a criminal record.
And, he gave his support to the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which prevents wage discrimination on the basis of gender identity and protects employees who discuss their wages from repercussions.
Del. Sid Saab, R-Crownsville, attended the bill signing with members of the National Rifle Association, the Association Gun Clubs of Maryland and the Maryland State Police Alumni Association, among others, to witness the signing of House Bill 312. The measure ensures that most people renewing handgun permits will not have to be fingerprinted a second time.
"Since fingerprints do not change, the original set would still be valid," Saab said of the bill, which passed both chambers with bipartisan support.
Hogan also signed Senate Bill 852, sponsored by Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, which expands the availability of permits for beer and wine festivals in Anne Arundel County. Currently, the county is only allowed to issue permits for two such festivals, the Anne Arundel County Beer and Wine Festival and the Benson-Hammond House Strawberry Festival.
In all, the governor has signed more than 600 bills into law this session. Slightly fewer than 200 bills that passed the assembly this session are still awaiting a decision.
Hogan has until the end of the month to sign or veto remaining legislation. If he doesn't act, the bills will become law without his signature.