Maryland’s General Assembly convened for its 2021 Session last week, and the scene was quite unfamiliar — no lobbyists or activists roamed the hallways of the State House, and no parties or events took place in the restaurants and bars of Annapolis. Legislators are confined to plexiglass boxes that look like oversized phone booths for the duration.
One thing has not changed this year — the large number of terrible bills that have been drafted and filed. As of the end of the first week of Session, 959 bills have been submitted. Some of these bills will die an early death in committee, while others will pass in both the House and Senate by Sine Die, the final day of Session, on April 12. I hope to see the following foul pieces of purported public policy meet their demise this Session.
Senate Bill 276. This awful bill aims to repeal “all provisions relating to the establishment and maintenance of a police department at Johns Hopkins University,” and undo the creation of a campus police force authorized by the General Assembly in 2019. One would assume that the faculty and students would be excited to have extra protection at America’s first research university founded in 1876 located in one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, Baltimore, home to 335 homicides in 2020. Instead, the super-woke faculty and students protested the decision and occupied the university’s main administration building for a week to make their point.
After feeling the pressure, the university pulled the plug back in June and will hold off on creating a police force for at least two years. Regardless, Senator Jill Carter has filed SB276, hoping to permanently disable Johns Hopkins from protecting its students and staff.
House Bill 214/Senate Bill 223. Back by unpopular demand is the Plastic Bag Reduction Act. These bills are a recycled version of the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act which failed to pass the Senate last year after the COVID-shortened Session. The bills ban certain retail establishments “from distributing plastic carryout bags to a customer at the point of sale” on or after July 1, 2022.
The proposed legislation also establishes a civil penalty for violations and requires each county government to enforce it. Much like the horrendous statewide Styrofoam ban that passed in 2019, these bills will put an unneeded burden on the shoulders of counties and hurt businesses large and small. I wish to see these bills “bagged” for good before the end of Session.
Senate Bill 29. This bill will require “each local board of elections to send a vote-by-mail ballot to each individual who is registered to vote as the 21st day before the day of each election.” In other words, Senator Benjamin Kramer wants to have over 4 million mail-in ballots sent out across Maryland, regardless of whether voters want one or not. Currently, a registered voter who wants to vote by mail submits an application through the mail or completes an application online.
SB29 would change the mail-in voting process to look more like what we saw in the 2020 Primary election, when every registered voter received a mail-in ballot. Although things went smoothly in Carroll, it was a mess in other parts of Maryland. In Prince George’s County, 90,000 voters received mail-in ballots that only provided instructions in Spanish, instead of in English and Spanish. In Montgomery County, ballots were delivered late and many were deemed “un-deliverable” by the U.S. Postal Service.
In Baltimore City, the contractor hired to print and send the ballots out claimed ballots were sent when they had not been. Having the ability to mail-in your ballot is a great option if you want it, but to make it available to everybody is foolish and presents a slew of problems that can easily be avoided.
Senate Bill 213. I saved the worst for last. Senators Arthur Ellis and Obie Patterson want to designate Maryland Route 210, that runs from Charles County to Prince George’s County, as the “President Barack Obama Highway.” I can’t say I travel this 21-mile highway too often, but I imagine that there are some historical Marylanders worthy of honoring via renaming the road for him or her.
Last year, a substantial amount of bad bills were only stopped because Republicans were saved by the bell, with Session being cut short by nearly three weeks. This year however, we may need a few mild-mannered Republicans to enter their plexiglass phone booths, change their clothes, and re-emerge as Superman or Superwoman to defeat these villainous bills.