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Maryland General Assembly bill tracker: What's happening with key legislation

We are tracking selected bills here for the duration of the 2019 General Assembly session. Find more coverage on our politics page and Roughly Speaking podcast.

HB1413/SB1030: Providing $1 billion in increased funding for public schools per the Kirwan commission recommendations

Status: Hearings have been held in the House and Senate.

What would it do? This bill establishes the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (nicknamed the Kirwan commission) as state education policy, including free, full-day prekindergarten for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds and raises for teachers.

How much would it cost? The state would provide $325 million in next fiscal year’s budget and $750 million the year after that.

What are its chances? The legislation was jointly introduced by both Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, meaning it is almost certain to pass.


HB166/SB280: Raising minimum hourly wage to $15

Status: The House and Senate have resolved their differences, sending a bill to Gov. Larry Hogan.

What would it do? Gradually increases the minimum wage from the current $10.10 per hour to $15 per hour by 2025 for companies with more than 15 workers. Smaller companies would follow a schedule that gives them an extra year to reach $15 per hour. Companies would have to provide an explanation of wages to tipped workers, who could continue to be paid a base wage as little as $3.63 per hour, so long as their tips bring their total pay to at least minimum wage.

How much would it cost? The state would take on additional expenses to increase the wages of some of its workers, estimated at $4.7 million next year and rising to $83 million in 2024, according to an analysis of the original version of the bill by the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services. There also would be a significant cost to businesses that employ low-wage workers.

What are its chances? Gov. Larry Hogan, who counter-proposed an increase to $12.10 by 2022, opposes such a significant increase. Both the House of Delegates and the Senate approved the bill with more than enough votes to override a veto.


HB437/SB128: Letting school boards decide whether to start classes before or after Labor Day

Status: The Senate has agreed to the House’s amendments, sending the bill to Gov. Larry Hogan.

What would it do? This bill would overturn Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order and give county school boards the power to decide when classrooms open for the academic year. It would also let them extend the school year up to five days beyond June 15, the date by which Hogan required classes end for the year.

How much would it cost? There is minimal cost to the state or local school systems. Businesses that rely on tourism, especially on Labor Day weekend, have raised concerns that they will miss out on a money-making opportunity.

What are its chances? Both chambers passed the legislation by margins large enough to override a veto. If the governor doesn’t veto it, it would become law without his signature.


HB1094/SB793: Authorizing a Johns Hopkins University police force

Status: A bill has passed the Senate. A companion bill endorsed by Baltimore’s delegates is before the full House.

What would it do? The legislation would authorize Johns Hopkins University to create a police force with up to 100 armed officers.

How much would it cost? The Senate version of the bill — called the Community Safety and Strengthening Act — contains provisions that include requiring the state to provide $3.5 million for the city’s Children and Youth Fund and $1 million toward Mayor Catherine Pugh’s YouthWorks summer jobs program. It also calls for the Hopkins police force to establish at least one Police Athletic League center in Baltimore to offer activities for youth. The House version of the bill also mandates the state contribute $10 million for capital projects for community development projects. Amendments by the House’s Judiciary Committee require that officers have their body-worn cameras turned on and that a member of the university's Black Faculty and Staff Association to sit on the accountability board that will oversee the force.

What are its chances? With local support crucial, the bill was endorsed by divided Baltimore House and Senate delegations. It has powerful supporters, including billionaire alumnus and donor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. Hopkins faculty members and students, meanwhile, have lobbied against the bill.


HB109/SB285: Banning use of plastic foam

Status: The Senate and House have approved slightly different versions that need to be reconciled for the measure to move forward.

What would it do? Starting in 2020 — the effective date was amended to July 1 from Jan. 1 in the Senate version — businesses would no longer be able to sell or provide food in an “expanded polystyrene food service product” — better known to most by the brand name Styrofoam. Local health departments would enforce the law and could impose penalties of up to $250 per violation. There would be an option for businesses to apply for a hardship waiver.

How much would it cost? The measure would not have a significant cost for state or local governments, though public schools that still use foam trays would need to find other options, which are estimated to cost 3 cents more per tray. Businesses that serve food in foam containers may also face increased costs.

What are its chances? The measure is among the priorities of Democratic leaders of the General Assembly. Once differences between the two versions of the bill are worked out, it would head to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's desk. A spokeswoman said the governor had not taken a position yet. Many Republicans raised concerns that the ban would cause difficulty or increased expenses for farmers, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.


HB854/SB951: Cutting state income taxes

Status: The legislation has had hearings in both chambers.

What would it do? The legislation would lower the Maryland income tax rate by a quarter percentage point

How much would it cost? House Republicans, who are pushing the legislation, estimate the tax cut would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in lower taxes for state residents. A fiscal note predicted the first year of the tax cut would deprive the state’s budget of $624 million. Bill sponsor Baltimore County Del. Kathy Szeliga says the amount lost to the state budget would be covered by increasing revenue.

What are its chances? Inauspicious. In the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, Republicans cannot pass any legislation without bipartisan support.


HB740/SB882: Banning 3D-printed guns and “ghost guns”

Status: Passed by the House. Awaiting further action in the Senate.

What would it do? The bill would make it illegal to have a gun in the state that does not have a serial number issued by a licensed gun manufacturer or importer. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. This effectively makes it illegal to buy a “ghost gun,” which is a kit that can be ordered online that has most of the parts to build a gun.

The bill defines “computer-aided firearm fabrication” and makes it illegal to create a gun in that manner. That would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. This effectively makes it illegal to create a gun using a 3-D printer or similar device.

How much would it cost? Legislative analysts say there is little fiscal impact from the bill, but it’s possible there could be a small increase to government budgets due to the bill’s fines.

What are its chances? Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers have a history of being aggressive in passing gun-control legislation and proponents of gun control see 3-D guns and ghost guns as the newest frontier. This bill has the backing of Democratic leaders, but will face opposition from advocates for gun owners.


HB1169/SB895: Raising age for buying to tobacco products to 21

Status: The House and Senate have approved different versions of the bill.

What would it do? This bill would move the minimum age to buy tobacco products — cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco — from 18 to 21. The change would take place Oct. 1.

How much would it cost? An analysis conducted last year on a similar bill found that the state would lose out on tobacco tax and sales tax revenues of about $7 million per year due to decreased sales. Health officials believe that some of that will be offset by lower healthcare costs, such as Medicaid.

What are its chances? This bill is a priority of Legislative Black Caucus and the Democratic leaders of both chambers, so it has more momentum than in past years. Versions of the bill have previously been defeated going back to 2014.


HB697/SB868: Prohibiting denial of health insurance over pre-existing conditions

Status: Different versions have been passed by the House and Senate.

What would it do? The legislation would prohibit health insurance companies from declining to offer insurance for pre-existing conditions, an element of the federal Affordable Care Act that Democrats fear could be stripped out as part of a court case.

How much would it cost? The bill codifies existing federal law and has no effect on local government revenues.

What are its chances? Strong. The legislation is an agreed-upon priority of both Senate Democratic leadership and House Democratic leadership.


HB768/SB759: Creating a prescription drug price monitoring board

Status: The bill has been introduced in both chambers. Committee hearings were held March 6.

What would it do? The bill would establish a state Prescription Drug Affordability Board that would review the prices of high-cost prescription drugs. The board could set limits on how much could be charged for certain drugs.

How much would it cost? Legislative analysts say the bill would increase state expenses by at least $617,000 in its first year of implementation to establish the board.

What are its chances? The General Assembly’s Democratic leaders have made this bill a priority. While this is largely a Democrat-backed initiative, concern about the high cost of drugs comes from both sides of the aisle. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican who is a former delegate and state senator, has been lobbying his former colleagues to pass this bill.


HB1373/SB0884: Arming Baltimore school resource officers

Status: Baltimore’s House delegation voted 10-5 against the bill — effectively killing it for this General Assembly session.

What would it do? Baltimore school resource officers would be allowed to carry weapons during the school day on the property of the school they are assigned to. The roughly 90 officers are currently allowed to carry their service weapons while patrolling the exterior of school buildings before and after school hours but must store their weapons in a secure location during the school day.

How much would it cost? It’s not expected to have a direct financial impact.

What are its chances? The House bill was pulled early in the session amid unanimous opposition from the city school board, but the shooting of a staff member at Frederick Douglass High School prompted a renewed push. After the Baltimore House delegation’s vote to oppose the bill, however, it’s not expected to move forward.


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