We tracked 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

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: The Senate signed off on tweaks the House of Delegates made to the measure, sending it to the governor.

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 increasing teacher pay, expanding prekindergarten, and creating “community schools” in high-poverty areas.

How much would it cost? The plan would send more than $850 million in extra funding to public schools over two years. In fiscal year 2021, the budget year that runs from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, an additional $355 million would go to public schools. The year after that, the extra money would total $500 million.

What are its chances? The legislation was jointly introduced by both Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and the late House Speaker Michael Busch. The Kirwan Commission whose work led to it has been reviewing the state’s education system and its funding for several years.


HB166/SB280: Raising minimum hourly wage to $15

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: The Democratic-controlled legislature has overridden Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto.

What will 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 will follow a schedule that gives them an extra year to reach $15 per hour. Companies will have to provide an explanation of wages to tipped workers, who will 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 will it cost? The state will 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 will be a significant cost to businesses that employ low-wage workers.

What happened? In vetoing the bill, Hogan said gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour will “cost us jobs, negatively impact our economic competitiveness and devastate our state’s economy.” The governor offered support for an increase to $12.10 instead. With the bill a Democratic priority, lawmakers voted to override Hogan’s veto by large margins, 96-42 in the House of Delegates, followed by a 32-15 vote in the Senate.


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

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: The Democratic-led General Assembly has overturned Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto. Passed as emergency legislation, the law takes effect immediately.

What will it do? This bill overturns Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order and gives county school boards the power to decide when classrooms open for the academic year. It also lets 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 happened? The reversal of Hogan's executive order deals the governor a defeat of what he says has been one of his most popular decisions while in office. Polls showed most Marylanders supported starting school after Labor Day. Democrats argued school districts struggled to fit in 180 days of classes and that a longer summer break worsened achievement gaps.


HB1094/SB793: Authorizing a Johns Hopkins University police force

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan.

What will it do? The bill will enable Hopkins to have a police force of up to 100 armed officers that will patrol in a defined area around its Homewood academic campus, the medical campus in East Baltimore and the Peabody Institute conservatory in Mount Vernon. The police officers can only patrol beyond their defined perimeter if neighborhood associations vote to allow it. The bill also requires the state to provide millions of dollars in funding to community programs in Baltimore. Changes made in the House of Delegates include adding a member of the university’s Black Faculty and Staff Association to the police department’s oversight board, prohibiting the use of surplus military equipment, requiring training on legal searches and requiring officers to wear and turn on their body-worn cameras.

How much will 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 happened? With local support crucial, the bill was endorsed by divided Baltimore House and Senate delegations. It had powerful supporters, including billionaire alumnus and donor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. Hopkins faculty members and students, meanwhile, lobbied against the bill.


HB109/SB285: Banning use of plastic foam

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: The Senate and House have reconciled their differences, sending a bill to the governor.

What would it do? Starting July 1, 2020, 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, as well as some exceptions, including for products packaged outside Maryland, such as ramen noodles, and for foam products used to package raw or butchered meat and foam products not used for food service.

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. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has not taken a position yet on whether he would sign the bill. 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

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: The legislation had hearings in both chambers but did not advance.

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”

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: Passed by the House. Did not advance 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

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan.

What will it do? Carving out an exemption for members of the military, this bill will move the minimum age to buy tobacco products — cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco — from 18 to 21. The change takes place Oct. 1.

How much will 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 happened? The bill was passed by veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Raising the age for buying tobacco was a priority of Democratic leaders in the legislature, as well as the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.


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

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: 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? 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

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: The House and Senate passed a scaled down version of the bill.

What would it do? A Prescription Drug Affordability Board would study and recommend ways to reduce drug prices in plans covering employees of state and county governments.

How much would it cost? Legislative analysts said the original version of the bill would have increased 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 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, lobbied his former colleagues to pass this bill.


HB1373/SB0884: Arming Baltimore school resource officers

pictos_black pictos_black

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.


HB399/SB311: Legalizing medically assisted suicide for certain terminally ill Marylanders

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: The House of Delegates passed one version of the bill. A version with several key differences was defeated in a tie vote (23-23) in the Senate.

What would it have done? The bill, known as the End of Life Options Act, would have allowed Marylanders with a terminal illness and a prognosis of less than six months to live to request a prescription for medication they could take to end their life. The patient would have needed to make the request at least three times, including once in writing and once in private with their physician.

The House version of the bill would have allowed adults 18 and older to qualify, while the Senate version set the minimum age at 21. The Senate also added a required mental health evaluation, set a stricter definition of terminal illness and eliminated part of the bill that would shield doctors from civil lawsuits for prescribing the medication.

How much would it have cost? There would have been very little effect on state finances, less than $200,000 in the first year to collect data about the practice.

What happened? The House of Delegates passed the bill 74-66, three votes more than was required for passage. The measure faced more scrutiny in the Senate, where a committee added further requirements for patients and doctors, changes that led some advocates to pull their support. The bill was defeated 23-23 in the Senate on a rare roll call vote on a second reading. Just one more "yea" would have advanced the measure to a final vote. The potential tiebreaker, Democratic Sen. Obie Patterson of Prince George's County, was in his seat but did not cast a vote. "I could not bring myself to move right or left on the bill," he later told reporters. Similar bills failed three times before in previous General Assembly sessions. Gov. Larry Hogan had not taken a public position on the bill. He had said that it was “one that I really wrestle with from a personal basis.”


HB1428/SB619: Reforming the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors

pictos_black pictos_black

Status: Signed into law by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

What will it do? Bar no-bid contracts for University of Maryland Medical System board members, force all members to resign and reapply for their positions (if they want to return), and mandate an audit of contracting practices.

How much will it cost? There is no cost to the state, but the medical system reports it could cost $500,000 to perform an audit of its contracting practices.

What happened? Hogan expressed strong support for UMMS reforms. The legislation is effective immediately.