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ASSEMBLY WATCH: 'Yes means yes,' legal pot and schools deal all on the table

When it comes to rape cases at college campuses, should "no mean no" or should "yes mean yes"?

Maryland lawmakers will debate this week whether to require colleges to consider a sexual encounter an assault unless both participants clearly agree to it at every stage. This "affirmative consent" — popularly known as "yes means yes" — would replace the current standard used in such cases. The discussion comes as campuses across the country deal with a spike in sexual violence.

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Two separate bills under debate this week would try to give more clarity to the role college administrators should play in evaluating sexual assault.

One bill, introduced by Democratic Del. Aruna Miller of Montgomery County, would require colleges to more actively investigate reports of alleged sexual assault, and it would give schools until Oct. 1 to come up with more detailed policies. The measure would require schools to investigate any allegations under the "yes means yes" affirmative consent standard as well as clearly educate the student body about it.

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California made national news last year when it became the first state in the country to require schools receiving public aid to use the "yes means yes" standard. Lawmakers said it made clear that silence or lack of resistance did not mean it was OK to proceed with sex.

In Maryland, the first stage of the debate will play out Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee.

That afternoon, lawmakers will again consider whether to legalize marijuana in this state. Similar measures have been introduced and defeated in committee over the past few years, but advocates say they expect to win approval eventually.

As more information is available about legal pot in Colorado and Washington state, advocates in Maryland believe it's only a matter of time until more states join in.

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Gov. Larry Hogan has said he does not favor legalization of marijuana. Advocates this year are nonetheless focusing on a pitch he might like: Legalized pot would generate millions for state coffers at a time when Hogan wants to grant tax breaks. The bill is even called the "Marijuana Control and Revenue Act."

The somewhat delicate state of bipartisanship in Annapolis may be tested when committees take up the first of Hogan's bills, including two that deal with education.

Hogan has said he welcomes any reasonable suggestions on where to find more money for schools, as Democrats have called for. In the meantime, committees will consider Hogan's bill to ease restrictions on charter schools and grant them more funding.

Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller last week suggested a compromise: Lawmakers would pass the charter schools bill in exchange for more funding for K-12 education. So far, no one has publicly agreed to that deal.

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