Former Annapolis Alderman Richard Israel, who is battling Parkinson's Disease, has lent his name to a right-to-die bill that is being presented during the General Assembly. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)
This week, the Maryland legislature is expected to take up two controversial topics that have been tied up in committees: right-to-die legislation and Gov. Larry Hogan's bill to expand charter schools.
Both were subject of hours-long and often emotional testimony earlier in the General Assembly session, but committees weighing them have left their thorny issues until after Tuesday morning's deadline to move bills from one chamber to another.
The right-to-die bill, dubbed by advocates a "Death with Dignity" law would allow terminally ill patients to take a lethal dose of a doctor-prescribed drug. More than 20 states this year are considering such laws after the advocacy of 30-year-old brain tumor patient Brittany Maynard sparked a national discussion on the issue.
Del. Shane Pendergrass, the Howard County Democrat sponsoring the legislation, said she expects the Health and Government Operations Committee that she co-chairs to begin debate on the bill this week.
It has drawn moving testimony from lawmakers and members of the public who watched loved ones suffer in the final months of their illnesses. The bill bears the names of two prominent Annapolis politicians with Parkinson's disease: former Alderman Richard E. "Dick" Israel and the late Roger "Pip" Moyer, who served as Annapolis mayor during the civil rights era.
In Maryland, the proposal has met resistance from some mental health experts who contend the law doesn't screen for depression, which often strikes people with terminal illness. Advocates for the disability community have also objected to the law, arguing it sanctions suicide for people forced to rely on others for their care.
Hogan proposed rewriting the state's charter school law in a way that would deliver more authority to charter operators. They would be allowed to sever ties with the state's teacher's unions and hire teachers who do not meet state qualifications. Hogan's recommendation also promised more funding and allowed charters to circumvent local school boards for construction money and approval from state officials.
In making his appeal, Hogan has cited several national studies by charter school advocates that rank Maryland among the toughest states in the country to operate a charter, which is a public school run by a private institution.
The state's teachers union and public school advocates have objected to the changes for several reasons, including that it undermines education standards and promises more resources to charters than traditional public schools.
The Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee formed a work group that has been debating whether the law should be changed. That group is expected to consider potential changes early this week, and the full committee could decide whether to advance the measure by the end of the week.