Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox sums up the 2018 General Assembly session. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
Here are some of the bills approved by the Maryland General Assembly during its annual 90-day session, which ended Monday. The legislation goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature or veto. He also can allow bills to become law without his signature.
The Democratic-controlled Assembly and the Republican governor agreed to ban bump stocks, accessories used by the gunman in last fall's mass shooting in Las Vegas to effectively turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones. Lawmakers also approved a "red flag" law, which would allow judges to order the temporary removal of firearms from people considered a danger to themselves or others.
Lawmakers approved $6.5 billion in tax incentives for Amazon, the largest economic development package in state history. The plan, supported by Hogan, is aimed at convincing the internet retail giant to build its new headquarters in Montgomery County. The package would be in addition to $2 billion in promised infrastructure and transportation improvements. It is the largest known incentive package among the states and cities competing for Amazon.
Maryland is poised to be the first state in the country to regulate political ads on Facebook and other social media sites. Legislation approved by the Assembly would require social media platforms to track all political ads, keep copies of them and record which users are being targeted. State elections officials could use the data to track bad actors or detect foreign interference.
The Assembly and Hogan approved a measure to collect $380 million in taxes from health insurers to curtail skyrocketing premiums for 150,000 Marylanders and prevent the state's Obamacare marketplace from collapsing. The one-year, bipartisan fix stood out as other states and Congress continue to bicker over how to maintain the Affordable Care Act.
Because Maryland's tax code is linked to federal law, the big tax cut approved in Washington had the effect of driving up state taxes for many Marylanders. A bipartisan coalition in the Assembly agreed to changes to alleviate the hike, giving 58 percent of taxpayers a break that amounts to $40 and targeting relief to the working poor and some retirees. But 1 in 5 Maryland taxpayers would still have higher state tax bills than before.
Lawmakers overrode Hogan's veto to create a new process for approving hundreds of millions of dollars for building and repairing schools. Legislators said Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot had abused their authority over such projects by publicly grilling school officials during the annual "begathon" before the Board of Public Works.
In an election year, Maryland's Republican governor Democratic-dominated General Assembly made a point of solving complicated and costly problems: passing tax relief, shoring up the state's individual insurance market, responding to Baltimore's record homicide rate and banning bump stocks.
Licensed medical and mental health professionals would no longer be able to offer therapy to minors advertised as a means to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, a practice opponents said is abusive and ineffective. The House of Delegates passed the legislation after one lawmaker, whose father fought the bill in the state Senate, said her parents urged her to seek therapy after she told them she had been in a same-sex relationship.
Voters in November will get to decide whether to prohibit the state from spending revenues from Maryland's six casinos on anything other than K-12 education. The Assembly approved a measure that will place that question on the ballot as a constitutional amendment mandating such spending of casino revenue.
The legislature approved a bill that aims to give black-owned companies a better chance to win new licenses to open cannabis businesses. The plan calls for issuing seven new cannabis-growing and 13 new cannabis-processing licenses. The award process can consider race and barriers for minorities starting a marijuana firm. The law would also create a "compassionate use" fund to help poorer people and veterans pay for the drug, which is not covered by insurance.
GUN TRACE TASK FORCE Lawmakers approved creating a state commission with subpoena power to investigate allegations of Baltimore Police Department corruption that arose from the federal probe of the Gun Trace Task Force. Mayor Catherine E. Pugh opposes the measure as unnecessary.