Gov. Larry Hogan signed the first three bills of this legislative session Monday — two praised by environmentalists and one that helps the survivors of a Harford County sheriff's deputy who was killed this year.
The brief but emotional signing ceremony stood in contrast to the partisan bickering that has defined the annual session.
One bill retroactively grants pension benefits to the sons of a deputy killed in February by a man who opened fire during the lunchtime rush at an Abingdon Panera. It also would allow the children of any police officer killed in the line of duty to receive their parent's pension benefits until they turn 26 — eight years longer than under the previous law.
Hogan also signed a bill to create a tougher goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a bill to put $60 million into land conservation programs over the next two years.
Less than two weeks after the killing of sheriff's deputies Mark Logsdon and Patrick Dailey, the Harford County delegation introduced the retroactive legislation to help Dailey's children. The bill passed both chambers unanimously.
"Our state owes families like those of deputies Dailey and Logsdon a tremendous debt," said Hogan, a Republican. "This is one small way that we can honor their sacrifice."
Logsdon's wife, Jennifer, is eligible to receive pension benefits for the rest of her life. The new bill helps Dailey's sons Bryan, 20, and Tyler, 17. Until Monday, the only benefits available to Dailey's children would go to Tyler, and he would stop receiving money after his 18th birthday.
The Dailey brothers stood behind Hogan, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller as the bill was signed. The brothers wore Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Co. uniforms and declined to be interviewed.
"They're little pieces of iron," Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler said afterward. "They're unbreakable. Something like this takes us to the breaking point but did not break us."
The two environmental bills also signed Monday represented a compromise between Hogan and the Democrat-controlled legislature.
One bill, introduced by the governor, called for routing millions into Program Open Space, a conservation fund that for years had seen state contributions decline as Maryland faced budget deficits.
Lawmakers also included spending mandates that require the governor pay for projects at certain parks, including $16.5 million for parks in Baltimore City. Hogan has objected to such required spending, calling it poor public policy.
The other environmental bill calls for reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent of 2006 levels by 2030 — a higher bar then the previous goal, but one set to be met later. The governor's administration and environmentalists agreed before the session to pursue such a plan.
The previous goal required the state to reduce emissions by 25 percent before 2020.
Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and a member of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, called the deal "one of the strongest greenhouse gas reduction targets in the nation."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.