But the final, marathon day of the session brought some last-minute successes and losses. Here’s who and what came out on top — and didn’t — this year in Annapolis.
For Mike Busch
Hours after Maryland’s longest-serving speaker died, lawmakers put their finishing touches Monday on an ambitious session in which they enacted many of the Anne Arundel Democrat’s plans aimed at helping working families, public schools and the environment.
On the final day, lawmakers passed two of Busch’s priorities — measures creating five permanent oyster sanctuaries around the Chesapeake Bay and one that would replace the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors amid allegations of no-bid contracts for some of the board members.
The assembly overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the oyster bill, and Hogan is expected to sign the UMMS reform legislation.
For Baltimore’s House delegation
The final day of session spelled the end for an effort to finance construction of a so-called “super track” for horseracing at Laurel Park. That was a win for Baltimore lawmakers, who viewed the bill as a threat to keeping the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in the city.
They fought the legislation fiercely, including Democratic Del. Nick J. Mosby, who held news conferences condemning what he called “deplorable” accomodations for workers who live at Laurel Park.
The delegation, led by Democratic Del. Cheryl Glenn, then voted 16-0 not to back the plan. With that, the Senate sent the legislation Monday back to committee, killing it.
For Justin Ready
The Carroll County Republican’s bill enacting longer sentences for people convicted of attacking pregnant women was endangered by legislative maneuvering. But Ready won passage Monday of “Laura and Reid’s Law” by a unanimous vote.
The bill is named for Laura Wallen, a teacher who was murdered in 2017, allegedly by her boyfriend (he committed suicide before his trial).
Wallen was 14 weeks pregnant; her family believes she planned to name her child Reid.
For climate change fighters
A proposal to boost the creation of clean energy in Maryland appeared doomed as recently as two weeks ago.
So, advocates won a big victory Monday night when Maryland lawmakers approved a dramatic investment in renewable energy in the final hours of the session. They passed a bill that would mandate that half the state’s electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2030.
“This bill now makes Maryland a true national leader in the fight against climate change and in favor of clean energy,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
For gun control advocates
Gun control advocates came into the session with high hopes of banning 3D printed guns and requiring background checks for rifles and shotguns. Members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America were frequent visitors to the State House, wearing signature red T-shirts.
Both bills made progress, but when the session ended, neither had passed.
With more than a week left in the session, the House and Senate had passed versions of the background checks bill with significant differences. A conference committee wasn’t appointed until the final night to work out a compromise, and the clock ran out.
The House passed the ban on 3D printed guns, but the Senate did not act on it.
The most significant legislation related to guns that passed was a bill that would eliminate the Handgun Permit Review Board. It hears appeals of Maryland State Police decisions on requests for permits to carry guns. The legislation would instead send appeals to state administrative law judges. Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence lobbyed for this measure.
For Peter Angelos
The Law Firm of Peter Angelos made a late push to force thousands of asbestos lawsuits from the courts into mediation, but failed on the final day.
The firm handles two-thirds of the more than 30,000 asbestos cases pending in Baltimore Circuit Court.
An Angelos-backed bill would have created a state mediation office devoted to asbestos cases.
The court system objected, arguing judges have an appropriate system to review cases and hold trials.
The Senate approved the bill, but the House rewrote it Monday. The revised bill dropped the proposed mediation office and would have created a committee to review data about the cases and recommend changes to the system. That version failed as the clock ticked down.
For the Maryland State Fair
The Maryland State Fair ended up as a casualty in the thorny debate over the state’s large thoroughbred racetracks.
Maryland Policy & Politics
The fairgrounds in Timonium has a track that runs races during the annual fair, and the fair hoped to get approval to use $350,000 in money from the state’s Racetrack Facilities Renewal Fund to upgrade it.
But the bill got caught up in the debate over whether to issue state bonds to accelerate renovations at Laurel Park, the track owned by The Stronach Group. The Senate tacked language onto the Timonium bill to allow for the Laurel Park bonds, provided that Stronach made progress on redeveloping its Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
When that plan failed to win support, the bill was sent back to committee, defeating it for the year. With that, the fairgrounds lost the proposed additional funding.
For Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh
When the General Assembly session began in January, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was a respected former senator who was a frequent presence in the state capital. She attended a news conference decrying the federal government shutdown and urged lawmakers to take action to hold down prescription drug prices.
But by the end of session, lawmakers were calling for Pugh to resign.
The Baltimore Sun’s revelations that Pugh and several other members of the University of Maryland Medical System board of directors benefited from contracts with the system sent shock waves through Annapolis. Lawmakers — led by Busch — passed emergency legislation to reform the board and Hogan plans to sign it.