CNS-TV Video: Brandi Vincent
ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland General Assembly proposed 2,248 pieces of legislation during the 2015 legislative session. More than 650 bills made it to the governor’s desk, of which Gov. Larry Hogan signed 121 into law Tuesday morning.
Fracking moratorium: Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, more commonly known as fracking, will be restricted under a two-year moratorium so state officials can continue to study the effects of fracking on Maryland’s environment.
“Rain tax” repeal: The stormwater remediation fee, dubbed the “rain tax,” charged homeowners to help fund mandated federal programs to address urban runoff. The bill repeals the counties’ requirement to collect such a fee and instead allows them to find another method of gathering the money.
Charter schools: Low-income students and students with disabilities or limited English proficiency are to be given a greater chance to enroll in a charter school through a lottery process. The bill also provides for a sibling of a currently enrolled charter school student to join the school.
Travel tax: The state would be able to charge third-party travel websites the state’s 6 percent sales tax on the service charge collected when people book through their service. Proponents of the bill say it fills a “loophole” that excluded these websites, but opponents say it is a new tax.
Marijuana paraphernalia: Marijuana was decriminalized in 2014, but paraphernalia, like pipes, were not at the time. This bill follows up on the previous year’s law by decriminalizing the paraphernalia.
Public Information Act: Two bills would allow citizens to file complaints with a compliance board if they feel state agencies are not being fair to their public information requests, and would require state agencies to post a list of public information officers on their websites.
State election public financing: People would be able to voluntarily check off on their income tax returns to give money to a public campaign financing fund for governor.
Second Chance Act: After a period of no criminal activity and having paid their dues to society, people with nonviolent criminal records can shield certain offenses from potential employers. The law would keep the offense on the record for law enforcement officers to view.
Ex-felon voting rights: After being released from prison, convicted felons would be allowed to vote. The bill does not require them to have completed any probation or parole requirements before reinstating their right to vote.
Transgender birth certificates: Transgender residents of Maryland would be able to get new, unamended birth certificates to reflect the gender they identify with. The bill does not require them to have had sex-reassignment surgery.
Speed limits: The maximum state highway speed would be raised from 65 mph to 70 mph for certain highways.
“Yellow alerts”: State police would be able to issue “yellow alerts” to find a hit-and-run driver who seriously injures someone.
Powdered alcohol: The legislature voted to ban powdered alcohol, which can be mixed with water to produce an alcoholic beverage, amid fears of people abusing it and overdosing.
Uber: Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft will be allowed to continue doing their own background checks and vehicle safety inspections with less government oversight than traditional taxi companies.
“Anayah’s Law”: The Department of Social Services would have the discretion to ask the courts to prevent a child from being returned to their parents if there is evidence the child is being abused at home.
Asset forfeiture: A widely criticized state police practice of confiscating property allegedly connected to a crime is now being regulated, so that it restricts the state’s ability to keep the property and requires them to report what they seize.
Film tax credit: “House of Cards” would receive an enticement to stay in Maryland under a new bill that would allow shows and films to continue receiving a tax credit for filming in the state.
WHAT DIDN’T PASS:
Death with dignity: A bill for terminally ill patients with a prognosis of death within six months who wanted a doctor to help them end their lives did not pass the legislature.
Paid sick leave: Small businesses would be mandated to give their employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
Tax relief to small businesses: The governor introduced a bill to create a tax exemption on the first $10,000 of personal property for small business owners.
Police accountability: Dozens of bills addressing police accountability were introduced at the beginning of the session. Many of them received unfavorable reports from the legislature.