Local Bills Moving As Key Crossover Date Nears

ANNAPOLIS – With the 2009 Maryland General Assembly session entering its final stretch, several bills germane to Worcester County and Ocean City finally started moving somewhat this week as the deadline for legislation to cross from one chamber to the other without complications rapidly approaches.

Crossover Day, or the point in the session calendar when legislation introduced in the House, must be approved and sent over to the Senate for approval, or vice versa, arrives on Monday, putting many of the thousands of bill submitted by state lawmakers on the clock. Bills can cross over after Monday, but it requires an approved suspension of the rules, which can often bog down the process and ultimately leave many pieces of legislation on the table without a final vote.

With lawmakers absorbed with several weighty issues thus far related to the budget, the economy, the housing and foreclosure crisis and others, bills of local importance have been stalled somewhat in the big scheme of things. However, with the clock ticking on the session and cross-over day set to arrive next week, some of the legislation directly related to Worcester County and the resort area have started to move. The following is a quick look at some of the recent action:

House Bill 1261-Salvia Divinorum: Delegates James Mathias and Norm Conway have introduced legislation calling for a ban on the currently legal, over-the-counter hallucinogenic drug Salvia Divinorum. Simply called Salvia or other colorful names, its presence was felt on the Boardwalk and throughout the resort last summer. Salvia, which reportedly produces a strong but temporary hallucinogenic reaction in users, is available in many places in the resort including Boardwalk T-shirt shops. The bill banning the substance was approved by the House Judiciary Committee this week and awaits approval by the entire House before crossing to the Senate.

House Bill 846-Sunday Motorcycle Sales in Worcester: In another bill of local importance, Conway introduced this legislation that would allow motorcycle sales in Worcester County on Sunday. Because of an archaic blue law still on the books, automobile sales on Sundays are prohibited in all but three counties in Maryland. This bill would allow the sale of motorcycles on Sunday in Worcester County in what appears to be a site-specific piece of legislation as the Harley-Davidson on Route 50 is the only dealer in the area. It passed a full vote of the House by a 138-1 margin and is now headed to the Senate. It does not address Sunday sales of automobiles in Worcester, however.

House Bill 1393– Warrantless Arrest-Second-Degree Assault: This bill introduced by Mathias at the request of OC Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association would alter the current conditions under which an arrest could be made for a second-degree assault that did not take place in the presence of a police officer. It had a hearing in committee this week during which DiPino testified on behalf of the legislation, but has not been voted on by the Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 1522-Worcester County Liquor Control Board Borrowing Limit: This bill introduced by Mathias and Conway would increase the maximum amount of money the county’s LCB may borrow from $5 million to $6 million. The intent is to allow the LCB to borrow more money to take advantage of sales and special offers on behalf of the liquor licensees in the county and ultimately their customers. It had a hearing this week but has not moved out of committee.

Finally, on a lighter note, Mathias was honored this week with a sandwich in his name at Chick and Ruth’s Deli in Annapolis, which is known for naming its sandwiches for state politicians over the years. For the record, the Number-2, a kosher hot dog with bologna and American cheese has been named for the local delegate.