Synthetic Drugs, Scooter Changes Top Early Bills Filed In Annapolis

BERLIN — With the opening of the 2013 Maryland General Assembly now just two weeks away, nearly 150 pieces of legislation of local and state importance have already been pre-filed in advance of the session.

The Maryland General Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 9, and before the 90-day session is over, state lawmakers will debate and ultimately vote on thousands of pieces of legislation from the gravely serious to the somewhat mundane. With two weeks to go, already 84 bills have been pre-filed in the Senate, with another 60 already on the books and scheduled for debate in the House.

With numerous weighty issued to be debated including the ongoing economy, tax increases, offshore wind energy and countless others likely to dominate the session, the amount of pre-filed bills already on the books suggests another busy session for lawmakers. The following is a brief look at some of the proposed legislation already in the hopper:

(BULLET)House Bill 1: This bill would expand the list of synthetic drugs, or cannabimimetic agents, prohibited in Maryland and define the penalties for possession of the synthetic drugs. Ocean City has been at the cutting edge of regulating various forms of synthetic narcotics in recent years and state lawmakers are following the resort’s lead in the ban of similar drugs across Maryland.

(BULLET)House Bill 3: This bill would require an individual operating a motor scooter or moped on a state highway to possess a valid driver’s license or valid moped operator’s permit. It would also require out-of-state residents operating a motor scooter or moped on Maryland’s highways to possess a valid driver’s license from the state of their primary residence. Again, this issue has its roots in Ocean City and the resort area where scooters and mopeds have proliferated in recent years.

(BULLET)Senate Bill 9: With state voters approving an expansion to table games and other issues relating to the state’s nascent casino gaming industry in November, scores of bills will likely relate to the implementation. This particular bill would put strict restrictions on playing table games by individuals under the age of 21.

(BULLET)Senate Bill 19: A few years back, Ocean City passed stringent regulations on the sale and use of laser pointers after their proliferation became a major problem in and around the resort. The bill would define and enhance the penalties for pointing a laser pointer at an aircraft. It became an issue when individuals began pointing lasers at state police and med-evac helicopters.

(BULLET)Senate Bill 30: This bill would prohibit drivers or passengers from smoking in vehicles in which a child under the age of 8 is riding. The bill would create a misdemeanor for smoking while driving with a young child in a vehicle and defines the enforcement and penalty processes.

(BULLET)Senate Bill 46: This bill would prohibit a person from possessing, selling or distributing shark fins in Maryland in an effort to curb the practice of shark-finning, or cutting the fin off of a live shark while at sea and discarding the rest of the animal’s body. While its intent is aimed at the international shark-finning industry, it could have serious implications on the commercial shark fishery in Ocean City. A similar bill was introduced last year and passed the Senate but died before a vote by the House. The current version includes some exemptions to protect conservation-minded commercial fishermen.

(BULLET)Senate Bill 69: This bill would enhance the penalties for transporting unstamped and untaxed cigarettes through Maryland. It’s a significant issue in Worcester and Wicomico where several arrests are made each year of individuals transporting large volumes of untaxed cigarettes through the county along the Routes 113 and 13 corridors from Virginia and points south to the densely populated northeast corridor.

(BULLET)Senate Bill 26: This bill would make the soft shell crab sandwich the official sandwich of the state of Maryland. If approved, the sandwich would be added to a growing list of other “official” designations in the state. A companion bill has been filed in the House.

(BULLET)Senate Bill 7: This bill would designate the month of March each year as the official Irish Heritage Month and require Gov. Martin O’Malley to issue a proclamation recognizing the contributions to Maryland by those of Irish descent. It was introduced by Senator Edward Reilly.

(BULLET)House Bill 30: In response to the passage of the Question 7 referendum on gambling expansion in November, this bill would ensure the current percentages of the distribution of the revenue derived from table games would continue to be devoted to public education.

(BULLET)House Bill 23: In yet another piece of proposed legislation that could have an impact in Ocean City, this bill would require proper notification of a pending special assessment before the sale of a unit in a condominium could be completed.