BERLIN — With the opening of the 2015 Maryland General Assembly now just two weeks away, dozens of pieces of legislation of local and state importance have already been filed in advance of the session.
With the session still two weeks away, already 104 bills have been pre-filed in the Senate with another 66 pre-filed in the House. The bills cover a wide variety of issues, but more often than not, many reflect current events both in Maryland and nationwide. The following is a quick look at some of the more interesting bills already in the hopper:
House Bill 16: This bill would allow an official of a religious order authorized to perform marriage ceremonies to refuse to officiate any marriage deemed in violation of the rules, customs or beliefs of their religion. It would also not subject a religious official to a fine or other penalty for refusing to join individuals in marriage.
House Bill 8: This legislation would create a task force to study issues related to self-driving vehicles. The task force would consider and make recommendations on the training needed for operators of self-driving vehicles, and would also consider the liability issues related to self-driving vehicles on the state’s roads and highways.
House Bill 12: This bill would enhance the penalties for impersonating a member of the military for personal gain. It would include imprisonment not to exceed nine months and fines of up to $10,000. The bill hits close to home because a Salisbury man just last month was convicted on weapons charges after lying about his military service to gain benefits. The defendant also claimed to have earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
House Bill 41: This bill would require each county board of education to establish a two-way text messaging tip program allowing students to anonymously report bullying activity in their schools, on school buses and on school property. The intent is to allow school officials to address bullying, harassment and intimidation before it escalates.
Senate Bill 44: It would force law enforcement to restrain an inmate or individual in custody with a seat belt in a transport vehicle. It was clearly borne out of the Freddy Gray case in Baltimore, although it is uncertain why this law is not already on the books.
Senate Bill 45: This bill would require the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund be only used for any projects or programs related to the Chesapeake and coastal bays to improve water quality and meet state standards. In recent years, the fund has been raided for other purposes not related to the estuaries.
Senate Bill 39: This bill would repeal the centuries old motto on the state’s Great Seal to bring it into 21st century’s era of political correctness. The current state motto in Italian reads “Fatti Maschi, Parole Femine,” which translated means “Manly Deeds, Womanly Words.” The bill would change the state motto to “Strong Deeds, Gentle Words.”
House Bill 1: This bill would prohibit the MTA from issuing any vehicle license plates depicting the Confederate battle flag, and calls for a recall of any and all existing license plates bearing the controversial emblem deemed offensive by many.
Senate Bill 27: It would designate the canvasback duck as Maryland’s official state duck. In the 1800s, hunters shot as many as 15,000 of the ducks in a single day and sent them to big markets throughout the northeast in canvas bags. With the decline in health of the Chesapeake, the canvasback duck population has declined in kind to a mere fraction of its former number.