Bomb Threat Prosecution Bills Pass House, Senate

ANNAPOLIS – In this week’s legislative wrap-up, Governor Larry Hogan wants to give the people of Maryland more than a sneak peek of the happenings on the state’s respective legislative floors.  Drunk driving laws could get even more strict, Maryland is touted as one of the leading states on the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and versions of the local bomb-threat bill sail through the House of Delegates and the Senate.

Bomb Threat Bills Cruise

Delegate Mary Beth Carozza’s bomb threat prosecution bill, HB 121, passed the House of Delegates unanimously late last week and now moves to the State Senate for consideration.  The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

The Senate version of the bill, SB 287, sponsored by Sen. Michael Hough of Frederick County as well as Sen. Jim Mathias, among others, also passed through Senate Judicial Proceedings before receiving the unanimous approval from the full Senate.

Hogan Wants Political Debates Recorded

Maryland is one of only a handful of states that do not provide recordings or video streaming of legislative floor sessions, so in the vein of trying to keep up with the times, Governor Larry Hogan gave the nod of support to House Bill 316.

“Maryland citizens deserve accountability and transparency from their elected leaders especially when modern technology should make access easy and inexpensive,” said Hogan in a statement.

While there is some audio and video already available to the public including the governor’s office streaming and archiving of footage of the Board of Public Works meetings, HB 316, which is co-sponsored by Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford counties and David Moon (D-Montgomery County), would require the General Assembly to make available to the public live and archived video of each meeting of the House of Delegates, Senate, and certain standing committees.  HB 316 also includes the recording of any special hearings or voting sessions held by a standing committee.

The bill, despite Hogan’s blessing, will likely be met with opposition, as most committees operate with a “no recording” policy during committee voting sessions.

A similar effort to pass such a bill failed in 2014, with the bill not even being voted on in the House Rules Committee.

Drunk Driving Laws Could Get Stricter

There are 17 bills that aim to increase the severity of penalties for drunk drivers in Maryland this session, including one that hopes to expand the state’s Ignition Interlock System Program, or the “blow and go,” as it is often called. The IISP places a device on a person’s ignition switch to test the blood alcohol of that person before the car will start.

Currently, the IISP is only a mandatory installation for drunk- driving offenders if they were found to have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of more than .15%.

This bill HB 1342, which has been called “Noah’s Law,” named after Montgomery County policeman Noah Leotta who was struck and killed last December by a suspected drunk driver, would make participation in the IISP program mandatory at .08% BAC, which is the current “legally drunk” level. The bill would also make mandatory the IISP for anyone who refuses a breathalyzer test upon being pulled over.

The bill is co-sponsored by 78 delegates with Delegate Benjamin Kramer (D-Montgomery County) the lead sponsor. The corresponding senate bill, SB 0945, only has 10 co-sponsors, with Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) taking the lead.

Senate Approves New Gas Emission Reduction

The Maryland Senate voted 38 to 8 to cut greenhouse gas emissions below 40 percent of 2006 levels by 2030.  The senate bill, SB 323, repeals the termination date for a provision of the law requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% of 2006 levels by 2020, and essentially raises the bar on the expectations set by the landmark Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009.

The restrictions set by that law would have expired in December if the General Assembly didn’t pass a new bill.  Local senator Jim Mathias was a co-sponsor on the bill, which was met with bi-partisan support, as 32 Democrats and six Republicans voted in favor of the reduction goals.

The corresponding house bill will have its hearing before the Economic Matters Committee on Friday.