House Passes Bill Recriminalizing Marijuana

ANNAPOLIS — In this week’s legislative digest, a bill that would require employers to give employees paid sick leave is on the move as is an effort to recriminalize marijuana.  In addition, Governor Larry Hogan finally makes his feelings known about Donald Trump.

Legislation to recriminalize using marijuana in public won approval in the House of Delegates this week by a 102-36 vote, but the bill is expected to have a much more uphill battle in the Senate.

The House bill, which was introduced by Delegate Brett R. Wilson (R-Washington County), is a response to a bill that decriminalized the possession of marijuana paraphernalia last year.  Two years ago, possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized.

Wilson’s bill would make using marijuana in public a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.  Currently, using pot in public is illegal, but it is punished by a civil citation rather than a criminal one.

“It’s an issue that’s good for our children, for families and for outdoor spaces,” said Wilson. “The civil citation regime will not work. It’s very difficult for police to do anything to enforce laws when it comes to civil citations.”

Yet, if a version of the bill passes in the Senate, the language might be slightly different than the House bill, focusing on criminal sanctions for using pot in public and while driving, and could raise the decriminalization limit for possession above 10 grams.

Capital Budget

Passes House

On Wednesday, the House of Delegates passed the state’s capital budget, which includes almost $1 billion in construction projects throughout Maryland, by a 130-7 vote.

The capital grant budget had already passed through the senate and now the budget will be sent on to a conference committee to resolve the differences in the language in the two versions.

Approximately $280 million of that budget will be earmarked for public school construction across the state, and here on the shore, the capital grant budget will include $80 million for the Community College Facilities Grant Program, $775,000 for renovations to Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, and $750,000 for Maryland Department of Agriculture to design a new animal health laboratory in Salisbury.

The University of Maryland, Eastern Shore will be allocated $3.5 million to begin design of a new building to house its School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, while Salisbury University will receive $575,000 for a new turf field at Sea Gull stadium.  About $1.95 million will be earmarked to upgrade the hot water and steam systems at Eastern Correctional Institute.

Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said she was pleased with the results.

“As with the operating budget, I appreciate the work our committee has done on this year’s capital budget,” she said. “Governor Hogan set a responsible limit of $995 million and our committee has achieved that while working, including local priority projects, in the budget.”

Paid Sick Leave

Bill Advances

A bill that would require employers with more than 15 employees to allow workers to earn up to 7 paid sick days per year, is set to be heard by the full HHHouse of Delegates after clearing the House Economics Matters Committee this week by way of a 13-10 vote.

Originally, the bill proposed any employer in the state with more than 10 employees to have to provide a week of paid sick leave per employee, per year, but the language was changed in recent weeks.

Supporters of the bill, who have failed to get a version of it passed in recent years, believe this piece of legislation would greatly help more than 700,000 Maryland workers who lack sick leave, and run the risk of losing their jobs if they miss work due to illness.

The bill has been vehemently opposed by many small business owners and the Restaurant Association of Maryland.  Supporters believe the bill will get through the House and Senate and will end up on the Governor’s desk before the session ends on April 11.

Hogan Against Trump

Governor Larry Hogan has been skillfully brushing off demands from a growing number of Democrats seemingly all throughout the legislative session to make public statements on his stance on Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

Hogan made his feelings clear during a recent interview with the Associated Press.

Hogan admitted to the AP that he is “not a fan” of Trump, “doesn’t think [Trump] should be the party’s nominee” and has “no intention” of taking part in his party’s national convention this July.