The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up this week and here are some reflections on the session.
•It was a major surprise to see the paid sick leave bill fail to make it to a vote in the Senate after it easily passed the House of Delegates earlier this month.
Although some maintain it was merely a matter of not getting to the Senate with enough time for deliberation, it appears it was also more of a heavy lift on the Senate side than on the House. Senator Jim Mathias said, “This version of the bill was simply unrealistic,” although he and Delegate Mary Beth Carozza expect the bill to return next session, which mark the fifth straight year legislators have tried to mandate businesses pay their workers one hour of sick leave per 30 hours of work.
The key as far as local businesses go will be ensuring the 90-day exemption is extended to at least 120 days to reflect seasonal hiring habits of the state’s tourism areas. This bill will get passed eventually, unfortunately.
•Although it died for the second straight year at the committee level, I actually think there’s reason for a little bit of optimism with the post-Labor Day school state legislation.
The fact is there was some malfeasance in my opinion with how the bill was handled within the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. The bill ultimately met its demise by a 5-5 tie vote. Although it’s unknown what his position is on the matter, the tie only occurred because a Baltimore County Republican legislator was away on vacation. The vote could have waited or occurred beforehand, but it didn’t.
I still believe this legislation will never pass, due to the robust opposition from the education world, but there’s certainly reason for proponents to give it another shot next year with a few tweaks to the approach. A good starting point would be trying to rally other jurisdictions on the shore to support the post-Labor Day start.
Worcester County has been the only school system in the state to start after Labor Day and it will be that way again this year. Yesterday, the Wicomico County Board of Education voted to start school on Monday, Aug. 29. This was not a surprise because it was not even considering a post-Labor Day start as one of its three options.
•Even among the diehard conservatives, there was little hope the Governor Larry Hogan would get his proposed across-the-board income tax cut through the legislature. Although it stayed alive until the final day of the session, a vote never took place on the initiative.
However, one of the positive takeaways from a state politics standpoint has been Hogan’s ability to maintain a productive relationship with Democratic leaders Mike Miller and Michael Busch. They might not be chummy and on the same page on all matters, particularly those of a financial nature, but they are certainly not adversarial either.
At a legislative bill signing session on Tuesday, Hogan, Miller and Busch each called the legislative session productive and successful, but the three could not agree that a special session was needed to consider the matter of tax cuts and the paid sick leave legislation. Miller wants one, but Busch and Hogan don’t find it necessary.
•Effective this fall, everyone convicted of drunk driving, including first timers, will be required to have an ignition interlock system installed in his or her vehicle.
This effort has been made repeatedly over the years, but it gained some traction this year thanks largely to the family and colleagues of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who was killed last year by a drunk driver in a high-profile accident.
The legislation requires the MVA to suspend a person’s license indefinitely if he or she fails to participate in the interlock system after the judge’s order. First-time offenders found guilty would be required to have it for six months with the minimum raised for subsequent offenses.
•Legislation calling for backseat passengers to wear a seatbelt or face a fine was not passed. It would have made it a primary offense, allowing police officers to pull over a motorist for this violation without any other cause.
Another transportation matter of note that was rejected would have allowed motorists over the age of 21 to not wear a helmet, as is the case in Florida currently.
•There was unanimous support on the House and Senate for Carozza’s bomb threat prosecution bill, which would allow the county where the threat was levied against to be the prosecutor. Formerly, or actually currently until the law takes effort later this year, the jurisdiction where the bomb threat originated was the authority on prosecuting against the offender.
Along those lines, it’s been a few months since Worcester County was rattled by a spate of bomb threats against public schools. There has been nothing officially released on the investigation, but sources within law enforcement confirm the calls have been tracked to outside the country. That would seem to indicate there is little hope of locating the culprits given their assumed tech prowess, but the good news is in the future if it’s placed domestically there is a new system in place for prosecuting those responsible.