Pre-Filed Bills Await Legislature

BERLIN — With the opening of the 2017 Maryland General Assembly now just two weeks away, around 160 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. 11, and before the 90-day session is complete, state lawmakers will debate and ultimately vote on thousands of pieces of legislation from the gravely serious to the somewhat mundane. With just two weeks to go, already 92 bills have been pre-filed in the Senate with another 68 already on the books and scheduled for debate in the House.

While weighty social and economic issues will be debated during the session, the number of pre-filed bills 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:

•House Bill 1: This bill entitled “Maryland Healthy Working Families Act” would require employers to provide workers with certain earned sick and safe leave and spells out provisions for accruing sick or safe leave and compensation.

•House Bill 4: This bill would authorize the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to issue complimentary fishing licenses to out-of-state individuals who are active military, disabled veterans, former prisoners of war or recipients of the Purple Heart.

•House Bill 17: This bill would repeal the minimum requirements for the number of school days and the number of hours for public schools in Maryland. Currently, the law requires at least 180 days and a minimum of 1,080 school hours, but this bill would relax those standards under certain conditions. It appears to be connected somewhat to the post-Labor Day school start issue.

•House Bill 49: This bill would require the Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA) to implement a procedure by which all tolls at the William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge, or Bay Bridge, be collected electronically by 2027. The bill is aimed at eventually reducing the often miles-long backups at the Bay Bridge tolls at certain times of the year.

•House Bill 57: This bill would require the governor each year to proclaim a certain date on the calendar as Watermen’s Day to honor working watermen throughout the state. The bill would set Watermen’ Day each year on the official “last day of winter,” or the day before the spring equinox.

•House Bill 61: This bill 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.

•Senate Bill 17: This bill would exempt employees of certain businesses that close for a period of time for a variety of reasons from the requirement to actively seek work in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits if there is a prescribed return date. This one certainly bears watching in the resort area with seasonal nature of many of its businesses.

•Senate Bill 60: This bill would require county Boards of Education to develop a plan for reducing the students’ total sugar intake per school meal based on prescribed recommendations. It is entitled the Sugar-Free Schools Act.

•Senate Bill 68: This bill would add post-traumatic stress disorder for military veterans to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. It would provide a defense for qualified veterans for possession or use of marijuana if they have written certification.

•Senate Bill 81: This bill entitled the Interstate Boating Violator Compact would allow the governor to enter into a compact with neighboring states whereby citations, license suspensions or revocations for boaters from other states would be reciprocal in Maryland. In short, if a boater had license suspension in Delaware and was cited for something in Maryland, the boater could be held accountable here or vice versa. It could have implications in the resort area because of its close proximity to Delaware and Virginia.

•Senate Bill 90: This bill would allow a student in a public or private school to refuse to participate in classwork or an assignment that required working with live or dead animals such as dissections, or even observe such classwork or assignments. It would require teachers to come up with an alternative for those students who refuse to participate in assignments involving live or dead animals.

•Senate Bill 12: This bill would make it illegal for an individual to drive a vehicle with any obstruction hanging from the rear-view mirror that prevents the driver from having a clear view out of the windshield. However, it would only be enforced as a secondary offense and could not be the primary reason for pulling a driver over.