Maryland legislature close to session finish, most priorities accomplished

Monday, April 11, 2022
Associated Press

Maryland lawmakers neared the top of their legislative session on Monday with most high-profile measures already handed into legislation, together with tax reduction in a yr of huge finances surplus, a paid household depart program and an intensive measure aimed toward slowing local weather change.

On their final day, lawmakers had been nonetheless engaged on laws that might make investments greater than $500 million in strengthening the state’s cybersecurity by making a centralized Maryland community. They additionally reached an settlement on elevating the authorized age of marriage within the state from 15 to 17, with judicial evaluation if there isn’t a parental consent, after years of scuffling with the difficulty.

Democrats, who management the legislature, and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan have already got signed a bipartisan finances deal. It options almost $1.86 billion in tax reduction over 5 years for Maryland retirees, small companies and low-income households in a yr of monumental finances surplus for the state’s $58.5 billion finances.

The deal included a tax credit score as an incentive for employers and companies to rent and retain employees from underserved communities. It additionally consists of gross sales tax exemptions for youngster care merchandise resembling diapers, automotive seats, and child bottles, and well being merchandise for dental hygiene, diabetic care and medical gadgets.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, hours earlier than adjournment at midnight, cited bipartisan work in an election yr that resulted in main investments within the state.

“Bipartisan solutions were achieved,” Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, mentioned. “I think that Marylanders should be really proud of the budget that we passed, the investments that we’re making, and I think across the board it was truly an historic year.”

Hogan highlighted the tax reduction for retirees that he has been advocating for years as one of many causes for calling this his finest session as governor.

“Look, we’ve stood up and disagreed strongly on different issues, but I think we’ve accomplished a lot together,” Hogan mentioned, referring to bipartisan work with Democrats.

WATCH: Hogan considers this the perfect legislative session he has ever had

Democrats certainly had their disagreements with the term-limited governor, now in his final yr in workplace. They wanted to get precedence payments to him early so as to override them whereas nonetheless in session — a robust incentive for getting the majority of their priorities already handed. Since that is the final yr of the time period earlier than elections, payments vetoed by the governor after the legislature adjourns can’t be overridden subsequent yr.

Lawmakers overrode Hogan’s veto on Saturday to create a paid household depart insurance coverage program that has been mentioned for years within the state. Maryland employees will have the ability to take as much as 12 weeks of partially paid depart to take care of such household points as having a child, caring for a sick relative or coping with a navy deployment. Up to 24 weeks could possibly be taken in some circumstances, resembling when somebody who took 12 weeks resulting from an sickness has a baby later.

They additionally overrode the governor’s veto of laws to broaden entry to abortion within the state. Maryland will finish a restriction that solely physicians carry out abortions, enabling nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and doctor assistants with coaching to carry out them.

Lawmakers handed a broad measure aimed toward slowing local weather change. Hogan mentioned Friday he would let the invoice go into legislation with out his signature. The “Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022” quickens Maryland’s present purpose of lowering greenhouse gasoline emissions from 40% of 2006 ranges to 60% by 2031. It additionally units a purpose of reaching carbon neutrality by 2045 within the state.

Lawmakers additionally accepted a constitutional modification to legalize leisure marijuana in July 2023, giving the ultimate determination to voters in November. A measure lawmakers handed to take preliminary steps towards implementation went into legislation with out Hogan’s signature. Licensing and taxing points can be taken up subsequent yr, if voters approve.

Separately, lawmakers handed a invoice setting apart $1 million to fund various therapies together with psychedelics and hyperbaric oxygen remedy for veterans with post-traumatic stress dysfunction and traumatic mind accidents in scientific trials.

Lawmakers additionally accepted a invoice to take a position $400 million in growth within the space round FedEx Field Stadium, dwelling to the Washington Commanders soccer staff, although the cash wouldn’t be used to pay for a brand new stadium. A companion invoice to spend $1.2 billion to improve Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium additionally was handed.

Legislators and the governor agreed to a brand new congressional map for the state, after a choose struck down the map accepted by lawmakers over Hogan’s veto in December as a “product of extreme gerrymandering.” The General Assembly redrew the state’s eight U.S. House districts to be extra compact, and Hogan signed the measure final week.

A measure to ban so-called “ghost guns,” which wouldn’t have serial numbers, goes into legislation with out Hogan’s signature. Lawmakers overrode Hogan’s veto of a invoice to require firearms sellers to have sure safety measures in place as shops.

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