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Legislative Wrap Up March 18-22 2013

Legislative Wrap Up March 18-22 2013

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Published by delegatearora
The most important legislative events of the last week.
The most important legislative events of the last week.

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Published by: delegatearora on Mar 26, 2013
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Legislative Wrap-Up
 Library and Information Services, Department of Legislative Services
Issue 13-11 March 18-22, 2013
 Domestic Violence
Persons Eligible for Relief 
As amended and passed by the Senate, SB 490 expands eligibility for a domestic violence protective order by
altering the definition of a “person eligible for relief” to
include an individual in a consensual or nonconsensualrelationship with the respondent.Currently, individuals in a dating relationship who arevictims of domestic violence are only eligible for a peaceorder. Protective orders have a longer duration, offermore relief, and are subject to stronger law enforcementprotocols. The original companion bill,HB 1230,  remains in committee.
 Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC)
Companion bills supporting funding for the MLSC aremoving forward:
HB 838,now in the Senate, repeals the sunset date,continuing an increased surcharge on fees, charges,and costs in civil cases. The funds are deposited intothe MLSC Fund to finance civil legal services forindigent clients. Its companion,SB 640,is now in the House; and
SB 809,with amendments and preliminary Senateapproval, increases through fiscal 2016 the amountof funds that the Comptroller must distribute fromabandoned property funds to the MLSC, and repealsprovisions that require the Governor to appropriatethe funds. The companion bill,HB 1303,slightly amended, received preliminary approval by theHouse.
Contributory Negligence
The rule of “contributory negligence” in a plaintiff’s
claim for damages is the subject of crossfiled billsSB 819 / HB 1156,both of which have been considered in committee. The bills retain contributory negligence as adefense of a defendant who is being sued for damagesfor wrongful death, personal injury, or property damage.
Opponents support a switch to the rule of “comparativenegligence.”
Maryland, three other states, and the District of Columbia follow the standard of contributorynegligence, which stipulates
if a plaintiff’s actionscontributed to the plaintiff’s injury, the plaintiff can’t be
awarded damages. The remaining 46 states follow thedoctrine of comparative negligence, which stipulates theplaintiff who was negligent can have his or her monetaryrecovery reduced but can still be awarded partialdamages, even if his or her actions contributed to theinjury.A case currently under appeal has raised the question of whether Maryland should switch to the comparativenegligence system. Applying the contributory negligencestandard, a lower court denied all damages to a plaintiff who had smoked marijuana and then was seriouslyinjured when he accidentally pulled down an unanchored
soccer goal frame onto his head. During the appeal’s oral
arguments, those who support a switch to thecomparative negligence system argued that the toughstandard of contributory negligence allows negligentdefendants, like those responsible for the unanchoredframe, to avoid liability.Those who support the current contributory negligencesystem argue that if the law is changed Marylandbusinesses would be more vulnerable to lawsuit. Theyalso argue that the General Assembly, not the court,should determine whether the State continues to followthe contributory negligence system or switches to thestandard of comparative negligence.
HB 83 increases the number of judges of the Court of  Special Appeals from 13 to 15, increases the number of resident judges of the circuit court in Calvert, Carroll,Cecil, Frederick, and Wicomico counties, and increasesthe number of associate judges of the District Court inBaltimore City, and Charles, Montgomery, and PrinceGeorge's counties.SB 239
is the companion bill. Bothbills have passed unamended and have moved to theopposite chamber.
The Legislative Wrap-up
Possession of Marijuana
De Minimis Quantity
SB 297 changes the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil offense andestablishes the penalty of a fine of up to $100. TheSenate passed the bill, with the addition of a sponsor,and it has moved to the House.
Regulation, Penalties, and Taxation
This week, a House committee heard testimony onHB1453,which legalizes the use of marijuana for adults atleast 21 years old. The bill removes criminal penaltiesfor the use and possession of marijuana and marijuanaparaphernalia, legalizes the use, possession, sale, andcultivation of up to 1 ounce of marijuana under specifiedcircumstances, and authorizes personal cultivation of upto three marijuana plants.The bill also establishes a regulatory framework forwholesalers, retailers, and safety compliance facilities.Additionally, the Comptroller is required to registermarijuana retailers, wholesalers, and safety compliancefacilities, and the Maryland Department of Agriculturemust regulate the growth, processing, and distribution of industrial hemp. The bill imposes an excise tax of $50per ounce on wholesale sales of marijuana, and directsthe revenues from excise tax collections to specifiedprograms. Restrictions remain against driving under theinfluence.
Cannabimimetic Agents
The Senate approved SB 109 that, as rewritten, codifies
(or places in State law) as a part of the State’s list of 
Schedule I controlled dangerous substances, the
definition of “cannabimimetic agents” and the list of 
substances that are considered cannabimimetic agents.The agents are essentially chemical substances thataffect the body in a way similar to marijuana. Asamended, this bill is identical to HB 1,which the House passed in February.Under Maryland law, if the federal government places asubstance on Schedule I, it is automatically considered aSchedule I substance in the State unless the Departmentof Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) objects to thedesignation. Since DHMH has not raised an objection,all of the substances encompassed by the bill are illegalin Maryland. The definition of the agents and the list of substances were placed in federal law in July 2012.
 DNA Samples and Records
HB 1523,heard this week by a House committee,requires a governmental unit that collects DNA samplesor maintains DNA records for law enforcement purposesto comply with the statutory requirements for thecollection, use, and expungement of DNA samples andrecords. The bill also prohibits a DNA sample frombeing stored unless it is required to be collected or storedunder statutory provisions governing the statewide DNAdatabase system. A DNA sample may not be tested forinformation that does not relate to the authorizedidentification of an individual, and a database may notbe searched to identify an offender in connection with acrime for which the offender may be a biological relativeof the individual from whom the DNA sample wasacquired.
 Accessory After the Fact 
Both the Senate and House passed legislation(SB 444 / HB 709)increasing the penalty for conviction of being an accessory after the fact to first- or second-degree murder. Both offenses are felonies and may incura sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The bill, alsoknown as the Sheddy-Bennett Act, was named after twolower Eastern Shore homicide victims.
 Animal Cruelty
The Senate passed legislation,SB 360,which forbids a person to use a dog or to allow a dog to be used forbaiting, which is using a dog to train a fighting dog. Aperson may not possess, own, sell, transport, or train adog for baiting or knowingly allow property the personowns or controls to be used for dog baiting. HB 542,the companion, has passed a preliminary House floor vote.
Sexual Contact with Minors
On the House floor,HB 14 expands the definition of  persons in authority as it relates to those who may nothave sexual contact with minors who are students in theschools in which persons are employed. HB 14 removes
the existing specification of “full time permanentemployee,” effect
ively adding part-time employees,including coaches, to the list of school employees whoare barred from sexual contact with students.
Successive Federal and State Prosecutions
HB 152 (failed) reached third reading in the House andfailed. As amended, the bill would have barred Stateprosecution if a defendant was previously convicted oracquitted for the same crime in U.S. District Court.
 Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013
Governor O’Malley’s legislation(
HB 226,passed) tocreate a market in the State for offshore wind energy
The Legislative Wrap-up
awaits his signature. Under the bill, the State RenewableEnergy Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires electricitysales in Maryland to include approximately 2.5%derived from offshore wind beginning in 2017. The billalso requires that qualified offshore wind projects beapproved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) anddetails criteria for the application and approval process.Among the criteria for PSC approval, the project must bebeneficial to the State, and the projected rate impactcannot exceed $1.50 per month for the averageresidential customer in 2012 dollars or 1.5% of 
nonresidential customers’ total annual electric bill.
Other provisions create a Maryland Offshore WindDevelopment Fund and a Maryland Offshore WindBusiness Development Advisory Committee to providefinancial and business development assistance andtraining opportunities to emerging wind energybusinesses in the State including minority-ownedbusinesses. The measure further establishes the CleanEnergy Program Task Force and the Clean EnergyTechnical Education Task Force to study and makerecommendations on degrees, certificates, and courseofferings in the clean energy field in Marylanduniversities and community colleges.
Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013
Other Administration measures, SB 273 / HB 225,passed their original chambers with identical amendments. Themeasures facilitate professional licensing for activemilitary personnel, recently-discharged veterans, andmilitary spouses through the expedited issuance of specified licenses, registrations, and certificates. The
amended measures expand the definition of “milit
spouse” to include the surviving spouse of a deceased
service member or veteran, and also expand thedefinition of veteran to include a former service memberwho was discharged under circumstances other thandishonorable.The measures require the occupational and professionallicensing boards within the Department of Labor,Licensing, and Regulation to issue expedited temporarylicenses, registrations, or certificates if specifiededucation, training, and experience conditions are met.The State Superintendent of Schools must also expediteeducator certification and may issue temporary educatorcertificates under certain conditions.As amended, the bills do not require health occupationsboards within the Department of Health and MentalHygiene to issue temporary licenses, but they mustexpedite the process for and provide certain assistance tomilitary personnel, veterans, and military spousesapplying for a license. A liaison will be assigned to helpthem through the process, including identifying availabletraining or education if applicants do not meet thelicensure requirements.The measures further require the Maryland HigherEducation Commission to develop and adopt guidelines
on awarding academic credit for a student’s military
training, coursework, and education, which must beadopted by each public institution of higher education inthe State.
 Maryland Jobs Development Act 
HB 1315,which requires data collection and a report on
the State’s economic development programs, passed the
House with amendments. The amended bill reduces thescope of the report, now requiring that the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) reportsolely on the programs administered by DBED, toinclude the Film Production Activity Tax Credit, JobCreation Tax Credit, One Maryland EconomicDevelopment Tax Credit, InvestMaryland Program,Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit, andResearch and Development Tax Credit. DBED must alsocreate a process for assisting recipients of economicprogram benefits in meeting program requirements if they are not currently doing so.
 Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF)
Maryland’s automobile insu
rer of last resort, MAIFundergoes operational changes under companion billsthat have each passed their original chambers(SB 749 / HB 1132). The bills are a result of the Task  Force to Study Maryland Insurance Programs of LastResort, established in 2012 (Chapter 408 of 2012,HB
1017), and an effort to align MAIF’s operations withthose of the Injured Worker’s Insurance Fund (IWIF).
Under the bills, MAIF is not subject to certain provisionsof law affecting governmental units and is exempt fromState procurement law relating to real estate. Changes to
MAIF’s auditing requirements are instituted
. Also,
MAIF’s legal business is removed from the charge of the
Attorney General, and changes are made to themembership provisions of the MAIF Board of Trustees.
Additionally, most of MAIF’
s employees are removedfrom the State Personnel Management System, althoughMAIF employees remain State employees, including inthe State health and pension systems.
 Employment Discrimination
Bills addressing discrimination against pregnant womenin the workplace are advancing. HB 804 has passed the House, while companion measure SB 784 has received a favorable preliminary floor vote. The bills require that anemployer, if an employee requests reasonableaccommodations for a disability due to pregnancy,

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