Posted 13 April 2018
The Maryland General Assembly’s 90-day session officially closed on Monday, April 9th. Here’s a run-down of several keys bills we’ve been following and their outcomes.
The General Assembly passed through a proposed constitutional amendment which will now go to the people to be voted on in the November elections. The amendment would guarantee that any revenue raised into the Education Trust Fund through casino gaming must be directly sent to schools above and beyond funding through the state’s General Fund. That currently amounts to about $500 million a year, a big first step to addressing the $2.9 billion annual funding shortage facing Maryland schools according to a state-commissioned study.
The General Assembly agreed to ban bump stocks, accessories which effectively turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones. Lawmakers also approved a “red flag” law, which would allow judges to order the temporary removal of firearms from people considered a danger to themselves or others. Also approved in the 2018 session is the creation of a state commission with subpoena power to investigate allegations of Baltimore Police Department corruption that arose from the federal probe of the Gun Trace Task Force. Finally, the General Assembly approved funding to provide armed officers in schools which don’t currently have them. That bill would also require that public schools have lockable classrooms and hold age-appropriate active-threat drills.
Access to Democracy:
Among several bills introduced this session regarding voter access, two stand out. The first is a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for Election Day registration. Currently, while you can both register and vote on the same day during the early-voting period, that option is not available on Election Day. This amendment would correct that disparity and will go to the voters to decide this November. Be sure to register before Election Day to have your say on this issue! The second voter-access bill is an automatic voter registration system. This legislation will streamline the voting registration process by seamlessly registering voters or updating voter registration when Marylanders interact with state agencies, such as the MVA, the healthcare exchange, or local social service agencies. Maryland will become in “opt-out” state, as citizens will need to decline to be registered, as opposed to our current “opt-in” system.
Maryland’s tax code is linked to federal law, which meant the disastrous tax bill approved for federal taxes would have inflated state taxes for many Marylanders. The General Assembly agreed to changes to alleviate the hike, giving 58 percent of taxpayers a break that amounts to $40 and targeting relief to the working poor and some retirees.
The General Assembly banned the use of conversion therapy for minors, that is the cruel practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual or gender identity. They also approved the regulation of social media sites, such as Facebook, making Maryland the first state requiring social media platforms to track all political ads, keep copies of them and record which users are being targeted. State elections officials could use this data to track bad actors or detect foreign interference.
Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’ve been following throughout the 2018 Legislative Session.