What to Watch on Sine Die

Happy Sine Die!

Even though a lot of the most heavily debated legislation has already been taken care of, there are still a few closely-watched issues that have yet to be resolved, including some crime bills and a proposal to increase the number of medical cannabis growers and processors in Maryland. And unexpected dramas always flare up on the final day of the General Assembly session; we expect Monday to be no different.

Here are a few less high-profile things we’ll be watching in the final hours of the 2018 Annapolis confab:

Will House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s) keep Senate Bill 726 — better known as Grace’s Law 2.0 – tucked in his desk drawer?

The measure, sponsored by Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) would strengthen state safeguards against cyberbullying.

It’s an update of a law passed in 2013 following the suicide of Grace McComas, a 15-year-old girl from Woodbine who killed herself on Easter Sunday 2012 after prolonged online bullying from a neighbor. Zirkin said the provisions of the original law aren’t adequate for the fast-moving changes of the digital world.

 House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr.

The bill passed 46-0 in the state Senate three weeks ago but has been stalled in the House Judiciary Committee after an intense lobbying campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has argued that provisions of the legislation violate the First Amendment.

Will the House resuscitate the so-called Safe Neighborhoods Act?

Both chambers passed their own versions of the measure, which would expedite the process for landlords to break a lease due to dangerous behavior by a tenant or someone staying with that tenant. Currently a landlord must give a tenant 14 days’ notice to do so; the legislation would drop that number to seven days. It also speeds up the legal process for court-ordered evictions.

But the measure has become more controversial as it has traveled through the legislature. The House initially passed its version, sponsored by Del. Pamela G. Beidle (D-Anne Arundel), 126-12. The Senate passed its version, sponsored by Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick), by a more narrow 26-21 margin.

The two chambers went to a conference committee and eventually the Senate conferees receded, meaning they would accept the House version.

But when the House version went to the Senate, it was rejected, 20-22. Critics are increasingly describing the bill as a harsh and unnecessary law-and-order measure that is stoking fear and misunderstanding – and The New York Times reported Sunday that more than 900,000 households nationwide coped with evictions in 2016.

The Hough version of the bill is now due to be taken up by the House on Monday.

Teachers on the state school board?

The Senate is poised to give final passage Monday to a bill, sponsored by state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), requiring the state Board of Education to add two teachers and one parent of a public school student as members. The teachers and parents would be appointed by the governor after being recommended by state teachers’ unions and the Maryland PTA, respectively.

Both chambers of the legislature passed the measure by fairly solid margins, albeit largely along party lines, and as the Senate takes up the amended bill one last time there is little reason to believe it shouldn’t go through.

Unless … Senate Republicans, sensing nothing to lose, decide to have some fun. Why not help out Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who loathes the teachers’ union, and mess with Madaleno, who is running for governor and has been a major Hogan critic for four years?

What are the chances of Hogan signing the bill if it lands on his desk? He has recast the state education board with supporters of charter and religious schools. Monday may give us some indication of whether there is organized GOP opposition to the Madaleno bill.

Where’s the party?

Everywhere!

The number of Sine Die social events available to lawmakers seems to be on the rise every year – just as the number of opening day receptions, mid-session receptions, receptions connected to the Maryland Association of Counties and Maryland Municipal League conventions (not to mention those at the national political conventions) are also increasing. So eat, drink and be merry, senators and delegates (and select members of the executive branch)!

But don’t forget the hard work at hand.

Here’s a rundown of Monday’s Annapolis parties:

  • Noon-4 p.m. Maryland Chamber of Commerce, 60 West St.

  • Noon-4 p.m. Maryland Catholic Conference barbecue, 15 Francis St.

  • 1-4 p.m. Alexander & Cleaver, 54 State Circle

  • 4 p.m. Gerard E. Evans Ltd., Red Red Wine Bar, 189B Main St.

  • 4-7 p.m. Pica & Associates, State House Inn, 25 State Circle

  • 4:30 p.m. Capitol Strategies, 1 State Circle

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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