Here’s a Quick Look at the First Bills of the 2020 Session

Outgoing Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) speaks at a news conference on school construction late last year as House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Miller's presumed successor, Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), look on. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

The first bills to be introduced when the General Assembly convenes in Annapolis on Wednesday aim to complete billions of dollars of school construction projects throughout the state.

House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, dubbed the Built to Learn Act of 2020, would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $2.2 billion in revenue bonds for school construction projects over several years. The bonds would be backed by an annual payment of $125 million from the Education Trust Fund.

The building blitz would be on top of the state’s typical annual school construction spending of more than $300 million. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) will also introduce a bill with a similar funding plan.

Before the start of session this year, Maryland senators pre-filed 118 bills and House delegates have pre-filed 57 measures.

Here’s a quick look at some of the bills that will be read across the desks on Wednesday.

House Bill 3 is an emergency measure from House Economic Matters Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) that prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state and establishes a criminal penalty. A similar measure, Senate Bill 54 from Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard) and Senate Finance Chairwoman Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore County), would prohibit flavored tobacco vaping products.

House Bill 4 from Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard) would require background checks anytime someone buys a rifle or shotgun. Advocates say the bill closes a loophole in Maryland law that allows private sales of long guns without background checks. The bill, which was fiercely debated last year, failed to pass on the last day of the 2019 legislative session.

House Bill 5 from Del. Mark S. Chang (D-Anne Arundel) would make it a hate crime to use symbols such as a noose or swastika to threaten or intimidate someone.

House Bill 13 from Del. Wayne A. Hartman (R-Lower Shore) and a group of bipartisan cosponsors would prohibit intentional balloon releases and impose a $250 civil fine for violators. The crossfile, Senate Bill 28, includes four bipartisan sponsors.

House Bill 34 from Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery) would require corporations that spend money in Maryland elections to certify that they are not owned in whole or a significant part by foreign entities. According to the lawmaker, foreign-influenced corporations spent at least $254,592 in state elections in 2018. The measure is crossfiled as Senate Bill 87 by Lam.

House Bill 35 from Del. Pamela Queen (D-Montgomery) would require Maryland State Police to study firearm telematics, an electronic sensor installed on a gun to track its location if lost or stolen.

House Bill 38 from Del. Alfred C. Carr Jr. (D-Montgomery) would slash penalties for failing to pay a video toll on time to $5; the current fine is $50. Carr and other lawmakers have expressed concerns about the cost and logistical burdens of automated toll ticketing in the state. In related measures, House Bill 46 from Carr repeals the ability of the Motor Vehicle Administration to suspend registration for failure to pay red light ticket camera fines, and House Bill 48 would allow Montgomery County residents to appear in Montgomery County court for alleged toll violations on the Intercounty Connector.

House Bill 40 from Del. Erek L. Barron (D-Prince George’s) and Shaneka T. Henson (D-Anne Arundel) would make it easier to admit statements in criminal proceedings if witnesses are wrongfully kept from appearing in person. The measure is crossfiled as Senate Bill 64.

Click here to see the status of all pre-filed House legislation as of Sunday evening.

Senate Bill 10 from Lam and Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick) would fill some vacancies in the General Assembly through a special election aligned with the presidential election cycle; appointees would serve until the special election date. If a vacancy occurs in the last two years of a term, it would be filled by an appointee. Since the last legislative session, there have been seven vacancies in the House and two in the Senate; about 20 percent of current lawmakers were initially appointed to their seats.

Senate Bill 13 from Senate Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Upper Shore) would establish a Chesapeake Bay Bridge Reconstruction Advisory Group that would meet monthly to study issues relating to traffic on the Bay Bridge. The group would include elected officials, transportation officials and residents of Queen Anne’s and Anne Arundel counties. A similar, but not identical measure, will be introduced as House Bill 56 by Del. Steven J. Arentz (R-Upper Shore).

Senate Bill 30 from Sen. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery) defines ransomware as a misdemeanor crime and establishes a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Senate Bill 55 from Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick) would create a Maryland Assault Weapons Buyback Fund and allow people to contribute to the fund through their tax returns.

Senate Bill 58 from Sen. Christopher R. West (R-Baltimore County) would allow voters to consider whether to legalize sports betting at casinos and horse racing tracks during the 2020 election.

Senate Bill 91 from Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) would require state prisons and county jails to give a voter registration form to inmates completing felony sentences before their release. House Bill 51 is crossfiled by Del. J. Sandy Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel).

Click here to see the status of all pre-filed Senate legislation as of Sunday evening.

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Danielle E. Gaines
Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.