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Government & Politics

A quick look at some of the first bills filed during the 2023 General Assembly session

Senate Judicial Proceedings Chair William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) and Vice Chair Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) leave the Senate chamber on the first day of the 2023 General Assembly session. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

For the last few years, criminal justice reform efforts have been a top priority for the Maryland General Assembly. As the 2023 session gets underway, lawmakers are expected to consider legislation that would tighten restrictions for concealed carry gun permits and expand civil liability for child sexual abuse.

The measures were among the more than 250 pre-filed bills that were read across the desks in the House of Delegates and Senate on Wednesday afternoon and are likely to be among the first to receive committee hearings this year.

Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) is lead sponsor of Senate Bill 1, titled the “Gun Safety Act of 2023,” which prohibits a person from knowingly wearing, carrying or transporting a firearm within 100 feet near a place of public accommodation. Such places would include a hotel, movie theater or retail stores.

The current law states that a person cannot carry a firearm at places including legislative buildings, state parks, school property or within 1,000 feet of a demonstration in a public place.

The legislation comes months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that New York’s concealed carry law violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution — a major decision that expands the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In response, Maryland lifted the state’s requirement that gun owners needed to show a special need for protection to carry a gun in public.

As of Wednesday morning, Waldstreicher’s bill was among 130 Senate bills filed before the session opened.

More than 120 bills were pre-filed in the House.

In that chamber, Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), chair of the House Economic Matters Committee, has filed House Bill 1 which would alter the definition of child “sexual abuse” in civil actions and would allow a person to file a suit for damages against an abuser “at any time” going forward. The bill, which has been introduced three times over the last four years, would also create a two year “lookback window” to allow victims previously barred from filing claims to do so during a limited period of time.

In September, President Joe Biden signed federal legislation that eliminated time constraints for sexual abuse survivors to file claims. Some of the acts include sex trafficking, forced labor and sexual exploitation of children. Under the previous federal law, minors who survived the abuse could file claims until they turned 28 years old or until a decade after the violation or injury became discovered.

Here’s a quick look at a few other pre-filed bills from the House and Senate:

House Bill 3 sponsored by Del. Sandy Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel) would require the Maryland State Police Gun Center to create and maintain a statewide database to track information on firearms surrendered under protective orders.

House Bill 22 from Del. Robert Long (R-Baltimore County) reintroduces legislation to require a voter’s signature on an absentee ballot envelope. The bill would not allow a local election board to remove a ballot from the envelope unless it’s signed and verified.

House Bill 34 from Del. Terri Hill (D-Howard) would prohibit landlords from increasing a tenant’s rent solely because of a judgement entered against them in failure to pay rent case. The bill would also seal all records relating to court proceedings if the case did not result in a judgement of possession.

House Bill 121 sponsored by Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery) would strengthen the ability of people receiving mental health treatment to be involved in treatment decisions and require a “long-range discharge goal” as part of treatments, as well as an estimate for how long the person would state at certain health care facilities before being transferred to less restrictive or intensive programs. The bill is cross-filed with Senate Bill 8 sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s).

Senate Bill 21 from Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County), which is being reintroduced from last year, would alter the definition of a “person in a position of authority” who engages in a sexual act with a minor. That person would include someone who works at an after school program, sports scouting or recreational activity, day or overnight camp and a religious institution.

Senate Bill 69 from Sen. Jack Bailey (R-St. Mary’s) would require the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to create a “uniform citizen positive feedback” system to be used by all police agencies in the state.