Legislative roundup: A quick look at some of the bills that found success on the General Assembly’s final day
The Maryland General Assembly passed more than 230 bills on Monday, the final day of the 90-day legislative session.
Here’s a brief snapshot of measures that will go to Gov. Wes Moore (D) for consideration:
Offshore wind expansion
The Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources (POWER) Act would expand the state’s offshore wind industry — even before a single wind turbine approved a decade ago has been installed off the shores of Ocean City.
The measure crossed its final hurdles on Monday afternoon, when the House passed the Senate version of the bill by a vote of 101-38, and the Senate passed the House version late in the evening, 36-10, sending the legislation to the governor, who has embraced the wind energy industry as a way to create hundreds of high-paying jobs and help combat climate change.
Guns in sensitive places
The Maryland Senate voted Monday evening to approve Senate Bill 1 would prohibit the open carry of guns in Maryland and restrict where firearms can be carried to prohibit specific locations such as preschools, stadiums, government buildings and polling places.
Charlotte Hall Veterans Home oversight
Stricter reporting requirements are coming for Maryland’s only state-owned nursing home.
The House unanimously passed Senate Bill 516 which was filed late last month.
Charlotte Hall Veterans Home has been the subject of greater scrutiny following federal regulator reports noting incidents of abuse and neglect.
The bill filed late last month requires near immediate reporting of violations at state-operated nursing homes to the General Assembly as well as lawmakers who represent the district where the facility is located.
Maryland 529 reforms
A bill reforming the state’s troubled 529 college plan now heads to the governor.
The House of Delegates unanimously passed Senate Bill 959 by a 140-0 vote with hours to spare Monday night.
The bill that passed, in part, ends the state’s pre-paid tuition plan for state colleges. It also puts the state treasurer in charge of overseeing the system moving forward.
Removal of state election director
The House of Delegates voted unanimously to make it easier for the Maryland State Board of Elections to remove the state elections director.
The bill undoes a 2005 law that came to be known as the “Linda Lamone for Life Act.” The law passed Monday means the elections director now serves at the pleasure of the elections board rather than also requiring Senate confirmation of a replacement before unseating the current office holder.
Lamone announced her retirement last month, and the state board plans to hold an emergency meeting later this month to begin the process of selecting her replacements.
The House of Delegates gave final approval 135-5 to a Senate bill creating a regional task force for the water and waste water system in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The bill was a priority for leaders of Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
The task force will review possible changes to the system that is now operated and managed by Baltimore City with an eye toward creating a regional model similar to WSSC Water, which covers most of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The panel is required to deliver a report by Jan. 30 2024.
An identical House bill passed in the Senate last week.
Horse racing future
The Maryland House of Delegates voted 138-2 on Monday to establish a new authority with wide-ranging powers over Maryland thoroughbred racing.
The proposed nine-member Maryland Thoroughbred Operating Authority is being set up to oversee the stalled plans for improving the Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park tracks and to be a fail-safe for running the facilities, should the owners shut down racing July 1, the day after an agreement for operations expires.
Stadium Authority expansion
The House and Senate voted Monday to pass a bill that would add two more slots on the Maryland Stadium Authority board.
The arrangement would allow the Prince George’s County executive to appoint a member to the board, as the Baltimore mayor now does.
In 2022, the General Assembly authorized the Stadium Authority to sell up to $400 million in bonds to pay for construction of buildings — except for a stadium – in the Blue Line Corridor in Prince George’s County.
The second seat on the board, to be named by the governor, would bring the total number to 11 members overseeing the powerful and prestigious Maryland Stadium Authority. Both would be subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.
Josh Kurtz and William J. Ford contributed to this report.