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Port aid, protections for highway and election workers signed into law

The first bill signing marking the end of the 2024 legislative session. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Bills providing financial aid to workers affected by disruptions at Baltimore’s port and another that formally renames the facility were signed into law by Gov. Wes Moore (D) Tuesday.

Both were included in more than 120 bills that received Moore’s signature. The total number includes dozens of identical House and Senate cross-filed bills.

Gov. Wed Moore (D) signed more than 120 bills into law Tuesday. It was the first bill signing following the end of the 2024 legislative session. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“This legislation will support the businesses and the workers that have been affected by this collapse,” Moore said during the lengthy bill-signing ceremony.

“Among the many provisions that our administration helped to craft, this bill will create a new permanent scholarship program for the families of transportation workers who died on the job,” he said. “This legislation will also allow for more flexibility in work search requirements for unemployment insurance. And the legislation will empower our administration to stay nimble and our response to the collapse even though session is now over. It does not mean that Maryland’s response will cease.”

Senate Bill 1188 and HB 1526, sponsored respectively by Senate President Bill Ferguson and Del. Luke Clippinger, both Baltimore City Democrats, were introduced in the waning days of the session and less than a week after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

Moore signed the bills Tuesday afternoon after rushing back from a meeting with Maryland’s federal legislative delegation on Capitol Hill to discuss aid for ongoing recovery and reconstruction efforts.

The emergency bills become effective upon the signature of the governor.

Moore also signed into law a second port-related act. House Bill 375 and its identical companion, SB 156, formally renamed the port in honor of Helen Delich Bentley.

Bentley covered maritime issues as a journalist and later served as chair of the federal Maritime Commission for six years. She went on to serve for a decade in Congress representing Maryland’s 2nd District.

Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), center, stands near his official portrait as he awaits the signing of a bill that formally adopts the name “Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.” Ehrlich named for port for Bentley in 2006. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

In 2006, then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) announced he had renamed the port for Bentley.

The bills represent a technical change, changing references to the “Port of Baltimore” that are in state law to the “Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.” The law takes effect on Oct. 1.

Ehrlich was present for the bill signing Tuesday.

The governor also signed a half-dozen bills — including identical House and Senate measures — that were part of his legislative agenda.

Included in that package was SB 479 and the identical HB 513.

The bill imposes increased fines for speeding in work zones.

The new law doubles the maximum fine for work zone speed camera violations to $80. In June 2025, the fines move to a tiered system with fines ranging from $60 to $1,000 depending on speed and the presence of highway workers.

The fines were part of a series of recommendations made by a work group appointed by Moore following the deaths of six highway workers including a father and son in western Baltimore County last year.

Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D), a former transportation engineer, chaired the group.

Miller said the bill “is a critical step to making sure safer driving in work zones. And it will lead to safer driving everywhere.”

The new law takes effect June 1.

Moore also signed into law SB 480 and HB 585, which increases the maximum penalty for threatening to harm an election official or member of their immediate family.

“Throughout our country, we have seen threats to our election officials continue to rise in an attempt to intimidate and undermine our Democracy, but this legislation will help ensure that we can recruit and retain election officials and election judges that uphold all laws and regulations that are safeguards to our electoral process,” said Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Jared DeMarnis.

Under the bill, conviction for making such threats is punishable by up to three years in jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.

The new law takes effect June 1.

Governors traditionally hold bill signing ceremonies on the day after the General Assembly session ends. Moore now has several weeks to consider the hundreds of other bills that have landed on the desk with the end of session Monday at midnight. He will likely hold at least three or four more bill signing ceremonies before the end of May.


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Port aid, protections for highway and election workers signed into law