Md. bills signed into law as historic speaker vote looms in Annapolis

More than 170 bills were signed into law in Annapolis on Tuesday. But while some lawmakers, lobbyists and citizens groups celebrated legislative victories, there was the sense that something else was brewing.

That something else is a possible floor fight in the Maryland House of Delegates.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly will reconvene as delegates choose a new speaker of the House — replacing the post that became vacant when Del. Michael Busch, the state’s longest-serving speaker, died on April 8.

On Monday, Delegate Dereck Davis, who could become the state’s first African American House Speaker, worked to win the support of members of the Legislative Black Caucus. Davis, from Prince George’s County, expressed confidence he’s got enough votes to beat Delegate Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore.

Tuesday afternoon in a telephone news conference call, McIntosh said of the speaker’s job, “I feel it’s mine,” signaling she had the votes she needs. She also warned of the damage a floor fight could do.

“I think it will be very damaging to the Democratic Party in the state.” She said she hopes the issue can be settled in the Democratic caucus “and then we walk out together in unity.”

Members of the House Republican Party have vowed to vote as a bloc, leveraging their 42 votes. House Minority leader Nicholaus Kipke said Tuesday that both McIntosh and Davis are qualified.

“We like both candidates, we think all of them would do a good job,” Kipke said.

House Republicans plan to caucus before the noon General Assembly session.

The two candidates: Del. Dereck E. Davis (Prince George’s) and Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (Baltimore). Both are Democrats.

At the morning’s bill signing, Gov. Larry Hogan spotlighted some of the legislation, including what he called a landmark bill to create more transparency around the University System of Maryland. The bills signed Tuesday included measures to expand the system’s Board of Regents. It adds four new members and requires open sessions of the board’s meetings to be livestreamed. It also allows for public comment at the meetings.

Another bill offers more protections to firefighters, expanding what’s covered under workers’ compensation. House Bill 595 recognizes that firefighters are at increased risks for some forms of cancer due to exposure on the job, so now bladder, kidney and renal cell cancers will be included as occupational diseases.

The Clean Cars Act of 2019 doubles the amount of money available to the electric vehicle tax credit program. The bill also adds fuel-cell electric vehicles to the types of vehicles eligible for the tax credits.

Another bill clarifies the law regarding conspiracy to commit murder. “Stacey’s Law,” named for Stacey Lynn Seaton, who was killed in Bowie in 2005, states that a person who conspires to commit murder or hires someone to commit murder in the first degree could also be found guilty if a killing is carried out.

Other bills will:

  • Boost breweries by lifting a sales limit from 3,000 barrels to 5,000 barrels.
  • Ban placing pregnant inmates in solitary confinement.
  • Update 9-1-1 service in the state to allow texting for help
  • Establish a council on juvenile justice reform
  • Expand the state’s Opportunity Zones program and makes additional tax credits available to businesses taking part in the existing program.

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