Sine Die: Bills to watch on last day of Md.’s General Assembly

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

Monday’s final day of the 2021 General Assembly session is sure to be more socially distanced than most, but lawmakers are still likely to be huddled in last-minute negotiations and legislative tinkering throughout the day.

During the first 89 days of the legislative session, lawmakers passed a $1 billion state stimulus bill, a federally bolstered state budget, and a bicameral police reform package.

But legislators will still have plenty of work to fill the final 13 or so hours between the first committee meetings gaveling in Monday morning and the 442nd General Assembly gaveling out by midnight.

Sports betting

Lawmakers could give final approval to a sports wagering bill that could generate more than $17 million in state revenue. House and Senate negotiators reached a compromise between the version of HB 940 that cleared the House of Delegates a month ago and an amended version that a Senate committee crafted earlier this week.

Under the compromise, the state would issue:

  • 10 licenses to the state’s larger casinos, Laurel Park race track and the three professional sports teams — and a smattering of others for off-track betting locations, the Maryland State Fair, and two larger electronic bingo facilities;
  • 30 “class B” licenses to sports bars, restaurants, smaller tracks and other businesses wanting to offer on-site betting; and
  • Up to 60 companies for mobile licenses, allowing them to accept bets online within Maryland’s borders.

Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved legalized sports betting on the November ballot.

Climate change

The House and Senate will have to resolve differences on the Climate Solutions Now Act. The measure passed the Senate with far-reaching proposals to make over government agencies and functions in a more environmentally-friendly way, and with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that is 60% lower than it was in 2006 by 2030.

The House version of the bill sets the emissions reduction goal at 50% and changes some of the bill’s other requirements, including on tree-planting and green construction goals.

Immigration

Democrats on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted late on Saturday to send a bill, the Dignity not Detention Act, to the chamber floor.

The bill would prohibit local police agencies from inquiring about citizenship status during a stop or arrest and would limit local government coordination with federal immigration authorities generally.

Local jails also would be prohibited detaining or prolonging the detention of a person for the purpose of investigating immigration status, and would only be able to hold people for immigration detainers in limited circumstances.

The bill also prohibits local governments from entering into new agreements with federal immigration authorities under the 287 (g) program.

Essential workers

House Bill 581, the Essential Worker Protect Act, was amended and passed the Senate on Saturday. The chamber removed provisions of the bill requiring employees to provide written documentation if they take public health emergency leave and that would’ve allowed employers to withhold pay if the documentation is not provided. The Senate also added an amendment making clear that employers are only required to pay for public health emergency leave if state or stimulus funding is available to cover the costs.

The House can accept the amendments or request a negotiation between the chambers.

Housing protections

Lawmakers could give final approval to bills meant to help protect tenants during the COVID pandemic. House Bill 18 was introduced as a measure to establish a right to counsel for tenants in eviction proceedings.

In the Senate, the bill title was changed from “Right to Counsel” to “Access to Counsel,” and expands the type of cases eligible for access. The Senate bill passed that chamber 30-15 on Saturday.

Parole reform

The chambers could also give final approval to a bill that would remove Maryland’s governor from the parole process.

Maryland is one of only a few states that require the governor to sign off on parole recommendations. And after then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) stated in the mid-1990s that he would not approve parole for anyone serving a life sentence, every governor up until Hogan followed suit.

Glendening has expressed regret for his decision in recent years.

Both the Senate and House of Delegates approved versions of Senate Bill 202, but the chambers vary on the number of parole board members who must approve a parole decision, among other issues.

Alcohol sales

Lawmakers could give final approval to House Bill 12, which would allow restaurants, bars and taverns to sell alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption, which has been allowed under emergency orders during the COVID pandemic. The House gave unanimous final approval to the bill on Saturday.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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