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Countdown begins for local bills

Much of legislation that originated from Washington County's lawmakers has been decided

April 09, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Wine festivals are in. Pension overhaul is out.

As the conclusion of the 2011 Maryland General Assembly nears — the end of Monday night — much of the legislation that originated from Washington County's representatives has been decided, yea or nay.

Both the House and Senate have agreed to change the law governing service stations' fuel price signs.

Both chambers rejected a proposal to designate Feb. 6 Ronald Reagan Day in Maryland. (Although, Gov. Martin O'Malley quietly issued a proclamation in Reagan's honor this year, which had the same practical effect.)

A remaining bill with a chance of passing is a proposal by Sen. Christopher B. Shank and Del. Michael J. Hough to put in place a quicker, fairer system of punishing parole and probation violators. Each chamber has passed its version, but one version needs to pass both chambers before the legislative session expires.

The Senate had a good deal of debate last week on Sen. Ronald N. Young's proposal to let people register to vote online before passing his bill 41-5. Upon arrival in the House, the bill was forwarded to a committee on Saturday, giving it a chance of passing by Monday night.

All five bills sponsored by the Washington County delegation fared well this session.

Bills to allow microbreweries and up to two wine festivals in the county and to repeal a water and sewer debt requirement passed both chambers.

Shank's bill to elevate the status of Washington County Board of Elections alternates also has been approved by the House and Senate. The delegation sponsored an identical House version of the bill.

As of Saturday, the last delegation bill — requiring the Washington County liquor board to check the criminal history of new alcoholic beverage license holders — needed a final Senate vote for passage.

Some of the Washington County delegation's grander plans ran into obstacles.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, representing the House Republican Caucus, proposed a variety of plans for overhauling the state pension system, which has a large funding gap. None of his ideas made it out of the House Appropriations Committee.

Shank failed for the fourth time to boost the maximum penalty for first-degree child abuse causing death from 30 years to life in prison.

Another bill sparked by a Washington County death — creating a new felony for adults who provide drugs to minors, who die after taking the drugs — failed to come up for a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Two local attempts at resolutions received little support — declaring Maryland's sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and resolving that the state should enforce immigration laws.

Shank's bill to include an investigative unit within the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights won the approval of both chambers.

Del. John P. Donoghue appears to have been successful in his push to change the definition of abuse at a state residential center, which he says will give employees more flexibility in defending themselves or others during an attack.

And Sen. George C. Edwards' bill to increase the penalty from $500 to $2,500 for damaging the stakes or markers of civil engineers, surveyors or real estate appraisers also passed the House and Senate.

Bills that pass both chambers by the end of Monday night will be sent to O'Malley, who will decide whether to sign them into law.

Usually, the governor's office holds a series of bill signings. The first one is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

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