maryland house of delegates annapolis. Photo provided by Eric M of Foursquare

Legislation Tracker

SB218/HB511 – this bill has passed both the Senate and the House and is in the respective opposite chambers.  HB511 had a Favorable Committee report and will be most likely voted on this week.

SB309/HB433 - this bill also passed through the Senate and the House bill will pass in the next few days. The House version had amendments so they will now need to decide which version is going to pass. The amendments may be technical – the amendments are available yet because the bill file is headed to the House floor to be read across the desk. The Senate bill has a hearing in the House on 3/29 at 1:00 p.m.

SB310/HB390 - Both of these bills made it through their respective committees, and are now in their opposite chambers’ committees. The Senate bill has a hearing 3/29 at 1:00 p.m.

SB311/HB426 - HB426 will be reported out Favorable with Amendments Report by Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs and voted in the Senate this week. Looking good for this bill to pass this year.

HB347 – this bill was withdrawn and won’t pass this year.

HB356 – this bill received an unfavorable report and won’t pass this year.

 Other bills of interest:

HB0092/SB0448: Video Lottery Terminals – Small, Minority, and Women-Owned Businesses Account – Transfer of Authority

This bill moves the program to the Department of Commerce – for anyone who does business with any of the casinos (MGM for example).

This bill has passed the House and the Senate version had a hearing this week.

HB0319: Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission – Office of Supplier Diversity and Inclusion and Minority Business Enterprise Program MC/PG 106-17

Also impacts anyone who does business with the Commission.

The Senate hearing is this week, 3/30 at 1:00 p.m.

HB1506/SB0700: State Government – Office of Minority Affairs and Interdepartmental Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs – Renaming

The Senate hearing for the House bill is this week, 3/30 at 1:00 p.m. The Senate bill is being heard in the House on 3/29 at 1:00 p.m.

SB0712: Historically Black Institutions – State Funding – Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI Comparability Program
This legislation hasn’t moved out of its committee.

Week 10 was a week of surprises with the quick veto-proof margin passage of sick leave legislation, a compromise from the Senate to address the Governor’s legislation to repeal a 2016 transportation bill, and the announcement by Governor Hogan that he supported a ban on fracking. Session has been lasting much longer, throwing scheduling amuck as it typically does this time of year. On Tuesday the Senate was in for more than five hours, delaying the work of the Committees that day.

Last week we discussed the budget and highlighted some of the challenges the budget committees were facing. We mentioned that it is at this time that the House and/or Senate budget committees are striking funding requests as they move through the legislative process of reviewing the Governor’s budget. The committees cannot spend a lot of time going back and forth on these edits. The legislature must adopt a balanced budget by the second Monday in April, per the Maryland Constitution. If they fail to do so, special provisions must be made and the legislature will remain in session until the budget is passed. This week, the House of Delegates voted to send the Budget over to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

From here, the professional staff of the Senate committee will go through every line item as the House committee staff did. They will review the amendments that were placed on the budget and offer a series of recommendations to make cuts to make room for priorities of the members of the Committee. This means that there will be items that are cut and groups will be appealing for funding to be restored, increased, etc. To further complicate the process, Governor Hogan will release a “supplemental” budget request in the coming weeks. After the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee finishes their work, the budget will head to the full Senate for a vote. Here, Senate Republicans will offer amendments and arguments to protest an action (or several) taken by the Democratic Leadership. The budget vote will not be close and will sail through, but this budget debate offers the Minority Party an opportunity to debate policy as well as eat up precious time. After the vote, a Conference Committee of the two chambers will be appointed to resolve any differences before the final FY18 budget is taken up by the full legislature again. Then, after the differences are worked out, the budget will be passed quickly and without too much fanfare.

Also, as we discuss the budget, we must report that there has been increased buzz about a summer special session in response to the actions taken by the federal government related to the Affordable Care Act (ACT). With the legislation’s repeal comes a repeal of federal dollars spent in Maryland. There is the general presumption that action will need to be taken in the interim to make the necessary policy decisions to move forward. June is what is being tossed around the halls for now and we will provide updates as they are available. For your ease of review, a copy of the President’s budget proposal will be included with this week’s report.
We have been reporting on the status of the sick leave legislation, as it will be touted by some as the most significant legislation of the session. The House Democratic Leadership legislation sets forth a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work, up to a maximum of seven full days per year. At the beginning of the week, we were hearing that the Democrats did not have the number needed to override a veto in the Senate and that Leadership was stalling to line up additional votes. We had heard that specifically, Baltimore County Democratic Senators were concerned and would not be voting for the bill. Our contacts with industry groups such as the Chamber of Commerce were all saying the same thing, the bill was in trouble. Yet, we all knew that there was plenty of time to work it out. We expected that this debate would continue in the coming weeks as we approached the final weeks of the legislative session. The Governor announced that he would veto the legislation and the following day, the Senate crossfile of the bill was voted through the Senate. The Senate legislation would require all companies with more than 14 employees to provide all employees that work more than 12 hours a week at least 5 sick days a year. Interestingly, some of the amendments that were offered from the Senate floor were from Baltimore County Democrats – as we had heard that the Democratic leadership was having a difficult time having those legislators sign on to the legislation and preventing the necessary votes to override a veto, should the legislation pass and head to the Governor. In the end, Leadership was able to persuade enough legislators to vote for the bill, reaching the magic “29” number needed to override a veto in the Senate. The House bill was heard this week in the Senate Finance Committee – we expect some version of this legislation to ultimately pass.

Transportation funding and the process to fund projects has remained a hot topic this session. This week, the Senate passed a heavily amended bill (SB0307) that was originally introduced as Administration legislation that would fully repeal the 2016 transportation scoring bill (affectionately dubbed the “Road Kill Bill” by the Hogan Administration). The compromise was in the form of a study bill – a 7-member panel (Workgroup on the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act) comprised of the Senate and House Majority and Minority leaders (or designees), members of the budget committees, and the Secretary of Transportation would review the process for determining capital improvement plan projects and their funding levels. For a quick comparison of the bill as amended and the Governor’s original bill, simply compare the unanimously-approved Senate bill with the unamended House bill (HB0402) that has yet to move out of Committee. The amendments also lengthened the amount of time for the study, with the workgroup reporting out its findings in January 2019 (well after the 2018 statewide election).

On Friday afternoon, the Governor surprised everyone with an announcement that he supports a ban on fracking in Maryland. His announcement stated that the risk outweighed the benefits and asked the legislature to move on from this issue. This move was surprising because the moratorium was expected to continue this year with the ban being revisited in the election year. On Thursday there was another large demonstration in Annapolis to protest fracking. As you may recall, the Chair of the Senate Environment, Health, and Education Affairs (EHEA) Committee was quite candid in her comments during the hearing to ban fracking.  She informed the bill sponsor and Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Bobby Zirkin, that he would need to find the votes to override a veto from Governor Hogan (again, that 29 number).  It was important then, when Governor Hogan made his announcement on Friday, Chairman Zirkin was standing to his right and offered comments immediately following the Governor’s announcement. By the time the Governor had made his announcement, EHEA Chairwoman Conway was stating that the bill (SB0740) to ban fracking would be coming out of her committee. The Senate will now be pressured to act quickly.

Medical cannabis will continue to be a hot topic this session. The Greenwill Medical Cannabis Division was invited to attend a snow-day workgroup to work on this year’s legislation. Our team has a history of working closely with the Maryland General Assembly on this issue:  we assisted in the re-writing of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Program in 2014, we have continued to work on the regulations with the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission, and we have been a member of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association (MDCIA), the membership trade organization representing those interested in participating in Maryland’s emerging medical cannabis market.  In fact our team boasts MDCIA Founder and former Executive Director, Darrell Carrington.  Going forward, Greenwill is uniquely qualified to offer guidance on best practices with respect to the Maryland Program assisting our clients in securing grower, processor and dispensary licenses, including the only African-American led group that won a processor pre-award.

Our crossover date is Monday, March 20th. This is an important day – Monday is meant to be a deadline of sorts with the House and Senate scurrying to send those bills they pass favorably to the other chamber. This certainly doesn’t limit all bills from continuing to move, but legislation that has not moved at all after having a hearing in January and February will most likely not pass this session. Committee work now shifts to conference committees and determining the posture of the bills that have been given the green light.

Week 11 Report

Week 11 was crossover week – a blessed event all Annapolis insiders look forward to every year. As we reported last week, crossover was Monday – legislation that has not moved at all after having a hearing in January and February will most likely not pass this session. There is a lot of work that goes into the preparation for Crossover, with both Chambers meeting day and night in the days leading to last Monday evening. When the legislators are working that hard, imagine that the staff is working doubly hard to prepare the bills for voting and for the floor. For these reasons, the week following Crossover Monday is often subdued and a true “calm before the storm” as we prepare for the last two full weeks of session.

That said, while we have been hearing the countdown in the hallways (“there are only 17 days left!” or “only 17 to go!”), we know that there is a lot of time left and a lot of sausage making going on. There is no such thing as a quiet week in Annapolis, despite the outward appearance of calm. There may not be a lot of groups in the hallways or controversial bill hearings or evening receptions, we know the work is being done nevertheless. One of the main challenges of the coming weeks is understanding the big picture as it relates to individual pieces of legislation.

Consider medical cannabis – an issue our firm has been in front of and plugged in with the many various pieces of legislation introduced this session. We had reported that there was a workgroup on our one snow day to begin to work out where medical cannabis legislation would go this session. According to the House Chair of that workgroup, there will be an additional meeting (to be scheduled).  Then, we heard early this week that there was discontent regarding the treatment of medical cannabis legislation in the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate (more on the challenges facing the Committee Chairman below). We could see the big picture – knowing the legislature was going to push reform through this year on this issue we knew that there was no way all bills would get bogged down in their committee.

We heard on Tuesday that the result of that discontent was that the Senate President would be dropping a bill (SB1197) himself and have it go to the Senate Finance Committee. This action was a clear sign to all that Leadership was moving forward. By Thursday the bill was introduced, out of the Rules Committee, and scheduled for a hearing this upcoming week. Unsurprisingly, by end of the week, news accounts were forecasting a deal that was struck with Leadership to move the bill.

We had reported last week that the Governor’s surprise announcement that he supported a fracking ban would clear away the hurdle for its passage. We also noted the presence of the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman alongside the Republican Governor. Longtime Democratic leader and former Senate President Miller staffer Pat Murray penned an insightful article that sheds light upon some current views of the Committee Chairman. Medical cannabis and fracking are two major – yet unrelated – policy topics this legislative session – and the response of leadership demonstrates that Senator Zirkin will face continued opposition. Big picture, again: the halls are full of the rumor that this powerful committee Chairman may be in danger of losing his Committee.  Incidentally, the fracking ban (Senator Zirkin’s House crossfile,HB1325) is moving forward and is expected to be voted out of the Senate this week.

Sick leave advocates are pushing for the House sponsor and leadership to accept the amendments that were placed upon the legislation in the Senate. Current thought among industry leaders are that this legislation (HB0001/SB0230)will pass with time to spare because the advocates are pressuring to move the bill this week, and in doing so, accept the compromise crafted in the Senate. The Governor has indicated he will veto the legislation and advocates want to have time for the override vote. The timeline for override means that the legislation must pass by day 83, Monday, April 3rd (it must be six days before the end of session, not including Sunday). All agree that some version of this legislation will pass and the fight for those who have opposed the sick leave legislation is to ensure that amendments are included in the version that makes it across the finish line. The votes have been counted for the override and advocates are anxious to get it done.

The immigration debate has also reached Maryland as a front and center issue of the week. After highly publicized reports and politicized reactions of the rape of a Rockville High School student, this issue dominated the legislature this week. Lawmakers are falling upon Party lines on the question of the legislation: Criminal Procedure – Immigration – Community Trust (HB1362). This legislation has passed through the House of Delegates and now rests within the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The Senate crossfile has not moved and the general thought is that this legislation will not move forward out of Committee. Yet, given the national climate and now the local climate that has arisen from the Rockville High School incident, the Maryland General Assembly now must answer to advocates and constituents on their position on these issues.

Speaking of national climate, we continue to hear that a special legislative session may be called to address the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We hear the session would be brief (2-3 days) and in September. Purely rumor at this point, yet given that it persists we will continue to monitor and be ready should the session be called.

Finally, the Maryland budget process continues to progress as expected. This week the Senate passed their version of the budget and officially, conference committee work will now begin. As we discussed with our contacts in the press this week, we all know that the conference committee work has unofficially already begun. The intricacy of the budget conference committee process has us frequently chatting with members of the Senate and House budget committees this past week and the coming weeks to gain insight on how items of interest are progressing.

We noted that we were anticipating the release of the Governor’s supplemental budget, an annual release that enables the Governor to increase or decrease the budget after the legislature has begun its work on his initial release. On Friday, this year’s supplemental budget was released and the Governor highlighted his desire to spend additional funds on the heroin epidemic as well as education, economic development, and public safety. Every year there is a wedge issue that Leadership is able to point to an obvious failing (from their perspective) of the Governor’s budget. This year the debate will center around education dollars for school districts with declining student populations – particularly Baltimore City. The funding formulas are such that school districts with eroding attendance suffer greatly.