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Key legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021

By PAMELA WOOD and BRYN STOLE | BALTIMORE SUN | APR 13, 2021 AT 5:00 AM | Original Source here Here’s a look at some of the bills the Maryland General Assembly approved during its 90-day session that ended Monday. Some have already become law, but most now head to Gov. Larry Hogan for his review. He has until June 1 to sign or veto the bills or allow them to become law without his signature.

Policing reform

The Republican governor vetoed several police reform bills, but Democratic majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates quickly overturned those vetoes. The resulting package of legislation sets limits on when police can use force against people, repeals the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, creates a disciplinary process with more civilian involvement for officers accused of wrongdoing, creates a statewide unit to investigate when police kill people, opens more personnel records to public scrutiny, and requires departments to have body camera programs.

Baltimore Police Department Baltimore voters will get to decide whether the police department — technically a state agency since 1860 — should be returned to full local control under legislation approved by the Assembly. The governor said he would allow it to become law without his signature. City officials can schedule the referendum for 2022 or 2024.

Parole for juvenile offenders

The legislature passed a bill to ban sentences of life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders. The governor vetoed the bill, but the Assembly overrode the veto.

Compensation for wrongly imprisoned

A bill would set rules for how much money to pay people who have been exonerated after being wrongly convicted and incarcerated. Sports betting

Legislation that would create a framework for a legal industry of gambling on sports was approved Monday. It would include licenses to be granted for in-person gambling, as well as for mobile and online gambling. Historically Black colleges and universities

Hogan has already signed legislation authorizing $577 million for the state’s four historically Black universities to settle a long-running federal lawsuit that alleged the schools received disparate treatment.

State song

“Maryland, My Maryland” would lose its status as the state song under a bill approved by the Assembly. Its lyrics support the Confederacy and secession from the Union. Pandemic financial relief

The governor and Assembly worked together on the RELIEF Act, a multipronged aid bill to address some of the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

It sent direct payments to Marylanders with low incomes, created a tax break for people who receive unemployment and breaks for some businesses, authorized direct payments to people whose unemployment claims have been delayed by adjudication, and expanded the state’s portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low- and moderate-income workers.

Help for immigrants

The Assembly approved legislation allowing noncitizens to become eligible for the state’s portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low- and moderate-income workers. The provision covers some workers with legal permission to live in the United States and some without. Hogan said he would let the legislation become law without his signature.

Improving unemployment

A package of bills would require a study of how to improve the unemployment benefits system, allow recipients to earn more money before their benefits are reduced, connect recipients with low-cost health insurance, require payment plans for businesses for their unemployment taxes, and expand a work-share program that helps companies avoid full layoffs.

Voting and elections

Voters would be allowed to opt in to a permanent vote-by-mail list, instead of needing to request a mail ballot in each election. Counties would be required to add more early voting centers and place them in areas close to historically disenfranchised communities and near public transit.

School funding

The Assembly overrode Hogan’s veto of an education reform bill passed last year. It sets out an ambitious plan for improving public schools, including programs such as increased teacher pay and training, expanded career and college prep, and additional supports for children who are struggling.

Legislators also overrode his vetoes of taxes to help pay for it, including a new tax on digital advertising, an extension of the sales tax to digital downloads such as books and movies, and an increase in taxes on tobacco and nicotine products.

Local taxes

Local governments would have more flexibility in setting rates for local income taxes, including allowing for graduated rates for different income levels.

Contracting changes

Lawmakers acted to tighten the rules for emergency contracts after deals the Hogan administration made during the pandemic were criticized, including a purchase of coronavirus tests from a South Korean company. Also, government contractors would have to pay a prevailing wage to workers on a wider range of state-funded construction projects.

Maryland Environmental Service

The Assembly passed legislation to ban payouts like one the director of the Maryland Environmental Service received when leaving the agency to become the governor’s chief of staff.

The service’s board of directors would be overhauled and would have to set policies on compensation, travel and benefits.

New court names

Voters will decide in 2022 whether to re-christen the top courts in Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals.

The new names, regarded as less confusing, would be the Appellate Court of Maryland and the Supreme Court of Maryland.


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