Over the past 89 days, Maryland lawmakers have protected access to abortion care, raised the minimum wage, fixed elections issues and gave survivors of child sexual abuse a greater ability to sue institutions that harbored abusers.
But on the 90th and final day of their annual legislative session on Monday, state lawmakers still have a bit more work to do.
For the few major issues that are lingering — expanding gun control, fixing problems with the Maryland 529 college savings plan, adding oversight to a troubled veterans home — leading lawmakers are largely in agreement, but small differences and procedural steps remain. The House of Delegates and state Senate will need to sign off on tweaks that they’ve made to each other’s bills.
“For the most part, it will be ironing out differences between the chambers,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. “I don’t think we’ll see a lot of quick movement of new ideas.”
Lawmakers have until midnight to resolve all of the unresolved issues. After that, all bills that haven’t fully passed will be officially dead, and their sponsors and supporters will have to try again next year.
But most of the heavy lifting for the year is done and behind lawmakers. While they sometimes work all day and all night on the last day of session, this year’s schedule — perhaps in a sign of optimism — has lawmakers starting a little later. The Senate gavels into session at 11 a.m. and the House of Delegates will convene at 12:30 p.m.
Here’s what’s still on the agenda.
Lawmakers advanced three separate bills that address several aspects of gun control. Two have passed and a third still has steps to go through before heading to the governor’s desk.
Between them, the bills: tighten the process for obtaining concealed carry permits, limit where permit holders can carry their guns in public and strengthen an existing law that prohibits gun owners from leaving their weapons where minors can access them.
One of the bills addressing concealed carry permits, from Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, a Montgomery County Democrat, is still in play.
The bill limits where gun owners with carry permits can take their guns in public. It sets off-limits areas including schools, hospitals, places that serve alcohol or cannabis, casinos, stadiums, museums, government buildings and more. The current version also says guns can’t be carried on other types of private property unless the property owner grants permission, such as through posting a sign.
The bill is waiting for a final vote in the House of Delegates and would need to return to the state Senate to sign off on the final changes.
Another bill primarily focused on carrying guns from Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, won final approval on Saturday.
It increases training requirements and fees for permit applicants and excludes more people from being eligible for permits: anyone under 21 years old; those on probation for a crime that carries a sentence of at least one year in jail; or those on probation for driving while impaired or violating a protective order.
That bill, in a late maneuver, added a provision that increases the maximum sentence for those 21 or older possessing a gun illegally from three years to five years.
That provision was pushed by Baltimore Democratic State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, who said it is “just one tool in a larger toolbox but an essential first step in the overall fight our attorneys can use as they work to prosecute violent offenders.”
Others, including the Office of the Public Defender and gun violence researchers, have opposed the change, saying it won’t necessarily reduce gun violence. They decried how the provision was added into the bill in the last days of the General Assembly session.
The bill addressing children’s access to guns, known as Jaelynn’s Law, won full and final approval over the weekend and will head to the governor’s desk. The bill makes it a crime to leave a gun where a minor younger than 18 can access it, a change from the current law of under 16. It also changes some of the penalties for violating the law.
Charlotte Hall oversight
After Gov. Wes Moore’s administration revealed ongoing problems of abuse and neglect at the state-owned, contractor-run Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, lawmakers were frustrated that they hadn’t known.
They’re advancing a bill that would require contractors who run state nursing homes to report citations and fines levied by inspectors to lawmakers and the governor within 30 days. The bill was filed late in the legislative session, but leaders made it a high priority and smoothed its path through the process.
Even so, there are still steps to go.
College savings plan reform
The Maryland 529 college savings program has been under fire since it distributed, and then took back, money from thousands of account holders last year.
After the problems with Maryland 529 became public, it did not take long for lawmakers to agree in concept on transferring the program to the treasurer. Lawmakers are working to move the program into the office of state Treasurer Dereck Davis and phase out its prepaid college tuition plan.
But it’s taken time to work out the details, and heading into the final day, the legislation still had many steps to go.
A House of Delegates version of the bill never went anywhere. A Senate version of the bill was approved in that chamber and will have a hearing in the House of Delegates on Monday morning. It would need to go all the way through the approval steps in the House and return to the Senate by midnight to be successful.
Baltimore Banner reporter Dylan Segelbaum contributed to this article.