General Assembly Races to the Finish
With less than a week to go before the General Assembly’s 90-day session ends, legislators are racing to pass the bills that remain unsettled. On Tuesday, legislators considered measures dealing with topics such as guns, medical marijuana and net neutrality.
Several gun-related bills progressed in both the House and the Senate.
The Senate gave initial approval to the House version of a bill banning bump stocks and other similar devices that allow a semi-automatic weapon to fire rapidly like a machine gun. The Senate version of the bill had a hearing before a House committee Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the House gave initial approval to a bill banning guns on public college and university campuses.
Del. Kathy Afzali, of Frederick County, was one of several Republicans who tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill on the House floor. The bill allows law enforcement and security guards hired by schools to carry guns. But Afzali, who said her two daughters attend the University of Maryland, wanted to require armed police or security guards at every school.
“Somewhere on that campus there need to be armed personnel,” she said. “We know that every second matters in an emergency situation, and I, for one, am glad that University of Maryland is smart enough to have armed personnel on the campus.”
The bill faces a tough path because it has not yet passed either chamber.
The House also gave initial approval to a bill barring internet service providers from using, disclosing or selling customers’ private information without consent.
“This is a matter of consumer protection,” said House Majority Leader Bill Frick, the bill’s sponsor. “This is a matter of protecting your privacy.”
The bill also prohibits the state from contracting with an internet service provider that speeds up or slows down its network depending on the website.
“There’s no problem with speeding up or slowing down or blocking access to content to protect your network,” Frick said on the floor Tuesday. “It’s doing so for commercial purposes or on the basis of the content.”
A bill aimed at diversifying Maryland’s medical marijuana industry was slated for a final vote in the Senate Tuesday, but it was put on hold while lawmakers consider amendments.
The legislation increases the number of licenses that can be issued to grow marijuana, with the idea that some of those new licenses would go to African American-owned businesses. None of the existing growers are African American-owned businesses.
The measure is the state Legislative Black Caucus’s top priority this session.
But Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway, the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, worried that the new applicants face more stringent requirements under some of the proposed amendments.
“It’s just an equity issue here,” she said. “You can’t treat one segment very different than you treat the others.”
Senate President Mike Miller urged his chamber to move quickly on the bill. He warned against a repeat of last year, when the bill died in the final moments of the session.
“What happened last year, it went down to the last night of the session because of amendments, pride — different reasons. It didn’t get done,” he said. “But I just want you to realize that this is a very delicate bill. And the senator’s very concerned. I mean, why is one set of standards for Caucasians get 15 licenses, now we’ve got a different set of standards for five minority licenses that are coming up?”
He said he hopes to pass the bill out of the Senate no later than Thursday.
Legislation strengthening Maryland’s individual health insurance market and raising the legal age to marry also progressed.
Among the dozens of bills on the House’s agenda for Wednesday is one banning conversion therapy for minors. The practice is intended to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.