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General Assembly action heats up on “Crossover Day”

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Monday was “crossover day” in the Maryland General Assembly, the day when bills must be passed from one chamber to the other to be guaranteed full consideration. Here’s a look at some of the bills we’ve been tracking.

The bills to ban per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that are in everything from carpet to fire-fighting foam and have been determined to be health hazards have crossed from one chamber to the other. The bill banning ghost guns, those unregistered and untraceable firearms, crossed over, as did bills to establish a permanent seat on the Patuxent River Commission for the Patuxent Riverkeeper.

The House and Senate passed paid family and medical leave bills that would create a state-run insurance fund that would pay someone a portion of their salary if they need to take leave after having a child, to take care of a sick relative, or recover from a serious illness or injury. But there are sharp differences to be ironed out.

The Senate bill requires employees to pick up 75 percent of the costs. It was originally 50-50. The House bill establishes a commission to study how it should be implemented and make recommendations for a bill to pass next year.

That commission is going to be a point of contention. The advocates for the bill as well as Antonio Hayes, the Baltimore Democrat sponsoring the Senate version, say the issue has been studied for 10 years.

“We're passing a really strong bill,” Hayes said. “We made some compromises along the way. But hopefully, (the House) will revert back to their original position at the beginning of session and that they'll pass one that’s more substantive.”

He says the Senate won’t compromise on the commission issue.

There are several bills that passed one chamber but not the other.

The Senate passed its version of a bill to reduce Maryland’s carbon footprint, but the House’s three bills to do the same thing are still tied up in committee. Del. Kumar Barve, the Montgomery County Democrat and lead sponsor of those bills, says he’s sure they’ll work it out.

“Crossover doesn't really matter as far as I'm concerned,” he said as he was on his way to a House floor session Monday. “We’re committed to making this work. And I'm confident that we will make it work.”

Dana Stein, the Baltimore County Democrat and co-sponsor, says the House bills were designed to fit with the Senate bill.

“There are some differences, which we're going to figure out,” he said. “But they're not major differences. We'll be able to work those out so we can get to a final bill.”

The Senate also passed a heavily amended version of the bill that would have forced the strip clubs on “The Block” in Baltimore to close at 10 p.m.

The bill allows the clubs to stay open until the usual 2 a.m. provided they draft a security plan to be approved by the police department and the city liquor board and that they use security cameras consistently and share the footage with police.

Del. Luke Clippinger, who handles liquor bills for the city’s House delegation, says the delegation approved the bill last week and he expects the House Economic Matters committee to approve it this week and move it to the House floor quickly.

The House has passed a Constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis to send to the voters as well as a bill that spells out the details. The Senate has held a committee hearing on its more expansive state Constitutional amendment that includes many elements of the House bill and more, but that bill is still awaiting a committee vote.

Del. Clippinger, sponsor of the House bills, says he is to testify on them before the Senate Finance Committee this week.

“The Senate is going to have to pass something,” he said. “So we'll wait and see what the Senate does.”

He said he’s had some conversations with the Senate sponsors and that he expects to have more.

“I think now that we're going to get past crossover, we'll be able to talk more in the next couple of days.”

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.