(For the sake of simplicity and my sanity, I’m assuming the General Assembly will meet this week and wrap up on Monday without an extension or weekend session. The final day of the session is Monday, April 12.)
The budget will be at the forefront. The Senate passed its version in March and the House, after two nearly full days of debate, passed its version on Friday. They don’t differ much on the bottom line, but the conference committee meeting this week will have its work cut out for it to find common ground on shifting teacher pension obligations to counties and funding for a University of Maryland law clinic that has drawn the ire of many lawmakers.
Another difference between the Senate and House budgets is a $20 million transfer from the Injured Workers Insurance Fund proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley. The Senate stripped the transfer out but the House kept it in. The transfer has big implications for the quasi-public worker’s compensation insurer of last resort, as it is tied to legislation that would move IWIF further from state control.
The state’s fiscal straits have also squeezed O’Malley’s proposed overhaul of the Historic Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit. O’Malley wanted to essentially guarantee $50 million in funding for the program over the next three years, but legislators balked at the prospect of squirreling away such a large lump sum during these uncertain times. The tax credit appears to be pegged at $5 million in FY2011, and will be up for a yearly appropriation after that. Lawmakers are fine-tuning the bill and expect it to move this week.
Lawmakers also have to act on O’Malley’s mortgage mediation plan. The bill passed the House on March 27 and the Senate is scheduled to take it up this week. The bill would allow borrowers to request a face-to-face meeting with their lender during the foreclosure process. It would also impose a $300 foreclosure filing fee to cover the mediation costs and fund nonprofit housing counselors.
Also on the docket this week are bills that would limit the fees and interest charged by payday lenders and another that would expand the rights of Maryland wineries and order a study on the direct shipment of wine from wineries to consumers.