Associated Press//April 14, 2015
//April 14, 2015
ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland General Assembly adjourned its 90-day legislation session at midnight Monday. Here is a look at some of the legislation that passed:
Permits to conduct hydraulic drilling for natural gas using the process known as fracking could not be granted in Maryland until October 2017.
State-mandated stormwater management fees would end, but nine counties and the city of Baltimore would need to show they are paying to meet federal mandates to clean polluted stormwater.
CHARTER SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
Well-performing and financially sound charter schools could get more flexibility for operations. Calls for a school funding study and directs most chartering authority to local school board level.
TRAVEL SITES-SALES TAX
Third-party travel websites would have to pay all of the state’s 6 percent sales tax, closing what supporters of the bill say is a loophole, but opponents say is a new tax.
Marijuana-related paraphernalia like pipes would be decriminalized. Smoking marijuana in public also would become a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Whistleblowers with knowledge of fraud against state and local governments could receive an award if they come forward with information and the government recoups money as a result.
The Maryland Public Information Act would be updated. A five-member compliance board would be created to address fee disputes and establish an ombudsman position to handle disagreements between government agencies and members of the public attempting to access records.
PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE
A voluntary check off on individual income tax returns would be restored for public campaign financing for governor.
MARYLAND SECOND CHANCE ACT
People with certain non-violent offenses could request that their criminal records be shielded from the public eye. The person would have to have completed their entire sentence, including probation and parole, and maintained a clean record for three years.
MILITARY RETIREMENT PENSION
The state’s $5,000 tax exemption on military retirement pensions for people over 65 will increase to $10,000.
Added protections would be in place to prevent foster care children from being returned to abusive biological parents. It would give social service agencies the ability to keep children in foster care, if there is severe abuse by biological parents, or parents do not protect their children from serious mistreatment.
Ex-felons would have their voting rights restored after their release from prison. They would not have to complete probation and parole to regain voting rights.
Female same-sex couples would have the same health care benefits for artificial insemination as heterosexual couples.
Transgender residents will be able to get new birth certificates without having surgery, and the certificates will not be marked as a change in the person’s gender.
Private donations for inaugural festivities for governors would need to be publicly disclosed.
Maryland’s speed limit could be raised from 65 to 70 miles per hour on specified state highways.
MARYLAND PRIMARY DATE
Maryland’s primary in presidential election years would be moved to the last Tuesday in April, making it April 26 next year.
The state would create an alert program to find missing drivers in hit-and-run accidents that result in serious injury.
A council would work on ways to cut spending in the corrections system and reduce recidivism.