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Hogan signs bills to increase home ownership and voting, reduce access to opioids

Gov. Larry Hogan, center, speaks with Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, left, as House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, right, applies a pen to paper during a bill signing on Tuesday in Annapolis. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Gov. Larry Hogan, center, speaks with Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, left, as House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, right, applies a pen to paper during a bill signing on Tuesday in Annapolis. The governor’s wife, Yumi, is walking behind the table.(The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan signed more than 170 bills into law including legislation that would allow college graduates to roll their student loan debt into the purchase of a home, expand voting access in the state, reduce the potential to abuse prescription pain medication and fund a new education initiative announced last winter.

The bills became law during the second bill signing event since the 90-day General Assembly session ended nearly two weeks ago.

Included on the list was a bill that would allow college graduates to purchase one of 150 homes foreclosed on by the state through the Maryland Mortgage Program. The home must be used as the primary residence.

Under the program, the state would make a seller’s contribution of as much as 20 percent of the value of the property for paying off the buyer’s student loan debt. The student could also opt to have the state make loan payments monthly with the payment taken from the mortgage payments.

The program was first discussed in August by state Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt.

Hogan also signed into law a measure that would fund up to six so-called P-TECH schools — institutions that would allow students in low-income areas to prepare for high-tech jobs by working toward a high school diploma and college degree and obtaining a paid internship.

“Our top priority is education and we’ve wanted to encourage innovative ideas that give parents better alternatives for their children for higher education and jobs of the future,” Hogan said.

The governor first announced the program in November at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in East Baltimore.

Students take part in a personalized, six-year integrated curriculum heavy on science, technology, engineering and math and are  paired with mentors from partner business.

The first P-Tech school, developed by the IBM Foundation, opened in New York City in 2012. Students are not handpicked for the program and there are no academic requirements to participate.

The IBM Foundation promised in November to provide access to its curriculum and other websites and materials for companies who join the program.

Other bills signed into law include:

  • Two expanding electoral access. One would require state agency websites to link to voter registration information. Another would expand the number of early voting centers based on population. The number of early voting centers in Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties could all increase from eight each to 11 in the 2018 election.
  • Requiring pharmacists and prescribers to register with the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and requiring doctors to review at least four months of a patient’s prescription history before prescribing opioid painkillers. Hogan and others said the effort would help to limit the use of highly addictive pain medication as part of a response to an epidemic use of heroin in the state.