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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Bills on health insurance access, tobacco restrictions signed into Md. law

From left, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Gov. Larry Hogan and House Speaker Adrienne Jones sign bills Monday in Annapolis. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

From left, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Gov. Larry Hogan and House Speaker Adrienne Jones sign bills Monday in Annapolis. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS  — Maryland taxpayers could find it easier to enroll in health insurance plans under a bill signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan Monday.

The bill was one of over 180 signed by Hogan in a ceremony that included bills expanding penalties for crimes in which pregnant women and their unborn children are injured. The ceremony also saw legislation signed into law that follows a national trend of increasing the age for purchasing tobacco products.

Underinsured residents will be a check box away from learning about health insurance options. The new law will allow Maryland residents to have the state check eligibility on the state health benefit exchange by checking a box on their state tax returns.

“The Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program represents the kind of initiatives we need to ensure health care is affordable and accessible to all,” said Frederick Isasi, Families USA executive director. “This is what innovation looks like. Families USA applauds Maryland for putting people before political partisanship. We are hopeful this kind of practical, bipartisan problem-solving spreads to other states.”

Isasi said the law, the first of its kind in the nation, could become a model for other states or at the federal level.

Hogan has one more public bill signing scheduled for May 23. It is expected that he will announced by the end of that week  — following the final ceremony — the fate of remaining bills that either would become law without his signature or be vetoed.

Monday’s ceremony — the fourth overall for bills passed in the 2019 session — had a theme of education and health care.

Included in the bills signed were laws increasing the legal age for purchasing tobacco products, including vaping products, to 21. Members of the military could still purchase such products at age 18.

The governor also signed into law a bill that prohibits minors under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning devices except for medically necessary phototherapy at a doctor’s office.

Hogan also signed into law a Senate bill that creates a state-controlled account in which Prince George’s County will deposit money to use public-private partnerships to build public schools.

The governor also signed into law legislation that adds three additional P-TECH schools in the state, The Pathways in Technology Early College High program, currently in eight schools, provides high school students in underserved communities with the opportunity to earn a high school and college degree while gaining job experience in tech and science-based industries.

Also signed into law was a bill that was spurred by the death of a University of Maryland football player. The law will require colleges and universities in the state to develop policies for handling and addressing student athlete complaints about sports programs.

But health care and education were not the only issues covered in the bill signing.

Also signed into law was “Laura and Reid’s Law.” The measure provides for an additional 10 years in jail to be tacked onto any felony conviction where the underlying crime injures both a mother and her unborn child. The law is named for Laura Wallen, a Howard County teacher who was pregnant at the time of her murder in 2017. Tyler Tessier, Wallen’s boyfriend and the father of her unborn child, committed suicide in 2018 while standing trial for her death.

“This added penalty will give prosecutors stronger tools to go after abusers and protect pregnant victims,” said Sen. Justin Ready, R-Carroll and sponsor of the bill.

Hogan also signed into law a bill providing $3.5 million to reduce the number of untested rape kits collected by police departments around the state.



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