Now that the dust has cleared on the 2022 legislative session, the Editorial Advisory Board of The Daily Record would like to recognize a few bills that we were particularly happy to see passed. Next week, we’ll urge the General Assembly to take a second look at a few others next year.
Thanks for passing:
SB 528 – Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022. A comprehensive bill requiring the state to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Passed by both chambers and allowed to go into effect without signature by the governor, this bill establishes a Climate Catalytic Capital Fund with the purpose of leveraging increased private capital investment to support the goal of reaching net-zero emissions.
The bill includes several unique and creative directives to reduce the state’s emissions, such as an electric school bus pilot program and a graduated program of purchasing zero-emission passenger cars for the State vehicle fleet, with the goal that by 2028 all vehicles purchased will be zero-emission. The bill places Maryland at the forefront of states trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While the efforts of the state alone will not reduce the threat and harms already caused by global climate change, we applaud the General Assembly’s initiative on this pressing issue and hope that other states will follow its lead.
SB 387/HB 425 — Public Safety – Untraceable Firearms. This bill will ban the sale and possession of “ghost guns” on or after March 1, 2023. Such guns are imprinted with a certain number in a certain manner, but don’t have serial numbers and can be assembled from kits purchased online.
Many cities have reported sharp increases in the number of ghost guns recovered over time. While they still make up a relatively small percentage of the total number of guns recovered by law enforcement, these guns have been involved in shootings and found at crime scenes with increasing frequency.
SB 0754/HB 1202 – Local Government Cybersecurity Act of 2022. Establishes a cyber preparedness unit in the Maryland Department of Emergency Management with the purpose of protecting against and responding to cybersecurity threats. The bill also requires the unit to provide local governments with funding, support, and training against threats like malware and ransomware, and establishes a reporting requirement upon local governments when a cybersecurity incident occurs.
This is a bill that addresses the realities of the ever-present threat of a cybersecurity incident and the harm it can cause to not only the government but the people it serves.
SB275/HB496 – Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. The General Assembly voted to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the bill, which establishes a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund that will provide for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to any Maryland employee who worked at least 680 hours for the preceding 12 months for qualifying events, including the birth or adoption of a child, serious health conditions, and family members suffering from a serious health condition.
All employers with 15 or more employees will contribute to the fund beginning Oct. 1, 2023, and an employer will be exempted from making contributions if it provides a private plan that meets or exceeds the rights, protections, and benefits to a covered employee under the title.
According to the Maryland Family Network, only 17% of Maryland employees had access to paid family leave prior to passage of the bill. Nearly 25% of women took 10 or fewer days of parental leave for the birth of their children. Now, a significant number of Marylanders will have the ability to bond with their new children or take the leave necessary to care for a sick loved one or for their own health.
HB1 and 837 – Cannabis Reform and Constitutional Amendment. HB1 puts cannabis legalization for those over 21 years old on the ballot for the November General Election. HB 837 includes provisions for automatic expungement of past convictions for conduct made legal under the law, and allows for application for expungement by persons with convictions for possession with intent to distribute three years after completing any sentence.
The bill also provides for the creation of a Cannabis Business Assistance Fund to facilitate minority and women-owned businesses seeking to enter the recreational cannabis market, and a Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund to support initiatives in communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.
Legalization of cannabis use recreationally is a nationwide trend, and whether the ballot initiative passes, it is encouraging that the General Assembly has tried to provide relief to those who have been hurt by the enforcement of cannabis laws (disproportionately minority communities), as well as the initiative to provide women and minority-owned businesses a fair opportunity to compete in the legal cannabis industry.
We thank the General Assembly for its leadership on these crucial issues.
Editorial Advisory Board members Arthur F. Fergenson and Debra G. Schubert did not participate in this opinion.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
Gary E. Bair
Andre M. Davis
Arthur F. Fergenson
Julie C. Janofsky
Ericka N. King
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
H. Mark Stichel
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.