What was done — and what wasn't

90-day session yields results on Medicaid fraud, call-phone ban

April 13, 2010

The General Assembly considered hundreds of bills during its 90-day session, and adopted only a fraction. Here's a sample of what got accomplished, and what didn't:

Baby bottles

Lawamkers approved a ban on the chemical bisphenol-A from use in baby bottles and infan' cups passed its final hurdle in the General Assembly on Thursday. The prohibition would taking effect in 2012, making Maryland the fourth state to ban the chemical linked to developmental problems in young children, reproductive troubles in women and other diseases.

Child support

New guidelines passed that increase the amounts child support most non-custodial parents must pay but the rates will only be applied to new cases or when a parent goes back before a judge for another reason, like a major change in salary.

Constitutional convention

Voters will decide this fall whether to convene a group to suggest amendments to the state constitution.

Death penalty

Lawmakers passed rules last year that greatly restricted capital cases, but some thought the limits went too far and wanted to broaden the application of the death penalty. Legislators could not reach agreement, however, on allowing fingerprints or still photographs to qualify as evidence in capital cases.

Domestic violence

Temporary protective orders that do not become final can be wiped from the state's public court case database with a judge's approval but the information remains available to law enforcement.

Driving

Lawmakers adopted a prohibition on hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel, but police cannot stop motorists unless they spot another infraction. The ban would take effect Oct. 1, if the bill is signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley. Legislators agreed to increase the mandatory minimum coverage for automobile insurance, meaning as many as 200,000 will see higher premiums next year. In another change, drivers who wish to contest a traffic violation must request a court date instead of automatically being assigned one. A ban on reading text messages while driving, extending rules against sending them, was not adopted.

Foreclosure

Homeowners facing foreclosure will be entitled to mediation with their mortgage lenders under legislation passed by the General Assembly. Lenders must send them an application for loan modification, as well as information on available programs and counseling, 45 days before foreclosure action is filed. The legislation also levies a $300 fee on those filing a foreclosure action to help pay for mediation.

Gaming

Plans to allow table games at the state's five slots facilities withered this session, though the General Assembly reduced the tax rate to be charged to potential owners of a Rocky Gap facility — and allowed operators of slots facilities elsewhere to also run Rocky Gap — hoping to attract bidders.

Gangs

Over the objections of some Baltimore lawmakers, the Senate joined the House in approving legislation that gives prosecutors more tools in going after gangs by carving out a new crime for gang leaders and extending sentences for gang members convicted of certain crimes. Both chambers also approved a measure aimed at increasing communication between schools and the police about gang activity.

Gay marriage

After Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler issued an opinion that Maryland should recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, a lawmaker tried to impeach him, but the effort failed, as did a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. Legislation legalizing gay marriage in Maryland was also defeated.

Heritage tax

O'Malley's plan to widen the scope of a popular tax credit for historic restorations was pared back, but passed. As a result, some newer buildings will be eligible for state funds.

Higher education

Tuition increases at public universities will be capped at 3 percent.

Jobs

Employers can seek a $5,000 tax credit for each unemployed Marylander they hire. O'Malley has signed into law.

Medicaid fraud

Under a measure that passed both chambers, whistleblowers with knowledge of false Medicaid claims are encouraged to file suit and share in damages with the state. The O'Malley administration believes the state could recover as much as $20 million in fraudulent claims as a result.

Medical marijuana

A plan to allow sick people access to medical marijuana easily passed the Senate, but House didn't bite on it.

Public education

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.