Baltimore City legislators prepare for new Annapolis session with a slew of bills

Two Maryland state senators and two delegates representing Baltimore City have pre-filed a total of 15 bills for consideration in the upcoming 2015 Maryland General Assembly session. Covering issues from elder abuse and pharmacy regulations to the minimum wage and utility smart meters, the bills represent for some an uncharacteristically high level of bill sponsorship.

Last year, veteran state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D-45th District) was the lead sponsor of only seven bills, but this year he's already filed two—perhaps to improve his image after an expensive and contentious primary challenge mounted against him last year by political consulant Julius Henson. Similarly, state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th  Districti), who sponsored 11 bills last year, has already filed eight this session. The other two to file bills before the start of the session, state Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-43rd District) and state Del. Samuel "Sandy" Rosenberg (D-41st District), are usually prolific bill-filers.

McFadden, who was recently replaced as vice chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, has put forth a bill entitled the "Higher Education Investment Tax Credit Program" (Senate Bill 2), which has yet to be described further on the Maryland General Assembly website. A program in California with the same name provides a way for taxpayers to receive tax credits for cash donations to a fund that helps pay college tuition for low- and middle-income students. His other bill, "Gas and Electricity–Smart Meters–Customer Rights and Required Reports" (Senate Bill 9), also is not described, but apparently would add regulations governing utilities' use of "smart meters" to measure customers' consumption.

All but two of Glenn's pre-filed bills this year failed in last year's session, so she's trying again. "Family Law–Unattended Child Under the Age of 3 Years" (House Bill 6) is this year's version of a bill, reported unfavorably in committee last year, that would revise the state's child-neglect laws so that a caregiver of a child 3 years old or younger may not leave the child unattended unless left in the protection of a reliable person at least 15 years old. Another revived from last year, which failed in committee, is "Vehicle Laws–Baltimore City–Prohibition on Sale of Unlawful Vehicles" (House Bill 16), which would ban in Baltimore City the sale of "dirt bikes" or similar vehicles that are not required to be registered under Maryland vehicle laws. A bill entitiled "Truant Students–System of Active Intervention–Requirements" (House Bill 19), which would require local boards of education to have "individualized reengagement plans" for truant students, languished in committee last year. And she's taking another stab at a trio of elder-abuse bills—House Bill 20, which would increase criminal penalties; House Bill 23, which would create a "Vulnerable Adult Abuse Registry" of those convicted of elder-abuse crimes; and House Bill 31, which would prohibit pre-trial release of elder-abuse defendants—that failed in committee last year.

Glenn's two new pre-filed bills would create a scholarship in memory of her late 45th District colleague, Hattie N. Harrison (House Bill 1), and would follow up the state's just-effected minimum-wage hike with another one (House Bill 4).

Rosenberg's pre-filed bill "Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses From Without the State in Criminal Proceedings–News Media Privilege" (House Bill 8) revives his effort from last year to prohibit judges from summonsing members of out-of-state news media as witnesses in criminal proceedings in Maryland. The bill received an unfavorable committee report last year.

Conway was recently reappointed as chair of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, and as such has long been a prolific legislator. Her pre-filed bills this session would: affect regulations governing pharmacists' refilling prescriptions during states of emergency (Senate Bill 1); establish definitions involving the Pharmacist Rehabilitation Committee (Senate Bill 14), which helps pharmacists with addiction problems; define the meaning of "fully online distance education" in Maryland higher-education institutions (Senate Bill 13); and establish a task force to look at implementing a dyslexia education program in Maryland (Senate Bill 15).

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