Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Legislative Updates By Delegate Mike McDermott

Week 8 Field Notes Feb.25-Mar. 1, 2013
  • Observations and Reflections on Legislative Activities

  • Mar. 4th, 2013

    Week 8 Feb. 25-Mar. 1, 2013
    Monday Afternoon Hearing in Economic Matters:
    I presented
    HB-999 to the members of the Economic Matters Committee. The bill seeks some minor modifications of current liquor control laws governing only Worcester County and was requested by the Board of License Commissioners and the Worcester County Commissioners.Tuesday Judiciary Hearings:
    HB-698 would create a study of the feasibility for Ex-Offenders to be provided business development programs to promote entrepreneurships of the former inmates. Last year the bill required investing in the businesses of the former inmates, and this year it only seeks to study the issue.HB-909 would allow for the venue of a homicide scene to be the location where the body or parts of a body were recovered in instances where the establishment of a crime scene cannot be determined.HB-777 would allow Defendant Cash-Only Bail Bonds to be made by a private surety as opposed to only being made by the defendant.HB-933 would keep somebody charged with Human Trafficking saying, as a defense, that they did not know the age of the victim in the case.HB-943 would alter the crime of abducting a child under 16 years of age for the purposes of prostitution from a misdemeanor to a felony with a 10-20 year service. After reviewing the bill, it would seem better to simply eliminate this charge as a misdemeanor and simply allow a defendant to be charged with the general charge of Kidnapping which carries a 20-year sentence.HB-541 would allow for the state to issue a Certificate of Rehabilitation to an Ex-Offender who has successfully completed various established programs. The Certificate would provide a tangible way for our Division of Corrections to assert that an offender has been rehabilitated. It is thought that this may help former inmates become employable in many instances where before they were viewed with great skepticism.HB-787 would require a person be charged with Reckless Endangerment as a specific charge but it could not be considered a lesser charge for another offense unless specifically charged.HB-921 allows for victims of crimes to be provided a portion of the money earned by an inmate who is earning money while incarcerated.HB-1188 increases the age covered by the Human Trafficking statute from 18 to 21 years of age. It is believed this would aid in the prosecution of these crimes.HB-1112 would create a process for the release of an individual from custody for a person convicted but found Criminally Responsible. It would put the decision back before the Trial judge before a final disposition is rendered and a person released.HB-742 seeks to correct last year’s Citation bill which failed to capture a couple of misdemeanor charges which previously could be written via citation but now are not on the list. This bill corrects that omission.HB-891 would include Anne Arundel County to the list of counties who enhance penalties around the drug hot spot areas around a school zone.HB-1056 seeks to require sensitivity and awareness training for law enforcement personnel in Maryland to recognize the victims of human trafficking.HB-1018 seeks to create a task force to study the use of debt collectors through the office of a prosecutor to address “bad check” diversion programs. Some State’s Attorneys are utilizing these private services to assist in the collection of bad debts. The complaint was that this avoids due process.
    HB-1228 would create a commission to study the disproportionate justice impact on minorities.HB-887 would create a Search Warrant to obtain cell phone tracking information (commonly called “pinging” a location). The new technology is forcing law enforcement and the courts to examine the mechanism utilized when securing things such as cell phone records and locations. There would be an exemption for exigent circumstances where law enforcement needs to act with great speed.HB-854 would allow for the expungement of records for those persons who have been found “not criminally responsible” when the crimes are not of a violent nature. There may be some room for relief in these cases. I mentioned shielding of the records as opposed to expungement and this may be a starting point.HB-829 would require the Dept. of Corrections to adopt specific policies whereby pregnant detainees would not be shackled while they are receiving medical care relative to their pregnancy or while giving childbirth. We heard from witnesses how some of the procedures utilized by corrections staff have been overdone when it comes to securing an inmate under these circumstances. This needs to be weighed out between the issues surrounding public safety under these conditions and the bill appears to make these types of provisions.
    Wednesday Meeting of Gun Bill Work Group:
    We reviewed the amendments which had been applied to SB-281. Some represent significant modifications to the bill. The biggest changes are to the licensure process for the Handgun Qualification License which was amended to a 4 hour course at a cost of $50.00 (which does not include the cost of fingerprinting and background investigation). The Senate also added an additional feature requirement in order for a rifle to be considered an “Assault Weapon”.  They also altered the language to state that if a firearm was purchased in Maryland it would be considered to have been "registered" by the owner at the time of purchase. I will be reviewing the amendments and seeking to add additional changes and modifications to the bill as it moves through the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.

    Wednesday Judiciary Committee Hearings:
    HB-626 would provide for increases in the salaries of the Register of Wills across the state. This is a standard review practice that adjusts wages on a periodic basis and would take effect in 2014.HB-942 seeks to tighten up the regulations governing medical records being protected from identity fraud.HB-658 would require the Register of Wills in every jurisdiction to submit a report to the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate JPR Committee. Since the issue is centered on one form, it seemed to have been worked out in the committee during deliberations.HB-1211 this is known as “Slayer’s Statute” and would prevent someone who murders another person from being able to profit from anything tied to those actions. We see this in cases involving the murder of one family member over another who may have been the person named in an estate. The idea that someone could profit in Maryland from the murder of another person is ludicrous, but we will need to pass this bill if it is to be the law in Maryland.HB-950 provides for increases in the salaries of the Clerk of Court positions across the state.  This is a standard review practice that adjusts wages on a periodic basis and would take effect in 2014.HB-837 would provide for the awarding of attorney’s fees and expenses in cases involving family farms when they prevail in suits filed for violations of environmental regulations impacting any waterway.HB-858 would modify the current Administration Law governing Estates and Trusts and the Inheritance Tax.
    Judiciary Committee Voting Session:
    Bills voted “Favorable” by the committee-
    HB-60, HB-152, HB-183, HB-250, HB-264, HB-278, HB-282,HB-311, HB-430,HB-476, HB-709, HB-719
    Thursday Morning Session:Bills Passed on Third Reader
    Of the bills passed this morning, one contains another Electric Tax/Fee that will be seen in every Maryland Consumers bill each month to continue funding the Environmental Trust Fund and various program areas. Once again, this was a “Sunset Bill” whose time had come and , of course, we renewed this tax on Marylanders without fail. These fees and taxes which the democrats often hide in plain sight are often sold to the body as being less onerous due to a “Sunset Provision” which promises to end the fee or tax collection at a date certain in the future. Sadly, the sun never sets on a tax or fee once instigated in Maryland. The same was true today with passage of HB-385.
    Thursday Judiciary Hearings:HB853 addresses Permanent Final Protective Orders and expands some of the provisions under such an Order when a 2nd Degree Assault charge is the subject of the Order.HB-792 allows the Washington County Sheriff to collect Child Support payments for inmates who are working while incarcerated. This is already allowed in many counties in Maryland and this would add Washington County to the list.HB-849 requires a different calculation for parents paying Child Support when multiple children are involved.HB-1099 seeks to craft legislative language to address reproductive rights when conception involves collaborative reproduction. It attempts to address intended parents versus the gestational rights of a surrogate in case there is a dispute.HB-715 addresses the issues surrounding the termination of parental rights in cases of rape.HB-1006 would create the ability to “shield” public access to certain non-violent misdemeanor criminal records from general public viewing. If it could be amended to require a 5-year span be applied before shielding could occur and some modifications can be made to the delineated crimes, this could be made to work.
    Friday Morning Session:
    Third Reader Bills Passed
    The House received several of the surviving members of the original Buffalo Soldiers, the 92nd Infantry Army Division composed of all black soldiers who distinguished themselves on numerous occasions and battlefields during WWII. It was an honor to see them on the floor of the House.
    Friday Joint Hearing of Judiciary and HGO Committees on Governor’s Gun Bill:
    The hearing concluded at close to 4:00 am on Saturday morning following nearly 16-hours of non-stop testimony. 1342 signed up to speak against the Governor’s Gun Control Bill while only 34 spoke up in favor of the bill.
    I wrote an update about 8-hours into the hearing not realizing I had just hit the halfway marker. There were some great points made during the hearing and we will be putting them together for distribution this week. In spite of the overwhelming presence on display against the bill, and the paltry number who showed up in support, many have their minds set and the road ahead is bound to be full of many disappointments for liberty minded Marylanders.

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