Grover Washington, Jr. – The Millennium Collection
11 Apr 2000 | Soul Jazz

Maryland

Maryland General Assembly’s 438th session opens with call to set aside politics

Maryland General Assembly’s 438th session opens with call to set aside politics

 

 

A long with the traditional pomp and circumstance that opens the Maryland General Assembly, lawmakers convened Wednesday facing weighty issues and asking each other to set aside the politics, even though it is an election year.

“This is going to be a rockin, rollin’ session,” Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne A. Jones warned the House of Delegates. “So stay tuned, and get plenty of rest.”

The annual 90-day marathon of lawmaking began with talk of improving sexual harassment policies in the General Assembly, revamping the tax code in the wake of the new federal tax law, finding more money to pay for beds to treat opioid addiction, and a call to stem violent crime in Baltimore.

It also began with a plea to minimize the election-year politicking expected to permeate debate.

“We have plenty of time for campaigning,” said Republican Gov. Hogan, who is running for re-election in a state dominated by Democrats. “Let’s spend the next 90 days talking to each other.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, the chamber’s longest-serving speaker, predicted a “difficult” session, and told his 141 members that with all the “turmoil” in federal politics these days, Maryland’s lawmakers must find ways “to solve problems, not create them.”

Ahead lie thorny debates about revamping the state’s tax code, stripping parental rights from rapists and a veto-override fight over a new paid sick-leave law.

Hogan, meanwhile, has proposed new tax breaks for retired first responders and military veterans, as well as expanded tax credits for job creation. He has also pushed term limits for state lawmakers.

Much of senators’ and delegates’ work is expected to be in reaction — if not opposition — to President Donald Trump’s administration and Congress.

Lawmakers will have to decide what to do with an expected windfall of state tax revenue that federal tax changes could create. Environmentalists are among those calling for the state to intervene where federal regulators have stepped back, such as with a call to ban a common insecticide on which the Trump administration has delayed action.

Election-year politicking is expected to color the debate, with a primary ahead on June 26 and the general election on Nov. 6. During the session, all state elected officials are banned from campaign fundraising.

For the second year in a row, the session opens with accusations of corruption hanging over a lawmaker. Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks, a Baltimore Democrat, is scheduled to stand trial on fraud and bribery charges about a week after the session ends in April, and a host of Republicans and a few Democrats have called for him to resign.

Last year, a sitting delegate from Prince George’s County resigned on the first day of session amid a corruption probe, a nominee for an open delegate seat was charged with campaign finance violations, and there was an ethics inquiry into whether a Baltimore County delegate improperly used his connections to the medical marijuana industry.

The session must by law adjourn by April 9. Most bills that legislators and Hogan approve will become law Oct. 1.

 

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Bilal Ali

January 10th, 2018

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