Maryland Politics: 2011 Legislative Session

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Legislation flew through the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates yesterday, the final day of the 2011 session. Think you missed something? Here's a guide to what is to become law, and what is to wait for another legislative session. 

Gov. Martin O'Malley hosts his first of several bill-signing sessions this morning. Most new laws begin October 1, though some launch July 1 and some have a special effective date. 

These bills squeaked through just yesterday:

Alcohol tax: Come July 1, Marylanders will see the tax on beer, wine and spirits rise for the first time in more than a generation. Late Monday, lawmakers signed off on a plan to bump the sales tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent.

In-state tuition for illegal immigrants: Undocumented students who attend at least three years of high school in the state and whose parents or guardians pay state taxes will be able to attend community college at in-state tuition rates. After earning 60 credit hours, those students could transfer to four-year institutions and continue to pay in-state rates.

Medical marijuana: Maryland will study how to develop and implement a plan to distribute medical marijuana. Meanwhile, sick people found with less than 1 ounce of the drug would be able to argue medical necessity as a defense…

Legislation flew through the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates yesterday, the final day of the 2011 session. Think you missed something? Here's a guide to what is to become law, and what is to wait for another legislative session. 

Gov. Martin O'Malley hosts his first of several bill-signing sessions this morning. Most new laws begin October 1, though some launch July 1 and some have a special effective date…

Invest Maryland: The House reduced the size and scope of O'Malley's Invest Maryland capital fund. The state will sell tax credits to make available about $75 million -- down from $100 million -- for venture capital. The state Department of Business and Economic Development would dole out about one-third of that money, less than the 50 percent O'Malley had sought for the state agency. The rest would go to private venture capitalists to invest.

Capital budget: Lawmakers approved $925 million in new borrowing as part of a $3 billion capital budget. Sen. Catherine Pugh unsuccessfully sought to require Baltimore City government to explain how it will pay victims who have been awarded compensation for lead paint poisoning. Conferees believed a last-minute letter from the mayor sufficed.

Also blessed by both chambers and bound for the governor's desk:

Pensions: State workers would increase their contribution to the pension plan from 5 percent to 7 percent of their income, the age at which they could receive retirement benefits would go up and the conditions under which they could receive a cost of living increase would change…

Health care exchanges: The legislature approved a framework for a market allowing the purchase and sale of health insurance, a structure that must be in place before the federal health overhaul can go forward in the state…

Primary date: Under pressure from the national Democratic and Republican parties, Maryland moved the date for the 2012 presidential primary to April. The 2008 primary was in February. The legislation also moves the 2014 gubernatorial primary to June. The 2010 primary was in September…

And let's not forget:

State budget: The General Assembly approved a $14.6 state operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, closing a budget gap of about $1.5 billion. Part of a $34 billion spending plan that includes federal contributions and other pots of money, the general fund spending plan includes several fee increases, raising the cost of obtaining a birth certificate, getting a vanity license plate and recording real estate transactions, among others.

Source: Baltimore Sun