Yeas and nays: Today in the Maryland General Assembly (Part II)
Racing toward a Monday deadline to pass all of its bills and forward them to the Senate, Maryland's House of Delegates met Friday evening for the third time in one day. Over the three sessions, the chamber debated or voted on over 160 bills, including offering final passage on more than 35. Following the floor session, the House Appropriations Committee resumed deliberations on next year's budget. It was expected to vote by 11 p.m. to send the spending plan to the full House for deliberation. House Speaker Michael E. Busch has scheduled a rare Saturday session, and vowed the chamber will finish its work before sundown on Monday, the beginning of Passover.
Three noteworthy bills passed the House on Friday:
Stormwater Management: The House passed a controversial compromise brokered by Environmental Matters Committee Chair Del. Maggie L. McIntosh by a vote of 127-13. The measure sets statewide stormwater standards that redevelopment projects must meet to reduce run off. The bill was born out of a need to deal with a new set of state rules defining the way water could run off new or re-developed properties. Developers had objected to the rules, saying they were so restrictive they would stop growth--or re-direct it into undeveloped areas, away from "smart growth" sites near urban cores. Developers had hired some of the biggest lobbying firms in the capital to stop the measure. On Wednesday, more than 30 Maryland environmentalists--including a former governor, a former U.S. senator and a former congressman--also held a press conference to say the bill didn't go far enough. Under the measure, Maryland will set statewide standards for run off but grandfather in projects granted preliminary approval before May 4.
Environmental Service: The House voted 110-29 to establish the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, which would provide young adults with opportunities to perform a variety of projects beneficial to the environment and energy conservation. The measure is a priority of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). The Senate already passed a similar measure.
Child Endangerment: Child neglect would become a felony in Maryland, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine under a bill the House passed Friday night by a vote of 135-5. The bill's sponsor, Del. Galen Clagett (D-Frederick), successfully argued that Maryland had tougher penalties for animal neglect than child neglect. The bill prohibits a parent or person who has permanent or temporary care, custody or supervisory responsibility for a minor from neglecting the child "in a manner that causes substantial risk of mental or physical injury or actual mental injury."
UPDATED: College Scholarships: Also Friday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to end the rare practice of allowing state lawmakers to personally distribute millions of dollars in college scholarships. If approved during final budget negotiations, in July lawmakers would now longer get to a share of $11.5 million dollars to dole out to students in their districts. The money would still be used for college scholarships but a state commission would decide which students receive the grants. (A previous version of this item said the Senate had also approved the change to the legislative scholarship program. It has not, and Senate negotiators would still need to agree to the change).
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