(Jan. 8, 2021) When the Maryland General Assembly begins it 2021 session next Wednesday, it will have about 800 pre-filed bills as compared to 200 last year, according to Delegate Wayne Hartman (R-38 C).
Some of these bills did not make it through both the House and Senate last year since the coronavirus pandemic caused the legislature to adjourn early. Two such bills are the ban on intentional balloon releases, House Bill 391, and Wade’s Law, Senate Bill 17.
Hartman said that the goal of the balloon release ban is to raise awareness of the harmful environmental impacts balloons have on marine life.
“Many of the sea animals that live in the ocean have mistaken them for food and accidentally ingest them,” Hartman said. “There’s also a problem with entanglement from the ribbon. If somebody releases five or six balloons that are tied together, the ribbon is just enough of a problem as the balloon itself.”
He added that balloons can also get tangled in farm equipment.
Other Maryland counties, such neighboring Wicomico County, have already passed their own version of a balloon release ban.
The statewide version carries a $250 penalty for intentional balloon release.
Wade’s Law, filed by Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-38), increases penalties for criminally negligent driving that causes a life-threatening injury.
Similar to the balloon release ban, House Bill 314 would reduce the use of plastic bags. Hartman said he has not yet taken a stance on the bill, but expressed concern that stores would have to charge a certain amount for plastic bags.
“To me, that becomes excessive regulation, when you’re regulating private businesses as to what they have to charge for a replacement bag, so that part of it would be concerning to me,” Hartman said.
Following the national reckoning regarding police violence on Black communities, Maryland will consider police reform bills. Hartman said he opposes several, such as House Bill 139, which requires police officers to use all de-escalation tactics before engaging use of force.
“With the anti-police sentiment from some areas, it’s just really challenging to hire law enforcement officers,” Hartman said. “We’re doing things like this that’s going to make their job more challenging and put them at greater risk personally.”
House Bill 151 would repeal the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights and House Bill 188 would eliminate no knock warrants. Hartman said eliminating no knock warrants would put officers at risk.
“The unfortunate part is, I don’t think people are taking into consideration when a no knock warrant is issued, it’s actually a judge that determines if a warrant is no knock,” Hartman said. “There’s a lot of thought and justification into it.”
One of Hartman’s bills, House Bill 286, would make harming or attempting to harm a law enforcement officer or first responder a hate crime.
In a statement, Carozza said she would work with the Senate Small Business Workgroup on legislation for civil immunity for small businesses affected by the covid-19 pandemic.
“The threat of litigation arising out of covid-19 infection during these uncertain times can suppress business operations and keep businesses from reopening that otherwise could, impacting jobs and income,” Carozza said. “The cost of actual litigation also impacts business operations, preventing reopening as well as potentially shutting down businesses that had reopened. Jobs and income are impacted, and increased costs to the business also lead to higher prices to the customer.”
She will also be working on the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and promises to advocate for Eastern Shore priorities. “These include covid-19 recovery on all fronts, expansion of broadband access, policing and public safety, and fairness in representation to ensure the Shore voice is heard,” Carozza said.
Carozza also pre-filed Senate Bill 139 to increase access to occupational therapy and telehealth programs Senate Bill 355 to increase protections for children during custody court proceedings.