2011 Legislative Wrap-up in Annapolis
15-Apr-2011 | News-Press Release
The end of the Maryland General Assembly's 2011 session at midnight on Monday, April 11 brought a close to debate on numerous, wide-ranging issues of importance to Maryland's Catholics and the Church. A number of bills supported by the Church passed and are awaiting Governor O'Malley's signature. Many other bills opposed by the Church were defeated by the General Assembly. And some bills that we supported did not pass this year.
Thank you for making your voices heard! Your advocacy was invaluable, and contributed greatly to the many successes that we had this year.
While nearly 40 new senators and delegates were introduced this year to the challenges of the legislative process, even veteran legislators acknowledged that this year's session posed unique struggles. The prevailing debate on the same-sex marriage bill prompted much soul-searching as legislators worked to balance matters of conscience and personal beliefs against party loyalties and other political pressures. In the end, the defeat of the legislation in the House chamber defied expectations that reverberated not only in the world of Annapolis politics, but throughout the country, giving witness to the power of constituent input that spanned political parties and many different faith communities.
Below is a recap of the priority issues advanced by the Maryland Catholic Conference this session. For more details and additional key legislation, please visit the legislative session page of our website.
Education and Family Life Issues
Marriage: The bill (SB 116/HB 175) to drastically redefine marriage and the ensuing debate dominated this year's legislative session. Thanks in great part to overwhelming opposition from the faith community, including input from more than 15,000 Catholics by email and thousands more by phone, the House of Delegates determined that they did not have the votes to pass the bill and it was referred back to committee. Sustained advocacy and continued education on marriage will continue.
Nonpublic student textbook program: This loan program, which provides nonreligious textbooks and computer hardware and software, is the only form of state support that Maryland's Catholic and other nonpublic school students receive. Funding for FY 2012 remained intact at $4.4 million, the same as FY 2011.
BOAST Maryland tax credit: BOAST (SB 315/HB 932), which would have helped provide scholarships for Catholic school students and grants for Catholic school teachers, received committee hearings but again was never given serious consideration in the House Ways & Means Committee this session. Continued advocacy on this vital issue is needed.
Respect for Life Issues
Abortion clinic regulations: Faced with mounting evidence of numerous maternal injuries and even deaths at abortion clinics which were brought to light during hearings this session, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) announced it would draft regulations to address these concerns by July 2011. While the legislature did not mandate their action by passing specific regulations to govern abortion clinics (SB 505/HB 23) , the Conference, a key stakeholder in this legislation, will provide input and closely monitor the drafting process and final DHMH regulations to ensure that the health and safety of women are not compromised.
Death penalty: Bills (SB 837/HB 1075 and SB 857/HB 1074) to repeal the death penalty and to add conscience protections, which the Conference supported, did not move this year.
Cord blood transplant program: This bill (SB 584/HB 983), supported by the Conference, is awaiting the governor's signature to become law. It creates an umbilical cord blood transplant program in Maryland, which will save lives and offer hope to patients with diseases such as sickle cell disease and leukemia.
Social Concerns Issues
Human trafficking: The Conference supported the Human Trafficking Victim Protection Act (SB 327/HB 266), which will require individuals convicted of human trafficking to pay restitution to their victims and vacate the judgment of a person involved in prostitution if involvement resulted from being victim of human trafficking. The legislation passed the General Assembly and is awaiting the governor's signature to become law. The Conference supported another bill (HB 1304), which would have required certain truck stops, rest areas and bus stations to post signs with trafficking hotline information. The bill passed the House but did not make it out of Senate committee.
Credit checks for employment (Job Applicant Fairness Act): This bill (SB 132/HB 87), supported by the Conference, will limit employers practice of conducting credit checks on potential employees unless credit history relates directly to the job, among other conditions. This legislation passed and has been signed into law.
In-state tuition for immigrants: The Conference supported legislation (SB 167/HB 470) to extend in-state tuition rates at community colleges, and subsequently to Maryland's universities, to immigrant high school graduates in Maryland who are academically-eligible if they, their parents or guardians pay state income taxes, among other conditions. The bill passed on the last day of session and is awaiting the governor's signature.
Source of income discrimination (The Maryland HOME Act): The Conference supported legislation (SB 643/HB 902) to ensure that potential tenants are not discriminated against simply because their lawful sources of income that they use to pay their rent includes housing vouchers, veterans' benefits, child support, etc. The legislation was defeated in committee, and will be revisited next year.
Thank you again for responding to all of the alerts this session. Your voices were heard and you did make a difference over and over again.
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[source; email about Maryland Catholic Charities]
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