Maryland Assembly ends, few bills target Ocean City
(April 14, 2017) The annual session of the Maryland General Assembly adjourned on Monday, and while relatively few bills target the resort directly, several of them could have significant impact on life on the lower shore and throughout the state.
Gov. Larry Hogan has a choice of what to do with the legislation he is presented: he can sign a proposal into law, he can veto it or he can ignore it, and allow it to become law without his signature.
Bills must be presented to the governor within 20 days of the session’s close, and he has about another month to decide what he will do with a particular proposal. Hogan has already signed a number of bills, and vetoed a few. If a bill is vetoed during the session, the general assembly can consider overriding it immediately, but bills presented after the end of the session must wait until the next session for overrides to be considered. A three-fifths vote in both houses is needed to override.
One of the most significant developments is the appropriation within the governor’s budget to fund the expansion of the Ocean City convention center, which became necessary after a bill seeking the appropriation failed. The $34 million project is spread out over three years, with the design phase expected to begin next month. The expansion would add 30,000 square feet of exhibition space on the first floor, with other improvements on the second floor.
The proposal to allow seasonal and temporary workers to accrue paid sick leave passed, but with concessions to communities like Ocean City that depend on seasonal and temporary workers. Some of the modifications include restrictions on how the time is used, and when.
The Ocean City convention center will enjoy special status as the only entity in Worcester County that may apply for a one-day beer and wine tasting license, should the bill proposing the license take effect. No more than two of these special licenses may be approved by Worcester’s Board of License Commissioners each year, and only one organization can request one license.
House bill 997 grants the same protections and right-of-way to people operating bicycles, play vehicles and unicycles as pedestrians in a crosswalk.
Senate bill 262 could remove a barrier to mobile food trucks in the resort, as an inspection by the Worcester County Health Department is required. However, this proposal requires health departments to issue a reciprocal license to an operator licensed elsewhere in the state for a fee not to exceed $300 and it prohibits local health departments from re-inspecting a mobile food vendor if it has already been inspected in its home county. Health department inspections have been cited by mobile food vendors as a barrier to operating within the resort.
Vehicles that run on electricity rather than gasoline could become more prevalent, as the rebates and incentives have been extended until 2020 and doubled from $600,000 to $1.2 million.
The general assembly also established a workgroup to study the implementation of universal access to pre-K to estimate the number of children already attending publicly funded programs. The workgroup is required to deliver its findings in September.
It also changed the rules regarding opioids, by requiring providers to prescribe the lowest effective dosage while limiting the quantity of doses to the least amount needed to assuage symptoms.
Finally, the assembly offered a number of provisions in direct opposition to federal proposals, from urging congress to protect provisions of the Affordable Care Act and opposing the funding reduction to the Chesapeake Bay program, among others.