O’Malley Signs Bills Passed By Md. Legislature

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ/AP) — It was a busy day in Annapolis Tuesday.  Governor Martin O’Malley signed more than 100 bills passed by the General Assembly.

Alex DeMetrick has more on how the new laws will affect you.

O’Malley joined state Senate and House of Delegate leaders for the bill signing ceremony following the closure of the legislature. Lawmakers worked right up to the end on two of the most controversial bills before finally approving an extension of in-state tuition for some children of illegal immigrants and an increase in the state’s alcohol tax.

In the end, lawmakers approved a 50 percent increase in the state sales tax on alcohol, now nine cents per dollar. It will take effect in July and in its first year, it’s expected to generate $85 million. The money generated will help schools and the developmentally disabled.  It’s the first such increase in a generation.

The other bill gives in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants, as long as they complete two years at a community college and can show their parents paid state taxes for at least three years.

The governor says this is just a first step.

“Whenever Congress figures out how to fix a broken immigration and naturalization system in our country, all of these children will be citizens of our country one day,” said O’Malley.

The most far-reaching bill signed brings Maryland in compliance with the new federal health care law.

O’Malley signed a bill to create a framework for the state’s health exchange. That’s a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will have access to competitive prices for health insurance. Recommendations made by the exchange’s board of trustees will need the legislature’s approval.

Another bill aligns Maryland law with consumer protections in the federal law, including provisions that bar exclusions from insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

This session also saw changes to the state employee pension fund, as well as job eliminations.

“We knew it was going to be a tough session when we started,” said House Speaker Michael Busch.

The session also managed to bring state costs and a deficit down.

“There are not many states in these times that would be able to pull off what this General Assembly was able to accomplish in InvestMaryland,” said O’Malley. “[They’re] betting on that better future that comes from innovation, science, healing and discovery, if we have the guts to harness its potential.” 

With little time to spare, lawmakers also voted to set aside about $8 million to fund horse racing.

A bill decriminalizing medical marijuana also passed, preventing the conviction of anyone with less than an ounce, as long as a doctor signs off.

Two laws O’Malley will not sign are two he strongly backed: offshore wind power along Maryland’s coast and a massive upgrade to the state’s septic system. Both of those failed to make it through the legislature.

“These are items that are going to be put on the table, discussed and studied and they’re going to happen,” said Senate President Mike Miller.

But not this time around.

Not all the bills that passed were signed into law Tuesday.  That process frequently takes months.

The first laws will go into effect July 1.

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