Next Monday, April 8, at midnight, is sine die, the last day of the 2013 Legislative Session. With just a week remaining, many bills have “crossed over” from their chamber of origin to the opposite chamber, and we have a very busy week ahead of us to ensure that legislation is agreed to by each chamber, in identical form, by Monday. This week’s highlights include:
City School Funding
One of the twelve bills that have been agreed to, and are headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature, is a bill to provide funding for construction and revitalization of Baltimore City Schools. As I mentioned last week, under the bill, funding will come in equal parts from the State, City, and the BCPS system. The bill also authorizes the Maryland Stadium Authority to oversee financing and implementation of the district’s 10-year construction plan.
The bill makes approximately $1 billion in investment in new and modernized schools possible, meaning that our City’s schools will have classrooms with modern technology, comfortable temperatures, natural lighting and drinkable water, where students and teachers can focus on teaching and learning. The bill also ensures that all three of the parties – the State, City, and BCPS – are equally invested in the 10-year plan, while taking advantage of the technical, logistical, and financial expertise of the Stadium Authority to oversee the project.
You can find a copy of the bill and related information here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0860&stab=01&pid=billpage&tab=subject3&ys=2013RS
You can find more details about the plan here: http://www.baltimorecityschools.org/cms/lib/MD01001351/Centricity/Domain/1/HB860Overview3_23_13Final.pdf; and here: http://www.baltimorecityschools.org/cms/lib/MD01001351/Centricity/Domain/6847/20130108-10YrPlan-Approved-LowResForWeb-FINAL.pdf
Firearms Safety Act of 2013
On Friday, March 29, the House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations Committees held a voting session on SB 281, the Firearms Safety Act of 2013. The bill is the Senate-passed version of HB 294, and was approved by the joint Committees by a vote of 27-18.
The bill maintains the bulk of its original provisions, but I would like to highlight two of the 18 adopted amendments to the bill, which will each give our state the legal tools to prevent gun violence. First, the Committee-passed version of SB 281 incorporates state-wide penalties for the failure to report a lost or stolen firearm. This provision is modeled after a bill I introduced, HB 1077, which I have described in previous updates. As incorporated into SB 281, individuals will be required to report lost or stolen “regulated firearms” (which include handguns and certain rifles) within 72 hours from the time they knew the gun was lost or stolen. Failure to report the loss or theft of a regulated firearm will be punishable by a $500 fine for a first offense, and a $500 and/or 90 days in jail for a second or subsequent offense.
While the language differs from the bill I introduced, the language in the broader bill is an extremely important tool for law enforcement to crack down on straw purchasing of firearms for prohibited purchasers. With this tool, I hope that any individuals who might consider making a straw purchase will not do so in the first place. If they do, law enforcement will be able to convict straw purchasers more easily than under current law, thereby keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. Finally, for lawful gun owners who practice responsible storage practices, and who report any loss or theft to the police, this legislation will have no effect.
A second provision that was incorporated into SB 281 is a prohibition on the possession of “cop-killer” bullets, which are designed to inflict great harm, and pierce ballistic-resistant materials. I was a co-sponsor of HB 490, a bill introduced by my friend, colleague, and office-mate, Del. Keiffer Mitchell, Jr., which was added as an amendment to SB 281. The amendment provides that anyone who uses or possesses “cop-killer” bullets in the commission of a crime of violence faces a heightened penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and/or $5,000 fine. Like the lost or stolen provision, and the numerous other provisions of the Firearms Safety Act, this provision is targeted at saving lives by making the most dangerous instruments – instruments with no legitimate, lawful purpose – more difficult for criminals to acquire. By passing these measures, we hope to save the lives of Marylanders, including police officers, throughout our City and State.
SB 281, as amended, will be heard on the House floor tomorrow for “second reader,” and again later this week for final passage. You can find the bill, and related documents, here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&tab=subject3&id=SB0281&stab=01&ys=2013rs
Thank you for your continued interest and support. As always, you can reach me at 410-841-3303, or at Luke.Clippinger@house.state.md.us.