‘Crossover day’ busy in state legislature
Abortion records protections advance, Senate introduces budget bill in critical session
The Maryland General Assembly moved bundles of bills Monday, including Democratic priorities involving medical records of people who have had abortions and health care coverage for transgender people, and introduced Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s budget in the Senate.
Monday’s busy agendas were part of “crossover day,” one of the more consequential traditions during the 90-day legislative session that ends April 10. Crossover day is the last day a bill can pass out of its chamber of origin and be guaranteed a hearing in the opposite chamber. Bills that don’t make it that far have a shot at landing on Moore’s desk, but it’s less likely they will do so.
The Senate took up the Trans Health Equity Act, which would require Medicaid to cover gender-affirming procedures beginning Jan. 1.
Eastern Shore Sen. Johnny Mautz, a Republican, offered an amendment to require parental consent for people under 18 seeking gender-affirming care — unless they are married or emancipated. He said his amendment wouldn’t “undermine anyone’s access to care or treatment,” but he suggested it was necessary to address “suspicion” on the part of some parents regarding the effect of school curricula that address sex and gender identity.
Democratic Sen. Clarence Lam, a doctor who represents parts of Howard and Anne
Arundel counties, said the amendment was unnecessary because state law already requires parental consent for most treatments. Exceptions involve care for drug abuse, alcoholism, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, contraception and injuries sustained from being sexually assaulted.
Mautz’s amendment, the only one offered to Senate Bill 640 before it received preliminary approval, failed 14-29.
The House had given final approval to the bill during a rare Saturday session by a vote of 93-37.
Baltimore Del. Sandy Rosenberg and
Sen. Shelly Hettleman of Baltimore County passed legislation out of their respective chambers Monday to require consent from patients before records about reproductive health care could cross state lines via digital health information exchanges. House Bill 812 advanced on a vote of 98-37, while Hettleman’s Senate Bill 786 was approved on a 31-12 vote.
Regarding city control over the Baltimore Police Department, delegates voted 117-19 on House Bill 863. It would allow the Baltimore City Council to adopt legislation and regulations starting June 1 regarding the day-to-day duties of the city police commissioner. The city is working to establish local control over the agency, which previously was overseen by the state.
Additionally, the Senate voted unanimously to advance Senate Bill 880, which would establish a Baltimore Regional Water Governance Task Force to study the administration of the area’s water and wastewater systems and recommend changes.
No bills have reached the desk of Moore, who told reporters Monday that he was excited that the 10 bills his administration introduced passed either the House or Senate before the crossover deadline.
Moore testified in support of some of those, including his proposed acceleration of increases to the state minimum wage to reach $15 an hour and a tax cut for veterans. The Democrat noted eight of his bills had Republican co-sponsors, which he called a “historic number.”
“It’s showing a level of coordination, and frankly, the level of partnership that I think has been pretty unprecedented in recent years in the state,” Moore said. “We feel great.”
The largest — and constitutionally required — agenda item remaining on both chambers’ agendas is the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Delegates passed their plan Friday for a $62.5 billion budget; senators began advancing a slightly different version in their chamber Monday.
Both budget plans have some significant changes from Moore’s proposal — namely the fact that they shift most of $500 million Moore proposed to set aside for future unspecified transportation projects to an additional investment in the state’s longterm education reform initiative.
Under the House plan, $900 million would go to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future next year — $400 million more than Moore proposed. The House plan would include $100 million for future transportation grants.
The Senate version would keep $200 million for such transportation projects and send $800 million to the Blueprint.
Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Guy Guzzone acknowledged those “differences of opinion” while introducing the Senate plan on the floor Monday. He said the Senate will debate the plan further Wednesday.
In between multiple busy floor sessions, the Senate Executive Nominations Committee met to consider Moore’s latest round of nominees for various boards and commissions.
The only cabinet-level nominee still awaiting a confirmation vote is Maryland State Police Lt. Col. Roland L. Butler, Moore’s choice to lead the agency. Butler was not on the agenda Monday but could appear next week for committee members’ questioning.
Also not on the agenda Monday was Yolanda Maria Martinez, one of three nominees for the Maryland Stadium Authority board. Some senators have expressed concerns about Martinez’s past legal and financial issues, including a personal bankruptcy, and opted last week not to act on her appointment. The committee still could move her forward, but members have not indicated they will do so.
Advancing to full Senate consideration Monday was another stadium authority nominee, architecture firm CEO Lee Coplan. He received the committee’s approval without much discussion. Moore’s pick to lead the authority board, attorney Craig Thompson, won Senate approval earlier this month.