At the stroke of midnight on April 10, the Maryland General Assembly concluded its work for the regular 2017 session. While the busy legislative season is officially over for the year, some legislators are suggesting that a special session may be on the horizon to address certain unfinished business dealing with obtaining licenses for medical marijuana and with terminating parental rights when children are conceived through nonconsensual sex. Calling for a special session is the prerogative of the Governor. While we can’t know if he will call for a special session, we are assured that Governor Hogan’s staff has been busily reviewing bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly to determine, among other things, that the bills meet the requirements of the United States and Maryland Constitutions. The final result of this review process will be concluded in May when we will know for sure which bills will receive the Governor’s approval, which bills will go into effect without his signature, and which bills will be vetoed.
In the 2017 session, a great deal of attention was focused on earned paid sick leave, fracking, bail, and the looming presence of President Trump and the impact he may exercise in Maryland. Bi-partisanship was in evidence in terms of budget matters; the General Assembly passed a budget without a great deal of wrangling. Only a few family law bills made it through the legislative process. New definitions of child abuse and neglect and new protections for victims of sex trafficking were added to the Code. Domestic violence orders in protective order proceedings may be used as evidence to prove a ground for divorce. The definition of health insurance for the purpose of child support has been expanded to include dental and vision insurance as well as medical insurance. And in an interesting melding of family law and estates and trusts law, respondents who are subjects of domestic violence orders will be disqualified from serving as health care agents or surrogate health care decision makers for persons eligible for relief. In addition, absent a clear expression of intent to do otherwise, because of the inherent conflict of interest in this situation, estranged spouses may also be disqualified from serving as health care agents or as surrogate heath care decision makers during the pendency of a marital separation or divorce action.
In 2018, the Governor and members of the General Assembly will face the Maryland electorate. Governor Hogan characterized 2017 as “a great session.” As events unfold, it will be interesting to see if this holds in the coming year.