Month: January 2014

Legislation in Maryland

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Things are heating up in Annapolis as bill introduction deadlines approach — today, 1/31/14,  is the last day bills can be introduced in the Senate, and next Friday is the deadline for the House.  So we should see LOTS of new bills popping up in the next few days.  It’s been a busy start of the session with many hearings already scheduled and completed! 

Here are the details on the animal related bills that have been introduced so far.

  • Dog Bite Liability (SB 247/HB 73). This is the compromise legislation reversing the Court of Appeals decision that “pit bulls” are “inherently dangerous.” These bills remove strict liability for landlords and other third parties, and put in place a “rebuttable presumption” for dog owners, regardless of the breed of their dog.  The hearing in the House Judiciary Committee was last Thursday and it went well – the room was packed.  It’s scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 6 at 1pm.  If your legislators are on these committees, call them and ask for their support! Then send a follow up email.
  • Costs of Cruelty (SB 149/HB 93).  This legislation has been around for the last couple of years and passes the Senate only to get stuck in the House Judiciary committee.  It will allow judges to order people convicted of cruelty to pay the costs of caring for the animals during the trial.  This is critical for animal control folks, since they are often stuck with the bill – which can be tens of thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands!) of dollars.  This bill was also heard in the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday and had a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee yesterday, and is awaiting votes in those committees.  If your legislators are on these committees, call and ask for their support!
  • Animal Cruelty Task Force (SB 513).  This bill sets up a task force to study the fiscal impact of animal cruelty cases on local animal control agencies, in hopes of crafting legisaltion to reduce the burden.  It has been scheduled for a hearing in the  Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 19 at 1pm.
  • School Reporting – Animal Cruelty (HB 222).  This bill adds felony animal cruelty to the list of offenses that must be reported to school officials by law enforcement.  It had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee yesterday and is awaiting a vote in that committee.

Other dog bite related legislation:

  • Dog Bite Liability (HB 80): This legislation is similar to legislation that was considered during the special session last August – it would establish strict liability for dog owners in situations where the dog was running at large.  This bill passed the House but the Senate declined to take it up.  But I wanted everyone to at least know it’s out there.  It’s been introduced by Del. Smigiel and is awaiting a vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Dog Bite Liability (SB 286):  This bill has been introduced by Sen. Zirkin and would establish strict liability for all dog owners, prohibit insurance discrimination and impose a $45 fine on all “animal-related crimes” that would go into a fund to support county animal shelters.  Strict liability legislation has failed in the House twice so it seems unlikely this will get traction, but wanted to pass it along.  It has been assigned to two committees — it is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 6 at 1pm and is awaiting a hearing date in the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Dog Bite Liability – Insurance (SB 285):  This bill prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to someone because they own a dog (regardless of the breed of dog) and prohibits insurers from excluding coverage for dog bites. It is scheduled for a hearing in theSenate Finance Committee on Tuesday, February 4.
  • Dog Bite Liability – Third Parties (HB 563).  This bill deals with the liability imposed on landlords and other third parties by the Court of Appeals ruling on “pit bulls,” and returns landlords to liability standard in place before that case.  It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.
  • Dog Bite Reporting (HB 89):  Currently, counties are required to report the number of bite exposures to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  This bill would also require counties to report the breed and size of the dog, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.  It is awaiting a vote in the Health and Government Operations Committee.
  • Dog Licensing (HB 66):  This bill would require counties to require dog licensing.  It is awaiting a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee.
  • Dangerous Dogs (HB 371): Del. Glenn has introduced this bill for several years and is a comprehensive upgrade to the state dangerous dog law.  We worked with Del. Glenn on some amendments the last time it was introduced and I will reach out to her again.  It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing onFebruary 20 at 1pm.
  • Dangerous Dogs – Increased Penalties (HB 523):  Increases penalties for violations fo the state dangerous dog law.  It has been assigned to theHouse Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing onFebruary 20 at 1pm.
  • Prohibiting Breed Discrimination (HB 422): This bill prohibits a dog from being deemed dangerous based on breed, prohibits local breed specific laws, and prohibits landlords or homeowners associations from banning specific types of dogs or evicting someone because they have a particular type of dog. It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.

Other animal related legislation:

  • Animal Abuser Registry (HB 373).  This is the first of several bills like this — setting up a registry for people convicted of animal cruelty.  This bill requires people convicted of animal cruelty to register with local law enforcement, including address, place of employment, information about the conviction, photograph and fingerprints.  It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on February 20 at 1pm.

Hunting related legislation (for specific counties):

  • Montgomery County Safety Zone (SB 309/HB 138):  This bill would reduce the “safety zone” for bowhunting in Montgomery County – i.e. to allow bowhunting CLOSER to occupied residences, churches or other buildings occupied by people.  Currently, in most counties, it is illegal to bowhunt within 150 yards from an occupied residence.  This bill would reduce that “safety zone” to 50 yards in Montgomery County.  It is currently being considered by the Montgomery County Delegation (i.e. state legislators from Montgomery County) and has a work and voting session scheduled in the Land Use & Transportation Committee on Thursday.
  • Anne Arundel Sunday Hunting (SB 191/HB 197):  Expands hunting on Sundays in Anne Arundel County.  This legislation had a hearing in the House Environmental Affairs Committee this week and is waiting for a hearing date in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
  • Western Maryland Sunday Hunting (SB 472, SB 473/HB 406HB 432):  Expands hunting on Sundays in Garrett, Allegany and Washington Counties.  These bills have hearings in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee onFebruary 11 at 1pm, and are awaiting a hearing date in the House Environmental Matters Committee.

IMPORTANT LINKS:

  • Find out who represents you here:  http://mdelect.net
  • Check out the Maryland General Assembly website!  It allows you to search bills by topics AND to tag bills and track them!  You can choose to have emails sent to you regularly with updates on their status.  This is a fantastic feature and totally free.  You can see most of the animal related bills here.

 

(Thank you to Tami Santelli for the updates)