O’Malley to sign death-penalty repeal, other bills, in Maryland

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Gov. Martin O'Malley was scheduled to sign dozens of bills into law Thursday, including a measure making Maryland the 18th state to abolish the death penalty.

The bill prohibiting executions, passed during the recently concluded General Assembly session, would take effect on Oct. 1. Maryland currently has five convicts on death row. The death penalty ban would not apply to the current death row inmates, although Mr. O'Malley has the option of commuting those sentences to life in prison. The state has not executed a person since 2005 and has executed five people since 1976, tied for the 22nd most of any state.

Opponents of the death-penalty repeal submitted language to the State Board of Elections to put the measure to a public vote in November 2014. The group, MDPetitions.com, has not said definitively whether it would pursue the effort to collect the more than 55,000 signatures necessary to put the question on the ballot.

Mr. O'Malley also was scheduled to sign a bill that would allow illegal immigrants in the state to get driver’s licenses. The bill repeals the state’s 2009 law that bars new driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and others who are unable to document their citizenship.

Supporters of the plan say that immigrants often have no choice but to drive because of family and work obligations and that denying them licenses does more harm than good by putting more unlicensed and uninsured motorists on the road.

Passage of the bill came a year after the state gave many of Maryland’s illegal immigrants the right to in-state college tuition.

Five states allow people who don’t have legal permission to live in the United States to obtain driver’s licenses: Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Washington and, most recently, Oregon, whose governor signed a bill Wednesday in conjunction with rallies across the country in support of immigration reform. Colorado and North Carolina are among the states considering similar legislation. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray was set to announce on Thursday that he would introduce a similar bill in the District.

The Maryland bill is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.

Mr. O'Malley was also scheduled to sign bills that would criminalize cyberbullying, allow medical marijuana programs at research centers that choose to participate, and make it a misdemeanor to shine a laser pointer at an aircraft.

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