- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Education is expected to be a top issue for Maryland lawmakers who are gathering this week for their annual 90-day legislative session.

Recommendations from a state commission focus on five major policy areas for improving K-12 education. They include pre-K instruction and other early childhood education measures; improving teaching and college and career readiness; increasing teacher salaries; and providing aid for struggling schools while requiring accountability in implementation. Both lawmakers and Gov. Larry Hogan also have plans to boost school construction funding.

The General Assembly’s legislative session started Wednesday. Other main issues legislators plan to tackle this year include:

HBCUs

Legislation has been proposed to resolve a long-running federal lawsuit over disparities in the state’s four historically black colleges and traditionally white colleges.



GUN CONTROL

A measure to require background checks when someone buys a rifle or shotgun is expected to return, after the bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate last year. Supporters say it is needed to close a loophole in Maryland law enabling private sales of long guns without background checks. Opponents contend the measure would make it harder for law-abiding gun owners to possess and transfer their property.

ENVIRONMENT

Both presiding officers of the General Assembly, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and incoming Senate President Bill Ferguson, say they expect the legislature will override the governor’s veto of a bill that would change how oyster management decisions are made in the Chesapeake Bay. The measure puts new members on the state’s Oyster Advisory Commission and requires the Department of Natural Resources to work with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to develop recommendations.

HEALTH

Lawmakers are expected to debate legislation to ban flavored vaping products.

MEDICALLY ASSISTED SUICIDE

A measure to allow the terminally ill to end their lives with a doctor’s help will be introduced again. The proposal passed the House last year but failed on the Senate floor on a tie vote, one vote short of the majority needed.

HORSE RACING

A plan to rebuild Pimlico Race Course and keep the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore - the second jewel of the Triple Crown - is headed to lawmakers. The proposal would use millions of dollars to improve the Laurel Park track.

SPORTS BETTING

Leading lawmakers say a measure to legalize sports betting in Maryland will get another look this year. Under current law, even if a bill is passed, voters will still need to approve it in a statewide vote in November.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Maryland’s House speaker says legislation is expected to be introduced to ban a family member from serving as a legislative candidate’s campaign treasurer. The proposal comes after a former lawmaker and her daughter pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud for improper use of campaign funds.

ETHICS

Gov. Larry Hogan is proposing legislation to tighten ethics rules, after multiple public corruption indictments in recent years involving state lawmakers.

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