Each year, House of Ruth Maryland carefully monitors the Maryland General Assembly to support legislation that helps victims of intimate partner violence and oppose legislation that could be detrimental to the women and children we serve. We’ll be updating this page as legislation begins moving and as the status changes.
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HB 294/SB 224 – Public Safety – Regulated Firearms – Definition of Convicted of a Disqualifying Crime – This bill is a recommendation from the Governor’s Family Violence workgroup on firearm removal implementation. It would clarify existing law so that a defendant who receives probation before judgment for a domestically related 2nd degree assault would be disqualified from possessing a firearm. SB224 passed in the Senate by a vote of 26-21. The Senate bill has a crossover hearing in the House on March 30.
HB 293/SB 274 – Family Law – Divorce- Domestic Violence Order – This bill would repeal a provision of the law that states that a protective order is inadmissible as evidence in a divorce proceeding. Passed in the House on a vote of 136 – 0. Amended and passed in the Senate on a vote of 47 – 0. The Senate bill has a crossover hearing in the House on March 30.
HB 972/SB 811 – Civil Cases – Maryland Legal Services Corporation Fund – Surcharges – Repeal of Termination Date – In 2010, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill that raised the cost to file a civil case in court with the additional money going to fund legal services for the poor, including the House of Ruth Legal Clinic. That law had a sunset provision. In 2013, the General Assembly reset the sunset provision for 5 years. This year, we are asking the General Assembly to remove the sunset provision. Passed in the House on a vote of 135 – 2. Passed in the Senate on a vote of 40 – 7. The Senate bill has a crossover hearing in the House on March 28.
HB 1291/SB 856 – Maryland Legal Services Corporation Abandon Property Fund – In addition to the filing fee surcharge described above, MLSC also receives an allotment from Maryland’s abandon property fund. This bill requests an increase to $3 million from this fund. **Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 7
SB 219 – Criminal Procedure – Pretrial Release – Victim Protection – This bill would create a mechanism for victims to be notified when the court sets pre-trial conditions for a defendant. Currently, the court commissioners have no way of notifying the victim of the outcome of the initial appearance hearing. Using this proposed mechanism, victims would receive notification of whether the defendant is held or released and, most importantly, what, if any, special conditions of release exist, including any stay away order. This will allow the victim to take protective measures such as leaving the home, asking someone to stay with them, going to a shelter, etc. Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on January 31.
HB 508/SB 368 – Child Custody – Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time – Four years ago, we supported a bill to establish the Commission on Child Custody Decision Making. The bill passed and the Commission studied many custody, visitation and access issues. The Commission ultimately drafted a proposed custody statute to both codify existing case law and suggest changes in how we handle these cases. **Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 9. Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 14.
HB 1057 – Family Law – Domestic Violence – Permanent Final Protective Orders – This bill expands the permanent protective order to include the crime of kidnapping. It also expands the permanent protective order to cover crimes committed during the time a final protective order is in effect, even if the crime was not the act of abuse for which the petitioner got the final protective order. Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on March 2.
HB 1163/SB 976 – This bill would allow the court to order a defendant be supervised by means of electronic monitoring. It would also make it a crime for the defendant to violate a pre-trial or post-trial stay away order. While I believe the court already has the authority to order the electronic monitoring, I think our clients would benefits from making a violation of the stay away orders a crime. Passed in the House on a vote of 137 – 0. Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 1.
SEXUAL ASSAULT BILLS
In the past, we have not taken a position on most of the sexual assault bills. Because so many of our supporters expressed interest in these bills, we are including them this year.
HB 255/SB 349 – Criminal Procedure – Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights – Disposal of Rape Kit Evidence and Notification – This bill would forbid order law enforcement agencies, government agencies, and health care providers from destroying rape kits for at least 20 years. Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 21. Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 8.
HB 429/SB 217 – Criminal Law – Sexual Offenses – Physical Resistance – This bill would clarify that evidence of physical resistance by the victim is not required to prove that a sexual offense occurred. Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 21. Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 8.
HB 428 Family Law – Child Conceived Without Consent – Termination of Parental Rights (Rape Survivor Family Protection Act) – This bill authorizes a court, under certain circumstances, to terminate the parental rights of an individual convicted of or found to have committed an act of nonconsensual sexual conduct against the other parent that resulted in the conception of a child. **Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 9.