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MDDC Following Md. Bills Affecting Open Records, Open Meetings and Public Notice

By Jack Murphy

MDDC Press Association is following several bills in the new session of the Maryland General Assembly which would affect business operations, open records, open meetings and public notice.
We have already testified against Md. Senate Bill (SB) 51, which would have severely restricted non-compete covenants, which many members use for advertising sales people and managers. That bill was killed this week in committee.
We will testify Thursday in favor of House Bill (HB) 70, which is a three-year extension of the state law requiring government to provide public records in electronic format. The law was first passed two years ago, with a sunset clause. The extension will take the law to 2016.
We also expect to support three bills to strengthen and extend the Open Meetings Act. HB 331, introduced by Del. Dan Morhaim, would increase penalties for violating the act, and would for the first time allow decisions of the Open Meetings Compliance Board to be introduced as evidence in court. HB 265 would require the University of Maryland Medical System Corp. to abide by the open meetings law, and SB 230 would do the same for the high school sports commission.
HB 90 would close the state records for handgun permits. It is inspired by the controversy over the New York newspaper that printed the home addresses of all gun permit holders in its circulation area. We will oppose the bill as unreasonable. We also expect that the governor’s gun control bill will include some sort of provision to restrict access to gun records as well, but we have not seen the language.
On the public notice front, we testified against two bills that would eliminate obscure notice requirements. SB 59 would allow the state Department of Natural Resources to post some fishing regulations on its website. SB 61 would allow the Department of the Environment to do the same for some air quality rules. SB 59 received committee approval, but SB 61 has been held because of some skepticism on the committee.
For the third year in a row, the governor’s budget proposes to eliminate the requirement to print the entire abandoned property list in newspapers, instead allowing the comptroller to post it only on its website. We will once again be seeking to have the provision restored in the budget.
Eric Lieberman, chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 12, to discuss all bills.

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