Stories about Maryland

Maryland voters will decide on a ballot measure to require Howard County Circuit Court judges to serve as orphans’ court judges in November

On April 8, the Maryland General Assembly voted to send a ballot measure to voters in November to require Howard County Circuit Court judges to serve as orphans’ court judges and remove the election requirement of three orphans’ court judges. The bill would also make changes to state law, if the amendment is approved, to clarify that an appellant from the orphans’ court does not appeal to the circuit court but directly to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. 

The Maryland Constitution requires a simple majority vote in the state and the affected county in order for the amendment to pass, meaning a simple majority must also be achieved in Howard County for the amendment to be adopted.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% supermajority vote is required in both the Maryland State Senate and the Maryland House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 868 on February 7, 2022. On March 18, 2022, the state House passed HB 868 in a vote of 119-10. On April 8, 2022, the state Senate passed HB 868 by a vote of 41-4. 

The Howard County Circuit Court is part of the ​​Maryland Fifth Circuit. ​​Maryland Circuit Courts hear criminal cases and civil cases, including juvenile and other family law cases such as divorce, custody, and child support. The Maryland Orphan’s Court has jurisdiction over wills, estates, and other probate matters.

Howard County would join Montgomery and Harford counties in overlapping circuit and orphan court jurisdictions. 

Maryland voters will also be deciding four other constitutional amendments related to marijuana legalization, renaming the Maryland Court of Appeals, the amount in controversy in civil jury trials, and the state legislature’s residency requirement.

The Maryland General Assembly was set to adjourn on April 11. 

From 1996 through 2020, 33 of 36 ballot measures appearing on statewide ballots were approved.

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Maryland enacts revised congressional district boundaries

Maryland adopted new congressional district boundaries on April 4 when Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed revised redistricting legislation that the General Assembly had finalized on March 30. Hogan signed the new map after state Attorney General Brian Frosh withdrew his appeal of Circuit Court Judge Lynne Battaglia’s March 25 ruling overturning the state’s previous congressional redistricting plan.

Maryland was apportioned eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, the same number it received after the 2010 census. This map will take effect for Maryland’s 2022 congressional elections.

The state Senate approved the revised congressional district boundaries 30-13 with all votes in favor by Democrats and all votes opposed by Republicans on March 29. The House of Delegates approved the revised map on March 30 by a vote of 94-41 with votes in favor by Democrats and 40 Republicans and one Democrat voting “no.”

After Gov. Hogan signed the maps, Greg Giroux at Bloomberg Government wrote, “The new map will continue to favor Democrats in seven of eight districts while restoring a strongly Republican district for Rep. Andy Harris (R)….The new map replaces a more aggressive Democratic proposal that the legislature enacted in December over Hogan’s veto. That map created seven safe Democratic districts and converted Harris’ eastern 1st District into a swing district, raising the possibility Democrats could win all eight districts. Democrats won seven of eight districts in the past decade of House elections.”

After signing the revised map, Gov. Hogan said, “When these maps came out in December, I said they were unconstitutional and violated the law. The courts agreed, described it as extreme partisan gerrymandering, and a clear violation of the Constitution, ordered the legislature to go back and draw new maps, which they did. Now they weren’t, in my opinion, as good as the ones drawn by the citizen commission, and we shouldn’t have wasted so much time—but they are a huge improvement.” After Gov. Hogan announced he would sign the revised district boundaries, Frosh released a statement which said, in part, “We are pleased Governor Hogan has agreed to sign the proposed congressional redistricting map approved by the General Assembly. This map, like the one previously passed by the General Assembly, is constitutional and fair. Both sides have agreed to dismiss their appeals, and our state can move forward to the primary election.”

As of April 5, 39 states have adopted congressional district maps. Four states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census, and New York’s maps were overturned by court action. Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting is required.

Congressional redistricting has been completed for 365 of the 435 seats (83.9%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Maryland voters will decide on a marijuana legalization amendment in November

On April 1, the Maryland General Assembly voted to refer a constitutional amendment to voters in November that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older beginning in July 2023 and direct the state legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% vote is required in both chambers. The constitutional amendment was introduced as House Bill 1. On February 25, it passed the state House in a vote of 96-34. On April 1, the Senate passed the bill with amendments by a vote of 29-17. The House concurred with the amendments by a vote of 94-39. It does not need the governor’s signature to appear on the ballot.

On the same day, the legislature passed implementing legislation, House Bill 837, which would take effect if the amendment is passed by voters. HB 837 would legalize the personal use and possession of up to 1.5 ounces or 12 grams of concentrated cannabis for individuals 21 years of age or older. It would also legalize the possession of up to two cannabis plants. It would change the criminal penalties for persons found possessing cannabis under the age of 21. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be made legal under the law, and individuals serving time for such offenses would be allowed to file for resentencing. The bill would require specific studies on the use of cannabis, the medical cannabis industry, and the adult-use cannabis industry. It would also establish the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund and the Cannabis Public Health Fund.

If approved by voters, Maryland would join 18 states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The amendment is the first related to marijuana to qualify for the 2022 ballot. In 2020, ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana were approved by voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. The New Jersey measure was the first legislatively referred measure to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure in South Dakota was ruled unconstitutional on February 8, 2021. The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling.

Olivia Naugle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “Marylanders have long awaited a new approach to cannabis policy and the passage of these bills is a promising step forward. We applaud the legislature for taking decisive action this session to finally end the era of cannabis prohibition, a policy that is both long overdue and supported by a majority of constituents. We look forward to working with Maryland legislators on this issue moving forward.”

State Senator J. B. Jennings (R), who voted against the amendment, said, “I just don’t think it should be in the constitution.”

Maryland voters will also be deciding on three other constitutional amendments in November that would make the following changes:

  • Rename the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland
  • Increase the amount in controversy in civil proceedings in which the right to a jury trial may be limited by legislation from $15,000 to $25,000
  • Require that state legislators reside and maintain a place of abode in the district in which they wish to represent for six months prior to the date of election

From 1996 through 2020, 33 of 36 statewide ballot measures were approved, and three were defeated.

Maryland enacts new congressional district maps after legislature overrides governor’s veto

Maryland enacted new congressional district map on Dec. 9 after both chambers of the Democratic-controlled state legislature overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto of the plan. The vote to override Hogan’s veto was 96-41 in the House of Delegates and 32-14 in the state Senate. Maryland was apportioned eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, the same number it received after the 2010 census. This map will take effect for Maryland’s 2022 congressional elections. Maryland was the 19th state to enact congressional district plans after the 2020 census. 

The House of Delegates passed the redistricting plan on Dec. 7, 97-42, with all ‘yes’ votes coming from Democrats and 41 Republicans and 1 Democrat voting ‘no.’ The State Senate approved the congressional map, 32-15, on Dec. 8 in a party-line vote. The Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission had released a final draft congressional redistricting proposal on Nov. 23.

According to David Collins of WBAL-TV, “The map allows Democrats to hold seven of the state’s eight congressional seats and the First District on the Eastern Shore, held by Republican Rep. Andy Harris, becomes more competitive.” Legislators approved the congressional district plan developed by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission and rejected a map proposal developed by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a citizen commission formed by Gov. Hogan. 

After vetoing the legislatively approved map, Hogan tweeted, “The gerrymandered map passed by the legislature is an egregious violation of the civil rights of the people of Maryland. Today, we’re calling on the Biden administration to immediately add the state of Maryland into their lawsuit.” After approving the maps, Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D) said, “Maryland’s geography is unique, and our population is varied. Taking all that into consideration, I am confident that this map is a fair one, and one that reflects the lived experience of Marylanders.”

As of Dec. 9, 19 states have adopted new congressional maps, one state’s legislature has approved congressional district maps that have not yet taken effect, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 24 states have not yet adopted new congressional maps. As of Dec. 9 in 2011, 27 states had enacted congressional redistricting plans.

States have completed congressional redistricting for 165 of the 435 seats (37.9%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Annapolis municipal primary election to be held on Sept. 21

The primary election for Annapolis in Maryland is on Sept. 21. Candidates are competing to advance to the general scheduled for Nov. 2. The filing deadline to run passed on July 26.

Candidates filed for mayor and eight seats on the city council. The Democratic and Republican mayoral primaries have been canceled. Gavin Buckley (D) and Steven Strawn (R) will compete in the general election. Buckley is the incumbent and was first elected in 2017.

Annapolis is the capital of Maryland and has a population of 39,278.

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Maryland state supreme court’s chief justice to retire on Sept. 10

Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Justice Mary Ellen Barbera is retiring on Sept. 10, upon reaching the state court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years. Governor Larry Hogan (R) appointed Steven Gould to succeed Barbera on the court on Sept. 3. Gould was Hogan’s fifth nominee to the seven-member supreme court. 

Gould is a judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Gould was appointed to the court by Hogan in 2019. Prior to becoming an appellate judge, Gould was a founding partner of Brown Gould Kiely, LLP.

Under Maryland law, midterm vacancies on the state supreme court are filled via the assisted appointment method. The Maryland Judicial Nominating Commission screens candidates and submits a shortlist to the governor. The governor then appoints a judge from the list. The appointee must be confirmed by the Maryland State Senate. After serving for one year, judges must stand for retention in the next general election if they wish to remain on the court. If retained, a judge is elected to a full 10-year term.

Chief Justice Barbera joined the court in 2008 following an appointment by Governor Martin O’Malley (D). Before serving on the state supreme court, Barbera served as a judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. She served as a law clerk for Court of Special Appeals Judge Robert Karwacki in 1984. In 1985, she became an assistant attorney general. From 1989 to 1998, Barbera worked for the Office of the Attorney General as the deputy chief of the Criminal Appeals Division. Barbera then served as legal counsel to the governor’s office from 1998 until her appointment to the Court of Special Appeals.

Following Barbera’s retirement, the Maryland Court of Appeals will include the following members:

  1. Brynja McDivitt Booth, appointed by Gov.Larry Hogan (R) in 2019
  2. Robert N. McDonald, appointed by Gov.Martin O’Malley (D) in 2011
  3. Joseph Getty, appointed by Hogan in 2016
  4. Michele D. Hotten, appointed by Hogan in 2015
  5. Jonathan Biran, appointed by Hogan in 2019
  6. Shirley Marie Watts, appointed by O’Malley in 2013

In 2021, there have been 16 court vacancies in 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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Roxane Prettyman (D) sworn in to Maryland House of Delegates

Roxane Prettyman (D) was sworn in to the Maryland House of Delegates to represent District 44A on Aug. 23. Governor Larry Hogan (R) appointed Prettyman on Aug. 17 to replace Keith Haynes (D).

Previously, Prettyman worked as a paralegal specialist for the U.S. Social Security Administration. She retired from that position in 2018. She also served as a member of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee.

Prettyman will serve the remainder of Haynes’ term, which was set to expire in January 2023.

So far in 2021, there have been 88 state legislative vacancies in 37 states. Three of those vacancies occurred in Maryland.

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Douglas Peters resigns from Maryland Senate on July 30

Maryland Sen. Douglas Peters (D) resigned from his position in the Maryland Senate on July 30. Peters, who represented District 23, first assumed office in 2007, and was subsequently re-elected three times. 

Peters had announced his resignation at the beginning of July, following his appointment to the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R). In a statement, Peters called it “an honor of a lifetime to serve my neighbors at the city, county, and state level,” and that he looked forward “to serving on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.”

Peters’ departure from the state Senate leaves a vacancy in his district that will be filled by appointment. The appointee will serve until the district is up for election at next year’s midterms. The state Senate’s partisan composition is 31 Democrats, 15 Republicans, and one vacancy. While both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly are under Democratic control, the governor of Maryland is Republican, preventing a Democratic trifecta.

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Maryland State Delegate Keith Haynes retires

Keith Haynes (D)—who was first elected to the state legislature in 2002—retired from the Maryland House of Delegates on July 15. Haynes most recently won re-election in 2018 after running unopposed in the primary and general elections.

“After 18 1/2 years of service, I am retiring from the Maryland House of Delegates as of July 15, 2021,” Haynes wrote in a statement to the Baltimore Sun. “I would like to thank my constituents for the opportunity to serve them.”

When a vacancy occurs in the Maryland General Assembly, the governor must appoint a replacement within 30 days after the vacancy happens. The governor selects from a list of three prospective candidates submitted by the political party that last held the vacant seat. The person appointed to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Haynes’ term was set to expire on January 10, 2023.

Maryland is one of ten states that fill state legislative vacancies through gubernatorial appointment.

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Maryland House of Delegates District 44A

State legislative vacancies, 2021

New Maryland superintendent of schools took office on July 1

Mohammed Choudhury took office as the new Maryland superintendent of schools on July 1. He replaces Karen Salmon, who stepped down at the end of her term on June 30.

The state board of education appointed Choudhury to a four-year term on May 29. “When we set out on our search for Maryland’s next superintendent, our goal was to identify and hire the highest caliber candidate to build the future of education for all Maryland children. Considering Mr. Choudhury’s outstanding transformative accomplishments, we are completely confident that we have hired the right person, one who deeply cares about children,” said Board President Clarence Crawford.

Choudhury previously served in various roles in the San Antonio and Dallas school districts. He also worked as a teacher in Los Angeles. He earned his M.Ed. from UCLA and completed graduate work at California State University in Northridge.

Salmon’s term was originally set to end on June 30, 2020, but it was extended for one year due to the pandemic.

The superintendent of schools is a statewide office responsible for overseeing and coordinating the state’s elementary and secondary schools. The position exists in all 50 states; it is elected in 12 and appointed in the remaining 38. Of those 38 states, the state board of education appoints the superintendent in 18, the governor appoints the position in 18, and the state board of regents appoints the superintendent in two.

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Maryland Superintendent of Schools

Superintendent of Schools (State Executive Office)