Dear MSBA Member:
Ed Koch, former New York City Mayor, once said, “We are in the hands of the State Legislature and God, but, at the moment, the Legislature has more to say.”
Humor aside, the season is upon us. The Maryland legislative session begins on January 8, 2014, and one of the most important things the MSBA does is participate in the making of Maryland’s laws. Our Committee on Laws will review hundreds of bills and recommend to the Board of Governors where the MSBA should be. Our Sections will provide substantive expertise to Maryland’s elected officials, offer testimony, and help draft bills. With the guidance of our Director of Legislative Relations, Richard Montgomery, the MSBA will play an important role in Annapolis.
Last year’s session was important for several of our core issues, pro bono being one of them. We helped secure passage of several bills that will stabilize pro bono funding for a number of years. Not only did we assist in increasing the annual appropriation from the State Abandoned Property Fund for the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, we also partnered with several Maryland pro bono organizations to extend the sunset on Court filing fees, which supplement IOLTA pro bono funding.
Of course, advocating for our Judiciary is also an integral part of what the MSBA does. Last year we helped secure additional Circuit Court judgeships in five jurisdictions and District Court judgeships in four jurisdictions.
This year, being an election year, initially looked like it would be a quiet session. Early indicators suggest otherwise. The first new order of business in Annapolis will be to find funding for the constitutional right to bail hearings as pronounced by the Court of Appeals in DeWolfe v. Richmond. Compounding that problem are updated state financial projections which point to a significant deficit in the 2014 budget.
Other likely hot issues include pit bull/dangerous dog legislation, another round of comparative negligence bills in light of the Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia case, and a rumored amendment to the Maryland cap on noneconomic damages.
If you and your clients want to know where the MSBA stands on issues check the MSBA Legislative Program, found at www.msba.org. If you have a question or need help with a bill contact Richard Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a voice in Annapolis.
Michael J. Baxter