At the first signing ceremony of his last year in office, Gov. Martin O’Malley got a start signing some of the hundreds of bills passed by the General Assembly on Tuesday.
O’Malley took a moment to thank Senate President Mike Miller and Speaker of the House Mike Busch. He praised them for uniting their respective chambers through the fiscal challenges and landmark legislation of the last eight years.
“Time and again when confronting the challenges of our day about the question of human dignity these men have brought their bodies together,” he said.
Then he got to signing. First up on the docket of 109 bills was the Pre-Kindergarten Expansion Act of 2014 – a bill championed by his administration that puts $4.3 million dollars toward expanding access to pre-k programs for kids from low-income families.
The bill’s supporters crowded behind the governor, the Speaker and the Senate President. Photos were snapped, the bill signed, the pens given away, and it was on to the next.
It went on like this for hours, with hundreds lined up outside the governor’s second floor reception room, waiting to see their bills signed into law.
Also on the docket Tuesday is a bill that settles a long-simmering dispute in Annapolis sparked by an appeals court ruling that made pit bulls automatically liable for damages if their dog attacks. After a deal to make a better dog bite law died at the last minutes of the session last year, lawmakers this year passed a compromise that is breed neutral.
The new law says that if a dog bites someone, his owner is presumed to be aware that the dog is dangerous, but gives the dog owner a chance to refute that assumption with evidence they should not have known the dog was dangerous. Critics have called this the “one free bite” rule.
The bill also relieves landlords of responsibility if a dog owned by their tenants attacks.
The governor has until May 27 to finish signing this session’s bills into law.