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.  To help achieve this effort, we are asking all supporters to actively advocate for these bills.

The Maryland General Assembly opened on January 9, 2019 and there are a lot of new members and a lot of new committee assignments.  There are 13 (out of 22) new members on the House Judiciary Committee and 5 (out of 11) new members on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Almost all of our bills are assigned to these two committees.

So far, the response has been good to our primary bill, Protective Order Relief Eligibility which would change the definition of “person eligible for relief” in a protective order to include anyone who alleges s/he is a victim of a rape or sexual offense, clarifying that they are eligible to receive a protective order rather than a peace order.

Listed below is a short summary of the bills that we are tracking and supporting (or opposing) at this time. Please feel free to contact Dorothy Lennig at dlennig@hruthmd.org, if you have any questions.

To learn who your elected officials in Maryland are, go to www.mdelect.net.

HB 122/SB 209 Protective Orders- Relief Eligibility – Rape and Sexual Offenses – This bill would change the definition of “person eligible for relief” in a protective order (PO) to include anyone who alleges s/he is a victim of a rape or sexual offense, clarifying that they are eligible to receive a protective order rather than a peace order.

For many years, domestic violence and sexual assault advocates worked to have the PO cover victims who were in dating relationships and victims of sexual assault. One of our first attempts to add this resulted in the creation of the peace order. While the PO covered these acts, many victims were not eligible for a PO because of their relationship to the abuser. In 2015, the law changed to include victims on sexual relationships. Since then there have been a number of judges who believe victims of date rape do not qualify for a PO because the parties were not in a “relationship.” By clarifying that this group of victims is eligible for a PO, it provides them with the special protections of a protective order that are not included in peace orders, e.g. longer order, removal of firearms, more robust response by law enforcement. The Family Law Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee will consider the bill again on February 12.  Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 6.

HB 121/SB 130 – Criminal Procedure – Charge by Citation – Violation of Condition of Release – This bill makes a small correction to a bill we supported last year to allow the arrest of a defendant who violates a pretrial order to have no contact with the victim.  Unfortunately, we did not change the corresponding section of Criminal Procedure 4-101 which defines when law enforcement shall charge by citation.  Unless we amend the citation section of the code, violating the conditions of a pretrial no contact order would result in law enforcement issuing a citation to the defendant rather than making an arrest, defeating the purpose of the changes we made last year.  Favorable vote by the House Judiciary Committee.  The vote was 20 in favor, 0 against, and 1 excused.  Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee January 31.

HB 181/SB 103 – Criminal Law – Electronic Harassment and Bullying (Grace’s Law 2.0)– This bill alters prohibited actions relating to electronic harassment of minors.  While it is not a domestic violence bill, we have worked to strengthen Maryland’s electronic harassment and stalking statutes and believe this bill moves the law in the right direction.  In our work at House of Ruth we see the impact of electronic harassment on adults and can only imagine how these behaviors are amplified for minors.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 7.  Passed in the Senate on a vote of 45 – 0.

HB 253 – Protective Orders- Relief – Transfer of Wireless Telephone Service – This bill would allow the court in a protective order hearing to order a wireless telephone service provider to transfer to the person eligible for relief the billing responsibility for and the right to continue use of any telephone number used by the person eligible for relief or a minor child in the person’s custody without having to pay a fee for the transfer.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 7.

HB 363/SB 241 – Evidence – Testimony by Spouse – Violation of Protective Order – This bill would allow a spouse to be compelled to testify in a criminal case for the violation of a protective order.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 21.  Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 12.

HB 665/SB 811- Criminal Procedure –Family Law Services for Sustained Safety Fund – This bill would create a new pool of dollars (from VOCA and the general fund) used specifically to fund representation in domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse family law cases.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 28.  Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 22.

FAMILY LAW BILLS
>This bill would amend current divorce law to allow the court to grant a limited or absolute divorce if the parties are not engaged in sexual relations instead of requiring them to have lived separate and apart from each other. Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 14.

HB 281 – Crimes – Adultery – Repeal– This bill would repeal the crime of adultery.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 7.

HB 279 – Child Support – Multifamily Adjustment and Deviation From Guidelines – This bill would alter the definition of “adjusted actual income” under the State child support guidelines; provides for the calculation of a certain allowance required to be deducted from adjusted actual income under the child support guidelines; and requires that the amount of a certain allowance be subtracted from a parent’s actual income before the court determines the amount of a child support award.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 14.

SB 264 – General Provisions – Age of Majority – Right to Parental Support and Maintenance – This bill would give students between 18 and 21 the right to receive support and maintenance from both of the individual’s parents.  Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 13.

OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST

HB 640/SB 555 – Peace Order – Workplace Violence – This bill would allow an employer to get a peace order for an act of abuse that occurred at the workplace against an employee so long as the employee does not have the kind of relationship with the abuser that would allow her/him to get a protective order.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on February 28.  Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 28.

SB 567 – Workgroup to Study Child Custody Court Decisions Involving Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Allegations – This bill would create a workgroup to (1) study State child custody court decisions involving child abuse or domestic violence allegations; (2) study available science pertaining to children in traumatic situations, including trauma–informed decision making; and (3) make recommendations about how State courts could incorporate the latest science in making legal determinations regarding the safety and well–being of children.  Hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 6.

HB 850 – Peace Orders and Protective Orders – Coercive Control – This bill defines “coercive control” and adds it to the definition of abuse in the protective order and peace order statutes.  Hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on March 7.