Democratic State Sen. Bobby Zirkin outlined some of the issues he expects to be debated in the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session on Dec. 12 when he addressed members of the Baltimore Jewish Council.
Laws regarding abuse and violence were highlighted, including those regarding pit bulls (and who would be held responsible for pit bull attacks) and cyber bullying.
With regard to reporting child abuse, which is mandatory, Maryland still has not resolved how to reprimand people who take a step back when they know of abuse. Currently, failure to report child abuse is a civil offense, punishable only in the teaching and nursing professions.
In other abuse-related laws, Zirkin reported that Maryland is one of few states that needs “clear and convincing evidence” in order to secure a protective order in a domestic violence case. He said there are too many cases of women not getting protective orders when they clearly should have been granted them.
He also spoke about fracking, hydraulic fracturing of rock by a pressurized liquid, a process performed on wells to assist in the extraction of natural resources.
“I believe this is a big-ticket environmental issue, and we should ban it in Maryland,” said Zirkin. “I’m hoping the Senate will pass an out-and-out ban.” He doesn’t trust lobbyists on the issue and doesn’t believe that any type of fracking is ultimately safe for the environment.
An issue sure to come up, he said, is how the state can comply with a court ruling that defendants have a right to counsel at bail hearings. The state’s public defender’s office says it could cost $28 million annually to comply, and Zirkin said the state is going to have to find creative solutions to offset that cost.
He discussed the need for the state to address the minimum wage question, as well as marijuana decriminalization. Zirkin sponsored a marijuana decriminalization bill that passed the Senate last year but did not make it out of the House.
Zirkin is approaching his eighth year at a state senator and 16th in the general assembly.