The Senate chamber in the Maryland State House in Annapolis.

(The Center Square) – Maryland lawmakers return to Annapolis for the 2022 legislative session Monday and have a host of pre-filed bills to review.

The session officially opens Jan. 12 and among the bills the House and Senate will discuss pertain to cannabis legalization, workers' compensation for front-line workers with COVID-19, election finance issues and unemployment compensation fraud.

Senate Bill 10 would provide workers' compensation rights to first responders, public safety employees and health care workers. Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 would be eligible for benefits retroactive to March 1, 2020, the beginning of the pandemic.

The bill has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee, and is an emergency bill that would go into effect upon enactment. The bill would establish COVID-19 as an occupation disease that is compensable under workers' compensation insurance if the worker contracts coronavirus while performing duties in an assigned area or primary workspace that is not the person’s home.

House Bill 4 would permit the secretary of labor to investigate claims of unemployment fraud if unemployment funds were distributed to a person who was not eligible or submitted a false claim. The bill would allow the secretary to recover excess unemployment funds that were paid out but the claimant was not eligible to receive.

The bill also would provide monetary penalties on all benefits that were paid out that a claimant was not eligible to receive, including interest payments.

Senate Bill 15 would address campaign finance under election law. The bill would alter the statute of limitations for certain prosecutions to violations of the state’s election laws. The bill would impose restrictions on candidacies, political committee positions and elected officers if civil penalties have not been paid.

The statute of limitations, according to the bill, would be set at four years from the date of the offense for a misdemeanor and would impose a civil fine for an offense taking place within three years of its finding.

The bill also would determine individuals can’t become a candidate for any public or party office or treasurer of a campaign finance entity for failure to file or pay a late filing fee in the previous five years.

House Bill 1 would provide for the legalization of cannabis to state residents age 21 and older. The bill would mandate a ballot question pertaining to the use of cannabis on the General Election ballot.

The bill would go into effect if a three-fifths majority vote is reached in both chambers. Under the bill, on, or after, July 1, 2023, any individual living in the state age 21 and older legally would be permitted to possess and use cannabis.

The General Assembly, the bill reads, would provide further detail on the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation related to the legalization of cannabis.

Associate Editor

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.