Governor Martin O'Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, joined by Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown, today signed key legislation that advances the State's commitment to keeping families safe and promotes strategies that work. Bills signed today include death penalty repeal, Grace's Law to prevent cyberbullying, the Maryland Health Progress Act of 2013, and legislation that improves Marylanders' access to voting.
"Thanks to the hard work of Senate President Miller, House Speaker Busch and the men and women of the Maryland General Assembly, together, we continue make progress to keep our families safe and healthy while doing the things that work to create jobs, expand opportunity, drive down crime and protect the dignity of every individual," said Governor O'Malley. "The legislation we sign today will move our State forward toward a better, safer and healthier future."
"For decades, Maryland has been ahead of the curve in expanding healthcare coverage in a fair and equitable way," said Speaker Michael E. Busch. "With today's signing of the Health Progress Act legislation, Marylanders take another step forward to ensuring affordable, quality healthcare access for everyone in our community."
This session, Maryland became the 18th state to repeal the death penalty, preserving the option of life without parole for the most serious offenders. With the legislation signed today, Maryland has effectively eliminated a policy that is proven not to work. Evidence shows that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it cannot be administered without racial bias, and it costs three times as much as life in prison without parole. Furthermore, there is no way to reverse a mistake if an innocent person is put to death. Working together with law enforcement partners, Maryland has driven down violent crime and homicides to three decade lows. The Administration will continue to move forward with the things that work to save lives -- more effective policing, better technology, information sharing and coordination, and smarter strategies to reduce crime.
The Governor, Senate President and House Speaker today also signed Grace's Law, sponsored by Senator Allan Kittleman and Delegate Jon Cardin, to make cyberbullying a criminal offense. The law was named in honor of Grace McComas, a Howard County teenager who committed suicide last year following several bullying incidents committed through social media. The O'Malley-Brown Administration supported this landmark legislation and with First Lady Katie O'Malley leading the way, has made a commitment to prevent bullying in Maryland schools and communities.
The Governor and presiding officers also signed legislation improving access to voting in the state. Maryland first allowed early voting during the 2010 primary elections. In November 2012, more than 16 percent of registered voters in Maryland cast their ballots during the early voting period, and some polling places -- particularly in larger jurisdictions -- witnessed lines that were hours long.
The legislation signed into law today successfully expands the early voting process in Maryland by adding early voting sites, extending hours and allowing more citizens to have access to absentee ballots. Early voting will be extended by two days and two hours for presidential elections and by two days for every other election. The bill also allows same-day voter registration during the early voting period so voters will be able to register and vote at the same time -- increasing voter turnout and benefiting voters who may miss the voter registration deadline, and makes it easier and faster for voters to apply for and receive absentee ballots using a secure online application process.
Championed by Lt. Governor Brown, the Administration's Maryland Health Progress Act of 2013, which enables the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to become fully operational in January and expands Medicaid eligibility to more Marylanders. In the past six years, the Administration has expanded health care coverage to over 375,000 previously uninsured Marylanders, nearly half of them children. This law will help us move closer to the goal to increase that number to 400,000 by end of 2013.
"We have a responsibility to do everything in our power to hold violent criminals accountable, but the facts prove that the death penalty is racially biased, demonstrably unreliable, and an ineffective deterrent to crime," said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. "In Maryland, justice will be appropriately severe for horrible crimes while we still remain committed to fairness and equality within our criminal justice system."