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Blogs | March, 16 2023

Advocacy in Annapolis Highlights from the 2022 Legislative Session

MSBA Legislative Wrap-Up 2022

As the state’s leading voice for the legal profession, MSBA engages in public advocacy through a variety of channels at all levels of government, including filing amicus curiae briefs, meeting with executive branch officials, connecting with the Judiciary, testifying before state legislative committees, and drafting legislation. MSBA engages more than 42,000 Maryland attorneys and legal professionals in state legislative advocacy through the integrated efforts of practice-specific sections, the Laws Committee, member-wide action campaigns, and important partners such as the Access to Justice Commission (A2JC), Attorney General, Judiciary, and former Senator Bobby Zirkin (who recently joined MSBA’s advocacy team).

This year, the Maryland General Assembly concluded another stand-out session due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. MSBA advocated in Annapolis on a broad spectrum of issues affecting the legal profession and impacting access to justice for Marylanders. The association reviewed over 2,000 bills and referred relevant bills to the MSBA Laws Committee and specific MSBA sections for discussion and further action on a weekly basis. At the height of session, MSBA referred nearly 950 bills in one week to relevant sections.

A critical success this session included securing over $25 million in additional funds to support access to counsel in evictions. Since the start of the pandemic, MSBA, working with A2JC, has secured over $40 million in civil legal aid funding to support these programs, both through the General Assembly and the Governor’s office. MSBA also provided advice, testimony, and bill language on several issues impacting the profession, ranging from corporation law revisions, criminal justice, immigration, cameras in the courtroom, family law, and estate document execution.

Practice-Specific Advocacy Efforts and Successes

MSBA also successfully drafted and secured passage of several bills that impact specific practice areas. While MSBA cannot recognize all efforts here, we appreciate and thank the dedicated team of legislative liaisons for each section, as well as the section councils and many individual members who convened frequently, prepared bill language, and provided testimony at a rapid pace to meet the demands of the session.

Animal Law

The section was instrumental in supporting and securing passage of several animal rights initiatives this session, including:

HB 16/SB 44: Provides civil penalties for anyone leaving a dog outside and unattended for substantial periods of time without access to shelter during extreme weather.

HB 52/SB 381: Prohibits sale of parts from several endangered species of wildlife.

Business Law

The section successfully drafted and secured passage of three important bills impacting corporations and businesses around the state:

HB 342/SB 261: Authorizes an LLC to provide for the transfer or assignment of an interest irrespective of membership. Authorizes an LLC member to retain a non-economic interest under certain circumstances.

HB 996/SB 879: Establishes a process for ratification of defective corporate acts, requires specific filing procedures for corporations ratifying a defective corporate act, authorizes a person or entity to file an action contesting ratification, and applies the Act to real estate investment trusts.

HB 999/SB 431: Revises and clarifies laws related to the formation, organization, and operation of corporations.

 Estates and Trusts Law

The section developed legislation that allowed for the continuation of remote and electronic notarization of documents in a manner consistent with emergency provisions enacted during the pandemic. These bills significantly modernize the execution methods of estate planning documents in the long term, allowing Maryland attorneys to safely and quickly serve clients.

HB 576/SB 36: Modernizes execution methods for estate planning documents by allowing execution of remote wills without notary, and authorizes a notary for remote estates and trust work under certain conditions.

HB 663/SB 317: Removes the exclusion of wills and trusts from being electronically notarized; correct a conflict in RULONA to remove burdensome identify proofing and credential analysis by notary; permits the use of remote ink notarizations; and authorizes increased fee for notarial acts.

Advocacy Is a Year-Round Effort

MSBA looks forward to continuing collective advocacy efforts with our members and sections as we prepare for the 2023 session. Advocacy is not simply reserved for a few individual practice areas or highly motivated practitioners, as evidenced by the variety of issues noted above that intersect many areas of the law. No matter your area of expertise, MSBA remains committed to advocate on your behalf on issues that impact your practice. The ability to make a difference in Annapolis and around the state is just one of the many reasons we need all legal professionals to belong to the MSBA, to ensure we remain a strong and vibrant association.