ANNAPOLIS — A day before the Maryland General Assembly convenes, state lawmakers pushed their agendas Tuesday in the state capitol.
Gov. Larry Hogan held a press conference inside the State House to announce plans to introduce legislation based on accountability, specifically toward corruption of public officials, battling crime and boosting education.
One piece of legislation Hogan proposes to present during the 90-day session would increase fines for public officials accused of bribery by 1,000 percent. In addition, the bill called the Ethics and Accountability in Government Act would empower the state’s Ethics Commission to assess penalties against officials rather than seek it through the courts.
“What I believe the overall theme of this legislative session should be about is increasing accountability,” he said. “When I first ran for governor, I promised to restore Maryland’s economy and put Marylanders back to work, but I also said I would try to change politics as usual in Annapolis.”
About an hour after Hogan’s press conference and a mile away, the state’s Democratic Party held its annual legislation luncheon at the Westin Hotel.
Democrats also support accountability, especially when two former state delegates got federal charges for wire fraud within three months.
One bill will be introduced to not allow a family member to work as a campaign treasurer. The legislation was spurred by Anitra Edmonds, 43, of New Carrollton, pleading guilty in November to wire fraud. According to court documents, Edmonds spent more than $35,000 in contributions for fast food, hair styling and other personal uses.
Edmonds is the daughter of former Del. Tawanna P. Gaines, 67, who was sentenced Friday to six months in federal prison for spending nearly $23,000 in campaign contributions on personal items.
Del. Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) of Glenarden, who also chairs the House Democratic Caucus, will sponsor the bill.
After a reporter informed Lewis that Hogan’s proposed accountability act would strip convicted lawmakers of taxpayer-funded pensions, Lewis said such stipulations are already written into state law.
According to a 2010 resolution, pensions can be taken from state lawmakers convicted of any felony or a misdemeanor related to one’s duties.
“We would like if [Hogan] would communicate to us directly as opposed to press conferences,” he said. “What he is suggesting is already a law. We would love to talk more with him about it.”