ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland General Assembly will end its 90-day session at midnight Monday, but it may take lawmakers until the last day to agree on police reform legislation.
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson said Monday, April 5 there remain “marginal differences” between his chamber and the House of Delegates.
“I think both chambers are committed to totally getting this right,” he said. “We will be moving in short order to make sure it gets done as soon as possible to get to the governor to sign.”
Police reform became one of the top priorities in the General Assembly after Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced the formation of work groups last year to work on proposed legislation.
Lawmakers approved police reform measures last month but organized differently. The Senate approved nine separate pieces of legislation white the House approved one large bill. When they crossed over to the other chambers for review, lawmakers approved altered versions last week.
The House consolidated the Senate’s nine bills into four and the Senate approved the House version Thursday, April 1 sponsored by Jones but with amendments.
Less than 24 hours after the Senate vote, the House rejected the amendments Friday, April 2 and appointed three members, Delegates Luke Clippinger, Vanessa Atterbeary and David Moon, to serve on a conference committee to work out differences and approve a final from of the bill in both chambers. House Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel County) will serve as an adviser.
For some lawmakers, the topic has become a bit heated and personal.
Atterbeary, a Democrat from Howard County who serves as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, posted a few remarks on Twitter on Saturday, April 3.
“Again. For the people in the back. Either you WANT #PoliceReform & #PoliceAccountability or you don’t. Refusing to participate in a conference committee on the most sweeping piece of police reform legislation the [Maryland General Assembly” is a sign that you don’t … you just want what you want.”
Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City), who has worked on police reform legislation for several years, posted a response Saturday on Twitter.
“For the people in the back and those treating police reform as the new sexy. [The Senate] worked in good faith … plus many late nights fixing the only House bill. We acted in good faith. We ask for fair dealing and professionalism.”
The Senate voted 32-15 to approve the House version which includes the repeal of the controversial Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights statute, new officers completing implicit bias training and annual mental health evaluations.
Several amendments are attached such as one from Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County) that would allow a police officer to appear with a representative before an administrative charging committee “to make a statement in defense of the police officer’s conduct.”
One of the bills delegates overwhelmingly approved Friday deals with the city of Baltimore to regain control of the police department that currently sits as a state agency. Besides the governor’s signature, the goal would be to offer a charter amendment for voter approval either in 2022 or 2024.
Two other bills up for final approval in the House: allow certain misconduct records to become open by restructuring the state’s Public Information Act and require independent investigations through the state attorney general’s office when a police officer allegedly kills someone.
The House granted preliminary approval in regard to the use of body cameras and mental health programs and a statewide use-of-force statute.