ANNAPOLIS – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan gave his sixth State of the State address Wednesday, outlining his goals to end partisan politics, improve education and help retirees pay less taxes.
But one of Hogan’s major points during his 25-minute speech was eliminating crime in Baltimore City, which he called “an urgent crisis.”
“I’m a big believer in the power of prayer — we do need prayers, but prayers are not enough,” he said to state lawmakers in the House chamber. “We are also going to need you to take action to get these shooters off our streets.”
Hogan mentioned one a key piece of legislation he hopes the majority Democratic-legislature will pass, Violent Firearm Offenders Act of 2020, which seeks to increase penalties against those who repeatedly have been charged for illegally carrying firearms, transfer guns for those “they know intend to use them in a crime,” and who steal, possess or engage in straw purchasing of firearms.
Hogan allocated a proposed $21 million in additional funding for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office to pay for 25 new prosecutors and support staff for the state attorney general’s office to prosecute violent crimes.
To accentuate Wednesday’s message, Hogan invited Maryland Hall of Fame boxer Marvin McDowell, who Hogan visited last month at his UMAR Boxing gym in West Baltimore.
“Marvin is fighting every day to save young people and the city that he loves,” Hogan said. “If we could all start from a place of hope and optimism…then we can bring about change in Baltimore City, and we will continue to change Maryland for the better.”
Some Democratic lawmakers all support Baltimore City’s improvement, but not singling it out as the only jurisdiction where crime occurs.
Del. Nick Mosby (D-Baltimore City) said more vocational training programs in the high schools and eradicating lead paint poisoning in some dwellings in the city are just two examples to decrease crime in the city.
“We’re the heartbeat of the state, I get that, but this new tough on crime approach is something this governor has done for every single year in every State of the State [address],” said Mosby, who’s running for City Council president. “We need to focus on why crimes take places. Until we’re seriously doubling down on [evidence-based solutions], everything else is just talk.”
Several dignitaries attended the annual State of the State address, including former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who said Hogan isn’t picking on Baltimore City.
According to the Baltimore Sun homicide database, about 348 homicides were reported last year in the Baltimore. So far, about 28 have occurred.
“Acknowledging that there’s a problem is not picking on someone,” Steele said. “If you have the attitude that the governor is picking on us, you’re not going to see pass that. I think the governor really wants to work with the leadership of Baltimore and that leadership is in transition. To put the best and right foot forward is a very, serious gun and crime problem in the city.”
Hogan used points in his speech to continue partisanship not seen on Capitol Hill in neighboring D.C.
He praised the late House Speaker Michael Busch and longtime Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. who served as Senate leader since 1987 before Sen. Bill Ferguson was officially chosen last month.
Hogan also became the first governor to celebrate House Speaker Adrienne Jones’ breakthrough as the first Black and first woman ever chosen as the chamber leader.
“It is my distinct privilege to be the first Maryland governor to begin a State of the State address by saying, ‘Madam Speaker,’” he said to roaring applause from the chamber.
However, several Democrats said Hogan didn’t make one statement in regard to the state’s four historically Black college and universities. Plaintiffs and the state continue to fight in a more than a decade-old lawsuit in which Hogan offered a settlement of $200 million, but the other agreed-upon amount stood at $577 million.
Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro will sponsor legislation to help put an end to the suit.
“[Hogan] mentioned how important K-12 education was, but left out of the equation in funding our HBCUs [and] putting money in for the lawsuit,” said Barnes, who chairs the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. “That was something I felt [was] disheartening. That’s why the legislatures are doing what we can to take matters in our hands to introduce a bill to appropriate the $577 million the plaintiffs have said that would satisfy them to settle the lawsuit.”