ANNAPOLIS — With less than three weeks left in the Maryland General Assembly session, Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday pleaded for lawmakers to pass a crime bill he says will put violent re-offenders behind bars.
Hogan, while announcing $45 million in initiatives for crime-fighting efforts during a press briefing in Annapolis, said the funding would specifically help Baltimore City, noting the 143 people shot and 64 people killed in the state’s largest municipality since the legislative session began Jan. 12.
“These are critical investments of funding and manpower to assist Baltimore City law enforcement and we will continue to take actions at the state level any way we can,” he said.
The Republican governor plans to request the money for the city’s police department, prosecutor’s office and warrant operations as part of a supplemental budget proposal to the Democrat-controlled legislature.
However, lawmakers have drafted bills to direct money toward education, mental health resources and education.
A major bill passed in the Senate on Monday would prohibit a police officer from interrogating youth unless consulted with an attorney.
One of the main reasons for lawmakers not pushing mandatory sentences: most of the people imprisoned are Black men.
But the governor directed his ire at Democratic lawmakers for refusing to fund and pass one of his main legislative priorities against repeat violent offenders and stressed “enough is enough” and “no more far-left woke politics.”
“Saying you want to improve policing by taking away all the money is like saying you want to improve our schools and defunding education,” Hogan said. “The most important emergency crime bill remains unfinished.”
When asked about other legislation such as paid family and medical leave, one of the main priorities noted by Democratic leadership, Hogan said the crime bill and eliminating state retirement taxes are the two key bills he’s prioritizing until the last day of the legislative session on April 11.
“There are 2,000 other bills. I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen between the House and Senate, what the wording of the bills are and which ones they may actually pass that sit at my desk,” he said. “That’s when we start reviewing them and deciding which ones we’re going to sign into law and which ones we’ll veto. I don’t know the latest status of what that bill is.”
Paid family leave
The status of paid family and medical leave remains uncertain with the House and Senate approving distinct bills.
The Senate version includes offering employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave, but a person must work at least 680 hours over a 12-month period. A worker would contribute to a fund that provides long-term care such as postpartum care and helping an ailing family member.
The legislation labeled Senate Bill 275 also incorporates an actuarial study, or a financial analysis. Contributions wouldn’t begin until January and employees wouldn’t begin to receive claims starting in January 2025.
Although House legislators agree with the concept, they approved to form a commission to analyze how other states established their programs, appropriate eligibility a person would qualify for benefits and how they are financially sustained. A report would be presented to the governor and General Assembly by Dec. 1.
The House Economic Matters Committee held a nearly 90-minute public hearing Thursday to review the Senate version.
Del. Lily Qi (D-Montgomery County) asked why the Senate approved for employees to contribute 75% toward a paid leave fund and employers at 25%, versus a 50-50 split.
Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City), lead sponsor of the bill, said the smaller percentage seeks to help small business owners.
The Senate Finance Committee will discuss the House bill on Tuesday now sponsored by Del. Kris Valderrama (D-District 26) of Fort Washington.
Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles County), who chairs the economic matters committee, led efforts to amend the previous House version so an updated assessment to create a medical leave insurance program would align with today’s inflation, rising gas prices and the coronavirus pandemic.
Myles Hicks, campaign manager for the Time to Care Coalition, said he remains optimistic lawmakers can find a compromise to pass legislation this year.
“We believe this is not a year to go and study paid family and medical leave again,” he said. “There is some study aspect that is included in Senate Bill 275. There are places where both bills can work in harmony.”