ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan voiced frustration over state Democratic lawmakers refusal to address emergency crime bills during a special legislative session.
After a stretch of crime across Baltimore City that included an attack on a priest, a woman killed in a church, the murder of a teenager, and a shooting spree that left two barbers dead, Hogan reintroduced two emergency bills in hopes of addressing the surge.
Yet during this week's special legislative session, the Democratic led Maryland Senate announced it would not consider the bills right now.
The Republican Caucus says they tried but failed to recruit at least one Democrat Senator to sign a petition, that would have forced the bills to be brought to the floor for consideration.
Under Senate rules, 16 signatures are required. Currently, there are only 15 elected GOP members.
“Improving public safety and keeping repeat, violent offenders off the streets of Maryland’s communities is not a partisan issue,” said Senate Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire. “Our constituents across the State are looking to us for leadership on this issue, and we are disappointed that not one of our colleagues would sign the petition to address this crisis immediately during this Special Session. Maryland cannot afford to wait.”
Hogan's proposed bills include the Judicial Transparency Act and the Violent Firearms Offender Act
The first would require the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing to track and publish information on the sentences that are handed down for violent crimes.
House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones responded saying she would be creating a work group to explore changes to judicial transparency, some of which would address Hogan's concerns.
“The high rate of murders and rapes across the State since 2015 continues to be troubling,” said Jones. “Mandatory minimum sentences have not yielded any changes in the crime rate. We need to look at other pieces of the criminal justice system to identify a more holistic solution to make our neighborhoods safer.”
The other aims to significantly toughen penalties for offenders who use and illegally possess firearms, and those illegally supplying them to criminals.
“The citizens will not be able to take back their streets and their communities without city leaders and legislators doing the jobs they were elected to do,” said Hogan.
Lawmakers did however override some of Hogan's vetoes from this past legislative session.
They include the Dignity Not Detention Act, which bans Maryland counties from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement by detaining people in their local jails and asking about immigration status during traffic stops.
The legislature also officially removed Hogan from the parole process for people serving potential life sentences.
Then there is the battle over congressional maps and redistricting.
Hogan accused Democrats of egregious gerrymandering.
On Wednesday the Senate voted 32-15 to pass the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee Congressional map, over the one a panel assembled by Hogan recommended.
“The congressional map drawn in back rooms by party bosses in Annapolis makes a mockery of our democracy, and it is an embarrassment to all that our state stands for,” said Hogan.
He vetoed the map on Thursday, and vowed legal action if it gets overridden Friday as expected.
“On behalf of all the people of Maryland who value fairness and integrity in our elections and in our political system, I am vetoing these disgracefully gerrymandered, illegal maps, which are a shameful violation of state and federal law.”