You may have heard that it’s Cross-Over time in the Maryland General Assembly. This is when bills that originated in one chamber, pass that chamber and now it’s the other chamber’s obligation to consider passing them. Bills that started in the Senate retain the SB label even though they have crossed over and are now in the House. The same is true of bills that were passed by the House -they retain the HB prefix, even though they are being discussed by a Senate Committee.
Four of the bills that the League of Women Voters of Maryland and the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA) support have passed in the Senate with amendments. Now, it’s time for the House to hold hearings and vote on these bills. They were assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on March 25th
The League submitted testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on SB 627 Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) - Repeal and Replace, SB 626 Use of Force and SB 178 Anton’s Law. We support SB 627 but asked that it be amended to remove the weakening changes made to this bill as originally submitted by the Senate sponsor. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee had removed citizen oversight of police conduct. We asked that SB 627 LEOBR Repeal be amended by the House Committee to allow communities to create real independent external community oversight boards with actual investigatory, subpoena and discipline powers. We also asked the House committee to remove the weakening amendments added to SB 626 Use of Force by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and instead include the use of force language that the House Judiciary committee included in HB 670 Police Reform Accountability Act. We supported SB 178 as passed by the Senate.
The fourth bill that was sent to the House by the Senate, SB 786 Control of the Police Department of Baltimore City passed out of the Senate with a unanimous vote on the Senate Floor. The fifth reform to policing that the League was supporting is to eliminate the $10 million annual subsidy that the state provides school districts to hire armed uniformed police officers to work in schools. The two House bills the we testified in support of were HB 1089 and HB 486. Neither bill received a vote in committee. There was no cross-filed bill in the Senate. Advocates plan to continue to educate legislators about this issue during the interim and come back with legislation and more data next session.
On the House side, most of the reforms we supported were incorporated in to an omnibus bill HB 670 - Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021 that was submitted by Speaker of the House, Adriane Jones. There were many good proposals in this legislation, but it fell short in some of the key areas of reform that the League and MCJPA are supporting. We signed on to a letter asking for amendments to strengthen the reforms. The section on Use of Force was amended to be a much better definition of what kind of force is allowable under what circumstances. HB 670 passed on the House floor 96 yays to 40 nays. That bill will now be heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
It is likely that different versions of final bills will come out of each chamber. If this happens, the bills will be assigned to a conference committee that will propose a combined bill for passage.