The 2018 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly has convened. The last three sessions have been marked by inordinate partisan attacks against Governor Hogan and the looming elections will certainly magnify the political posturing. Despite that, I believe we have some great opportunities before us and I wanted to take a few moments to talk about the efforts I will be making this session to protect our communities.
Supporting Governor Hogan’s Criminal Accountability Agenda – Governor Hogan has announced several legislative initiatives aimed at stemming violent crimes in Baltimore. Baltimore has experienced three consecutive years of more than 300 homicides and has recently broke records for most killings per capita. I fully support Governor Hogan’s crime fighting initiatives and I will do everything that I can to ensure their passage this year. The bills included in Governor Hogan’s agenda are:
- The Accountability for Violent Criminals Act of 2018 – This bill will make offenders convicted of a violent crime for a second time ineligible for parole. It will prohibit serious violent offenders from being ordered to a treatment in lieu of incarceration under Health General Article §§ 8-505 and 8-507. Finally, the bill will increase the minimum time served before parole eligibility for an individual sentenced to a life sentence.
- Crimes – Firearms – Penalties – This bill will target criminals who use firearms to commit felonies or violent crimes by requiring a sentence for using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. It will also increase the sentence for second time offenders who use a firearm to commit a felony or violent crime from five to ten years and makes the use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime a felony offense.The legislation also classifies the use of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking as a violent crime. Finally, the bill adds the use of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime and the possession of a firearm by an individual previously convicted of a drug felony as predicate crimes under the felon in possession of a firearm prohibition.
- Crimes – Gangs – Penalties – This bill will further strengthen Maryland’s anti-gang laws by altering the definition of what constitutes gang activity. The bill adds several offenses commonly used by criminal enterprises to the list of underlying crimes that trigger a violation of the gang statute. The bill clarifies existing venue provisions, strengthens penalties for threatening others with physical violence with the intent to coerce the individual to participate in the gang, and removes violations of the gang statute from the exclusive original jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
Baltimore County Public Schools Audit – I will be pushing for an audit of Baltimore County Public Schools in the Baltimore County Delegation as requested by several members of the Board of Education. For years, residents have questioned the relationships between county school officials and the companies who receive massive school contracts. Recent revelations exposed that local officials were not disclosing payments received for consulting work they were performing for the companies that received no-bid contracts from Baltimore County Public Schools. This is a clear conflict of interest that is shaking the people’s faith in our school system. The people deserve confidence in how their government spends their tax dollars and school officials should be held accountable.
Board of Education Transparency – Every authoritative body should be accountable. Currently, the Baltimore County Board of Education is not. The Board of Education is altering attendance policy, changing school boundaries and making budget decisions without any recorded vote. Nobody in Baltimore County knows how their representative is voting because there is no recorded vote. I will be sponsoring a bill to force the Board of Education to provide a recorded vote to the public every time the body takes action.
Developer Accountability – I will be sponsoring a bill to force negligent developers to obtain a surety bond before they can again participate in development in the state of Maryland. The owners of the Seagrams property perpetuated a nuisance to the detriment to the surrounding communities and at the cost of human life. A mandated surely bond will cover the cost of any remediation that may be necessary at a cost to developer, making them accountable for any problems and not taxpayers and ensuring they cannot again operate with disregard to the surrounding communities.
Crummy Contract Ejection – We have a trend in state procurement where the contract process is being exploited by businesses that are achieving a contract by bidding low and completely failing to deliver the services promised. This results in bad work, such as the shoddy grass mowing on Merritt Blvd. and Eastern Blvd. I will be sponsoring a bill that allows a challenge to these contracts and allows the Board of Public works to throw out the contract so that our tax dollars are not going to waste.
Regional Water Authority – Although our district resides within Baltimore County, we are on the Baltimore City water system and our needs are subject to Baltimore City public services. With respect, this relationship has not served us well. Baltimore City has let its infrastructure falter and its residential repair service is very poor. I will be investigating the possibility of implementing a regional water authority so that Baltimore County residents have a stake and a say in authority over our water services.
Trashy Businesses Accountability – One recurring obstacle of our revitalization efforts is local businesses that are allowing their trash to accumulate, fester and blow across the community. This promotes rat harborage, damages our ability to attract new businesses and ultimately causes more trash to end up in our streams and waterways. I will be sponsoring legislation that will empower the Department of Health suspend or even revoke the license of businesses that refuse to clean up their trash.
I will always fight to protect the communities of southeastern Baltimore County and I will do my best to keep you informed of the issues that may arise over the next 90 day session. If there is a bill or topic of interest to you, please reach out to my office as I want to hear your comments and opinions.