Amid a verbal tit-for-tat between Gov. Larry Hogan and leaders in the General Assembly and Baltimore City Hall, Hogan announced he is designating as emergency legislation the violent crime bills he introduced at the start of the legislative session.
"I don't want to hear any more excuses. There can not be any more delays. We need to stop playing politics. Pass these bills," Hogan said. "It's not like we're just trying to be disagreeable. It's not that we're just trying to start a confrontation with the legislature. We're just trying to save lives and take action."
The designation means that, if passed, the bills would take effect immediately rather than months later. It's unclear if Hogan's announcement, made during a Thursday news conference, will bring about a change in the bills' fortunes.
Sen. Will Smith, the chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, told The Baltimore Sun the bill won't pass a committee vote unless provisions on mandatory minimum sentences are stripped from the bill. Del. Luke Clippinger, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told The Sun he believes tougher enforcement would be more effective than new laws.
Hogan subsequently told the Sun that Smith ought to be removed as chairman, a remark Senate President Bill Ferguson called "totally unacceptable" in a speech in the Senate chamber.
In his news conference, Hogan again stressed the violent crime that has taken place in Baltimore since the start of the session -- 104 people shot, 39 homicides. He referenced a plea made in his State of the State address, begging lawmakers to pass his three legislative proposals. One would increase penalties for armed violent crime. Another would toughen penalties for witness intimidation. Another would direct a state commission to track and publish the sentences handed down by particular judges to violent offenders.
"I don't believe there have ever been bills on any subject that have ever had more enthusiasm and nearly unanimous support and the public is literally crying out, pleading to the legislature to take the actions," Hogan said. "But halfway through the legislative session, there's been no action. And we have legislative leaders basically saying that we're going to ignore the overwhelming will of the people and completely ignore nine out of 10 Marylanders."
Hogan reiterated points made earlier this week in an interview with C4, that dealing with violent crime should come before any other issue, including the Kirwan Commission's education proposals.
In that interview, Hogan criticized a statement made by Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young in testimony supporting the Kirwan reforms. Young called reforms "a matter of life and death." In a statement Young read at a police news conference, Young said the governor should stop mocking him and start having state agencies cooperate better with city leaders.
"The governor knows, the residents of Baltimore City know and the people of Maryland know that [the] pieces of legislation he's introduced won't magically stop violent crime from happening in Baltimore City," Young said. "I'm a little puzzled by his push now to put a focus on crime in Baltimore when I had to beg him in September to release funding that would help us fight crime in Baltimore. That doesn't sound like the actions of someone concerned with crime in Baltimore."