A former member of Maryland’s Handgun Permit Review Board was physically removed from a General Assembly hearing Friday in Annapolis after she refused requests to wrap up her testimony when her time at the witness table was up.
Shari Judah, of Silver Spring, Maryland, was testifying against the bill that would eliminate the handgun review board, when a buzzer went off, signifying her one minute of testimony time was up.
Instead of stopping, Judah raised her voice and continued to read from her statement.
State Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County Democrat, who was in charge of the hearing, asked her to wrap up her thoughts, and after the second time, a state trooper approached Judah at the witness table, taking her by the arm.
When Judah continued reading from her statement in a loud voice, the female trooper pulled Judah from her seat.
Judah shouted, “You’re a disgrace! You’re a disgrace! You give people one minute and you show up late” as she was escorted up the aisle and out of the hearing room.
Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley issued a statement, explaining that troopers assigned to legislative committee hearing rooms “are responsible for security and for maintaining order, decorum and the free flow of testimony.”
Referring to Judah’s refusal to comply with the time limit, Shipley wrote, “Her actions made it obvious she had no intention of stopping or complying with the requests of the chairperson.”
Shipley added that it was the second time during this legislative session that someone was “escorted from a hearing room in this way.”
Referring to watching someone being physically removed from a hearing, Sen. Ed Reilly, a Republican from Anne Arundel County, said, “In 10 years, I’ve never seen this happen … it’s happened twice in one week!”
Reilly said the other instance was during a hearing before a finance committee, when a witness who had traveled from California to testify failed to comply with the one-minute time limit.
“The presider of the meeting told him to stop, and sure enough, the trooper came by, pulled out his chair and escorted him out of the building,” Reilly said.
He understands why the one-minute time limit may not seem reasonable to witnesses, Reilly added. “It’s frustrating for citizens when think that they are preparing for a grand presentation of five or 10 minutes” only to get one, he said.
But, the time limits become critical as lawmakers make their way through hundreds of bills during the legislative session.
“We had a bill two weeks ago — 205 people signed up to speak. If it’s just one minute, that’s three hours for just one of the 10 bills for the day,” Reilly said.
In some states, citizens don’t get a chance to testify unless requested by lawmakers.
“We want people to participate,” Reilly said. “But there has to be reasonable limits, and when you have 200-plus people to speak, you have to restrict it in some manner.”