Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tore into state lawmakers on Thursday, saying they had failed to move on his package of crime bills.
Hogan said he is re-designating the administration’s legislative package on violent crime as emergency bills. If the bills pass, they could go into effect immediately.
Frustrated by the lack of progress, Hogan said at a news conference that he told state Sen. Will Smith, chair of the Judiciary Proceedings Committee, “You shouldn’t be the chairman of the committee if you’re not going to address this issue.”
Hogan’s bills call for tougher penalties on repeat violent offenders, cracking down on witness intimidation and tracking sentences handed down by judges.
Smith said that the pieces of the crime package on witness intimidation and judicial transparency are getting consideration by lawmakers, but there was one bill he wouldn’t consider.
“The one bill I’m definitely not letting out of this committee is the bill that has several new mandatory minimums,” Smith said, referring to Hogan’s bill on repeat violent offenders. “We have 40 years of recent history that shows that draconian mandatory minimums don’t make us safer.”
If Hogan could “show us a single speck of data” that demonstrates how mandatory minimums reduce violent crime, Smith said, he would welcome it.
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson said from the Senate floor that Hogan’s comments “went over the line” and “were totally inappropriate.”
“That’s what a good Senate president should do,” Hogan said of Ferguson’s defense of Smith, but he rejected the idea that he crossed a line. “I don’t think my comments were inappropriate at all.”
The governor cited violent crime in Baltimore City to make the case for his approach.
Noting that the legislative session is nearly half-over, Hogan said, “Since this legislation started, 104 more people have been shot, and 39 people have been killed on the streets of Baltimore.”
Hogan criticized lawmakers for focusing on education reform while some polls show crime is at the top of concerns for Marylanders.
Noting that Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young had called passing education reform a “life-or-death issue,” Hogan countered with, “That is not a crisis, and it is not a matter of life and death. The actual — and the only — life-and-death crisis is the people being shot and killed every single day on the streets of our largest city.”
Ferguson, who serves Baltimore City, said, “This is a crisis — we all agree — there’s no question. No one feels comfortable with where things are when it comes to violence across this state.”
Ferguson invited the governor to go before the Judicial Proceedings Committee to testify on the package. “We have to get around a table and solve problems, and stop blaming,” he said.