The Maryland General Assembly will adjourn its 2022 legislative session tonight, concluding 90 days of lawmaking that began in January.
With the clock ticking over the weekend, elected officials managed to get much of their work done, including garnering enough votes to override Governor Hogan’s veto of a bill to expand abortion access. Maryland’s state lawmakers have until midnight tonight to resolve the outstanding issues and bills that remain, several of which seek to reform Maryland’s criminal justice system.
Legislators are hoping to reach an agreement today on adjustments to last year’s police reform package, including deciding whether the state attorney general should prosecute police-involved deaths. Last year’s reform package created an independent investigation unit in the state AG’s office to look into the incidents. According to the Washington Post, Attorney General Brian E. Fosh says it makes sense for his office to also prosecute the cases, instead of waiting for smaller jurisdictions to move forward.
Another bill up for debate would postpone the creation of citizen-led accountability boards to review and discipline police. The boards were a major part of last year’s police reform package but counties have stumbled in forming them, with many far behind the summer implementation deadline.
Republican Governor Larry Hogan has pushed back against the Democratic-controlled legislature’s police reforms, pointing to rising violence in Baltimore. Hogan is calling on the General Assembly to instead pass two emergency crime bills that would crack down on illegal firearms and track the sentences judges hand down on violent crimes.
Governor Hogan’s vetoes of several pieces of legislation proved unsuccessful over the weekend. Lawmakers gained enough votes to override Hogan on a bill to allow health practitioners besides physicians to carry out abortions and another funding paid family leave. The program, funded through a payroll tax, will make Maryland the 10th state to fund up to 12 weeks of partial paid leave for workers and will go into effect June 1. Hogan criticized the program as being an unfair burden on small business owners who have to pay higher taxes to fund it and may have to keep employees on staff who are out for nearly half a year.
In a letter alongside his veto of the Abortion Care Access Act, Hogan reminded lawmakers of his “commitment to take no action that would affect Maryland law where it concerns reproductive rights,” continuing: “The only impact that this bill would have on women’s reproductive rights would be to set back standards for women’s health care and safety.”
Additionally, despite Hogan’s objections, a bill became law that requires firearms dealers to implement new measures to prevent theft, including installing video surveillance and alarm systems. In a letter alongside the veto, Hogan said the less than 6 month timeline in which businesses are expected to comply is too quick. He wrote that the legislation was fast-tracked in the Senate, describing it as “an ill-informed policy that could result in the closure of some small business due to a blatant unwillingness to accommodate firearm dealers and gunsmiths.”
Lawmakers also overturned a veto on a bill that bans the police from questioning juveniles without contacting parents or providing an attorney and one that requires the state to move forward on its plan to expand MARC rail service, potentially south to Alexandria.
In total, Hogan issued ten vetoes Friday afternoon, forcing the General Assembly to act quickly to overturn them before tonight. This is the final legislative session before Hogan leaves office early next year, when his second term ends, and one of his final opportunities to distinguish himself from the Democratic legislature.
With less than half a day left in this year’s legislative session, Maryland lawmakers passed a bill that has languished in the General Assembly for five years. The bill, introduced for the sixth time this session, will raise the minimum age for marriage in Maryland to 17-years old, and allow minors that age to marry spouses no more than four years older than them.