It is hard to believe that spring is already upon us and that we’re heading into the last stretch of the 2016 legislative session. It has been an honor serving as your delegate in Annapolis and I want to take this opportunity to update you on some of the most exciting legislative efforts we have been working on to improve the lives of Marylanders.
Fully restoring ex-offenders’ ability to reincorporate themselves into society is crucial for the progress of all communities. For that reason, the Democratic Caucus successfully overrode Governor Hogan’s veto on ex-offenders’ right to vote. Despite all of the politicization, negativity, intimidation, and false information that the governor spread on social media before and after the vote, the General Assembly did not back down on our commitment to decrease recidivism.
Another one of Hogan’s vetoes that we successfully overturned was the decriminalization of drug paraphernalia. When the state decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, the legislation did not include decriminalization of paraphernalia. Last session, we fixed this oversight, the governor vetoed it and we overturned his veto the first week of this session.
WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY AGENDA
Following the White House Women’s Economic Security Agenda (WESA), I have been proud to sponsor bills that address the economic disadvantage of women. As women are increasingly the only breadwinner of their households, it is imperative that we make changes in pay and benefits. WESA bills included Pay Equity, Earned Sick Days, Family Leave, and Fair Scheduling. I am committed to fight for the passing of all, as they go to the heart of protecting and expanding the middle class. For too long women have been undercompensated for equal work performed by male counterparts.
When I was first sworn in, I fought hard for a seat on the judiciary committee because of the opportunity to make a difference in criminal justice reform, advancing avenues to justice for victims of gender violence, and addressing every area of law which impacts the daily lives of all Marylanders.
The judiciary committee worked tirelessly this session to pass the ignition interlock bill titled “Noah’s Law”. This bill mandates ignition interlock participation for all those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol for a set period of time. Studies show that mandated ignition interlock programs significantly change behavior, reducing the number of unnecessary tragedies like the one that befell Montgomery County Officer Noah Leotta and his family.
As this is the first session of the General Assembly after the tragic death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, police reform is front-and-center for the committee. Over thirty bills pertaining to this issue have been heard in front of the judiciary committee, several of which I fully support.
Our nation has witnessed a growing movement acknowledging the need for police reform. It has taken deaths at the hands of law enforcement from Ferguson to Baltimore City for legislatures to start taking a serious look at this issue. It was an honor to work on what came from President Obama's efforts to reform police practices through his Task Force on Police Reform. The Criminal Justice subcommittee worked incredibly hard to make a series of reforms addressing civilian participation on review boards, use of force reports, serious officer-involved incidents, and whistleblower protections to encourage reporting among law enforcement officers without fear of retaliation from their own departments, among other efforts.
In Maryland, there have been 21 deaths in 2015 from police encounters across the state. Of those deaths, 81% were Black, and nearly half were unarmed. Every single unarmed person who died in 2015 was Black. In 20 of the 21 cases, no criminal charges were filed. In several cases the reviewing State's Attorney stated publicly that the killing was justified.
On the use of tasers, 11 people have died in MD since 2009 during police encounters with taser use. Four of those deaths were in Montgomery County. In at least one case, the police refused to allow family members to see videotapes of the death of their relative and law enforcement erased the cellphone video before returning the phones to their owners. It is imperative that the state take a serious look at how we discipline bad actors and reward officers who speak up, as opposed to perpetuating the culture of covering up for each other.
Here’s to a great second half of the session!! It has been an honor serving you as your delegate and I will put 100 percent of my energy fighting for the issues that are important to you for the remaining days of the session. The hours that my staff and I have put in to serving the people of District 19 certainly have not been spring break! I am so proud of what we have accomplished this session, and I am confident that this is just the beginning. If there is ever any issue you wish to discuss with me or my office, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and always feel free to come visit!