Maryland’s lawmakers representing both sides of the political aisle said Thursday that they believe it is likely that Gov. Larry Hogan will veto all or part of a package of five landmark police reform bills that the General Assembly recently approved.
The legislation was approved on Wednesday afternoon following extensive debate and a slew of amendments. It includes provisions that make it harder for police to obtain no-knock warrants. It places limits on the use of excessive force and increases penalties for officers who do so without just cause. It makes it easier for members of the public to obtain officer personnel records. It will eventually require all police officers to wear body cameras when they are on duty.
Should Hogan decide to veto the legislation, it is considered likely that the veto will be overridden given that Democrats have a near-supermajority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate.
“I believe that it was anticipated that the governor would veto the public safety-police reform packages,” Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City) told MarylandReporter.com. “And I think that the bills passed on both sides with enough votes to override a veto. So I hope we override the veto as soon as possible.”
Carter, who sits on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and was at the forefront of crafting the framework of the legislation, rejected the notion that it might hinder police enforcement actions.
“I think that’s a red herring issue that opponents of police reform are pushing. We want police with honor and integrity to join our forces and stay on our forces. And those that don’t want to be accountable and have transparency-they really have no place in the profession of policing.”
Del. Haven Shoemaker (R-Carroll), like Carter, said that he too expects the governor to veto the legislation.
“I would expect that he is going to veto at least of a couple of those, if not all of them. I don’t know. But I expect there will be some vetoes.”
Shoemaker said that while he would like Hogan to veto most of the bills in the package, he has some concerns about a potential veto of a bill that mandates the use of body cameras despite having voted against the legislation.
“The only one that I have some trepidation about as far as urging him to veto would be the bill with regard to body cameras. I think there is almost universal support for the notion of equipping police officers with cameras. My concern with the posture of that bill as it passed is that it is an unfunded mandate.”
Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) also said that he expects Hogan to veto the legislation.
“I think he will. We are urging the governor to do that.”
Hogan’s communications director, Michael Ricci, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the legislation by the deadline for this story.
Ricci told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday evening that Hogan will “give thoughtful consideration to whatever bills come to his desk.”
The governor made similar remarks in a radio interview on Thursday morning.
By law the governor has six days, excluding Sundays, to make a decision on legislation sent to his desk while the General Assembly is in session.
Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn “Sine Die” on Monday April 12.
Police reform has arguably been the dominant issue of the 2021 legislative session.
Passage of the landmark legislation comes as the trial of the Minneapolis police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd is nearing its conclusion. That incident, which occurred almost a year ago, has led to a nationwide effort to address police misconduct and systemic inequities in policing.
Update: In a statement on Thursday evening Hogan announced that he vetoed two bills. One would have prohibited minors convicted as adults from being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other would have expanded the applicability of the state’s prevailing wage law to certain public works contracts.
Senate President Bill Ferguson shortly thereafter responded to Hogan’s announcement on the vetoes in a brief statement.
“These two bills bring increased fairness to our procurement and criminal justice systems. I am confident the General Assembly will override these vetoes before we adjourn Sine Die.”