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House GOP Calls for Bipartisanship in Police Reform Debate, Prefers Senate Package

Senate Minority Whip Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick) joined House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) and House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) in opposition of House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones’ police reform bill. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

The House Minority Caucus came together in opposition to House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones’ sweeping police reform legislation Wednesday afternoon, with some members expressing a preference for a package of mostly bipartisan policing bills that moved out of the Senate chamber last week.

“That’s your preferred package?” reporter Bryan Sears of The Daily Record pressed House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) at a news conference.

“Well, you know, at this point, I’d say yes,” Szeliga responded. “That was bipartisan and, you know, you don’t get everything, but people feel like they were heard.”

Last week, the Senate passed its police reform package on a largely bipartisan basis, with eight of nine bills receiving at least some support from members on both sides of the aisle.

Senate Minority Whip Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick), who appeared at the House Minority Caucus’ news conference in opposition to Jones’ bill, said that the Senate has demonstrated that lawmakers can cross party lines to implement police reform, adding that what House Democrats have put forth seems “very rushed.”

“My quick look at the House bill, quite frankly, I was pretty horrified,” he said. “It was pretty apparent to me that they completely gave in to the activists that were here [at a protest rally last week], and they put aside common sense [and] trying to work together.”

Szeliga said the debate undergirding the development of the House speaker’s bill was  “largely devoid of facts and reason.”

“Our caucus is more than willing to work to have productive, fact-based conversations about the state of policing in Maryland, and pass common-sense measures to improve it, some of which we’ve seen passed in the Senate,” she said. “What we are not willing to do, and what the other side in the House seems to be obsessed with doing, is making police criminals while letting far too many of the real criminals walk free.”

Asked if there’s any chance of consensus in her chamber, Szeliga said that she’d like to see Republicans and Democrats work together.

“We’re saying the bill before us is not bipartisan — at this point, there are zero Republicans supporting this,” she explained. “If you look at what the Senate did, they worked together and they found wide areas of agreement so that’s what we’re calling for, but the bill before us is none of that.”

“This is about politics and political will,” House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) asserted. “And right now, far-left, dangerous, individuals are pushing an agenda in this capital.”

Police reform activists have been vocal in their calls for lawmakers to enact stark reform and to push revolutionary policing bills through the chambers with minimal amendments.

Some have taken their protests directly to lawmakers’ districts, driving car caravans through neighborhoods and in front of senators’ family homes in frustration.

Last Thursday, the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability held a rally calling for the House to meet their demands for meaningful police reform, which they say the Senate’s amended package of bills failed to do.

PG Change Makers Coalition Co-founder Krystal Oriadha made it clear that advocates have grown tired of the Annapolis status quo.

“Go ahead — rip apart our legislation if you want to. Go ahead and say you’re not gonna call it for a vote, keep it in the drawer if you want to,” Oriadha said last week. “But ask [former House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F.] Vallario (D-Prince George’s)] what happened to him, ‘cause he ain’t here no more.”

But many advocates for reform aren’t happy with Jones’ amended omnibus bill, either.

A Tuesday news release from the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability noted that Jones’ bill meets some of their demands but still “misses the mark” on repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, creating a “streamlined,” transparent disciplinary system and establishing community oversight.

“While we applaud the efforts of Speaker Jones and the House police reform workgroup, HB 670 does not fundamentally shift the balance of power,” the release reads. “Communities will continue to be policed by officers who are not accountable to them.”

The House is poised to begin debate on Jones’ policing bill Wednesday evening.


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House GOP Calls for Bipartisanship in Police Reform Debate, Prefers Senate Package