Ferguson: Police Reform Must Be Top Priority in Final Weeks of Session

    Senate President Bill Ferguson. Photo by Danielle Gaines.

    With less than three weeks remaining in the 2021 General Assembly session, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) has urged the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to focus its attention towards passing a greatly anticipated police reform package.

    “The Senate President has asked JPR to make police reform their number one focus until a finalized package has been sent to the Governor’s desk,” Yaakov “Jake” Weissman, spokesman for Ferguson, told Maryland Matters in an email. “It was a clearly stated benchmark for success at the beginning of Session, and that historic package of progressive reforms must be the committee’s key and primary focus.”

    Maryland Matters reached out to Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) for comment, but a response was not immediately available.

    All nine bills from the Senate’s police reform package are scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. A hearing on House Bill 670, an omnibus police reform package sponsored by Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), has not yet been scheduled in the Senate.

    The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee — known for its long and deliberative voting sessions — didn’t meet Wednesday and cut short a voting session Tuesday afternoon.

    As of Wednesday morning, there were more than 120 Senate bills in the committee without a vote, and over 130 House bills have been assigned to the committee and remain pending.

    This may leave a slew of bills in the lurch until the reform package is passed, with no solidified timeline of when that may or may not happen.

    Some of the bills awaiting action include:

    • SB 88, the TRUST Act, which would provide protections for undocumented people in Maryland and immunity and indemnity for state employees that deny Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers access to immigrants’ data;
    • HB 222, the Value My Vote Act, which would expand voting access to the current and formerly incarcerated; and
    • HB 16, the Dignity Not Detention Act, which would limit the state and local government’s relationship with ICE.

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    Hannah Gaskill
    Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.