Legislative Roundup: Corporations Support Climate Bill, Child Interrogation Reform Moves Forward, Scholarship Bill Stalls
As the General Assembly moves closer to passing major legislation to address climate change, several big corporations have written to lawmakers urging them to embrace aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and also appear to be seeking to influence Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) with the bill almost certain to land on his desk later this week.
In a statement, Ceres, a national free market organization that promotes clean energy and made the letter to lawmakers public on Wednesday, said that by going on record with the letter, “corporate leaders are sending a strong signal to Gov. Hogan to permit the legislation to pass into law.”
Hogan dismissively called the climate bill an “energy tax” when it was initially being debated on the Senate floor three weeks ago, even though it contains no tax increases.
The letter from the big businesses lays out the climate risks the state is facing, and notes that many U.S. companies have already embraced the goal of hitting net-zero emissions by 2050. They urge the state to hit an emissions reduction level of at least 50% by 2030 and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Climate Solutions Now legislation actually calls for more aggressive benchmarks.
“Adopting these ambitious goals will send a clear policy signal that the state’s economy is ready to lead the transition to net-zero emissions, will attract innovative companies, support the creation of sustainable jobs, and distinguish the state as a smart and secure place to do business,” the business leaders wrote in a letter to the entire General Assembly.
The letter’s signees included IKEA, Nestle, Siemens and Walmart.
The state Senate is expected to give final approval to the latest version of the Climate Solutions Now Act on Thursday. Debate on the amendments that the House made to the bill on Tuesday was scheduled for Wednesday morning on the Senate floor, but it was put off for a day at the request of Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Upper Shore).
Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Chair Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), the sponsor of the climate bill, expressed disappointment with some of the House changes.
“Unfortunately, there was some level of retreat and a conciliation to the fossil fuel industry and some of its interests,” Pinsky told his colleagues.
But he said the legislation still contained its “core contents” and represented a great leap forward for the state’s campaign to confront climate change.
Lawmakers need to get the bill to the governor’s office by Friday in order to force him to act in time for the legislature to override a possible veto before the April conclusion of the legislative session, if that’s the position he decides to take. Hogan could also opt to sign the bill or let it become law without his signature.
“I think if we move it [Thursday], we’ll be in fine shape,” Pinsky said.
Child Interrogation Protection moves ahead in the House
The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would protect minors from self-incrimination during encounters with law enforcement.
The Child Interrogation Protection Act, or House Bill 269 and Senate Bill 53, would require that children in custody be given the opportunity to speak with an attorney before undergoing police interrogation. Additionally, it would require the child’s parents or guardians be notified that they are in custody.
Should it be enacted, statements provided to police by minors would be inadmissible in court if an officer willfully ignores the provisions of the bill.
“The point of the bill is that we’re making sure that children who are being interrogated related to a crime are aware of their rights and that their parents are there or have been contacted so that they know that their children are being interrogated,” said House Judiciary Chair Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore City). “Whether that crime is for shoplifting or first-degree murder, it doesn’t matter.”
Both versions of the bill are expected to receive final approval from the House chamber this week.
Republican attempts to alter the House bill, sponsored by Del. Sandra J. Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel), were unsuccessful Wednesday morning.
Del. Michael Griffith (R-Cecil and Harford) proposed an amendment to allow a child’s right to counsel be waived if an attorney is not able to be reached within one hour of contact and to strike the requirement that a lawyer be contacted if the minor is older than 16. He said that adults who are intoxicated or undergoing a mental health crisis waive their rights and self-incriminate regularly.
“So we’re saying that a 16-year-old or 17-year-old … has less cognitive ability than someone who’s drunk, on drugs, suicidal [or] suffering a mental health crisis,” Griffith said. “We’re creating a separate class of citizen in this bill.”
House Economic Matters Chair C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), who called minors “infants under the law,” asked Griffith why legislators should waive children’s rights while in police custody when there are other legal matters they are precluded from, like entering into legally binding contracts.
Griffith’s amendment failed.
House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckle (R-Allegany) introduced an amendment to allow judges to consider the circumstances in which an officer failed to comply with measures in the bill as a factor when determining if a statement from a child is admissible in court.
In response, Bartlett said officers must “willfully” fail to comply with the parameters of the bill.
“That’s a high bar,” she said. “It’s not just a mistake.”
Further, Bartlett said that Buckel’s amendment “weakens the entire bill and, therefore, weakens the protection of children.”
Buckel agreed the amendment weakens the policy because he “think[s] it needs to be weakened.”
“What this bill is doing … is pushing the playing field toward the favor of the criminal defendant,” he said.
Buckel’s amendment failed.
Bill in honor of slain Baltimore officer heads back to committee
A bill that was passed — and dramatically amended — by the Maryland Senate on Tuesday will head back to committee.
Sen. Robert G. Cassilly (R-Harford), sponsor of The Officer Keona Holley Public Safety Act, said Wednesday that the officer’s family no longer supported the bill and it was re-committed to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
As introduced by Cassilly, the bill would have made people ineligible for parole if they were convicted of conspiring to, attempting to or committing the murder of a police officer because of their profession.
During a Senate floor session on Tuesday, an amendment turned the bill into a scholarship program for Holley’s four children, providing state funding for them to go to any two- or four-year institution either in- or out-of-state.
Senate Judicial Proceedings Chair William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) said after the floor session that the amendment to provide the Holley children with college scholarships may be added to a different Senate bill before the end of the session.