2014 End of Session Wrap-Up: Public Safety & Corrections

This post summarizes the status of public safety and corrections bills that MACo either considered or took a position on.

Statewide Interoperability Radio Control Board: HB 308/SB 338 establishes a Statewide Interoperability Radio Control Board with membership from state and local agencies that participate in the State’s public safety radio system. The eleven-member Board, as established in the legislation, will include five local representatives and will exercise oversight over the development and maintenance of the MD FiRST public safety radio system. Establishing the Board was a MACo initiative and the Governor’s lead legislative priority. (For more information contact Robin Clark at 410.269.0043 or rclark@mdcounties.org)

Final Status: HB 308/SB 338 passed the General Assembly and will be signed into law by the Governor.

Bail Reform – Pretrial Risk Assessment Tool: HB 1232/SB 973 as originally introduced offered a pretrial risk assessment tool and process under a new State agency to address the implications of the Maryland Court of Appeals holding in Richmond v. DeWolfe, which requires legal representation for indigent individuals during bail hearings. The tool may be used around the clock to process and release low-level, low-risk offenders for release without delay and unnecessary stay in a local detention facility. For individuals not released through the tool, the bill requires the courts to operate at least 6 days a week for the purposes of making determinations for those individuals. MACo SUPPORTED the bills with amendments that provided general principles for mitigating the impact on local government. However, the Senate and the House had differing philosophies on the approach to addressing the court decision and neither bill was passed by the General Assembly. For more information read previous coverage on Conduit Street.

Final Status: SB 973 was passed the Senate and referred to the House Judiciary Committee where no action was taken. HB 1232 was amended by the House Judiciary Committee to turn the pretrial risk assessment program into a study. The bill passed out of the House and was referred to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee where no action was taken. Extra funding has been provided in the budget to partially fund public defenders to address the court of appeals decision. For more information read previous coverage on Conduit Street.

Bail Reform – Charge By Summons: In response to Richmond v. DeWolfe, HB 1186 establishes a set of charges for which a district court commissioner may, on a finding of probably cause, serve on a defendant a citation or summons for court and release the defendant in lieu of detaining or setting a bond. Individuals who are arrested and not released would be detained and taken to a District Court or Circuit Court judge without unnecessary delay. The courts would be open 6 days a week  for purposes of conducting initial hearings for the detained individuals. MACo did not take a position on HB 1186.

Final Status: HB 1186 passed out of the House, however no action was taken by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Bail Reform – Judiciary Proposal: In response to Richmond v. DeWolfe, HB 537 would alter the current two-step process of an appearance before a commissioner and preliminary hearing would be condensed into one. Within 24 hours of an arrest a person would be taken to a hearing in front of a judge during normal court hours. If more than 24 hours would pass before a person could appear before a judge (weekends and holidays), a person would appear before a district court commissioner. In either case, a public defender or attorney must be available if the person requests one. And if the person requests representation, the State’s attorney would also have an attorney present. For more information read previous coverage on Conduit Street. MACo testified in SUPPORT with AMENDMENTS on HB 537.

Final Status: HB 537 received an unfavorable report by the House Judiciary Committee and was withdrawn.

Bail Reform – Constitutional Amendment: In response to Richmond v. DeWolfe, SB 1114 would effectively overturn the basis of the court holdings through a constitutional amendment. MACo SUPPORTED the bill on the basis that it was a complementary approach to the other bail reform bills and if it prevailed, the current Maryland system of tiered review for release could continue, low risk defendants would not be unduly detained in unsuitable facilities, and the worst of the system shocks could be avoided.

Final Status: As a late introduction, motion rules were suspended for late introduction and SB 1114 was referred to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The Committee held a hearing on the bill but did not take any action.

Bail Reform – Pretrial Release: In response to Richmond v. DeWolfe, SB 920 removed the District Court Commissioners authority to set bond or commit persons to jail. Instead it provided a list of charges for which a District Court Commissioner could issue citations or summons for court and release the defendant on their own recognizance. Individuals not released and held in detainment would see the District Court Judge for an initial hearing at the next time court was in session. MACo submitted testimony in SUPPORTED with AMENDMENTS identical to those submitted for SB 973.

Final Status: SB 920 had a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, but no further action was taken.

Speed Camera Reform: As introduced, HB 929 / SB 652 and SB 350 would make numerous reforms to local speed camera programs.  HB 929 / SB 652 represented the work of a stakeholders group, including MACo, which met during the 2013 Session and Interim. SB 350 included most of the same basic provisions but had several differences related to the definition of a school zone, the timing of calibration requirements, the appointment process of the citizen ombudsman, and limitations on when school zone cameras could be in operation.

MACo supported HB 929 / SB 652, arguing that the reforms would increase administrative and oversight protections for local speed camera programs and ensure better accuracy, fairness, and transparency. MACo supported SB 350 with amendments to make the bill identical to HB 929 / SB 652.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 929 and SB 350 with amendments making the bills identical. The amendments were supported by MACo. As amended, the bill:

  • Prohibits a local jurisdiction from making a vendor’s fee contingent on a per-ticket basis on the number of citations issued or paid (the so-called “bounty system”) – existing contracts may continue for no more than 3 years
  • Requires each local jurisdiction with a speed camera program to create an “ombudsman” to respond to citizen questions and concerns and void erroneous violations without a citizen having to go to court
  • Requires the Maryland Police Training Commission to compile and make publicly available an annual performance report for each local speed camera program
  • Defines “school zone” in State law to mean an area within 1/2 mile of a K-12 school where students are walking or bicycling to school, or being picked up or dropped off
  • Limits placement of cameras to school zones that have a minimum speed limit of 20 miles per hour
  • Prohibits a local jurisdiction from issuing citations when placing a camera in a new location until at least 15 calendar days after required signage is installed
  • Requires speed camera signage to comply with State Highway Administration standards
  • Requires each local jurisdiction with a speed camera program to designate a program administrator to oversee the program and participate in a best practices training course at least once every two years
  • Requires a local jurisdiction’s contract with a speed camera vendor to contain certain penalty and cancellation clauses if the vendor submits a certain percentage of erroneous violations for review or violates the law
  • Requires that the annual calibration of a speed camera be conducted by an independent calibration laboratory that is selected by the local jurisdiction and is unaffiliated with the manufacturer of the speed camera system
  • Clarifies that a duly authorized law enforcement officer must review every issued citation

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee SB 652 but took no action.

 MACo HB 929 Testimony

MACo SB 652 Testimony

MACo SB 350 Testimony

Note: For further information about speed camera bills, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Senator William H. Amoss Fire, Rescue, and Ambulance Fund Reform: HB 365 / SB 254 would make numerous modifications to the Senator William H. Amoss Fire, Rescue and Ambulance Fund (Amoss Fund). The changes were recommended by the Workgroup to Study the Laws and Policies Related to the Distribution of Money to Volunteer and Career Companies, which met over the 2013 Interim and included MACo participation. The bill updates and clarifies many aspects of the Amoss Fund, including: funding distribution; audit and reporting requirements; permissible funding uses; and maintenance of effort (MOE) calculations, exemptions, and penalties.

MACo supported recommendations of the Workgroup and the bill as they made many needed changes to the Amoss Fund statute that would benefit counties including clearer definitions, funding distribution clarifications, and the creation of an equitable MOE exemption and rebasing process.

FINAL STATUS: The General Assembly passed HB 365 and SB 254 with some technical and clarifying amendments to the MOE process and changing the procurement cost threshold for a piece of capital equipment from $100 to $10,000 per unit. MACo had no issues with the amendments.

MACo HB 365 Testimony

MACo SB 254 Testimony

Note: For further information on this bill, please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Dog Bite Liability: HB 73/SB 247 would create a rebuttable presumption liability standard for personal injury or death caused by a dog. The liability standard would not affect any other common law or statutory cause of action, defense, or immunity. The bill explicitly states that it is the intent of the General Assembly that the bill abrogate the holding of the Maryland Court of Appeals in the case of Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627 (2012), which overturned long established common law and created a strict liability standard for owners of pit bulls and their landlords. MACo supported this bill with amendments that would shield county law enforcement departments from potential liability, or at least the effort and cost of going to court to assert governmental immunity and possibly having to rebut the presumption in situations where the dog was being used in the normal course of duty.

Final Status: SB 247 passed the General Assembly and was approved by the Governor.

Income Tax Refunds Warrant Intercept Program: HB 610/SB 653 authorizes each county to submit information to the Comptroller to pursue a tax refund intercept program targeting individuals with certain outstanding warrants. MACo opposed the bill as originally introduced as it would have required each county to participate in the tax refund intercept program, but changed its position from OPPOSE to SUPPORT when the bill was amended to be a local option.

Final Status: SB 653 passed the Senate, but no action was taken in the House on either bill.

LEOBR –Punitive Actions: HB 598/SB 686 specifies that a law enforcement agency may maintain for the purpose of satisfying the disclosures that are required by law, a list of law enforcement officers who have been found or alleged to have committed acts which bear on credibility, integrity, or other characteristics that can be used to impeach the officer. However the agency must notify the affected officer and not take punitive action against the officer solely for being on the list. Originally the bill prohibited a law enforcement officer from being demoted, dismissed, transferred, reassigned, losing pay, or facing similar action that is considered punitive based solely on the fact that a prosecutorial agency discloses information about the officer to the defense as required by the Maryland Rules. MACo OPPOSED the original bill on the basis that it was overly broad and undermining of important disclosure requirements falling under the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Brady v. Maryland, in which it was held that a prosecutor withholding certain exculpatory evidence from a defendant’s lawyer was a violation of a defendant’s right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Through an agreement reached by the Chiefs and Sheriffs with the Fraternal Order of Police, the bill was amended and is now much more targeted. MACo subsequently withdrew opposition.

Final Status: SB 686 passed the General Assembly and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

LEOBR – Show Cause Order: HB 599/SB 436 alters §3-104 of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights to specify that upon a finding that a law enforcement agency obtained evidence against a law enforcement officer in violation of the subtitle, the court shall grant appropriate relief. Originally the bill required a hearing board operating under the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBR) to exclude evidence obtained in violation of investigation and interrogation standards as outlined in §3-104 of the LEOBR subtitle. MACo OPPOSED the original bill on the basis that it was overly broad and because law enforcement officers already have extensive procedural rights and remedies for agency error under the LEOBR. Through an agreement reached by the Chiefs and Sheriffs with the Fraternal Order of Police, the bill was amended and is now much more targeted. MACo subsequently withdrew opposition.

Final Status: HB 599/SB 436 passed the General Assembly and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

As otherwise noted, for more information about the bills in this section or other public safety and corrections bills, please contact Natasha Mehu at 410.269.0043 or nmehu@mdcounties.org.

 

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