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Politics

Senate doesn't confirm Hogan appointee to gun board, but vote in doubt

A Hogan administration appointee to a state panel that awards gun permits was rejected in a vote by the state Senate Thursday, but it's unclear whether the vote will stand.

Richard Jurgena, who has called the concealed carry law that he is supposed to uphold unconstitutional, had just 23 senators vote in favor of his confirmation. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said 24 votes are needed in the 47-member Senate.

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Republicans objected on procedural grounds.

Miller said he had a verbal attorney general's opinion that led him to believe that the 23-22 vote was sufficient to remove Jurgena. Republicans believe the opposite and are also requesting an attorney general's opinion on the matter.

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The Senate's Executive Nominations Committee had recommended Jurgena and the four other members of the board for confirmation. But the committee's chairman, Sen. Jamie Raskin, told the full Senate that Jurgena and the other nominees present a "general problem" because some of them have expressed views that are "philosophically in tension" with the mission of the Handgun Review Board.

Senators debated Jurgena and the other four appointees for 45 minutes Thursday morning.

Some senators raised concerns that Jurnega said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun's editorial board published Monday that his interpretation of Supreme Court rulings leads him to believe Maryland's law requiring "good and substantial reason" to get a concealed carry permit is unconstitutional.

"This is a candidate who believes our current law is outside the Second Amendment," said Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a Democrat who represents Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, said he was concerned that Jurgena was "not committed to the mission" of the review board.

The Maryland State Police does an initial review of all concealed carry permit applications. The Handgun Permit Review Board hears appeals from people who believe they were wrongly denied.

Jurgena, a Montgomery County business owner, has been serving on the panel as an interim member. He told the editorial board that despite his personal views, he must follow state law and has rejected applicants who failed to meet the "good and substantial" requirement.

The standard generally reserves the right to carry a concealed handgun for people who can demonstrate threats against them.

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Senators who supported Jurnega's appointment pointed out that when he appeared before the Executive Nominations Committee, none of the senators asked him questions and none of his opinions were discussed.

Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said that when the committee has concerns about a nominee, they can bring them back for more questioning -- as they did with a controversial appointee to the Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies and electric rates.

"To do this when there weren't any questions, I don't think is fair," said Brochin, who is a member of the committee.

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Several Republicans agreed, with Sen. Wayne Norman calling the push to block Jurgena as "inherently unfair."

"It's just not how America is supposed to work," he said.

Some senators said it wasn't appropriate to make a decision based on news reports or social media postings without hearing from the nominee himself. A motion to table the vote for another day to gather more information was defeated.

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Hogan, a Republican, appointed five people to the board in 2015, including Jurgena. They have been serving on an interim basis, pending Senate confirmation.

The other four members of the Handgun Permit Review Board were confirmed by the Senate Thursday: Jaques R. Cowan of Anne Arundel County, Patricia S. West of Baltimore County, Courtney M. White of Baltimore and Robert D.H. Wilson of Queen Anne's County.

The governor has said he dislikes some of Maryland's tough guns laws, but that he would not try to reverse them while Democrats who passed them dominate the legislature.

In a December radio interview on WBAL's C4 show, Hogan said he wanted to make it easier for most people to get handguns, and said he was "trying to do what we can to make improvements."


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