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Maryland Senate passes bill to pare back court's bail rule

The Maryland Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would pare back a key provision of a rule adopted by the state's top court to de-emphasize the role of cash bail in determining which defendants win pretrial release.

The 26-19 vote sends the measure to the House, where supporters of the Court of Appeals rule hope to keep the bill bottled up in the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.

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The Senate-passed measure, heavily amended since its introduction, would eliminate part of the court rule that would make cash bail a less-preferred means of ensuring public safety and a defendant's court appearance when freeing that defendant before trial.

Advocates of bail reform, including Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, oppose the Senate bill. It is supported by the bail bond industry, which could lose business under the court rule.

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The House sponsor of the companion bill to the Senate measure, Democratic Del. Curt Anderson of Baltimore, has withdrawn his legislation.

That action would normally mean the bill would be dead in the House, but little is certain in the high-stakes contest this year. The Legislative Black Caucus is scheduled to meet Thursday morning to take a final position on the Senate bill. It had previously voted to urge the General Assembly to take no action affecting the bail rule this year.

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