Maryland’s Republican state lawmakers are pressing for a series of bills that they say would help keep violent criminals behind bars and improve transparency in the judicial system.
The Republican proposals face long odds in the Democrat-led Maryland General Assembly, and some of the bills have been defeated in past years.
Del. Nic Kipke, House minority leader, said he is “very optimistic” about the bills’ chance of success.
Kipke said Republicans are making crime their top priority, saying the issue is at a “crisis” level across the state. He noted the record number of homicides in 2019 in Baltimore City as well as Baltimore County.
Kipke said he’d be happy if Democrats adopted some of the Republican proposals.
“I encourage the majority party to steal these ideas,” said Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican.
Del. Kathy Szeliga, the House minority whip, said Republicans find it important to at least start a conversation about how to combat violent crime
“If this conversation starts with the minority party, let it start here,” said Szeliga, a Baltimore County Republican. “This is a priority for us. We cannot continue to watch people be killed day after day and have the conversation be about anything other than violent criminals.”
The bills have not been introduced yet, but the House Republicans said they will include:
- The “Stopping Dangerous and Violent Offenders Act,” which would require those guilty of certain violent crimes to serve 90% of their sentence. Currently, offenders can often serve as little as half of their sentenced time.
- The “Protecting Marylanders from Violent Crime Act,” which would require local governments to turn over detainees in local jails to federal immigration officials when requested.
- The “Gun Theft is a Felony Act,” which would make stealing a firearm a felony punishable by a minimum of two years in prison to a maximum of five years. Subsequent offenses would be subject to a prison term of a minimum of five years to a maximum of 10 years.
- The “Truth in Plea Deals Act,” which would require sentences in plea agreements to be consistent with sentencing guidelines for the offense.
- The “Victim Empowerment in Plea Deals Act,” which would require crime victims to certify that they have been notified of proposed plea agreements.
- The “Cameras in the Courtroom Act,” which would allow journalists to film sentencing hearings in adult criminal cases, with some limitations. This same bill was defeated in a House committee last year on a 15-5 vote.