The legislation allowing for Johns Hopkins University to create its own private police force, the Community Safety and Strengthening Act (SB793), looks to be unlikely to pass – even before the bill is set to be heard by both the House and the Senate judiciary committees next Friday.
The controversial legislation, which as reported on yesterday by DMVDailyNews, appears to have been manipulated by the democratic leadership in Annapolis in order to favor the beneficiaries of this bill, may have been dealt a deadly blow late yesterday when a critical Baltimore City state senator – whose vote would be vital for the bills success in the city’s Senate delegation – withdrew from voting on the matter.
Senator Bill Ferguson, a third-term senator from the city’s more affluent 46th legislative district, offered up a statement to one of his constituents yesterday in response to their lobbying against this bill, which stated that he will not being voting on the legislation. District resident Bobby Moore forwarded DMVDaily the email generated by Ferguson’s office, which stated the following:
Thank you for reaching out regarding legislation to establish a Johns Hopkins University police force. As the Director of Reform Initiatives at JHU’s School of Education, outside of my duties in the Maryland General Assembly, I erred on the side of caution and decided to communicate with the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics before weighing in on issues such as this, which could potentially be considered a conflict of interest.
After reviewing the information I provided them, the Joint Committee determined that my employment with JHU constitutes a conflict of interest, specifically in regards to SB793 and the establishment of a JHU police force. As such, I am unable to vote on, nor publicly or privately influence the legislation in any way…
Senator Bill Ferguson – District 46
This revelation now leaves the city senate delegation with only five voting members as it relates to this bill, and given that both state senators Mary Washington (D-43) and Jill P. Carter (D-41) have strongly disagreed with the legislation and are said to be opposed to the legislation, than that kills the possibility of the delegation reaching the four votes necessary to pass the bill out of delegation. And even with a 3-2-1 simply majority vote the bill would not make it out of the delegation – which may be presumptuous given that both Senator Cory McCray (D-45) and the bill’s sponsor, Senator Antonio Hayes (D-40) have been openly suspect of the legislation in its current form, leaving only Baltimore City/County Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam as the only solid yes vote thus far.
However, there are ways around the senate delegation’s inability to vote favorably for the bill. Since the House delegation appears likely to vote favorably for the bill, thus giving it a green light if passed out of committee and on the House floor; the Senate could very well move forward with the legislation if passed out of committee and brought to the floor, regardless of the city’s disapproval. And while its unlikely that members of other jurisdictions would be willing to vote in favor of legislation designated specifically for Baltimore City, if the city wasn’t in favor of it; it doesn’t necessarily kill the bill altogether.
With the powerful Senate President, Thomas ‘Mike’ Miller in favor of the legislation, along with the intense lobbying effort of Johns Hopkins and former New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg; we very well could see the bill pushed through committee and onto the Senate floor, noting the city senators that opposed it, but still allowing for a vote on the legislation.
That would certainly be an unprecedented move, ignoring jurisdictional courtesy typically afforded any county or city when considering legislation that deals specifically with their backyard. But with the amount of money that I’m sure is being offered up to legislators who can ensure the bills passage, such as Miller, I doubt that a disqualified senator and two disgruntled state senators – both of whom knocked off Miller-backed allies in last year’s election – will prevent the measure from being pushed through for selfish political reasons.