State lawmakers diluting opposition to private police force via committee hearings

House Judiciary Chairman reschedules bill hearing to dilute opposition

As over a hundred men, women and children lined the campus of Johns Hopkins University, yesterday, outside of the Milton Eisenhower library, chanting “No justice, no peace; no private police”; members of the Maryland State legislature were busy working with Hopkins leaders to effectively ensure that same opposition wasn’t able to effectively communicate their concerns to a Senate committee set to hear the pending legislation next week.

How you ask? Easy! Instead of holding the House bill hearing on the Tuesday following next Friday’s Senate hearing on the legislation, as originally scheduled, they instead moved both hearings to the same day, only thirty minutes apart so that opponents of the measure couldn’t assemble hundreds of witnesses to testify against the measure in one committee. Instead, they will now have to decide which legislative body they want to focus their energy on next Friday or split the group in half and have members in both chambers, effectively diluting the growing opposition to this legislation.

The issue at hand: whether Johns Hopkins, a private institution, should be able to assemble their own police force to patrol their large hospital campuses and its institution of higher learning in a growingly dangerous city. The bill, which was defeated in Annapolis one year ago, is back this year with two lead sponsors – Senator Antonio Hayes and Delegate Cheryl Glenn – who both remain undecided on the support of their own legislation. It’s that uncertainty that continues to divide a community, both locally elected and community-based leaders that make up the representation of the neighborhoods that surround Johns Hopkins.

But SAPP – Students Against Private Police – have made it clear that they are vehemently against this proposed legislation, actively organizing rallies and protests such as the one we witnessed yesterday, while lobbying state lawmakers on why this is an extremely bad idea. The University is making their own case in favor of the legislation, through door to door community canvassing and having the backing of some very powerful figures – including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Maryland State Senate President, Thomas ‘Mike’ Miller.

And it’s the Senate President who is likely helping to reshape how this bill is heard in Annapolis, in order to favor the Hopkins supporters. Typically, when a bill is introduced and cross-filed, both bills get heard in their respective chambers on different days, or at least in two different time periods of the day (one in the morning and the other in the afternoon), in order for opponents and proponents of the measure to have time to testify in both chambers.

This clearly shows that the democratic leadership in Annapolis has chosen to unfairly put their finger on the scale of justice regardless of what the community may have to say about it.

And while this bill in particular was scheduled on two separate days when it was initially announced on the floor during First Reader and giving a hearing date with the Senate bill being heard in the Judicial Proceedings Committee on Friday, February 22nd at its normal time of 12:00 noon, and the House bill being heard in the Judiciary Committee at its normal time of 1:00 p.m. five days later on February 26th; in a matter of two days, something drastically changed the trajectory of these hearings.

Now, instead of the House Judiciary hearing the bill during their normal time of 1:00 p.m. on a separate day, they have moved the bill hearing up to the same exact day as the Senate bill hearing, and has the hearing scheduled for the unusual time of 11:30 a.m. with no other legislation being heard at that time. Typically, on a Friday in the first few weeks after the start of the 90-day legislative session, committees such as the House Judiciary don’t even have a 1:00 p.m. hearing, let alone an 11:30 a.m. hearing; as most legislators go back to their districts after the conclusion of the regularly scheduled House session that typically starts at 10:00 a.m.

However, for some “strange and mysterious” reason, having had absolutely no full committee meetings or bill hearings on a Friday since the start of the session, and not having one that starts at 11:30 a.m. scheduled at this time moving forward, other than this bill; it seems as if the legislative leaders in Annapolis have convinced the committee’s new chairman, Baltimore City Delegate Luke Clippinger, that it would be in his “best interest” to reschedule the bill hearing and put it on thirty minutes prior to the Senate’s bill hearing.

It first appeared less than ideal to have this bill written with the inclusion of “pork barrel” inclusions, known as “sweeteners”, in the first place, which mandates the state to allocate $4.5 million a year for four years to youth-related programs such as the city’s youth fund and the annual YouthWorks summer jobs program, as well as mandating the allocation of $10 million a year with no sunset provision to areas that surround the campuses of JHU.

And now with this major inconvenience, scheduling both hearings on the same day within minutes of one another, it clearly shows that the democratic leadership in Annapolis has chosen to unfairly put their finger on the scale of justice regardless of what the community may have to say about it. This shows yet another example on why the people of this country are fed up with the same-old, tired, political theater that continues to play out in legislative bodies across the country; highlighting the fact that the will of people will forever be TRUMPED by the democratic leaders who continue to seem to know what’s best for us – without ever listening to our concerns.

I’d encourage anyone from Baltimore City, especially those in the communities that surround these campuses, to contact House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Delegate Luke Clippinger – a Democrat from Baltimore City’s 46th legislative district; and demand that he reschedules this bill hearing not to conflict with that of the Senate’s hearing. And then reach out to the democratic leaders, Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas ‘Mike’ Miller, and tell them to allow for this bill process to be played out like any other bill. And while you are at, whether you support or oppose the legislation; contact the city’s House and Senate delegation, and let them know where you stand on this pending legislation!

It’s time we stopped allowing people who are elected to represent OUR interests, to pull the wool over our eyes and continuously do what’s in their best interest while pretending to care about the will of the people!

You can also check out the debate over the fate of this legislation on last night’s DMVDaily Radio Show at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtG_BHtVSLs

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