Hogan should veto “Year of the Criminal” Bills
As I discussed on last week’s Conservative Refuge Radio, with events in Baltimore returning to normal, Governor Hogan will need to pivot his attention to a number of bills awaiting his signature. In light of what we have all witnessed the past week, some of these bills, largely bad ideas to begin with, should be vetoed by the Governor.
If you recall, a number of bills passed the General Assembly granting rights or mitigating consequences for convicted criminals in Maryland. The proliferation of this legislation lead to the 2015 session’s moniker as “The Year of the Criminal”. Of particular note are two bills sitting on the Governor’s desk one expanding voting rights to felons who are still on probation or parole (HB 980) and the other the euphemistic “Second Chances Act” which “shielded” public information regarding certain criminal convictions (HB 244).
The bill expanding voting rights for felons (HB980) is, as we have noted, a bad idea to begin with. Felons can already vote in Maryland provided they have completed the entirety of their sentence, including any parole or probation. This act would allow felons to vote once they are released from incarceration, assuming they were incarcerated at all. While there are obvious problems with the concept, one practical concern raised and confirmed during the legislative session, is that the Maryland Department of Corrections and the Board of Elections have no reliable way to communicate. When a felon is incarcerated for a violation of probation, for instance, there is no confidence that this will be communicated to the Board of Elections. Inevitably, the passage of this bill will lead to circumstances of felons voting from prison. If the Governor doesn’t veto this measure just remember you read that here first.
The “Second Chance Act” (HB 244) would “shield” public records regarding certain convictions three years after the sentence, including in this case any probation or parole, is completed. The crimes which would shielded include disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, malicious destruction of property and trespass among other crimes. Sound familiar? Yes, this bill would shield the very crime most commonly committed by the rioters in Baltimore City.
It would be sending a terrible message for the Governor, who has expressed support for the bill, to sign it in light of the events of just a week ago. I would hope the Governor seriously considers vetoing this legislation as well.