ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A measure to improve school safety cleared the Maryland General Assembly on Monday, less than a month after a shooting at a high school in southern Maryland left two students dead.
The legislation would create a variety of standards and guidelines statewide. The bill would require public high schools to have either a school resource officer or plans for adequate law enforcement coverage by the upcoming school year. Other schools, such as middle and elementary schools, would need to have the plans in place for the school year that begins in 2019.
“People on both sides of the aisle came together to make this happen, and it’s a big bill,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said.
Lawmakers and Gov. Larry Hogan proposed legislation to increase school safety after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The issue has received extra attention after the March 20 shooting at Great Mills High School, where a student shot and killed a former girlfriend before killing himself.
Hogan said although there were some changes in the measure, he sounded positive about the outcome.
“We made some real progress on that, and everybody in the state wants to see that happen because no mom or dad should ever have to worry when they send their kids off to school whether their son or daughter is going to come home safely,” the Republican governor said, shortly before the bill was passed.
Legislators already have set aside about $41 million in the budget to make school safety improvements. The bill sets aside another $10 million annually in future years to help pay for the policing component. Some lawmakers criticized that provision, because the bill doesn’t allocate extra money for mental health services.
With time ticking down the session’s end at midnight, lawmakers were still working on a package of legislation to fight crime. The House passed two bills after carving up a comprehensive Senate bill that had been criticized over changes in sentencing for a variety of crimes. The House rejected most of them, but kept a 10-year, mandatory minimum sentence for a second offense of using a firearm in committing a violent crime.
In response to criticism from criminal justice reform advocates, the House included a provision to allow people to expunge criminal records after 15 years for the crimes of possession with intent to distribute drugs, burglary, and theft.
The legislation expands wiretapping authority for prosecutors on gun investigations. Penalties for witness intimidation increase from five to 10 years for inducing false testimony or retaliation for testimony. One provision is aimed at helping to prosecute volume dealers of fentanyl, the lethal ultra-potent opioid.
The Senate also is taking up measures approved by the House to add funding to programs aimed at fighting crime. One of them adds $3.6 million to Baltimore’s Safe Streets program, which uses mediators to steer young adults away from violence and connect them to services.
The measures come after Baltimore had 342 murders in 2017 and set a record for homicides on a per-capita basis.
Earlier in the day, the assembly gave final approval to a bill to help improve diversity in Maryland’s new medical marijuana industry. Hogan said he had not yet seen the bill and would review it.
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