Maryland Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Passes State Senate

The Maryland Senate approved a substantial juvenile justice reform measure on Monday as lawmakers reached a milestone in their 90-day session with three weeks remaining.

The reform legislation, now going to the House, generally says that a child under the age of 13 will not be subject to the jurisdiction of a juvenile court for delinquency proceedings and cannot be charged with a crime. But juvenile courts would have jurisdiction over a child who is at least 10 years old and has committed the most serious crimes, such as murder and other violent crimes.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter, is based on recommendations from a state panel.

The Senate also passed a separate bill last week that would prohibit a law enforcement officer from conducting a custodial questioning of a child unless the child has consulted with an attorney.

A separate bill that would end the policy of automatically charging some children as young as 14 as adults for more than 30 different crimes has stalled in legislative committee.

Overall, though, Carter said the two bills passed by the Senate make significant steps toward reform.

“I still think it’s the most important youth reform we’ve passed since I’ve been a member of the legislature, which has been a long time,” said Carter, a Democrat from Baltimore who has been a lawmaker since 2003.

Jenny Egan, a public defender who was a member of the Juvenile Justice Reform Council, said she was disappointed that the measure to end the automatic charging of some children as adults has stalled, but said she believes the measures passed by the Senate are significant. , with the potential to continue advancing in the coming years.

Egan said nearly all children charged as adults in Maryland are black or brown who are disproportionately kept in the adult system longer than white children.

“It is a violation of human rights that must and must be addressed, so we are very sad that we didn’t get past it this year, but I do think the legislature and judicial committees really turned their attention to minors. judicial reform for the first time,” Egan said.

Lawmakers arrived at their crossing day on Monday. It’s a deadline that lawmakers set to try to get the legislation they intend to pass in one of the chambers. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn at midnight on April 11.

Lawmakers are still working out the details of the $350 million set aside in the budget for tax relief. Amid a huge budget surplus, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, has pushed for a phase-out of income taxes for retirees, as well as making an enhanced income tax credit permanent for workers. low-income that was implemented last year as a temporary measure.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore, said senators were in close negotiations with the administration and the House.

“I think we are thinking of retirees. We are thinking about relief for working families,” Ferguson said. “Nothing is off the table yet until we reach an agreement.”

The Senate approved the state’s $58.5 billion on Friday. It is now in the House.

As lawmakers enter the final three weeks of session, they will also address legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. The House has already passed a constitutional amendment to give voters a chance to decide the issue in November. The House also passed legislation to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution. That proposal, as well as separate legislation designed to expand abortion access in the state, is now in the Senate.