Release: Comptroller Henry Shares Priorities Ahead of 2024 MDGA Session
Thursday Nov 30th, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Comptroller Bill Henry presented his priority list to the City Delegation for the 2024 Maryland General Assembly during the fourth annual Issues & Priorities pre-session hearing on November 28. You can watch the full meeting at this link.
Dear Chairwoman Smith and members of the City Delegation:
Thank you for your invitation to participate in the Baltimore City House Delegation’s Fourth Annual Issues and Priorities Hearing. It is an honor to contribute to this crucial platform and share the legislative priorities that the City Comptroller's office is advocating for during the upcoming 2024 General Assembly session.
But before I begin, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you for finally passing SB100 Real Property – Actions to Repossess – Proof of Rental Licensure. It has made a significant impact on the lives of Baltimore City tenants and upheld the spirit of the City’s rental licensing law.
During the coming 2024 session, the focus of the Comptroller's legislative priorities remains steadfast in safeguarding City resources and protecting our residents. I would like to draw your attention to several key initiatives that require your support for the betterment of our beloved City:
Regional Water Taskforce
The Regional Water Taskforce is completing its work and drafting recommendations that will be ready in late January 2024. I’ll make sure each member of the delegation has a copy of these recommendations and an opportunity to be briefed as needed. I look forward to your partnership on improving our water utility.
Your support in implementing these recommendations is important to the future of our shared water system. There may be proposed administrative changes requiring state legislative action. Additional funding from the State will also be essential to support any complex transitions to ensure they are seamless for the 1.8 million-plus customers of Baltimore’s water system across the region.
I genuinely appreciate Chairwoman Smith's dedication in introducing HB0853 Baltimore City – Control Over Powers of Police Commissioner last session and I hope to see it again in 2024. The urgency of the matter cannot be overstated. I'm certain you share my frustration that, regrettably, the Senate cross file didn't progress as swiftly as we had hoped. It is crucial that we swiftly and collaboratively ensure Baltimore City has the authority to enact laws governing the Baltimore Police Department. Local control, a sentiment strongly endorsed by Baltimore City residents, must not linger in bureaucratic limbo. I’ll also continue this advocacy in my conversations with the Mayor and Senate President. Baltimore City residents voted for local control; it’s the responsibility of the legislature - at both local and state levels! - to enact the will of the people.
I-83 Traffic Cameras
The success of 2021’s HB 967 in authorizing speed cameras on I-83 highlights the positive impact such measures can have on public safety. Earlier this fall, the Baltimore Banner noted that “crashes dropped by half in the three months following camera installation compared to the three prior months.”
I propose the expansion of this program by allowing the Department of Transportation to add additional cameras and/or regularly relocate existing cameras along I-83. This will sustain and enhance the program's success.
I hope the General Assembly will prioritize this proven public safety program and pass legislation protecting Baltimore residents, commuters and visitors.
Riot Act Insurance
In the 2024 session, I am suggesting that the General Assembly propose changes to the State Riot Act. The goal is to update the law, removing outdated parts and ensuring that under the Local Government Tort Claims Act, counties or municipalities are only reasonably responsible for damages from civil unrest. This is a sensible update to a law that hasn't been carefully reviewed in over fifty years.
I will once again be supporting efforts to require that all City employees, including law enforcement officers - who commit serious crimes or are convicted or plead guilty to offenses related to lying under oath or fabricating false evidence, forfeit some or all of their pension benefits. Since 2017, Baltimore City government has paid more than $22,625,073.27 in legal settlements for over 40 cases relating to the Gun Trace Task Force. It is an egregious injustice that taxpayers shoulder the financial consequences of the willful misconduct of public servants without any meaningful recourse. If this argument sounds familiar, it is – because this is my third year beating this drum.
Let's be unequivocal – this call for accountability extends beyond the spotlight on police officers due to the actions of the Gun Trace Task Force. It is a clarion call for consistency across all public employees. Elected officials already lose their pensions upon conviction of a felony in office, and this standard should be upheld for anyone who breaches the public trust. We are not targeting police officers alone; if we have to pay out money in a suit, the City should be able to claw back some or all of the pension of any city employee found guilty of crimes that undermine public trust.
Continuing our commitment to the well-being of City residents, I support legislative initiatives to make auto insurance more affordable, especially for Baltimore City residents, who continue to pay the highest car insurance rates in the state.
Just Cause Eviction
I urge your support for Delegate Jheanelle Wilkin’s Just Cause Eviction legislation this year. With over one-third of families renting homes, the current law allowing landlords to evict with just 60 days' notice is detrimental. This disproportionately affects low-wage renters, pushing them toward homelessness. Just Cause Eviction, requiring landlords to justify non-renewals, is crucial for housing stability. The proposed 2023 legislation empowers counties to tailor policies, aligning with successful models in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Washington State.
In wrapping up, I want to throw some more well-deserved kudos to this Delegation. Your tireless advocacy for the folks in Baltimore deserves a round of applause – or at least an enthusiastic golf clap. I am eager to continue our partnership in shaping a brighter future for Baltimore and Maryland as a whole. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our community.
Comptroller Bill Henry