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Senate panels deliberate fate of Md. handgun permit panel

Bryan P. Sears//March 15, 2019

Senate panels deliberate fate of Md. handgun permit panel

By Bryan P. Sears

//March 15, 2019

Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick. (Bryan P. Sears)
Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick. (Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation to revamp the process for appealing concealed-carry permit rulings in Maryland is expected to receive a vote from at least one key Senate committee Monday.

The vote in the Senate Executive Nominations Committee Monday comes as the legislature rushes to meet a courtesy deadline for sending bills to the opposite chamber. The expected vote also comes in advance of a vote by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which is also responsible for the late-filed proposal that would abolish the Handgun Permit Review Board.

“I think there will be some amendments but I do think we’ll vote the bill out (on Monday),” said Sen. Ron Young, D-Frederick and chairman of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee.

Young’s committee is one of two in the Senate given jurisdiction over the bill.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. took the unusual step of jointly assigning the bill to both the Judicial Proceedings Committee — which rewrote a similar effort last year — and the committee that reviews key appointments made by the governor. Earlier this year, that committee rejected three of Gov. Larry Hogan’s nominees to that permit review board, citing concerns about the rate at which it was modifying or overturning recommendations of the Maryland State Police.

The bill, as written, abolishes the Handgun Permit Review Board, which was created in 1972 and sends any appeals of permits and restrictions issued by the Maryland State Police to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

A bill last year to abolish the panel was reworked into one that added a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge.

Miller earlier this year called the change “a nothing burger.”

The proposed change and the legislative gymnastics surrounding the bill are seen by pro-Second Amendment groups as a continued assault on the rights of gun owners.

The joint committee assignment drew protests from Republicans, and it sets up an unusual path to a full Senate vote in which only one committee needs to vote the legislation out. Should one committee vote the bill to the floor and the other recommend it be defeated, the bill would still go to the full Senate but without an official committee recommendation.

Some said they are unsure how fast the bill will move to the floor following the Monday evening meeting of Executive Nominations.

“I’m not sure what will happen procedurally,” said Sen. J.B. Jennings, R-Baltimore and Harford counties and Senate minority leader. “I guess we’ll find out once (the committee) hears it.”

Concerning to Sen. Pam Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, and other Democratic lawmakers are the 222 times the board has voted in the last 12 months to alter a state police decision, including 145 changes to modifications or restrictions and 77 times the board reversed a decision by the police, according to figures released by the permit review board.

Supporters of the current process called restrictions on the permits approved by state police confusing and in some cases unworkable.

Sen. Robert “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said his committee has not yet scheduled a vote on the bill, which he said needs work.

“The bill was drafted horrendously,” said Zirkin. The measure lacks specifics on rights of appeal and standards of proof and timelines for when appeals have to be filed and heard, he said.

“I don’t think any of the proponents of the bill are against any of these details,” said Zirkin. “They just weren’t drafted into the bill. Someone has to do some work, so I guess it will be (the Judicial Proceedings Committee).”

The bill is not expected to move out of the Senate for the March 18 crossover deadline by which most legislation needs to be passed by one chamber and sent to the other to have the most realistic chances of gaining overall passage. Still, supporters say they are not concerned the bill won’t make it to the House of Delegates before the session ends on April 8.

Hogan has not yet staked out a public position on the bill.

“The legislature has the ability to propose changes to legislatively created boards and commissions,” said Shareese Churchill, a spokeswoman for the governor. “If making changes to this board is a priority for the legislature, the governor will certainly consider any legislation that reaches his desk.”


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