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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Hogan says he will find funds for rape testing kits

Governor says he's not concerned with how federal agencies are using Md. driver's license data

CRISFIELD — Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he plans to find alternate funding for some programs for which he blocked spending earlier this month, including money to alleviate a backlog of untested rape kits.

The money for those and other criminal justice items remains unspent as the governor and lawmakers disagreed over$245 million in fenced-off funds set aside by the legislature.

But Hogan, attending the annual Tawes Crab Festival in Somerset County, restated that he plans to find other ways to pay for some of the items.

“We are going to take care of the rape testing kits,” said Hogan. “Almost all of the crime and health issues are going to be taken care of.”

Hogan gave few details but suggested some of the items would be fully funded.

“I think so, yes,” said Hogan.

The governor announced two weeks ago that he would not spend $245 million set aside by the legislature, saying he was unhappy with how lawmakers fenced off the money and citing concerns about the state budget in the coming year. Democrats expressed dismay, noting that the funds were within the overall spending limits contained in Hogan’s own budget proposal.

The vast majority of that money, $127 million, was earmarked for school construction projects. Hogan expressed irritation that lawmakers had rejected his plan to address the backlog of school constructions statewide over the next decade. The governor has vowed to bring that legislation back in the 2020 session.

The Democratic-controlled legislature made cuts to Hogan’s proposed budget but fenced off the money for the school construction as well as for summer jobs in Baltimore City and $1.6 million in additional money for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In doing so, the legislature prohibits Hogan from spending the funds on anything else.

Instead, Hogan has chosen to let the money sit and be returned as unallocated surplus at the end of the fiscal year.

The governor also told reporters that he does not plan to limit access to the state driver’s license databases, including photos, despite concerns from some that the FBI and immigration enforcement officials are using similar information from states, possibly including Maryland, to build a facial recognition database.

“All the federal agencies do access driver’s license information in every state,” said Hogan. “That’s going to continue to happen.”

Officials in Maryland acknowledge that federal agencies access the data in Maryland that includes photos of more than 5 million Maryland residents who have driver’s licenses and state identification cards issued by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. A series of stories in The Washington Post raised questions about the reach of the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as well as privacy concerns in an age of ever-expanding technology and data collection.

Those stories highlighted how both agencies appear to be using the data to create facial recognition databases using both data identifying undocumented immigrants as well as millions who have never been convicted of a crime.

State transportation officials testified in 2018 that law enforcement does not directly access or request data from the MVA. Instead, the state agency shares its data with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and with a state clearinghouse used by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Additionally, state officials said the law requires the release of the data to law enforcement and that they disclose this requirement to the public on the department’s website.

But Hogan downplayed concerns about federal immigration authorities who might descend on the state and scoop up undocumented immigrants.

“All this talk about ICE over the weekend, there was an awful lot of media attention about things that might happen,” said Hogan. “We’re only aware of one ICE incident in the entire state that happened and that was in coordination with State Police — one MS 13 violent criminal was arrested.

“It was a dangerous violent criminal with a long record who had already been deported out of the country once and then snuck back in again. I’m very happy state police cooperated with ICE on that, removing a dangerous criminal from the streets in St. Mary’s County,” the governor said.

Hogan expressed little concern about how state driver’s license data and photos might be used by ICE and others.

“I don’t know how they’re talking about changing the way they are using them, but we’re certainly not going to stop federal agencies from using them to stop people from committing crimes,” said Hogan.

 

 


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