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Hogan signs bills on public safety, tax credit for jobs, more

Maryland Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith, left, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, right, smile at a bill-signing ceremony with Gov. Larry Hogan on April 21, 2022, in Annapolis. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Maryland Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith, left, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, right, smile at a bill-signing ceremony with Gov. Larry Hogan on April 21, 2022, in Annapolis. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan signed measures into law Thursday aimed at increasing public safety, jobs, environmental stewardship and mental health resources.

The Republican governor, who prioritized initiatives to support the police and fight crime this legislative session, signed legislation to increase transparency in the criminal justice system and to create a state gun analytics center to coordinate resources to screen and vet gun cases to improve the prosecution of gun crimes.

“Violent crime continues to be Marylanders’ top priority, and today we’re signing our Judicial Transparency Act, so that the public knows more about the sentences that are being handed down for violent criminals,” Hogan said. “We’re further expanding our warrant apprehension efforts and strengthening prosecutions on gun crimes.”

Hogan opened his remarks before signing 103 bills with House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith by noting it was the first time two Black women were the presiding officers representing the Maryland House and Senate together at a bill signing.

The criminal justice measures marked a compromise between the Republican governor and the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.

Hogan criticized the legislature for not acting on his crime package late in the 90-day session. He specifically called for passing his Violent Firearms Offender Act, which would have created stronger penalties for offenders who use and illegally possess firearms, as well as those who illegally provide firearms to criminals, but the bill favored by the governor did not advance.

Democrats have not been supportive of mandatory-minimum prison sentences, opting instead to focus on prevention and rehabilitation.

“I believe that our comprehensive community safety plan targets prevention, intervention, justice and rehabilitation, and it provides the tools and resources necessary for the executive branch to address the most critical needs in our state’s criminal justice system,” Griffith, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said.

The governor also signed a bill to extend tax incentives for manufacturers that locate or expand in the state and create new manufacturing jobs and non-manufacturers that locate or expand in Maryland Opportunity Zones.

Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, said measures signed Thursday demonstrated the state’s commitment to rebuilding the foundation of the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re getting Marylanders back to work, investing in our students and in education, putting a greater focus on mental and behavioral health, ensuring safer communities, creating a clean sustainable environment and protecting your private information in a growing virtual world,” the speaker said.

With 988 set to become the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in July, the governor signed a measure to create a fund to support mental and behavioral health call centers.

In his remarks, Hogan noted the signing of the Conservation Finance Act, which he said makes Maryland the first state to enact legislation that leverages private capital to advance climate, conservation, and water quality goals.

He also signed the George “Walter” Taylor Act to stop the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in firefighting foam. The law is named for a firefighter for 31 years who died from occupational health cancers linked to PFAS exposure. The new law also will restrict the use of toxic “forever chemicals” in food packaging, rugs and carpets.

The new law will go into effect on July 1, although most of the restrictions won’t be implemented until Jan. 1, 2024.

Brian Witte reports for The Associated Press.