Governor O'Malley Signs Legislation to Keep Maryland Families and Neighborhoods Safe
O'Malley adds signature to bills taking guns away from domestic abusers; creates alert system for missing elderly citizens; makes our roads safer by cracking down on speeding and drunk driving
ANNAPOLIS, MD (May 19, 2009) - Governor Martin O’Malley today joined Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch to sign a number of public safety measures into law, including legislation that takes firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers and legislation enacting stricter penalties for drunk drivers and establishing speed cameras in highway work zones to protect drivers and road workers. In addition, Governor O’Malley signed into law today a provision that positions Maryland as the nation’s leader in developing Health Information Technology, enhancing the safety and efficiency of our health care system.
“One of our most solemn obligations as public servants is the safety of the citizens we serve, whether in our homes, throughout our neighborhoods, or on our roadways,” said Governor O’Malley. “The legislation signed today enhances public safety by improving safety on our roadways by cracking down on drunk driving and speeding, and in our neighborhoods by removing firearms from the hands of domestic abusers. In addition, today we honor Marylanders with impairments by ensuring their safety with the creation of the Silver Alert, a statewide message system in the event an elderly or impaired citizen is lost or missing.”
The O’Malley-Brown Administration successfully fought for two tough new domestic violence laws that take firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers by empowering judges to order their surrender wherever domestic violence is occurring.
“Governor O’Malley and I understand that the first obligation of any government is to protect the public safety of its citizens and I applaud the Governor’s leadership in passing comprehensive public safety reforms that will save lives in Maryland, especially reforms to fight back against domestic violence,” Lt. Governor Brown said. “Domestic violence has touched too many families and sadly, last year 75 of our neighbors lost their lives to domestic violence, including my cousin, Cathy. The bills Governor O’Malley signs today are a common-sense step to take guns out of the hands of abusers. These laws won't bring Cathy or any other victim back, but they will save lives in the days, months and years ahead.”
“Victims of domestic abuse are among our most vulnerable citizens, and they often have no place to turn but the court system. We have a solemn duty to protect them in their moment of need,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. “Today we make progress by giving judges and prosecutors additional tools to prevent horrific acts of domestic violence and punish those who choose to abuse their families.”
“In 2007, 30 homicides were attributed to domestic violence. Every life that is impacted by domestic abuse is one too many and these laws will help send a strong message to law breakers,” said Speaker Michael E. Busch. “I am proud of the work the Governor and the legislature did this year to keep our communities safe.”
Safety in our Neighborhoods
Among the bills signed today include the creation of the Silver Alert, helping law enforcement agencies and citizens across our State come to the aid of older or impaired Marylanders if they are lost or missing, using a system similar to the Amber Alert that sends notifications statewide.
In addition, legislation signed today requires secondhand precious metal object dealers, or pawn brokers, to electronically submit all required transaction information to law enforcement. Submitting these records electronically will allow real-time tracking of potential illegal activity within the industry by local and state law enforcement. This will enhance law enforcement's ability to identify and retrieve stolen property in a timely manner.
On July 31, 2008, Governor O’Malley appointed former Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs to head an independent review of intelligence-gathering activities of the Maryland State Police from March 2005 to May 2006. On October 1, 2008, Governor O’Malley and former Attorney General Sachs released the results of the independent review, which included a number of recommendations to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect the individual liberties of our citizens. In response to these recommendations, Governor O’Malley signed into law today a bill that prohibits law enforcement from covertly infiltrating protest or advocacy groups without reasonable suspicion that they are engaging in criminal activity. It also requires the creation of policies and regulations regarding the collection and dissemination of information on such groups, and enforces the recommendations of the Sachs report.
Also signed today is HB1382, establishing unprecedented cross-border information sharing among regional law enforcement agencies in Washington, D.C. and Virginia through the new Public Safety Dashboard, closing the revolving door that offenders use by committing crimes in one jurisdiction and seeking refuge in another. This legislation authorizes the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services to provide access to and the confidential use of a treatment plan of a child by an agency in the District of Columbia or a state agency in Virginia that performs similar duties.
Safety on our roadways
Also included in today's bill signing is legislation that takes decisive action to make our roads safer for Maryland families by enacting stricter penalties for drunk drivers, and establishing speed cameras in highway work zones to protect drivers and road workers.
The Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol was created by legislation signed by the Governor in 2007. Among its recommendations are provisions signed today into law by Governor O’Malley, including a provision cracking down on repeat offenders by prohibiting a court from granting Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) to someone who violated the impaired driving statutes if the person had been convicted of, or granted PBJ for, such an offense anytime within the past 10 years. Legislation also signed today requires the Motor Vehicle Administration to impose a one-year mandatory suspension of the driver’s license or ignition interlock of a person who has been convicted more than once within a 5-year period of a violation of driving while under the influence, driving while impaired by alcohol, or driving while impaired by drugs.
Safety in our health care community
Governor Martin O’Malley signed HB 706 today, making Maryland the nation’s leader in developing Health Information Technology (HIT). Maryland becomes the first state in the nation to build upon the HIT funding provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Health information technology is one of the few tools that can improve health care quality, prevent medical errors, assure the delivery of preventative care, and reduce costs by delivering essential information at the time and place of care. To accomplish those goals there must be widespread use of electronic health records and the ability to exchange health information privately and securely through an exchange. This legislation advances both.
Taking Care of our Veterans
Also included in today’s bill signing ceremony are two bills that will honor Maryland’s military personnel. HB1465 authorizes the Maryland Military Department to provide tuition assistance for specified credit courses to specified members of the Maryland National Guard and the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children facilitates the timely enrollment and transfer of children of military families in Maryland schools due to the frequent movement and deployment of their parents. This bill is part of a compact with other member states.
Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown Administration has put families first by making public safety a top priority, achieving 66 fewer homicides last year statewide – a 12 percent reduction – the second highest reduction in homicides in nearly a quarter-century.
The O’Malley-Brown Administration has increased public safety funding in Maryland by more than $200 million in the first three years to make Maryland families safer, including over $52 million this year for the purchase of three new State Police Medevac helicopters to replace our aging fleet of these vital public safety tools, and $66 million to fully fund police aid to keep our streets safer. Following the passage of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the O’Malley-Brown Administration moved swiftly to capture more than $26 million in additional federal funding to put state-of-the-art law enforcement and information sharing technologies into the hands of our police at every level across our State.
And the O’Malley-Brown Administration has expanded the use of law enforcement technology, including unprecedented cross-border information sharing among regional law enforcement agencies in Washington, D.C. and Virginia through the new Public Safety Dashboard; eliminating an inherited backlog of over 24,000 DNA samples and expanding DNA sample collection to include individuals who are arrested and charged with crimes of violence; and creating Violence Prevention Initiative to identify and closely monitor the most violent, repeat offenders in our State to get them off the streets the moment they become a risk to the public.