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Baltimore bills clear Senate

Rachel Baye

State lawmakers approved Wednesday several bills aimed at improving quality of life in Baltimore. The bills pay for extended library hours and school days, and demolition of vacant houses.

Additional bills targeting Baltimore are slated for final passage in the Senate Thursday after already passing the House, meaning the package could hit the governor's desk by the end of the week.

Democratic legislative leaders are pushing the bills in what has been deemed a renaissance for Baltimore after last April’s riots.

But Republicans say the efforts contradict Gov. Larry Hogan’s push to reduce the number of budget mandates — money the state will be required to spend in years to come. Hogan has called mandates reckless policy.

Speaking about a bill that creates redevelopment grants for specific Baltimore neighborhoods, Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Republican from Harford County, said the mandates are a partisan tool.

“The objectives are laudable, but the mandate is unacceptable,” he said. “We would not seeing such mandates inserted on a bill absent just raw politicization of the process.”

However, Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore City Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the mandates are necessary to give the community development corporations receiving the grants enough certainty to create a multi-year plan for the neighborhoods they are revitalizing.

"You can't turnaround a neighborhood overnight," he said. "You have to have certainty that the funding will come through."

That bill got initial approval Wednesday and is slated for a final vote Thursday.

If the bills get to Hogan by Friday, Democrats could have enough time to override any vetoes before the session ends on April 11.