Hogan Lifts State Of Emergency, Approves State Worker Pay Bump
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the state of emergency on Wednesday that he initiated last Monday night after protests against the death of Freddie Gray turned into looting and rioting. The governor said there’s still a lot of work to be done to help the city recover and address the underlying cause of the rage that spilled out over the city’s streets.
The National Guard and extra law enforcement officers deployed to the city are now gone. The tally of costs for the state of emergency have not been calculated yet, but the governor said he’s authorized $20 million dollars transferred from the state’s rainy day fund to help pay for it.
Hogan pledged to help the 250 businesses damaged by fire and looting last week, but he said businesses across the city will continue to be affected by what he called Baltimore’s tarnished image.
“We believe the city’s safe, we want to try to get people back in here to spend money and go out to dinner and try to get back to normal but there’s no question it’s going to be a tremendous economic impact on businesses in Baltimore,” Hogan said.
The governor praised employees at state agencies for their responsiveness, and committed to fund a cost of living increase for state workers earlier in the day. That two percent inflation adjustment was a hotly debated topic during the session, and the legislature moved to cordon off funds to pay for it that the governor had previously said he thought would be imprudent to spend.
Hogan moved his office and his closest staff to Baltimore when he declared a state of emergency. Reflecting on what he saw when he arrived, he said “We saw devastation and destruction. But we also saw incredible acts of kindness. We saw neighbors helping neighbors. We saw a community that cares about each other.”
The governor tasked Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford to coordinate between city and state agencies to help businesses and residents recover from the damage caused last Monday. Hogan said Keiffer Mitchell, a former Baltimore delegate whose family is well-known for its civil rights work, will continue on as a special advisor in charge of working with city and community leaders to identify and address the root causes of the violence.
Leaders in the state legislature on Tuesday announced the formation of a task force to look at changes to state law regarding police accountability in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, who died after receiving severe spinal injuries while in police custody. Del. Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore, and Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Democrat whose district includes the West Baltimore area at the epicenter of the protests, were tasked with leading the effort.
Del. Anderson said the task force will deal with police-community relations from a state-wide perspective, and focus largely on how to reform the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which governs how police officers are disciplined for using excessive force.
“It should not be a private meeting. The results should be made public, and the officer’s punishment should be made public,” Anderson said, referring to the trial boards in which officers are often evaluated after accusations of excessive force.
The commission’s formation comes after the legislature killed several bills related to police accountability in the legislative session that ended the day after Gray died in April. Two bills related to police deaths did pass – one that lays a legal pathway for putting body cameras on police and another that raises the cap on payouts cities can be liable for if they are involved in wrongful death or injury. The legislature set up a task force to study body cameras and a separate commission to look at overhauling the criminal justice system and reducing the state’s stubbornly high recidivism rate.
When the legislative session ended, the Democratic-controlled legislature had earmarked some $68 million in funds for public schools in the state’s most expensive districts, including Baltimore City. But the governor said he thought he’d adequately funded public education, and that the state couldn’t afford to fully fund the supplemental cash that school districts have come to rely on.
Asked whether the events of the past two weeks had changed his mind, Hogan said he didn’t hear about funding formulas when he walked around Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived. Instead, he said, he was told people wanted recreation centers and jobs.
Del. Anderson said he would have loved to see the governor fully fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index, as the formula is called, but said he understands the governor’s reluctance to release the funds. “You can’t expect somebody to keep giving you money if you don’t do anything with it,” he said. “Our superintendent [Baltimore City Schools CEO Gregory Thornton] is a smart guy and he can use what we have and make sure we can do the best for our kids.”