Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed a long list of bills into law on Tuesday, including bills that require police departments in Baltimore and Baltimore County to create special “behavioral health” units and that establish a review board to study the impact on businesses of proposed state regulations.
Many of the 350 measures that Hogan signed involve law enforcement or economic development. Both endeavors have emerged as concerns in Maryland recently as the the federal workforce has dwindled and the arrest and death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray set off protests and riots in Baltimore.
[Shrinking government: Federal hiring is down, departures are up]
Ten of the bills align with Hogan’s campaign pledge to improve Maryland’s business climate as well as with recommendations made by an economic development commission established last year by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
“The primary focus of my administration is to get Maryland open for business once again and create jobs for our citizens,” Hogan said in a statement before the signing event. “The bills we are signing into law . . . address ways to improve the state’s business climate and make it easier for the hardworking men and women of our state to thrive and succeed.”
Miller told reporters that reductions in the federal workforce had prompted the move to set up the economic development commission.
The commission released a report in February suggesting that burdensome regulations and a lack of economic diversity were hurting the state’s business climate, as well as its job market. Miller said the Democratic-led General Assembly responded by passing bills that address all of the group’s legislative recommendations.
[‘Maryland has not nearly reached its potential,’ business report says]
“The business of Maryland has to be about business,” Miller said. He said the commission next plans to look at the state’s tax structure, and will provide recommendations before the 2016 legislative session.
One of the measures signed Tuesday allows makers and distributors of electric cars and other alternative-fuel vehicles to become licensed auto dealers in the state. Another authorizes ride-hailing services such as Uber to do business in the state.
Among the public-safety measures enacted, one bill authorizes police to wear body cameras and establishes a commission to recommend policies for use of the devices. Another requires law enforcement agencies to provide the governor’s office with data on the deaths of individuals in police custody. A third mandates that police agencies record demographic information for traffic stops — a nod to a growing nationwide concern about racial profiling.
The behavioral-health bill requires the Baltimore and Baltimore County police establish specially trained units with at least six officers to deal with the needs of individuals who suffer from mental-health or substance-abuse disorders.
The governor also signed legislation to repeal the state’s so-called “rain tax,” which required the largest local jurisdictions to collect stormwater-remediation fees to combat the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. Under the new policy, jurisdictions can decide for themselves how to pay for federally mandated environmental-protection efforts.
About half of the bills signed Tuesday were originally scheduled to be signed April 28. But Hogan’s office postponed the bill-signing because of unrest in Baltimore related to Gray’s death.