A bill that would have resurrected the bail system in Maryland will not get a vote in the House of Delegates, a top aide to House Speaker Michael E. Busch said late Thursday, after Democratic leaders concluded it would not have enough support to pass.
Alexandra Hughes, Busch’s chief of staff, said the speaker made the decision after Democratic members polled their caucus to see how members would vote.
Allowing the bill to die in the House effectively leaves in place a recent Court of Appeals rules change that greatly limits the use of bail and instructs judges to use the “least onerous” conditions when setting bail for a defendant who is not considered a danger or a flight risk.
Busch’s decision was first reported by the Baltimore Sun.
Progressive advocates and lawmakers tried for years to abolish bail for poor defendants, saying it unfairly discriminates against them and can leave defendants who are not flight risks languishing in jail before trial simply because they lack the money to post bond.
But the Court of Appeals decision was strongly opposed by the bail bond industry, who said it took away judges’ discretion and would mean more criminals on the street and fewer showing up in court for trial.
The industry campaigned against the change on social media and was highly visible in Annapolis during the current legislative session, urging lawmakers to pass a bill sponsored by Sen. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s) that would reestablish the option for judges to set bail even for poor defendants.
The bill was approved in the Senate, but it was opposed by the powerful Legislative Black Caucus, one of the largest blocs in the legislature. The Hispanic and Asian caucuses, and the entire Montgomery County delegation, subsequently decided to oppose the bill as well.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Cheryl Glenn, chair of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, which voted against the bill. “I was very happy to hear it’s not going to the floor.
“This not only sends a message to the leadership in Maryland but to people across the country about what can be accomplished when African American legislators stand together.”