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Md. GOP caucus wants a violent offender registry, a tax cut and redistricting reform

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) gives the State of the State address to a joint session of the general assembly at the State House in Annapolis on Feb. 3, 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

The Maryland House Minority Caucus announced Friday that it wants murderers and violent offenders to be placed on a registry similar to the one compiled for sex offenders, one of four pieces of legislation on its list of priorities this session.

House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said that the caucus, which lost eight members in a blue wave in the November election, wants to ensure that the issues of concern to the nearly 2 million Maryland residents it represents are heard in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

“We represent Marylanders from every corner of the state,” Kipke said. “And they want us to work together to get things done.”

Friday’s announcement was the first time the House Minority Caucus has held a news conference to formally announce its priorities since Gov. Larry Hogan (R) took office in 2015.

In addition to the registry for murderers and violent offenders, Kipke and other GOP leaders said the caucus will push for a reduction in the state income tax rate, a change in the way legislative districts are drawn and the creation of a new category of “special police officers” to improve safety in public schools.

The tax cut would cost the state an estimated $400 million and reduce the income tax rate by a quarter of a percentage point, according to House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County). Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) said the redistricting reform addresses the “unequal” and “unfair” legislative maps that split some House districts in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles counties in three.

“Everyone knows that Maryland is one of the most gerrymandered states in America, not just at the congressional level, but also at the state legislative district level,” Buckel said. The proposal piggybacks on a plan by Hogan to redraw congressional and legislative districts.

It is unlikely that the proposals will be well-received in the General Assembly, which shifted slightly leftward in the November elections.

Kipke said he thinks the bills are “common sense” proposals that Democrats should support.

“Some of these ideas come from the other party in other states,” Kipke said.

Marylanders agree that the state’s tax burden is too high, and most oppose gerrymandering, he said.

The registry, he said, would affect “a narrow scope of people that we are concerned about.” He said it would contain murder convicts and violent repeat offenders, including carjackers and people convicted of armed robbery.

Kipke said the “most important job of government is to keep our communities safe, and taking information that is already public and making it easier to find is a measure that will make our neighborhoods safer.”

Toni Holness, the public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said it is unclear how a registry for violent offenders makes communities safer.

“At a minimum, such a registry is duplicative,” she said. “Maryland has Maryland case search, which anyone can access through the Internet. Having a registry tends to be stigmatizing for families or other household members of the individual.”