Md. Senate Changes Corrections Bill to Recapture Savings - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Md. Senate Changes Corrections Bill to Recapture Savings

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)- The Maryland Senate restored an important provision of a major bill of the session aimed at reforming the state's corrections system to reduce recidivism Monday night, after the bill got hung up over changes made last week that some said significantly diminished the savings needed to implement reforms.
    
Meanwhile, the House passed a bill to increase police accountability, and the Senate approved a modest tax-relief measure that will be phased in over five years.
    
The trouble with the corrections reform bill, known as the Justice Reinvestment Act, surfaced Monday morning after an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trust indicated that the estimated savings over 10 years had been reduced from about $247 million to less than $40 million.
    
The lost savings was largely due to lifting caps on probation violations for public safety reasons "or for other good cause." The caps require judges to impose sentences of 15, 30 and 45 days for first, second and third probation violations - instead of potentially longer terms. Because allowing the caps to be lifted "for other good cause" was considered too broad, the Senate removed the words from the bill Monday night.
    
The Senate then delayed further action until Wednesday at the request of Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George's, to give the Legislative Black Caucus a chance to review the bill.
    
In other business, the Senate voted 37-8 for a modest tax-relief measure. It's comparable to the overall amount of relief offered by a plan Republican Gov. Larry Hogan proposed, although it takes a different approach. The measure, which would add up to about $600 million over five years, would reduce Maryland's top four tax-rate brackets over five years. That portion of the plan wasn't a part of Hogan's proposal. It would affect single filers who make more than $100,000 and joint filers with income over $150,000. It would cut taxes between 1 and 3 percent for those brackets.
    
The Senate plan also would expand the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, which is offered to low-income workers. People in the middle who make between $60,000 and $100,000 would get a small increase in their personal exemption by $50 a year for up to four years.
    
Supporters said the reductions in the higher tax brackets were needed to help small businesses.
    
"We've got to create incentives that are balanced across the board that will create jobs so that these people at the lower end will have an opportunity to work," said Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Hagerstown.
    
But opponents said the tax cuts will make it harder for the state to pay its bills, with no assurance they stimulate the economy.
    
"This bill will come due, whether it's fixing our infrastructure, whether it's paying for schools, whether it's ensuring people have a healthy and safe environment in the state of Maryland," said Sen. Paul Pinksy, D-Prince George's.
    
The police accountability measure passed the House 95-41 Monday evening. The bill was the result of a study by a panel of lawmakers that was convened after last year's rioting in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, who died after suffering injuries in the back of a police transport van. The measure makes changes to the state's Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. For example, the period of time residents can file a complaint against police will be extended from 90 days to a year and a day. The measure also limits the time an officer can take to retain an attorney for internal investigations from 10 days to five.
    
The General Assembly's "crossover" deadline is Monday. That means each chamber is supposed to approve legislation it intends to pass favorably over to the other chamber by the end of the day.

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