2024 Fourth Bill Signing

Published: 5/16/2024

Remarks as prepared
Delivered on Thursday, May 16, 2024​​​

At the start of this year, we said our administration would focus on four priorities:

We would make Maryland safer;

We would make Maryland more affordable;

We would make Maryland more competitive;

And we would continue to make Maryland the state that serves.

Today, we sign bills to make Maryland safer.

When we entered office, we said that public safety would be our number one priority – And we said we were going to move differently on this issue, because the status quo wasn’t working.

Baltimore had endured over 300 homicides every year for eight straight years before we took office.

The issue of public safety mattered too much to think that we could call on everyone else to take action – without taking action ourselves.  

This issue mattered too much to think that we could “hope” or “urge” or “push” the legislature to do more – without being their partners in the work. 

I would never spend my time as governor giving thoughts and prayers and attending funerals – without introducing a single piece of legislation or having a single signature policy that tried to rectify the problem. 

In this administration, we put our heads down, we rally our partners, and we get big things done.

Last year, we delivered record investments to local public safety agencies.

We passed bills to crack down on gun violence. We built partnerships with State’s Attorneys; and public defenders; and the U.S. Attorney; and the Attorney General; and communities; and advocates. And by moving in partnership, we’ve delivered results.

Homicides in Baltimore are the lowest they’ve been in almost a decade. And according to preliminary data, homicides are currently down 25% statewide and nonfatal shootings are down 28% statewide year-on-year.

Partnership produces progress – and change is happening. 

But I want to be clear: The work is far from over.

This year, we introduced three bills to make Maryland safer.

First, we introduced the Victim’s Compensation Reform Act. It will ensure that victims of crime can count on support when they need it most. That’s critical: because when people feel safe and feel like justice will be served, we have a better chance of getting convictions and closing cases.

Like every bill our administration has introduced, this bill passed with votes from Democrats and Republicans – and today we sign it into law.

Second, we introduced the Growing Apprenticeships in Public Safety Act – also called the GAPS Act. This legislation will build stronger pipelines to law enforcement jobs for all Marylanders – even those who don’t pursue a four-year degree.

Like every bill our administration has introduced, this bill passed with votes from Democrats and Republicans – and today we sign it into law.

Third, we introduced a bill to create a new Center for Firearm Violence Prevention and Intervention in the Maryland Department of Health. Just a few months ago, the Biden-Harris Administration created the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. It’s being led by representatives in this room.

The president has urged states to create their own offices of gun violence prevention – And Maryland is the first state in the nation to officially answer President Biden’s call, with action.

Like every bill our administration has introduced, this bill passed with votes from Democrats and Republicans – and today we sign it into law.

These bills go hand-in-hand with the bipartisan budget agreement we passed, which also makes important investments in public safety. 

I want to thank our budget negotiators for their partnership.

By working together, we made significant investments in public safety, education, housing, and child care.

And we achieved each of these goals without raising the personal income tax – 

Without raising the corporate income tax – 

Without raising the sales tax – 

Without raising the state property tax –

And passing a balanced, bipartisan budget for the second year in a row.

None of the bills we sign today could have gotten across the finish line without the people in this room.

I am grateful for the partnership of the General Assembly and our presiding officers: President Ferguson and Speaker Jones.

And as always, I am grateful for the partnership of the advocates and activists who come to Annapolis and make their voices heard – even when it’s hard.

I want to give a big shout-out to our friends from Everytown and Moms Demand Action for their leadership on gun safety.

Today, we’re also joined by Rich Leotta. 

His son Noah was a Montgomery County Police Officer – and Noah was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2015.

Rich came to Annapolis. He urged lawmakers to require that people convicted of drunk driving use ignition interlock devices.

It’s called Noah’s Law – and today, we will sign legislation to strengthen the original statute, which was first passed in 2016. Rich, could you stand up?

We’re also joined by Debra Bennett. She came to Annapolis to ensure we do a better job of tackling the behavioral health crisis.

For Debra, this issue is personal.

Her son Ben wrestled with the challenges of adhering to mental health treatment for years.

He was hospitalized 18 times in 7 jurisdictions. He died last year at the age of 35.

But Debra made sure the story didn't end with her son's tragic death. She came to Annapolis. She testified on behalf of legislation to ensure Marylanders who need behavioral health services are able to get them.

And because of Debra’s work, we will soon sign the most comprehensive Assisted Outpatient Treatment package in over 20 years.  

For over 20 years we were trying to get this done – but this is the year and this is the moment. 

Debra, could you stand and be recognized?

We’re signing behavioral health bills as part of our public safety package because making Maryland safer isn’t just about law enforcement… It’s also about building healthier, stronger, and more resilient communities.

We will use every tool at our disposal both to tackle violent crime – and to open up new avenues to prosperity.

Which brings me to the final two bills I want to talk about: The Pava Marie LaPere Act and the Pava LaPere Legacy of Innovation Act.

Pava was a friend. 

I want to thank Senator Will Smith for his leadership and partnership.

These two bills won’t just ensure that what happened to Pava LaPere never happens again… They will ensure we celebrate the thing that gave her life… and preserve her legacy of innovation and leadership for generations.

We’re joined by Pava’s father, Frank, and members of Pava’s family. 

I’d like to ask if Frank could come up and accept this ceremonial first pen.