It's not freshman year anymore for Catonsville residents Charles Sydnor III and Pat Young.
Heading into their second year representing District 44B in the Maryland House of Delegates, the two Democrats have a lot on their minds, mostly focused on their specialties — for Sydnor the Judiciary Committee and for Young the House Appropriations Committee.
Heading into this session, Sydnor hopes to look at justice issues, such as Circuit Court judicial elections and the jurisdiction of juvenile courts.
Last fall Sydnor attended a National Conference of State Legislatures event in San Francisco about juvenile justice reform.
"There were a few ideas we came up with from that meeting," he said.
Currently, Maryland's juvenile court does not have jurisdiction when certain felonies or misdemeanors are committed by a juvenile older than 16, or in the case of a capital offense, punishable by life in prison, by a juvenile older than 14. The case automatically goes to the adult system.
"Then their attorney has to essentially argue to try to get them placed in the juvenile system," Sydnor said. "While they're waiting for all those proceedings, they're being housed in an adult prison."
Instead, he would like to see that process default to the juvenile system until the suspect is charged as an adult.
"Then, and only then, they'd be waived up to the adult system," he said.
Sydnor also plans on reintroducing a bill changing how Circuit Court judges come into office. Instead of being elected at the county level, Circuit Court judges would be appointed by the governor and then confirmed by the state Senate. The bill would also reduce Circuit Court judges' terms from 15 to 10 years.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Young said his primary focus for the 2016 session will be on the budget.
"Once we get the budget, that will take up the majority of our time," he said.
But outside of that, he does have some interests he is keeping in mind: mental health issues, particularly pertinent to Spring Grove Hospital, for example.
"Providing the structure in place to care for folks, rather than just incarcerating them," he said. "Making sure mental health resources are available."
He is also concerned that in Maryland's foster care system, people are aging out but there isn't transitional housing to help them move into adult life.
Young has been talking with the union community as well, he said. The Service Employees International Union doesn't cover some contractual employees, he said, and he would like to make it possible for those employees to unionize without fear of retribution.
A lot has happened since "sine die," the end of the 2015 session, on April 13, Young said. This session, Young said, he wants to look into ways to support Baltimore City in the wake of the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody last April.
The area Young represents is a subdistrict of the city, he said.
"The success of the area depends on the success of the city," he said.
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