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The U.S. now has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country. Despite the pandemic, Election 2020 continues and states are making changes.

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3.3 million people reported being jobless last week, according to new Labor Department numbers. And Puerto Rico was supposed to hold primaries this weekend, though they pushed it back to late April, because of COVID-19.

MD Gov. Calls Crime in Baltimore ‘Urgent Crisis’

Gov. Larry Hogan's State of the State speech asked lawmakers to help reduce violent crime in Baltimore. (governer.maryland.gov)
Gov. Larry Hogan's State of the State speech asked lawmakers to help reduce violent crime in Baltimore. (governer.maryland.gov)
February 6, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Addressing violent crime in Baltimore is the most important challenge facing Maryland today, according to Gov. Larry Hogan.

In his sixth State of the State address Wednesday, the Republican leader called on lawmakers to pass tough-on-crime bills to deal with shootings and murders that he says are destroying the state's largest city.

Two of Hogan's proposed bills would increase penalties for people who threaten or intimidate witnesses, and those who use guns in violent crimes.

"People are being shot every single day in Baltimore city," the governor said. "This is an urgent crisis. And we have an obligation to do something about it right now."

Criminal justice advocates say Hogan's proposals to toughen sentencing won't solve the rise in Charm City's crime.

They say what's needed is more investment in the city's communities for much needed jobs and better social services.

Harsher sentencing laws such as what Hogan is proposing were tried before during the 1990s, according to Marc Schindler, executive director of the advocacy group Justice Policy Institute.

Schindler says data shows those initiatives did nothing to reduce crime. In fact, he points out that they led to a new crisis:

Maryland now has the highest number of incarcerated young black men in the nation.

"What it results in is people going to prison for longer terms, even beyond any threat to public safety, and a very disproportionate and harsh impact on communities of color, particularly blacks in Maryland," Schindler points out.

Baltimore ended 2019 with 348 homicides, the worst rate on record and second worst among U.S. cities.

A recent poll shows Marylanders think crime is the top priority that state lawmakers need to tackle.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD