May 25, 2004

The Honorable Michael E. Busch
Speaker of the House of Delegates
State House
Annapolis, MD 21401-1991

Dear Mr. Speaker:

In accordance with Article II, Section 17 of the Maryland Constitution, I have today vetoed House Bill 1285 - Task Force to Study Youth Gang Activities.

House Bill 1285 creates a 12-member Task Force to Study Youth Gang Activities with specified responsibilities. The Secretary of Juvenile Services and the State's Attorney for Prince George's County are designated as co-chairs of the task force. The task force is required to submit an interim report by December 1, 2004, to the House Judiciary Committee, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and the General Assembly. The final report is due by December 1, 2005.

The entire focus of this bill is to study the apparent gang problem in Prince George's County. Membership of the Task Force is designated primarily from Prince George's County's governmental units. In addition, staffing for the task force is to be provided by the Office of the State's Attorney for Prince George's County. No other county in the State has specific representation on the task force.

I believe that the most direct process to study youth gang activities in Prince George's County is for the County to undertake this analysis. If requested, I will cooperate with the County to provide access to State departments and agencies with expertise in this area, including persons from the Department of Juvenile Services and the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention. I have great respect for the local prerogative in such issues and therefore believe that it is inappropriate to sign statewide legislation.

There is another issue that I must address regarding task forces and study commissions that is not unique to this bill. There is a growing tendency within the Maryland General Assembly to reduce the number of members that would traditionally be appointed by the Governor to statutory task forces and study commissions. In dealing with issues of statewide importance, I believe that the Governor must have a greater role in deciding the membership of such study groups. I will be extremely reluctant to sign legislation creating study groups that does not provide an appropriate role for gubernatorial representation.

For the above stated reasons, I have vetoed House Bill 1285.

Very truly yours,
Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.