- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Despite an unexpected setback, a police reform measure prompted by last year’s riots in Baltimore is not in trouble and should come before the state Senate for a vote, a Senate committee chairman said Tuesday.

Sen. Robert Zirkin, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, spoke the morning after the bill was sent back to committee. It happened during discussion about changing the bill on a contentious issue during a Senate floor session late Monday night. Sending a bill back to committee often spells trouble for legislation, especially in the last week of the legislative session, but Zirkin said he believes the measure can still win approval.

“That was not a death sentence for that bill by any stretch of the imagination,” Zirkin said. “It’ll be back out, I believe.”

The bill was sent back after Baltimore senators wanted stronger language to specifically include two civilians with voting powers on the city’s board that reviews complaints against police. Now, the bill leaves it up to local officials to decide membership and voting powers. That was a compromise brokered on a difficult issue, where positions vary between jurisdictions around the state.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller sounded resolved Tuesday morning to keep the compromise intact.

“We found a middle ground, and there are still people wanting to push for their agenda, and while they’re pushing for their agenda rather than the agenda for the people of the state of Maryland, the bill is going to remain in the committee,” Miller, D-Calvert, said.

Zirkin said he remains optimistic about the legislation, even though the legislative session is scheduled to end Monday at midnight.

“This bill will re-emerge, I think, sooner rather than later, but, you know, we need to make sure and get everybody back on the same page,” Zirkin said.

The House already has passed its own version of the legislation, though it has significant differences with the Senate bill.

The lengthy bill is the product of months of work by a panel that was convened shortly after the Baltimore riots last year following Freddie Gray’s death from a broken neck he suffered while shackled in the back of a police van. It changes policies not only on how police are disciplined, but also in how they are trained and hired.

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