Jessica’s Law and the Democrats
Jessica’s Law is a done deal in Maryland, but the facts of Democrat obstruction to the law is not well told. Here is the story.
The Maryland General Assembly unanimously passed Jessica’s Law during the 2007 session, (139-0) in the House and the Senate (43-3). Only Senators Lisa Gladden, Brian Frosh, and Delores Kelley voted against it. Jessica’s Law is named after Jessica Lunsford the nine-year old Florida girl kidnapped, raped and murdered by paroled sex offender John Couey. Jessica’s Law provides for strong mandatory minimum sentences without possibility of parole. For example, the law calls for a mandatory 25-year minimum sentence, with no possibility of parole for a first-degree child rape conviction. Given such a unanimous vote you would think that the legislation would have sailed through committee and the assembly with no problems, especially with a large Democratic majority. You would think.
However, it took a determined group of citizens, media allies, and the Republican minority to drag a recalcitrant Democrat majority across the finish line.
Much more buffoonery below the fold
Jessica’s Law was one of the most covered legislative issues during the 2007 session. Citizens for Jessica’s Law, local media outlets, specifically WBAL, WCBM, and Bill O’Reilly put almost daily pressure on House and Senate judiciary committee chairs Joe Vallario and Brian Frosh. Vallario and Frosh, chiefs of the tort lobby in the General Assembly, were the main roadblocks to getting Jessica’s Law out of committee.
In 2006 Jessica’s Law did not make it past the Democrat majorities in the House and Senate. Many of the same Democrats, who voted unanimously for legislation this past session, killed it in the 2006 session. They killed Jessica’s Law by wrapping it into larger legislation in order to strip out mandatory minimum sentences in the amendment process. The most notable opponent was then delegate Anthony Brown, now our secretive Lt. Governor. Brown strong-armed delegates at the last minute to kill the bill on procedural votes. Republican Tony O’Donnell tried to keep the bill before the house but was rejected (83-52) and Joe Vallario, Brown’s ally succeeded in his motion to recommit the bill (69-63) back to his judiciary committee where it was effectively dead. The two procedural votes came down along party lines. Take note of the vote count and how so-called “progressive” Democrats voted against a bill that protects children. The General Assembly did pass watered down version of Jessica’s Law in the 2006 special session.
For the 2007 session, many people came to Annapolis to testify before both judiciary committees. Vallario and Frosh were not the most gracious hosts. Vallario was rude and Frosh made those testifying on behalf of Jessica’s Law wait over five hours and didn’t even bother to be present for the testimony, including Marc Klass, whose daughter Polly, was murdered by a parolee. Even my wife was not spared Frosh’s shabby treatment. When she called his office the next day to complain, his staff laughed at her. The resulting bad publicity forced Mike Miller to pressure Frosh to bring the bill up for a vote. It passed with Frosh and Lisa Gladden voting nay. WBAL asked Gladden why she voted against Jessica’s Law but for a bill barring restraints on dogs kept outside. Gladden’s asinine response was that her votes don’t mean that she takes the safety of dogs more seriously than the safety of children. She said he based her votes on both bills, “on their merits.” For Gladden, keeping dogs free of restraint has more merit than keeping child sex offenders off the street.
On the House side it took the presence of an O’Reilly Factor camera crew to get Jessica’s Law past Vallario. Old Joe saw the camera crew outside the hearing room and delayed the committee vote until he could scramble for an acceptable amended bill. The amendment being, the addition of his name as a sponsor. After Jessica’s Law passed committee, Vallario stood for an interview with the O’Reilly crew. The Factor producer’s questions sent Vallario into an apoplectic fit. Just a few short hours later Vallario, chief opponent of Jessica’s Law for two years, stood in the House chamber praising the merits of Jessica’s Law calling for Maryland to be on the forefront in protecting children.
In the next election cycle, when Democrats laud themselves for passing Jessica’s Law, ask them why they were so adamantly opposed to it only a year before and put up a staunch fight against it in the 2007 session.