Child Sex Offender Bills On Their Way to Vallario’s Drawer
Delegate Joe Vallario (D-Prince Georges), chair of the House Judiciary Committee is set to kill this week a much needed legislative enhancement to update Maryland’s child predator laws.
Sources in the legislature say that Vallario will not allow a vote on HB 254 in his committee, meaning there would be no possibility for the measure to come before the full house for a vote.
HB 254 is a legislative patch to the landmark Jessica’s Law passed by the Assembly in 2007, named in honor of Jessica Lunsford the Florida girl kidnapped and murdered by a paroled child sex offender.
In addition to the current mandatory 25-year minimum sentences for fist-degree child rape, HB 254 would add a non-paroleable mandatory minimum 20-year sentence for second-degree child rape and molestation.
The tort lobby is staunchly opposed to mandatory minimum sentences as they cut into their billable hours. Vallario a trial lawyer himself has only been too happy to oblige his masters by tossing bills the tort lobby doesn’t like into his desk drawer, never to be seen again. With committee votes now posted on line Vallarios’ move has the duel effect of protecting members of the judiciary committee who would naturally vote against bills like HB 254. No vote, no need for members to defend it to the public—especially in an election year.
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Vallario and his Senate counterpart Brian Frosh are downright infamous for their opposition to Jessica’s Law. During the bill’s hearings in 2007 Vallario was utterly rude towards Jessica’s Law proponents. Frosh made those present to testify wait five hours, allowing bills of lesser import be heard first. See here to read how a group of committed citizens, an O’Reilly Factor camera crew, and the GOP minority shamed a recalcitrant Democratic majority into passing Jessica’s Law.
The murder of 11-year old Sarah Foxwell in Salisbury last year, allegedly by a convicted child sex offender has made strengthening child sex offender laws a priority this legislative session. Governor O’Malley and his Democratic allies are posturing to make themselves look tough on this issue. No amount of posturing however, can gloss over the fact that O’Malley did not lift a finger to help pass Jessica’s Law in 2007, his administration failed to empanel the state’s Sexual Offender Advisory board, and his own Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown strong armed delegates on the house floor in 2006 to kill Jessica’s Law.
If O’Malley wants to make up for that poor history he will pressure Vallario to bring HB 254—and the five other child sex offender bills slated for burial in his drawer—up for a vote. The members of the judiciary committee should stand on the courage of their own convictions and vote up or down on the bills.
To urge Vallario to bring HB 254 up for a committee vote call his office at:
(410) 841-3488, (301) 858-3488, or 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3488 (toll free)
Vallarrio’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
You can contact the individual members of the House Judiciary Committee here.