Joe Vallario Strikes Again
The House Judiciary Committee approved a slate of sex offender bills late Friday. The raft of bills appear to be a mixed bag when it comes to enhancing Maryland’s sex offender laws, some good, others mere political window dressing for the 2010 election.
The good includes HB 289, which eliminates diminution or good time credits for those convicted of first or second degree sex offenses with victims 16 or younger.
However, HB 254, calling for mandatory nonparoleable 20 year minimum sentences for second degree child rape and molestation (HB 254) was not among the package of sex offender bills considered by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday afternoon.
WBAL TV reported that committee chairman Vallario did not act on HB 254 the bill calling for 20 year minimum sentences. The bill’s co-sponsor Mike Smigiel (R-Cecil County) said Vallario “took it off the voting list.” Smigiel said he will continue to fight to get a committee vote on the HB 254, and hopes that house leadership, would pressure Vallario to bring the bill up for a vote.
As reported earlier this week, Vallario was set to kill the bill without a vote.
The Senate is scheduled to hear testimony on HB 254’s sister bill SB 622 on Tuesday March 16. Please go to Citizens for Jessica’s Law’s Facebook page for more information. Tesitmony wil also be heard that day on HB 306, which would require a jury to consider the death penalty for anyone convicted of first degree murder while committing or in the attempt to commit a child sexual offense.
Governor O’Malley got the political window dressing he desired in the form of HB 473 a bill filed on his request that ostensibly requires lifetime monitoring of serious child sex offenders. However, the bill allows offenders the ability to petition for release from lifetime monitoring after three years. The committee amended that period to five years—a distinction with no real difference given the nature of child sex offenders. Smigiel said labeling the bill as lifetime supervision intentionally misleads the public. “There is no reason to call it lifetime supervision,” Smigiel said. “It’s simply semantics.”
O’Malley also threw a political bomb with HB 931, reconstituting the Sex Offender Advisory Board. During the last four years, O’Malley failed to empanel the board established under his predecessor Bob Ehrlich and presumptive challenger Bob Ehrlich. According to the Baltimore Sun, O’Malley aides said the board never met due to a lack of proper expertise.
Other measures approved by the committee include a juvenile offender database accessible by law enforcement only, changing legislative language to mandate state agencies post identifying information about offenders, and expanding the definition of an offender to include decent exposure and possession of child pornography.