Prison scandal topic of ‘Minority Report’

Perhaps adopting a new and more aggressive tactic with the change in leadership to Delegates Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga, the Maryland House Republican Caucus on Friday unveiled its first ‘Minority Report’, which deals with the ongoing Baltimore prison scandal.

Their first order of business was to note this had been a longstanding scandal:

As he took office in 2007, Governor O’Malley was well aware of the corruption in the prison system but has chosen to focus his energy on the issues that would aid his Presidential bid, not solve the serious public safety issues in our state.

In a press conference held last month, the House GOP called for an independent investigator and outlined some of the steps they had attempted in curtailing the situation – steps which were defeated by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly:

“In the 2008 and 2009 session, I proposed legislation to create a substance abuse treatment program that would have redirected many gang members away from their daily drug dealing and into treatment programs,” said Delegate Ron George of Anne Arundel County. “This bill was supported by the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services as a way to rehabilitate inmates and reduce drug dealing within correctional facilities, but was ignored by Democratic leaders.”

Indeed, 2008’s HB160 died in committee and HB967 in 2009 didn’t even get to a vote. Both had a bipartisan base of support in their sponsorship.

Delegate John Cluster continued:

Since 2010, legislation to strengthen penalties for transportation and possession of cell phones in correctional facilities has been before the House Judiciary Committee, but has been defeated by Democratic leadership for the past four years.

Delegate John Cluster of Baltimore County, sponsor of the legislation in 2013 said, “The Administration and Democratic leaders again defeated a bill that could have prevented or mitigated the latest prison scandal. Members of the House Judiciary Committee were presented with evidence illustrating the serious issue of cell phone possession in jails long before the Federal indictment was issued.”

Cluster’s 2013 version of the bill, HB651, failed 11-10 in committee. While Judiciary Chair Joseph Vallario, Jr. doesn’t generally vote, there have been exceptions to that rule and his vote could have carried the bill. Ironically, he was listed as the sponsor of the 2012 bill (HB587) which failed in his committee 9-11. The fiscal note for that bill notes the Judiciary Committee killed the bill in 2011 (5-16) and 2010 (9-11) as well, both of which had Vallario listed as sponsor (as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.)

So the Delegates are speaking correctly with their assertions. The anticipated payoff is a hearing on June 6, when House Republicans vowed:

The House Republican Caucus is committed to asking the tough questions, holding the right people accountable and working towards reform.

Obviously the proof will be in the pudding come 2014. Surely a bill similar to that of Cluster’s will be introduced, probably once again at the behest of the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services and sponsored by Vallario, so Democrats can accrue credit for it. It would only take a vote or two on the Judiciary Committee to swing and push the bill to the House floor.

As for George’s bill, it’s interesting to note he made his remarks before formally announcing for Governor (although many say he’d privately hinted at that desire for several weeks beforehand.) Calling for treatment facilities may not establish him as “tough on crime” in the usual sense, but the bipartisanship would certainly be played up to appeal to the middle in a general election campaign. Still, he will presumably be a member of the House caucus which will be pressing this issue both at the hearing and in next year’s session.

With regard to Martin O’Malley, the challenge for him will be appearing to “do something” and minimizing the damage which will certainly accrue as more comes to light in this prison scandal. Can’t have any of these pesky Maryland problems overshadow the 2016 campaign, you know. Nor can he throw Anthony Brown under the bus, since he’s already endorsed Brown as his logical successor next year – so look for Brown to be placed in a leadership position on any task force created for this production.

It’s interesting that a bunch of people who (supposedly) can’t vote – after all, if they have cell phones and are making babies in prison, what else are they doing? – may have a significant influence on the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The rush to introduce

Believe it or not, the siren song of doing something – anything – to address problems which come to the public’s attention through sensational headlines is nearly as irresistible to politicians on the right as it is those on the left. Today I received another object lesson from an officeholder who rarely makes a move without the press being made aware of it; that would be Delegate Pat McDonough. He trumpeted three new bills he’s introducing; although the release says “introduces,” the deadline for pre-filing has passed so these would presumably get first reading early in the 2013 session:

  1. GUN OWNER PRIVACY ACT – This legislation will prohibit newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.
  2. CRIMINAL GUN CONTROL ACT – This legislation will prohibit early release, including parole, from incarceration of any offender convicted of committing a crime while using a gun.
  3. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR MASS MURDERS ACT – This legislation will retain and mandate capital punishment for anyone convicted of committing a crime of mass murder.

Obviously #1 is in reaction to the news about a New York newspaper printing names and addresses of gun permit holders in two New York counties and #3 was likely brought on by the Sandy Hook massacre. Interestingly enough, if I were to handicap the chances of passage for any of the three bills I would say #2 has the best odds. All would likely wind up in Delegate Joe Vallario’s Judiciary Committee, although the Gun Owner Privacy Act could be placed in Economic Matters with Delegate Dereck Davis. Chances are all three will get a great view of the inside of the respective committee chair’s desk drawer, though.

It’s also worth questioning whether a bill such as the GOPA passes Constitutional muster. Obviously the publication of this information has created an uproar and the fear that, for some of those on the list, their well-being could be compromised. (Not all permit holders own guns, and not all weapons belong to law-abiding citizens.) Some could argue that the list represents a “no trespassing” sign for criminals because of the greater possibility that the resident is armed; on the other hand it also creates an enticing target for burglars who believe they can steal guns from the residence. Meanwhile, turnabout has become fair play for employees of the Journal-News.

The most contrarian bill of the three would be the last one, particularly since Governor O’Malley has no desire to stick the needle into any deserving criminal, let alone a mass murderer. That would be vetoed in a New York minute, especially since O’Malley is making all his moves with an eye on 2016.

But O’Malley could probably get behind #2 because it would make him appear tough on crime in Maryland. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a substantially similar bill isn’t written by a Democrat and passed through the General Assembly, as sometimes happens when the “wrong” party writes a popular measure.

Without reading the bill text I can’t say whether I would support these bills, but insofar as their title suggests they generally seem to be aimed at a conservative electorate. (Carefully note, though, just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t always go by the bill name. One example: “The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012,” which will lead to neither growth nor agricultural preservation.)

So we will see next month what other noise will be made by the boisterous Delegate from Baltimore County. No session is complete without a little of Pat McDonough’s grandstanding, whether the bills he introduces and supports have merit or not. Certainly he would argue that someone has to take the slings and arrows, and he seems to be one of the most willing to do just that.

Ending the sanctuary state

In a little less than two weeks, after the calendar turns to 2011 and we return back to our post-holiday daily routine, our ’90 Days of Terror’ known as the General Assembly session will commence. And Delegate Pat McDonough is ready, with a 15-point package to counter the scourge of illegal aliens in the state. As he says in a release:

Everyone is aware of the fact that Maryland is a premier sanctuary state.

I intend to introduce the largest and most effective legislative action agenda in the history of the state.  Hopefully, fellow citizens and organizations who are concerned about the burdens created by illegal immigration will join us in this important effort.

I refer to my comprehensive plan as the “Citizens Protection and Rights Initiative,” in other words, CPR.

While fifteen bills seems like a lot, bear in mind that in an average session we’ll see over 2,500 measures introduced during the General Assembly session – it’s nearly 150 per member of the General Assembly. Undaunted, McDonough plans to address the following fifteen items:

  1. Arizona Style Law entitled the “Citizens’ Rights Act” mandating that state authority enforce the Federal Immigration Act.
  2. Sanctuary Policy Penalty provides complaint process against public officials who knowingly violate the Federal Immigration Act.
  3. Higher Education In-state Prohibition – This bill prohibits illegal alien college students from receiving taxpayer subsidized tuition discounts.
  4. Higher Education Legislative Scholarships Prohibition Regarding Illegal Aliens
  5. Federal 287 G Statewide Enforcement – This bill would mandate the enforcement of the federal criminal action section of the law addressing criminal illegal aliens and gangs.
  6. Division of Correction Immigration Status of Inmates – This bill would mandate reports and records of the immigration status of inmates in the Maryland prison system.
  7. Immigration Status Bail and Pre-trial Release – This bill would mandate that judges and other officials confirm the immigration status of defendants prior to release.
  8. Task Force to Study the Impact of Illegal Aliens on Maryland’s Job Market
  9. E-Verify State Procurement -This bill would mandate that all state contractors, venders, and employees must pass the e-verify test. 
  10. Consumers “Right to Know” Transparency Act – This bill would mandate that consumers have the right to know the immigration status of all employees performing work or services on their property.
  11. Prohibition of State Benefits to Illegal Aliens
  12. Charitable Organizations Prohibition of Acceptance of Contributions from Terrorist Groups, Nations, or Nations That Have Relationships with Terrorist States
  13. Foreign Language Costs Transparency Act – This bill would mandate that all state agencies provide an annual report detailing any funding provided to policies, programs, services or any functions that require the use of non-English languages.
  14. The Voter Fairness Act – This bill would mandate that election workers require identification from voters.
  15. The Montgomery County College Lawsuit and Criminal Complaints – I have partnered with the National Legal Foundation “Judicial Watch” to engage in a civil lawsuit against Montgomery County College in order to ban the unlawful practice of providing in-state tuition to illegal aliens costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  I am preparing criminal complaints against certain public officials to be submitted in the near future.

Obviously this is not a program for smaller government or less red tape; unfortunately, since the federal government has dropped the ball on enforcement of its borders and immigration law those of us in Maryland are left to pick up the pieces. Perhaps the one I most support would be The Voter Fairness Act, although I presume Pat would want to have a photo ID. Then again, since illegal aliens can get a driver’s license relatively easily in Maryland (by many accounts) there may have to be other additional restrictions.

(Personally I think the voter cards we receive should have a photo and the state should opt out of compliance with “motor voter” laws. If the federal government can let Maryland get away with flouting the rules about cleaning the voter rolls on a regular basis, we should be able to get around that law too. Make people go to the Board of Elections to register to vote – those who care to do so would probably be those who care about being informed on what they’re voting on.)

I’m very sure Republicans may split on provisions 9 and 10, since the Chamber of Commerce screams bloody murder whenever E-verify is brought up. This isn’t a cure-all since documents can be forged and occasionally the system spits out a false positive but it’s probably the best step we have currently available.

But with just 43 Republicans in the House of Delegates and all seven House committees firmly in Democratic control (including the notorious Delegate Joe Vallario in charge of Judiciary) the chances of McDonough’s agenda advancing are fairly slim. It seems that Democrats would rather listen to “New Americans” who aren’t even supposed to be voting over the interests of those who believe that illegal aliens are, well, illegal. Crossing the border illegally may only be a misdemeanor akin to getting a traffic citation, but forgery is a somewhat more serious offense and portraying yourself as being here legally sans documentation is the same as misrepresenting yourself for fraudulent purposes.

I welcome immigrants who come here and choose to pursue the American Dream through the legal means available. It’s those bad apples McDonough targets who are spoiling things for the rest.

Alexis’ Law needs to move

Last year, Delegate Michael Smigiel of District 36 introduced HB60, dubbed “Alexis’ Law.” As Delegate Smigiel explains, the law is a pretty simple fix to a problem which occasionally erupts.

This is an easy bill that claifies that ANY judge can hear a motion for a protective order for the victims of sexual predators. The bill is named after a child who was sexually victimized by an adult and subsequently stalked by her victim (I presume the Delegate meant attacker) in violation of the protection order. The States Attorney interpreted the law that only the judge who issued the order could enforce the order. Alexis was so traumatized that the only escape she felt she had was to cut her wrists. Thankfully, she survived and is getting the help she needs. We need to make sure that no other children are victimized by such loopholes.

Just like Jessica’s Law a few years back, the biggest obstacle in the way is the punk who runs the House Judiciary Committee, Delegate Joe Vallario. He’s well-known for sticking common-sense legislation in his proverbial desk drawer and killing it.

But Jessica’s Law got passed because Marylanders put the pressure on Vallario to allow it to come to a vote, and thousands lobbied the remaining members of the committee to vote in its favor. This requires a similar effort, and the list of Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee follows (needless to say the Republicans are already on board.)

Chairman: JOSEPH F. VALLARIO, JR 410-841-3488
Democrat, District 27A, Calvert & Prince George’s Counties

Co-Chairman: SAMUEL I. (SANDY) ROSENBERG 410-841-3297
Democrat,  District 41, Baltimore City

Democrat, District 43, Baltimore City
(410) 841-3291, (301) 858-3291

Democrat, District 21, Anne Arundel & Prince George’s Counties
(410) 841-3046, (301) 858-3046

Democrat, District 41, Baltimore City
(410) 841-3782, (301) 858-3782

Democrat, District 40, Baltimore City
(410) 841-3189, (301) 858-3189

Democrat, District 15, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3052, (301) 858-3052

Democrat, District 19, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3485, (301) 858-3485

Democrat, District 16, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3649, (301) 858-3649

Democrat, District 23A, Prince George’s County
(410) 841-3101, (301) 858-3101

Democrat, District 47, Prince George’s County
(410) 841-3340, (301) 858-3340

Democrat, District 8, Baltimore County
(410) 841-3526, (301) 848-3526

Democrat, District 17, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3037, (301) 858-3037

Democrat, District 26, Prince George’s County
(410) 841-3210, (301) 858-3210

Democrat, District 18, Montgomery County
(410) 841-3130, (301) 858-3130

Just as a reminder of how difficult some of these Delegates made it when Jessica’s Law went through the first time, this 2007 article from Red Maryland by Mark Newgent reminds us of the process.

There are 22 members on the House Judiciary Committee, of which 6 are Republicans. Oddly enough, Smigiel didn’t list Democrat Kevin Kelly of District 1B – I presume based on his past bipartisan voting record Smigiel doesn’t see him being a threat.

Of the 16 Democrats, seven of them were not involved in the 2006 Jessica’s Law controversy because they hadn’t been elected yet. These would be Barnes, Conaway, Kramer, Levi, Schuler, Valderrama, and Waldstreicher. If we can get these seven on board to join the GOP and Kelly, the vote would be 14-7 (the Chair generally does not vote) to get it out of committee and that sort of overwhelming bipartisan majority may work to help convince Vallario he needs to step aside on this one. Granted, since 11 of the 16 Democrats on the committee have lifetime monoblogue Accountability Ratings under 5 it’s a hard job convincing many of these about common-sense legislation but the fact they passed Jessica’s Law umanimously in 2007 gives me hope.

Once this makes it to be considered by the Judiciary Committee, certainly this should be a no-brainer – especially since committee votes are now included in public records.