2010 Legislation

What follows are some of my key legislative efforts (and of which I’m the lead sponsor) for the 2010 Legislative Session. If you have questions about the status of any of the legislation, just contact my office.
To view my legislative efforts from past years, please click the following: 2009, 2008, 2007thi

SB 122, Baltimore County – Towson Commercial Revitalization District – Alcoholic Beverages Licenses – Restaurants
Establishes that the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners may require that for three restaurants in the Towson area, applicants for license transfer and issuance must demonstrate a minimum capital investment of $50,000.
The restaurant must maintain average daily receipts from the sale of the food at least 70% of the total daily receipts; the restaurant area should have a maximum seating capacity of 100 and a minimum seating capacity of 40. The bar area should not exceed 15% of the total seating capacity of the restaurant. This bill would allow smaller independent restaurants to apply for a license to serve alcoholic beverages. Small restaurants in Towson offer patrons unique menus and a fresh ambiance. These restaurants are popular with both local residents and tourists, and add a welcome change of pace from the large chain restaurants which are also popular. The ability to serve alcoholic beverages will often determine if a restaurant will succeed.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 2/04/10:

SB 123, Criminal Procedure – Victim’s Compensation – Temporary Lodging for Domestic Violence Victims
Would provide eligible victims of domestic violence an award from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund for temporary lodging up to 14 days.
There are times when immediate assistance is not available or the victims are not aware of existing resources. In such cases, the decision to escape the abuse results in the safety and comfort of their homes, even if it means motel/hotel for a few days. Victims who have filed a police report within 48 hours, extended with good cause, of the incident would be able to recoup the costs of temporary lodging. This assistance will help eligible victims of domestic violence recover.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 2/02/10:

SB 124, Vehicle Laws – Use of Work Zone Speed Control Cameras – Presence of Workers Required
Would establish that speed control cameras placed in work zones are only in use when there are workers present.
Currently, speed cameras in work zones are permitted to be in operation regardless of whether or not workers are present. This was not the original intent of the legislation that passed the Senate last year. Initially, speed cameras were to be specifically placed in work zones when there were workers present so as to protect the workers and ensure their safety. The legislation that passed completely disregarded this objective and allowed these cameras to function despite the presence of workers. It is my goal with this bill to return to the original intent of this legislation and focus on the safety of the workers.

SB 125, Criminal Procedure – Strip Search or Body Cavity Search of an Arrestee – Restrictions
Would regulate the circumstances and criteria needed for law enforcement and correctional officers to conduct a strip search and/or body cavity search.
This bill would prevent harmless detainees from such an intrusive and invasive practice, and is a step towards ensuring that any strip and/or body cavity search is conducted in a manner that is highly sensitive and as respectful as possible to the suspect by appropriate officials. This practice should not be highly invasive and humiliating. We need to uphold our beliefs that all citizens are innocent until proven guilty and should be treated as such.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 2/02/10:

SB 156, Environment – Recycling – Apartment Buildings and Condominiums
Would require owners of apartment buildings and condominiums with ten or more units to provide recycling receptacles at the building or complex in accordance with county recycling plans.
Under current law, high-occupancy buildings are not required to provide for recycling. This bill would provide for our citizens proper vessels to separate their reusable materials, and the owner of the building would then be responsible, in agreement with the counties, for the removal of the materials. Recycling is not only environmentally friendly, but it is economically conscious. Baltimore County realized a net profit of 1.6 million dollars in FY09 from recycling and saved nearly 1.5 million in disposal costs. For all of Maryland, recycling is a key component in our modern waste management policies.

SB 157, Election Law – Special Election to Fill Vacancy in the Office of United States Senator
Would require that a special election be held in the event of a U.S. Senate vacancy in Maryland.
Under current law, the Governor has the sole decision to fill the vacancy by selecting a replacement. Recent history provides examples of why this bill is needed. In Alaska, elected Governor in 2002, Senator Murkowski appointed his daughter to fill his Senate seat. In New York, Governor Patterson appointed a little-known member of the House (according to the New York Times), Kirsten Gillebrand, over Caroline Kennedy. In Illinois, Governor Rod Blagojevich’s power to decide a replacement of President Obama’s seat and his subsequent impeachment for alleged criminal activity. Allowing a special election in the case of a U.S. Senate seat vacancy will enhance the democratic process in Maryland.

SB 158, Foreclosures – Unpaid Water and Sanitary Charges – Prohibition
Would place a state-wide ban on foreclosures as a solution for unpaid water, sewer, or other sanitary bills.
Current law permits a sanitary commission to determine the benefit assessment of real property and levy an assessment in that amount on the real property nine months after the construction is completed. While unpaid, benefit assessments and charges like water and sanitary charges are liens against the property, second only to state and municipal taxes. To enforce the collection of unpaid assessments, that are at least 60 days overdue, the sanitary commission can sue the owner of record and force the sale of the property. What SB 158 does is prohibit the sanitary commissions from commencing foreclosure sales because of arrears in such areas as unpaid water, sewer or other sanitary system bills. It also repeals those sections of the Environmental Law that permit such foreclosure sales. The remedies that remain are water shut offs, late charges and liens against the property which must be satisfied before the property is sold.

Listen to the Senate Floor Debate on 3/18/10:

SB 181, Health Insurance – Child Dependents – Qualifying Age Limit
Would increase the age limit for a person to be considered a child dependent from 25 to 30 for purposes of being included on their parents’ health insurance policy.
There are many individuals who would benefit from the opportunity to be added to their parents’ policy, including: servicemen and women returning to schools and colleges, graduate students, individuals who have been laid off and seeking employment, and individuals working for firms that do not provide health insurance. Individuals age 25 to 30 are in general a low risk to insurance companies. A paper by the Urban Institute states “The United States House of Representatives and Senate has looked at proposals that would allow insurers to set premiums for older adults as much as 5 times as high as those for younger adults…” I believe the need for this legislation is great. Individuals without coverage have little choice than to visit the local emergency room in lieu of a doctor’s office when ill.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 2/03/10:

SB 219, Criminal Procedure – Criminal Injuries Compensation Board – Claimant Confidentiality and Eligibility
Would prohibit an individual who has been convicted of certain criminal offenses from receiving a monetary award from the criminal injuries compensation fund.
The criminal injuries compensation fund consists of revenue from court fees paid by offenders, $3 surcharges on traffic tickets, as well as some federal aid. The funds awarded to the victims after a crime cover financial burdens such as hospital bills, lost wages, and unanticipated funeral costs. It is illogical that felons who are paying into this fund for their court fees can be approved to receive this money back again as a victim. In allowing this practice, we are fostering a cycle of crime and violence in which offenders become victims, and are given the funds to recuperate, and are able to return to our streets committing the same crimes. The fund was created to help innocent victims whose lives have been altered by heinous crimes; not to help the offenders.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 2/02/10:

SB 260, Sex Offenders – Homeless and Temporary Residents – Registration and Reporting Requirements
Change this term to include “any place where a person visits for longer than five hours per visit more than five times within a 30-day period.”
This bill would address problems with the registration process of child sex offenders. Maryland law currently defines “habitually lives” to mean a residence where an individual sleeps. I have also added an amendment to the bill to include the word “reside” to mean “to live in a home or other place or to hold interest in real property.” The public has a clear right to know when sex offenders are living next door or down the street. This bill seeks to fulfill this right by providing neighbors in a timely fashion with critically important information when a convicted sex offender is living, or habitually living, in the neighborhood.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 3/16/10:

SB 273, Vehicle Laws – Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Death – Penalty
Would increase the term of imprisonment for a person who is involved in a vehicular accident that results in the death of another person.
The current law calls for a 10-year sentence; this bill would increase the sentence to 20 years. The November 1, 2009 Baltimore Sun article chronicles the downward spiral of a man who’s been driving drunk for twenty years. He was free on $100,000 bail for allegedly hitting a vehicle with passengers and fleeing the scene, when it is believed he hit and killed 20 year old Miriam Frankl, a Hopkins junior as she was crossing the street. He is not being charged with that crime even though his vehicle was found abandoned and a witness reported that the vehicle was a white Ford, F-250. Additionally, four 911 calls that day reported the same type of vehicle driving erratically. The man in question said he wasn’t driving his car. An individual who leaves the scene of an accident after a victim has been seriously injured or killed commits an act so callous and cowardly that a penalty of 10 years is simply not enough.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 2/18/10:

SB 395, Correctional Services – Diminution Credits – Inmate Serving Sentence for Rape of Minor or First- or Second- Degree Sexual Offense Against Minor
Would prohibit convicted child rapists and sex offenders from earning diminution credits while incarcerated.
Year after year, horrible stories surface about sex offenders being released from prison early only to reoffend. Citizens are demanding that the State cease the practice of granting early release to sexual predators of children. The most effective way to monitor habitual child molesters is from their jail cells, and this bill will keep these predators off the streets for as long as possible. We need stricter punishments for our sexual predators.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 3/16/10:

SB 526, Maryland Estate Tax – Unified Tax Effective Exemption Amount and Deduction for State Death Tax
Would re-couple the Maryland Estate Tax to the Federal Estate Tax using the applicable unified credit which corresponds to the exclusion amount.
The bill provides if the Federal Estate Tax is not reinstated, Maryland Estate Tax will continue with an exclusion amount equal to the last federal exclusion amount of $3,5000,000. Additionally, if the federal death tax credit allowable by §2011 of the Internal Revenue Code is not in effect, the Maryland Estate Tax may not exceed 16% of the amount by which the decedent’s taxable estate exceeds the allowable exclusion of $3,500,000. Maryland should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Maryland’s current (de-coupled) estate tax is cumbersome, complicated and costly.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 3/10/10:

SB 535, Criminal Procedure – Postconviction Proceeding – Venue
Would altering the venue for a postconviction proceeding.
This bill would correct an unnecessary administrative burden on States’ Attorneys Offices throughout the state. Many convicted defendants file post conviction motions alleging a variety of issues. By far, the greatest number of post conviction motions is made in capital cases. Presently, these motions are heard in the County where the defendant was convicted. The States’ Attorney of the county where the crime was committed as well as the defense attorney and any witnesses involved must travel to the county where the motion is being heard, wherever it may be in the state. This creates an onerous and unnecessary burden on the prosecutor’s office, the defense bar, and the witness. What this bill does is permit a post conviction motion to be heard in the Circuit Court of the county where the crime occurred instead of elsewhere in the state. This is not a substantive change affecting any of the rights of the defendant. It is a ministerial change for the administrative convenience of the Office of the States’ Attorneys, and the witnesses in the case.

Listen to the Senate Committee Hearings on 3/10/10:

SB 1042, Evidence – Separate Act of Sexual Misconduct involving a Minor – Admissibility
Would allow evidence of prior acts of sexual misconduct involving a minor to be admitted into evidence in the trial of a defendant charged with an act of sexual misconduct involving a minor.
Currently, Maryland law excludes from trial evidence of a defendant’s prior crimes, wrongs, or acts, where this evidence is offered to show action that conforms to these prior actions. Such evidence is admissible only for the limited purpose of showing motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, common scheme or plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. This bill is based on the Federal Rules of Evidence 413 and 414, which were included in the federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Rule 413 admits evidence of similar crimes in sexual assault cases, while Rule 414 covers child molestation actions. This legislation would compel Maryland to adopt the Federal Rules of Evidence 413 and 414, providing Maryland States’ Attorneys a valuable tool in convicting child sex offenders and protecting our children.