ANNAPOLIS — Sen. Delores G. Kelley was disappointed but not surprised when a bill she sponsored died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week.
Kelley, D-Baltimore, brought national experts and prominent Marylanders, including former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings and former state attorney general Stephen H. Sachs to testify in favor of the bill, which would have reduced the need for bail bondsmen in the state.
Kelley’s bill was one of more than 20 that died in voting sessions last week. The committee voted on more than 50 bills.
Other legislation shot down included everything from stricter drunken driving laws to qualifications for a notary public.
Led by powerful Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, Judicial Proceedings is one of the Senate’s most conservative committees.
Baker, a frank former state’s attorney, wields his power as chairman forcefully at times. Hot-button legislation often died only minutes after hearings held in his committee.
Judicial Proceedings swiftly shot down legislation sponsored by Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, to require gun owners to obtain licenses.
“It’s disappointing. It’s not totally unexpected given the makeup of the committee,” Frosh said. “Everybody knows the committee is conservative leaning.”
Baker, an opponent of further tightening of gun laws in Maryland, voted against a bill titled “The Machine Gun Act” earlier this session, even though it simply would have re-codified existing law. He was afraid senators could tack on floor amendments tightening gun laws.
“There will be no vehicles,” Baker told the committee. “I can control it when it’s here, when it gets to the floor it’s out of my hands.”
Frosh was also before Baker’s committee Wednesday arguing for legislation increasing the standard for the administration of the death penalty. The legislation would have required juries to attest to being sure “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a person should receive the death penalty.
“I’m for the death penalty,” said Baker, who voted against the bill.
A controversial bill sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Montgomery, was among the bills the committee passed last week. The legislation curbs the amount of time judges have to reconsider sentences to 15 months. Under current law, Maryland’s judges have unlimited discretion to shorten sentences.
The bill had previously failed to pass the committee.
“A lot of people began to focus on the issue,” Van Hollen said. “Maryland was out of step with the rest of the country.”
The committee also passed so-called safe haven legislation, which would allow distraught mothers to legally abandon their babies.
Bill sponsors who watched their legislation die this session said they would try again next year.
“There was no logical reason for it not to come through,” Kelley said. “We need to have more people pressure.”
– 30 – CNS-3-15-02