ANNAPOLIS – The Senate Thursday passed an array of crime bills on issues ranging from genetic testing polices to procedures for legally abandoning babies.
During a three-hour session, members passed so-called safe haven legislation to allow distraught parents to legally abandon their newborns at hospitals.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Leo Green, D-Prince George’s, passed 42-2 without debate.
The House of Delegates earlier this month passed its own safe haven legislation to allow parents to abandon their infants with any “responsible person.”
Lawmakers must reconcile the two versions before sending it to the governor’s desk.
The House bill is “180 degrees different,” Green said, adding that it will likely have a tough time in the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Safe haven legislation died in conference committee last session when lawmakers could not agree on whether often-unmanned firehouses should be safe haven sites.
In other action, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to force convicted felons to submit a genetic sample to the state’s crime lab. The program, which could cost as much as $1.2 million, is contingent upon the receipt of a federal grant.
The House Judiciary Committee, which heard the bill, has yet to vote on it.
The Senate also unanimously passed two bills pushed by the state’s victims’ rights task force. One requires the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to notify victims of parole hearings upon their request. Current law only requires notification be sent to violent crime victims.
The other bill creates a State Office for Victims and Witnesses of Crime by placing various state programs in one organization. House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Prince George’s, has said he supports both bills but his committee has yet to vote on them.
Legislation increasing penalties for repeat child sexual offenders also passed 41-2. The bill added imprisonment without the possibility of parole as a possible sentence.
That bill is one of a package of legislation known as “Christopher’s Laws,” all of which raise penalties for child sexual offenders. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, R-Frederick, are named for 9-year-old Christopher Lee Ausherman, who was sexually assaulted and killed in Frederick two years ago. The bill will be sent to the House for a vote.
– 30 – CNS 3/21/02