ANNAPOLIS – Mass e-mail factories will get their comeuppance but assault weapons owners were unscathed by the Maryland General Assembly this session.
Juvenile justice, meanwhile, will be retooled under several other bills with legislative approval.
Now, these pieces of legislation are in the hands of Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., who must determine whether or not to sign them.
The Spam Act, SB-604, was passed unanimously in both Houses. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Rob Garagolia, R-Montgomery, who is very hopeful that it’s going to the governor.
Garagiola said the bill, which had the support of AOL, Comcast, and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, was designed to eliminate the tremendous amount of “spam” flooding e-mail accounts. The bill would impose criminal penalties on those responsible for distributing the unsolicited e-mails.
“Legislators even have to deal with the problems of massive amounts of unwanted e-mail,” Garagiola said.
Garagiola was not so lucky with his attempt to extend the federal ban on assault weapons, which expires in September. The Assault Weapons Ban, SB 288, was rejected in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee by a 5-6 vote with Sen. John Giannetti, the swing vote against the ban.
Garagiola said the idea was to get rapid-fire, military weapons off of the streets, not to take hunting rifles away from those who use them or deprive those of their Second Amendment rights. Opponents argued that guns used in crimes are far more likely to be handguns than assault weapons.
Nineteen different types of weapons, include Uzi’s and AR-15’s, would have been banned under the legislation, but now are likely to end up back in the streets, Garagiola said.
Probably the greatest success in the crime and justice agenda came in the passage of reforms to juvenile services.
Juvenile offenders will receive help transitioning into their communities after their commitment ends under a bill sponsored by Delegate Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County.
Another successful Zirkin bill establishes an education department with its own director for youth offenders within the Maryland State Department of Education. The bill also requires a seven-member coordinating council to develop an education program for each facility.
Portions of another bill to reform youth offender education were tucked into the budget. That legislation specifies that by July 2007, control of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, run by contractors, will pass to the Department of Education.
A final successful bill establishes a 10-year master plan for Juvenile Services and requires independent evaluation of facilities.
“The experiment of privatization met with some pockets of success, overall privatization has been failure,” said Zirkin. “For private corporations taking care of children, the No. 1 priority is the profits, whereas the No. 1 priority for us is the kids.”
Two other key pieces of crime legislation met mixed fates.
An identity theft bill, sponsored by Delegate Susan Lee, D-Montgomery was withdrawn. The intent of her legislation was to prevent the elderly, in particular, from falling victim to identity fraud, something she said is a growing problem.
Impersonating a law enforcement officer will become more costly under a successful bill from Delegate Steven J. DeBoy, D-Baltimore County. His legislation increases maximum criminal penalties for impersonating law enforcement personnel. – 30 – CNS-4-14-04