ANNAPOLIS -- Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, has urged the Judiciary Committee to approve his bill (HB234) requiring the Administrative Office of the courts to compile and maintain a register, available to the public, which will contain a record of sentences imposed for specificcrimes by the judges of the various courts.
Patterned after the Rhode Island Judicial Sentencing and Disclosure Act, the bill specifies that the register be compiled in chronological order and include the name of the case, charges against the defendant, charges of which the defendant was convicted, the sentence imposed by the judge and thedate of the sentence.
Under the name of each judge of the Court of Appeals, a record ofhis vote on death penalty cases will be recorded. Under the name of Circuit Court judges, the sentence imposed for violent crimes in non-jury trials will be recorded.
District Court judges will have their sentences imposed for drunken driving offenses recorded.
Matthews said the register will be public, available for inspection at the Administrative Office of the courts during regular office hours.
"We live in the age of disclosure," Matthews noted. "Wherever and whenever feasible, the law requires government to operate in the open."
He also noted that where elected officials are concerned, their voting records, business dealings and net worth are a matter of public record.
"However, with the exception of those cases reported in the press, once a judge is seated, his judicial behavior, with respect tothe imposition of sentences, is shrouded in mystery," Matthews said.
"Where Circuit Court judges, who run in contested elections, are concerned, the people have no idea of the judicial record of the man or woman for when they are asked to cast their vote."
Matthews said he believes it is time to keep such records public.
FLY POW-MIA FLAG
ANNAPOLIS -- Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, has introduced a bill that would require county and municipal office buildings and the State House to fly a Prisoner Of War-Missing In Action flag during normal business hours.
"I think it's an appropriate time to do it," said Haines, referring to the war inthe Persian Gulf region. "We know we have some Maryland residents who are missing or prisoners."
The bill says that at least 38 Maryland residents are among over 2,400 Americans who served in the country's armed forces during wartime and still are listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.
The flag would be displayed to increase public awareness of the issue.
Most approved bills take effect July1. But a spokesperson for Haines said the senator will try to have the flag bill enacted sooner in honor of those serving in the Middle East by filing it as "emergency legislation," which becomes law as soon as it receives the governor's signature.
LIQUOR BILLS REJECTED
ANNAPOLIS -- The Carroll delegation has decided not to submit two bills requested by the county liquor board unless some members change their positions, said Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, chairman of the delegation.
Matthews said the delegation deadlocked, 3-3, in its vote on a bill that would create a new tavern license allowing establishments that have difficulty meeting current food sales requirements to downgrade their liquor licenses.
Taverns now are permitted to sell only beer and wine, which restricts business, say tavern owners. The new license proposed would have allowed the sale of hard liquor with no requirement that a certain percentage of receipts be derived from food sales. Restrictions on the number of taverns permitted would have prevented a proliferation of bars,said Carroll's liquor board administrator.
The bill still could be introduced if one of the three opposing Carroll legislators is swayed, said Matthews. At least one delegate opposed dropping the food sales requirement altogether.
The other bill would allow the adjustment and increase of liquor license fees. The delegation voted 4-2 in opposition, said Matthews.
SLUDGE LAW RENEWED
ANNAPOLIS -- Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, has renewed his effort to regulate the siting of sludge storage facilities.
The bill -- inspired by Taneytown-area residents who united in opposition to a sludge storage facility constructed on a nearby farm andseveral other similar proposals -- would require applicants to provide information to the Maryland Department of the Environment justifying the location.
Sludge is the solid by-product of sewage treatment plants and is commonly spread on agricultural lands as a substitutefor chemical fertilizers.
Applicants would be required to supply information showing a "good faith effort" was made to locate the facility near where sludge is generated and justifying the need for a structure at the proposed site. It also would require the applicant to show an evaluation of the health and environmental benefits associatedwith a site.
MDE opposed the bill last year, saying it would impose unnecessary hardships on sewage treatment plants, which rely on contracts with solid waste management firms to dispose of most of the sludge generated. The bill could force a shift to disposal alternatives which could be more environmentally detrimental than land application, the agency said.
MONEY FOR WMC SOUGHT
ANNAPOLIS -- Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, is sponsoring a billrequesting $1.9 million in state money to help finance the addition of a new wing to Western Maryland College's Lewis Hall of Science.
The college would be required to match the grant.