The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved the Schaefer administration proposal to outlaw carjacking yesterday but turned down its attempt to have the state control slot machines on the Eastern Shore.
The committee also narrowly rejected an attempt to take the mandatory sentencing provisions out of the carjacking bill. Another vote approved Chairman Walter M. Baker's proposal to change the state's method of execution to lethal injection.
Sen. F. Vernon Boozer proposed the amendment that would have allowed judges to suspend a portion of the mandatory 15-year prison term for armed carjacking.
"I guarantee you that there is going to be someone charged with this crime and there are going to be some peculiar mitigating circumstances that are going to make a 15-year sentence wrong," the Baltimore County Republican argued.
"If we are going to have judges, let's let them do their job," he said, with Mr. Baker voicing similar concerns about mandatory sentences before the amendment was defeated 6-5. The bill then passed unanimously.
It was Mr. Baker, the Cecil Democrat, who led the charge against the slot machine bill, which would have put the state police in charge of regulating the slots that are allowed in fraternal clubs in eight Eastern Shore counties.
Currently, county sheriffs have that job.
"I'm offended by this bill," he said, because the administration never approached Eastern Shore senators to discuss any problems.
"I think this is nothing more than a turf battle between thsheriffs and the state police, and we shouldn't get in the middle of that," he said.
Mr. Baker and his fellow Shoreman on the committee, Frederick C. Malkus, a Dorchester Democrat, said the Schaefer administration did make a case for problems with keeping track of the slot machines and the charities that are supposed to benefit from 50 percent of their profits.
But Mr. Baker said those could be taken care of either by amending the current slots law, or in a bill proposed by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, that calls for statewide gambling controls without singling out the Eastern Shore. That argument sealed defeat of the slots bill on a unanimous vote -- including thumbs down from several members who had voiced the need for better regulation.
Mr. Baker proposed the use of lethal injection as an execution method to avoid a challenge to the state's gas chamber as a cruel and unusual punishment.
No one voted against the change, which would take place in October, but Sen. Ralph M. Hughes, D-Baltimore, abstained, saying, "I can't vote on which way to kill somebody."