With the support of House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. unveiled his proposal to tighten supervision of convicted sex offenders in Maryland, extending parole to life for serious offenders and allowing them to be monitored electronically.
"The time has come for Maryland to move forward on this issue," Curran said during a news conference in Annapolis.
The matters of how to effectively inform residents about sex offenders in their communities and how to keep better track of them have become a hot issue this election season, with lawmakers and candidates looking to capitalize on public support for tougher laws.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was set to reveal his related legislative package this week, including his sexual offender proposal, but the event was canceled because of snow. Aides said yesterday that they will reschedule it soon.
Alan Friedman, a policy adviser to the governor, said Ehrlich's proposal would require sexually violent predators and child sex offenders to have mandatory supervision with electronic monitoring for life. Friedman said the governor's plan would also require sex offenders to register a minimum of twice a year in person and that punishment for noncompliance with the registration requirement would be bumped from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The governor has also ordered routine statewide sweeps of sex offenders' homes to determine whether their registered addresses are up to date.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democratic candidate for governor, announced his plan earlier this year. It would require lifetime supervision of sexual offenders and electronic tracking of child sex offenders, and, like the governor's proposal, make it a felony to violate registration requirements.
"We applaud Attorney General Curran for his leadership and are hopeful that we can all come together and pass legislation that makes children and families safer," said Jonathan Epstein, O'Malley's campaign manager, who added that O'Malley will propose legislation during the coming session.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan will roll out his sex offender plan in coming months, said spokeswoman Jody Hedeman Couser.
"Doug commends the attorney general's efforts to make the streets safer for children and help give their parents peace of mind," Couser said. "Maryland should have stronger laws on the books with respect to sex offenders."
Curran said his bills would tackle two matters - lifetime supervision of offenders and more effective community notification about those individuals who live in their areas. Democrats Busch and Miller, rivals who rarely lock arms enthusiastically, promised to work together to shepherd Curran's proposal through their respective chambers.
"We need to protect our young people," Miller said. "We need to protect our citizens against these sexual predators."
Busch said he is "100 percent onboard with the legislation being brought forward by the attorney general's office."
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va., there are 549,038 registered sex offenders in the country. About 100,000 of them have failed to comply with registration requirements.
State law first required sex offenders in Maryland to register with authorities in 1995. There are 4,351 registered sex offenders in Maryland, according to Allison Gilford, supervisor of the Sex Offender Registry. Curran said 2,900 of them are registered for life. The Sun reported in July, however, that one in five Maryland offenders has not provided the state with current or accurate address information.