Session may tackle sex-offender laws

June 09, 2006|By ANDREW A. GREEN | ANDREW A. GREEN,SUN REPORTER

Debate during next week's planned special session of the General Assembly could expand beyond electricity rates to include tougher penalties on sex offenders.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have said they would be willing to take up a sex-offender measure that was nearly approved during the regular Assembly session that ended in April, as long as it doesn't interfere with crafting a BGE rate-relief plan.

"I think we should do it," Busch said.

Negotiators from both houses agreed to a package of sex-offender restrictions on the last day of the General Assembly session, but lawmakers didn't have time to vote on it before the mandatory adjournment at midnight.

Most efforts that day were focused on a BGE rate plan, which failed in the final minutes of the session.

The sex-offender bill could include provisions such as mandatory 25-year sentences for those convicted of first-degree rape or sexual assault of a minor; a ban on sex offenders on school property; increased registration requirements; and enhanced electronic monitoring.

Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the House Republican whip from Southern Maryland, who was a lead backer of the measures this year, said he would be happy to see the bill return. But he said he is worried that Democrats will try to push through a weak compromise.

"When it comes to the tough mandatory sentencing provision, we're not going to take a watered-down version that gives political cover but is toothless," O'Donnell said. "We want tough, strict penalties for these sexual predators."

When the legislature returns, it will also have the opportunity to consider overriding several of Ehrlich's vetoes.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. will ask lawmakers to consider an override vote on a bill he drafted and shepherded through the legislature that would create a monitoring program for the prescription of controlled drugs.

"Attorney General Curran was stunned when the governor vetoed this bill, which passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support," Curran spokesman Kevin Enright said in an e-mail. "We worked for months with all the interested parties, and everyone seemed comfortable with the final bill."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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