Capital Notebook

CAPITAL NOTEBOOK

February 02, 2007

Kopp re-elected in lopsided vote

The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly yesterday to re-elect Nancy K. Kopp as treasurer, keeping her in a post charged with managing state finances and helping decide whether to approve government contracts.

Kopp, a Democrat from Montgomery County, has held the job for five years and was heavily favored to win another four-year term. She was endorsed yesterday by 165 of the 183 legislators who voted.

In a short speech before a joint session of the legislature, Kopp outlined accomplishments of her time in the office, including reconciling the state's books and revamping its investment portfolio.

Some members of the Legislative Black Caucus pushed last year for Kopp to be replaced by former Del. Rushern Baker of Prince George's County, who is African-American. He got four votes in yesterday's balloting.

Former Comptroller William Donald Schaefer received two votes, finishing behind Gov. Martin O'Malley's top legislative aide, Joseph Bryce, and Sgt. Larry Barnes, a state trooper assigned to the House chamber, who each got three.

Andrew A. Green

Black Caucus backs treatment over jail

The Legislative Black Caucus is pushing a bill to mandate treatment instead of jail for first-time drug offenders.

Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat, said judges now have the option to sentence drug users to treatment, but many rarely do so.

California voters approved a proposition similar to the one the black caucus is backing, and since then, violent crime has declined in that state faster than in the nation as a whole, said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute.

Anderson said the bill would require a large increase in the number of treatment beds available, but the investment would be worth it.

"The savings is in the reduction of crime," he said.

Andrew A. Green

Stricter sex offense terms gain ground

A proposal for stricter mandatory minimum sentences for sex offenders appears to have momentum in the state Senate this year.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican, introduced the legislation, known as "Jessica's Law," yesterday, along with 23 co-sponsors, enough for a majority in the Senate. Similar bills have typically faced more resistance in the House of Delegates.

The legislation would call for sentences of at least 25 years without the possibility of parole for those convicted of the worst category of sex offenses. The General Assembly passed a less strict version of the bill during its special session last summer.

"Those predators are the vilest members of our society," Jacobs said in a statement, "and their vile actions deserve severe punishments."

Andrew A. Green

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