Senate votes to back felon voting rights

CAPITAL NOTEBOOK

March 24, 2007

The Maryland Senate voted 28-19 yesterday to approve legislation that would restore the right to vote to those convicted of two or more felonies once they've completed their sentences, including parole or probation.

Under current law, people convicted of two or more felonies must wait three years after their sentences are completed before they can vote. Those convicted of two violent felonies are not eligible to vote.

Opponents said convicted felons should not be rewarded with a voter registration card, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the bill puts Maryland in line with 37 other states.

"This is not about a reward," said Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt, a Prince George's County Democrat and sponsor of the bill. "The right to vote is a basic right that we all have the privilege and opportunity to enjoy."

Laura Smitherman

Anti-gang bill wins House OK

A bill that would strengthen the means to prosecute gangs was approved yesterday by the House of Delegates.

The Maryland Gang Prosecution Act of 2007 received 134 votes, and the measure had strong backing from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Supporters say the measure gives authorities more tools to prosecute gang members and their associates.

Local authorities have had to rely on federal prosecutors to go after big gang cases. In 2005, federal prosecutors in Maryland indicted 22 members of the MS-13 gang on charges including murder, assault and rape.

Gang violence has been identified by prosecutors as a growing problem in all parts of Maryland. Three large national gangs, MS-13, the Crips and the Bloods, have a presence in the state. While Maryland's gang problem isn't as bad as in larger states, bill supporters say the measure is needed to keep the problem from getting out of hand.

"It allows us to get ahead of the problem before it becomes a situation on a larger scale," said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

Associated Press

Senate advances dog-welfare bill

Dog owners would have to take humane steps before leaving their pups tied up all night outside under a bill given preliminary approval yesterday by the Maryland Senate.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor to leave a dog tied outside between midnight and 6 a.m. on a leash that "unreasonably limits the dogs' movements." The bill also would ban outdoor dog chaining during a heat advisory and when the temperature drops below freezing. The bill also would require that dogs' collars fit.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., showed colleagues pictures of maltreated dogs on short chains with pinched collars.

"There was absolutely no one that testified against this bill" in a Senate hearing, said Stone, a Baltimore County Democrat. Senators unanimously approved the idea, though one more vote is required to send the bill to the House. Last year, the measure passed the Senate, but was not approved by the House.

Associated Press

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