Gov. Martin O'Malley issued his first veto yesterday and is expected to veto at least two more bills this week, including a measure that would repeal a ban on parole for drug dealers convicted a second time.
"Yes, I am leaning toward a veto on that," O'Malley said of the parole bill in an interview this week. "Maybe just a couple others. But very, very few vetoes."
The veto yesterday was the result of a technical error in a bill that would have altered the operation of the State Board of Dental Examiners.
Sources close to the administration said yesterday that the governor is also expected to veto a bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to dispose of handguns by selling, exchanging or transferring the weapons to a manufacturer. Current law requires guns to be destroyed, sold or transferred to another law enforcement unit for official use, or retained by the agency.
During the governor?s fourth and final bill signing tomorrow, which follows the General Assembly session that ended April 9, O?Malley likely will sign a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants and an expanded version of Jessica's Law, a measure that targets child sex offenders and rapists. The governor will sign about 200 bills, aides said.
The updated version of Jessica?s Law indicates that adults who commit first- or second-degree rape or sexual assault against a victim younger than 13 would not be eligible for parole while serving a mandatory minimum sentence. The measure is named for Jessica Lunsford, a Florida girl who was kidnapped, sexually abused and killed by a previously convicted child sex offender.
Republican Sen. Nancy Jacobs, the proposal?s lead sponsor, said the governor told her that he would back the measure, which received wide bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
"He said during the session that he was going to sign it," Jacobs said. "I have no reason to believe that he wouldn?t. So far with me, he?s been a man of his word."
But supporters of the drug offender parole proposal are frustrated by the governor?s looming veto.
The Legislative Black Caucus adopted the initiative as one of its foremost priorities this session. The bill's sponsor, Del. Curtis S. Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat, said he has pushed O?Malley in recent weeks to support it, saying that it gives offenders a shot at rehabilitation with earlier re-entry into society. If O'Malley vetoes the the governor to include more money for drug treatment programs in his next budget.
"We're going to continue working on one of the major problems my constituents face in Baltimore City, and that?s the violence that results from the drug trade," Anderson said.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, the former Montgomery County state?s attorney, said O?Malley is making the right move with a veto of Anderson?s proposal.
"We do need to focus on rehabilitation and treatment, but there are certain drug dealers who, in the discretion of the state?s attorneys office, are incorrigible in terms of repeat offending that they need to spend the mandatory minimum time" in prison, Gansler said.
Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican who represents Baltimore and Carroll counties, said he is disappointed that his handgun proposal is not expected to get the governor?s backing. Haines said the measure is cost-effective and promotes public safety by returning guns to the manufacturer.
"The best plan is for the manufacturer to handle the guns and the disposal of them,? Haines said. ?This bill will save a lot of money."
Opponents of the measure argue that it recirculates firearms in the marketplace and could make it more difficult to track those guns if they're used in crimes.
On the dental board measure, a procedural mishap on sine die, the last day of the 90-day legislative session, attached ?the wrong set of amendments to the bill,? O?Malley wrote in a letter yesterday to House SpeakerMichael E. Busch.
"While I have vetoed the bill because it does not reflect legislative intent, I believe that concerns about potential bias and inequities in the way the Board operates should be addressed nonetheless," the governor wrote. ?To that end, I have directed the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Inspector General to conduct an audit of the last five years of the Board?s complaint files."
O'Malley asked that the inspector general report back to him and the General Assembly. He did not set a deadline.