Developments on final day of Assembly session

O’Malley calls jobs, sex-offender legislation priorities

solar energy bill passes

April 12, 2010

Ignition interlock bill is dead

House Judiciary Committee Joseph F. Vallario Jr. has just pronounced a bill that would have required an ignition interlock device on the vehicles of those convicted of drunk driving dead for the 2010 session.

Vallario convened a voting session of the committee at 8:30 p.m. and distributed a memorandum saying he had been unable to reach an agreement with the sponsor and advocates of the legislation, the No. 1 priority of MADD this year.

The legislation that passed the Senate unanimously would have affected all persons convicted of driving under the influence, which is defined as having blood alcohol of .08 percent or more. Vallario said 27 states have automatic ignition interlock requirements for drivers with BAC measurements of .15 or more. He said he and his allies had offered to lower that level to .12 and to also include subsequent offenders and those under 21.

MADD and other advocates had said they would reject such a compromise and they did. Vallario, a Prince George's County Democrat, said he was disappointed a deal could not be reached.

Michael Dresser

Sex offender reforms appear to be resolved

Updated 6:51 p.m.: The Senate and House of Delegates appear to be well on their way to resolving one of the last outstanding major issues of the session: sex offender reforms.

After a series of deals and legislative horse-trading, the chambers' negotiations team has agreed to combine both contentious bills into one big bill --- which happens to be backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Lawmakers added an expansion of Jessica's Law, lengthening the minimum prison sentence for certain sex offenders from five to 15 years, to O'Malley's sex offender registry bill.

For those keeping track, the House wins big on this one. The Senate backed down on both its request to lengthen sentences to 20 years and its quest to add other provisions (such as marking sex offenders' driver's licenses and admitting evidence of prior bad acts) to the registry bill.

By fusing the bills, the powers that be created a bill too sweeping for even the senators who had hoped for more to oppose.

It's widely expected to sail through when the chambers reconvene after their dinner break.

Julie Bykowicz

Both chambers pass texting while driving ban

Updated 5:57 p.m.: Both chambers have now signed off on a measure making it illegal to read text messages while driving.

Writing and sending text messages has been illegal since October. The text bans, unlike the companion hand-held cell phone ban, are primary offenses, meaning police can pull drivers over for that infraction alone.

Julie Bykowicz

O'Malley: Jobs were session priority

Updated 5:10 p.m.: Talking with reporters this afternoon, Gov. Martin O'Malley focused on the economy, saying that, during the session, it has been his priority to "create jobs, to save jobs, to improve the conditions that allow business to hold on to jobs and to accelerate hiring."

"The definition of progress has to be that our state is moving forward and out of this recession and we are moving out sooner than other states in the unions," O'Malley said.

The governor said he has no "intent" to raise taxes next year if re-elected, but he refused to box himself into that position by taking a pledge. Doing so, he said, would be "irresponsible" in a "time of war."

The governor described the legislative session as far less partisan than he'd expected, citing compromises on a bill that strengthens the unemployment insurance trust fund and a deal that gives the state more power to crack down on Medicaid fraud. He also said he expects passage of his initiative to require mediation before banks foreclose.

Questioned on the status of legislation to toughen penalties for sexual offenders the governor said: "I don't think there is any issue that we've tracked, followed, pushed more closely than the sexual offender legislation," O'Malley said. He added that lifetime supervision of sex offenders is "very, very important" to him. That part of the legislation is still being negotiated.

The governor said that state workers complain to him about the furlough plan, which has stretched into three years. "I say, ‘I don't like them either, but I like layoffs even less,'" he told reporters. He also said he hopes to trim via attrition the 500 state workers that the General Assembly cut in the budget.

Annie Linskey

Workman-like Senate moving along

Updated 4:27 p.m.: As a five-hour Senate session concluded this afternoon, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller characterized his chamber as "workman-like." In a quick interview, he also named a few pieces of legislation he'd like to see cross his desk by the midnight deadline.

"Almost all of the big bills are out of the way," the Democratic senator from Calvert and Prince George's counties said, noting the operating and capital budgets are ready for the governor's signature.

What's on Miler's to-do list? Rocky Gap and BOAST.

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