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The Nose

Jumping The Gun

Posted 1/16/2008

Like students turning in homework early, some legislators don't wait for the opening bell of the Maryland General Assembly session in Annapolis before filing bills. Pre-filing puts bills into the hopper, ready to be considered as soon as the next session opens for business, and this year 79 bills were pre-filed in the House of Delegates and 37 in the Senate. The titles run the gamut from the Prosthetic Parity Act and the Heroes' Housing Fund to Income Tax--Itemized Deductions--Treatment of Gambling Losses and All-Terrain Vehicles--Protective Headgear. Most interesting to the Nose were those filed by the Mobtown delegation, which has plenty of pressing work to do for its forlorn city.

The first of Baltimore's legislators to pre-file was Del. Talmadge Branch (D-45th District), the House majority whip, who last April submitted the Elevator Safety Review Board Fund bill (House Bill 63). The goal is to create a new way to raise and manage money from elevator inspections, but Branch didn't get back to the Nose to explain further.

Next up, submitted in late July, is a reprise of last session's proposal to require videotaping of interrogations of suspected murderers and rapists. Del. Curt Anderson (D-43rd District) is the lead sponsor of the measure (House Bill 6), which, he explains to the Nose, seeks to avoid "situations in which police make arrests and suspects are alleged to have confessed, which may be true, but then they turn around and say, `I never confessed, I was coerced and the police forced me to confess.'" To put an end to such scenarios, Anderson continues, "all aspects of the confession would be on videotape, and then anyone can make a determination as to whether or not this is a true confession. It really does save a lot of time in trials."

Anderson's 43rd District colleague, Del. Ann Marie Doory (D), filed the Flexible Leave Act (House Bill 40) last September, and left the Nose a phone message explaining that, if it passes, employers who provide sick-leave benefits would have to give their employees the flexibility to use it when members of their immediate families are sick.

Also from the 43rd came two bills from Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D), who filed a measure in August (Senate Bill 17) to extend the time frame for required notices in foreclosures; in September she filed a bill (Senate Bill 18) to create a beer, wine, and liquor tasting license, available only in Ward 27, Precinct 32 (the Lake Walker neighborhood) of her legislative district. The Nose played phone tag with Conway, but ended up without an explanatory chat.

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D-45th District) neglected to return the Nose's call about his pre-filed bill, submitted last September, to give a tax break to Maryland members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. And we didn't bother calling Dels. Carolyn Krysiak and Peter Hammen (both 46th District Democrats) about their self-explanatory state bond bill to provide South Baltimore's School 33 Art Center with some money, which was pre-filed last August. But we were entertained, as always, when we snatched a moment with Del. Melvin Stukes (D-44th District) about his resolution (filed jointly with Del. Barbara Robinson [D-40th District]) calling for federal legislation to protect homeowners and banks during the ongoing credit crisis.

"I am not a LaRouchi--let me be clear," Stukes proclaims, after explaining that the idea for the resolution came from followers of Lyndon LaRouche, a rogue Democrat with a longstanding fondness for international banking conspiracy theories. "I look for substantive ideas, wherever they come from," Stukes continues, while also pointing out that "a resolution is nothing but a greeting card" that suggests policy reforms, rather than an actual piece of legislation. That doesn't sound very substantive to the Nose, but, hey, at least he did something between sessions.

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