House Republicans issue ultimatum to Vallario on sexual predator bill; he promises vote

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House Judiciary Chairman Joseph Vallario speaks on the House floor. MarylandReporter.com photo by Glynis Kazanjian

By Glynis Kazanjian

For Maryland Reporter

House Republican leaders on Tuesday vowed to circumvent a powerful House Judiciary chairman by using parliamentary rules to petition a full House vote for a sexual predator bill if the bill did not receive a committee vote by Friday.

In an interview on the House floor Tuesday, Vallario told MarylandReporter.com that Del. Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill was in fact on the voting list.

“It’s on the list,” Vallario said. “I worked on it over the weekend.”

Vallario would not commit to a day of the week or whether the vote would take place this week or next, but he said he hoped it would be soon.

But House Minority Leader Nic Kipke and House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga sent a letter to Vallario on Tuesday.

“As much as we respect the committee system within the legislature, the safety of our children and our communities is far more precious than parliamentary niceties. Should this legislation not receive a Committee vote and get sent to the floor by March 16th, we will petition the legislation from the possession of the House Judiciary Committee,” Kipke and Szeliga’s letter stated.

The letter demanded the chairman bring a vote to either HB353, sponsored by Gov. Larry Hogan, or HB301, sponsored by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard, which would allow prosecutors to admit prior sexual predatory behavior evidence of a defendant in court.

Under current Maryland law, prosecutors may not introduce criminal sexual history or sexually deviant behavior unless it is for the same victim.

No action since Jan. 30 hearing

Both bills have been sitting in limbo since a Jan. 30 hearing.

“The bills, along with their Senate cross-files, have more than 120 members of the General Assembly as co-sponsors, indicating widespread bipartisan support for this policy,” Kipke and Szeliga wrote. “This legislation has come before the House Judiciary Committee 14 times. It has only come close to passage once.”

Atterbeary’s bill has a bipartisan group of 47 co-sponsors, including two committee chairs.

Atterbeary said she met with Vallario and Dumais last Friday to discuss putting HB301 and HB353 on the vote list for this week. She said Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery, told her “something will be done with the bill” implying some action would be taken this session.

Dumais, who said she was actively considering different versions of the House bill, previously indicated she would like to send the bill to the Court of Appeals Rules of Practice Committee. Such a move would take the bill out of action this legislative session and possibly a number of years while it is worked on.

Other sources who have been actively working on the House bill indicated a vote on the bill would occur after the March 19 crossover deadline. They declined to go on the record.

The sponsor of the Senate companion bill, SB270, Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County, also sent out an email blast Tuesday urging constituents to call the Judiciary Committee and demand a vote on the bill.

Brochin’s bill advanced in committee last week and is on the Senate agenda to be taken up Wednesday.

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