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Miller: Death Penalty Could Get Some Floor Debate

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said this afternoon that he plans to accomodate Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) by allowing at least some consideration by the full Senate of a bill to repeal the death penalty.

"I want to give the governor and his proponents his day on the floor," said Miller, who is personally opposed to the repeal bill and said he doubts its prospects for becoming law.

O'Malley again called for passage of the bill, a leading priority of his, during a prayer breakfast and rally with religious leaders this morning, saying it deserved an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Similar legislation has been derailed each of the past two years by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which Miller is pressing to vote on O'Malley's bill as early as Thursday.

There are several ways in which the bill could advance to the floor, at least briefly, without approval by the committee. Aides to Miller described one scenario under which Miller would allow a debate over whether the full Senate should subsitute an "unfavorable" rcommendation by the committee for a "favorable" recommendation. Such a motion, which is rarely utilized, requires a majority vote of the 47-member chamber.

Even if the bill cleared that initial hurdle, it would still be subject to a filibuster, which takes three-fifths of the chamber, or 29 senators, to break.

Bill supporters have also been contemplating sending the bill to the floor without a recommendation on its merits. But Miller made clear this week that he frowns on that option.

A third alternative would be for supporters to petition the bill out of the committee to the floor. That only takes 16 signatures. Once the bill reached the floor, however, a majority of members could vote to send it back to committee.

By John Wagner  |  February 25, 2009; 1:41 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , John Wagner  
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