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Tuesday, February 23, 2010:

The Agenda

Politics and policy intersect in sex offender debate
AaronThirty-one dense bills, dozens more in the Senate, and all the weight of election year politics layered on top.

Maryland's House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is scheduled to begin the unenviable task of untangling a spider web of proposed legislation to tighten restrictions on sex offenders following the Christmas-time killing of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell, allegedly at the hands of a registered sex offender.

The politics of past mistakes is bound to play a part:

The administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) introduced, and the General Assembly passed, flawed sex offender legislation; the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) identified gaps in that law but then twice failed to persuade lawmakers to make fixes; and judges and prosecutors have almost never employed the powers the governors and the General Assembly granted them to seek mental health evaluations and extended supervision.

Such failures, however, may have never altered the past prosecutions and supervision of Thomas Leggs Jr., charged in Foxwell's killing, and for that, the bulk of the committee's work is bound to turn on potential policy improvements.

Busch.jpgShould Maryland: Require lifetime supervision of its most serious sex offenders? Force child welfare agencies to report when a registered sex offender may be in the presence of minors? Eliminate dimunition credits? Expand interstate data sharing? And so on, and so forth.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) is scheduled to make a rare statement to begin debate in the committee. He is expected to focus on the state's progress in clamping down on sex offenders to date and cast the proposed fixes as needed tweaks exposed by the Foxwell case.

If past errors by lawmakers offer any guidance, however, settling on a package of fixes sooner rather than later may offer the best chance at effective reform. As in the state's last election year, proposals rushed through at the end may later prove to be liabilities.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

Mikulski 'not retiring,' announces campaign team
Mikulski.jpg"Perhaps this will help quell the recent retirement rumors: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced senior members of her re-election team Monday morning, saying in a news release that she is 'looking forward to a vigorous campaign,'" writes The Post's John Wagner. "Mikulski announced that Simone Ward would serve as manager of a campaign that also includes media strategist Mandy Grunwald and pollster Fred Yang. 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going," Mikulski said. "I am not shy, and I am not retiring. And neither is my top-notch team.'"

State prosecutor pleads poverty
"The Maryland prosecutor whose City Hall corruption investigation led to the ouster of former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon said Monday that his office's proposed $1.2 million budget is "paltry" and prevents him from fully vetting allegations of fraud," writes The Sun's Annie Linskey. State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh said that "putting more money into the prosecutor's office would 'assure that the hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being used as intended and are not being diverted by fraudulent, manipulative dealings of public servants.""

Stimulus project an explosive issue on Eastern Shore
Dud.jpgAbout 30 miles east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and down a quiet country road behind some trees from nearby homes, the State Department is deep into a plan to use $70 million federal stimulus money to buy two tracts of farmland and begin building one of the nation's largest and busiest anti-terrorism and security training facilities, reports The Post's Aaron C. Davis."The 2,000-acre site would have a racetrack to teach thousands of diplomats how to evade would-be attackers, firing ranges for target practice for machine-gun-wielding bodyguards and blasting pits to show embassy workers how to sift through rubble for evidence ... But missteps by federal officials and fierce opposition from a few hundred locals have led to months of delays and left the State Department in damage-control mode to convince neighbors and members of Maryland's congressional delegation that they can build berms and plant trees to muffle the blasts."

Quotables

Thumbnail image for Rawlings-Blake.jpg"Mark these words, remember them and factor them into our actions and decisions in the coming days. This $120 million deficit is brutal and will hit all of our citizens hard."
-- New Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D), in her first State of the City address on Monday

Ehrlich head turned.jpg"Bob Ehrlich is flattered by all the attention and considers it another sign that the big spenders in Annapolis are more than a little worried about their job security heading into an election year."
-- Henry Fawell, a spokesman for former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), in response to a Web ad created by the Maryland Democratic Party that accuses Ehrlich of having been a big spender

Cardin.jpg"The issue is we need to send a message: Corporations should not be able to buy elections, and we need to find ways of trying to manage this."
-- Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-Baltimore County), at a cold and rainy rally Monday night in Annapolis supporting campaign finance reform

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Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  February 23, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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Next: Montgomery's Leggett tries to find hundreds of millions in new budget cuts

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