- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

GLEN BURNIE, Md. — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced legislation yesterday to toughen Maryland’s sex-offender laws, including lifetime electronic monitoring of child molesters and sexually violent predators.

“It’s not liberal. It’s not conservative. It’s the right thing to do for our kids,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said during his announcement at Glendale Elementary School.

Convicted sex offender Joshua Ryan Keller was recently arrested for trespassing at the school while attempting to pick up a 7-year-old girl.

Prosecutors dropped the charge because Keller, 21, was not previously asked to leave, as required under trespassing law.

Mr. Ehrlich’s legislation attempts to close the loophole.

Under the proposal, sex offenders would be prohibited from entering school grounds or a child care center property without permission.

The legislation also would increase registration requirements for sex offenders, stiffen penalties for failure to register, and require them to provide DNA samples and give authorities an updated mug shot every year.

The proposal added to the governor’s ongoing efforts to combat sexual predators, including a Web site, www.socem.info, to help residents track offenders in their neighborhoods.

The governor said he expected opposition from civil libertarians and others. However, he said such measures are justified because criminologists have concluded pedophilia is an incurable disorder.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial race against Mr. Ehrlich, last summer proposed clamping electronic-monitoring anklets on sex offenders for life. The proposal was similar to one proposal by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., a Democrat and Mr. O’Malley’s father-in-law.

Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel Republican, has concerns about the Democratic-controlled legislature undermining Mr. Ehrlich’s effort.

“I’m hopeful but not optimistic” the legislation will pass, Mr. Dwyer said. “I’ve seen three years of bitter partisan debate that has left me puzzled as to why … we can’t do the right things for our constituents.”

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, Anne Arundel Democrat and a Judicial Proceedings Committee member, expected tougher sex-offender laws to pass this General Assembly session, though maybe not the governor’s bills.

He said the final legislation would be a “blending” of proposals from the administration, the attorney general and lawmakers.

“I’m not saying whose name is going to be on the legislation, [but] we are going to do some meaningful things to protect Maryland’s children,” Mr. Jimeno said.

In previous sessions, legislators have killed Mr. Ehrlich’s bills, only to pass identical legislation by Democrat lawmakers.

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