- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Republican lawmakers are challenging the leaders of the Democrat-controlled legislature to use today’s special session to pass tough child sex-offender laws that died in this year’s regular session of the General Assembly.

“We have a chance to protect Maryland’s children during this special session, and it would be irresponsible of us not to take it,” said House Minority Whip Anthony J. O’Donnell, a Republican who represents Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat, has given assurances that the bill will be introduced, but it was not clear whether it would receive a hearing during the special session, which is focused on electricity rates.

“If the governor has a bill and he wants me to introduce it on his behalf, I’ll introduce it,” Mr. Miller said. “But he hasn’t communicated with me. I saw his executive order … but I don’t know.”

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election, cited the need to pass the sex-offender legislation, commonly referred to as “Jessica’s Law,” in his executive order that reconvened the General Assembly today.

“We have a bill drafted. We will seek legislative approval for a bill they did not approve two months ago,” said Paul E. Schurick, the governor’s communications director. “They were too busy passing other stupid election-year bills and cracking down on sexual predators is not a priority — sadly, incredibly.”

During the regular session, Jessica’s Law languished for weeks in the Senate and never came up for a vote before the legislature adjourned in April.

Mr. O’Donnell said he fears “backroom politics” would again kill the initiative, which sets a mandatory 25-year minimum prison sentence for sex crimes against children.

Jessica’s Law is named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was raped and killed last year by a convicted sex offender. Similar laws have been enacted in 20 states.

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