- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — Most of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s modest legislative package is expected to pass through the legislature, but his proposal to expand DNA collection from criminals accused of violent crimes has run up against opposition from some of his core constituencies.

House lawmakers are expected to vote today on the proposal, and members of the O’Malley administration worked late into the evening yesterday to resolve the lingering concerns of civil liberties groups and the Legislative Black Caucus, who oppose the plan.

“We are a Democratic caucus,” said Delegate Herman L. Taylor Jr., Montgomery Democrat and vice chairman of the caucus. “We’ve been a loyal block of votes to the Democratic establishment, and we’re trying to ask for some concessions and deference and everything we can possibly appeal to the leadership for.”

Among the concessions, Mr. Taylor wants DNA samples destroyed in certain cases in which charges are dropped or convictions are overturned.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have also opposed the DNA collection plan.

The plan is not the first time that the civil liberties group and the civil rights group have united against Mr. O’Malley. The NAACP and the ACLU filed a joint lawsuit against Mr. O’Malley in 2006 when he was mayor of Baltimore, asserting that city police violated the rights of city residents by making hundreds of what they called “illegal arrests.”

Mr. O’Malley at the time advocated a zero-tolerance crime-fighting approach. The approach included strategies such as “stop and frisk” and the “broken windows” or quality-of-life-crimes crackdown.

As of Tuesday, Mr. Taylor said O’Malley administration officials had not met with him to discuss his concerns. A spokesman for Mr. O’Malley said the administration expects to be successful in passing the DNA proposal and was working closely with black lawmakers.

“The leadership, the members of the Black Caucus, individual members, all have a wealth of experience and knowledge in dealing with these issues,” said O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese. “The governor constantly seeks their input and counsel, and has been willing to work with them to move our state forward.”

Most of Mr. O’Malley’s other legislative proposals — including plans to aid homeowners facing foreclosure, expand prescription drug coverage for seniors, allow localities to operate speed cameras and create a Cabinet-level Department of Information Technology — all appear likely to pass this session.

Legislative leaders, who lauded Mr. O’Malley’s performance during November’s three-week-long General Assembly special session, have been equally supportive of his efforts this session.

“He was very successful during the special session, and I don’t think there’s any reason not to think he’s going to be as successful during the regular session,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat. “If it’s a bill that has merit, it’s going to find its way to the floor of the Senate.”

Mr. Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, have both worked fervently to support Mr. O’Malley’s priorities since he took office in January last year.

Critics say, however, that Mr. O’Malley has not shown the interest or political acumen to be successful in navigating through the legislature.

“If not disconnected from the policy, which I have heard discussed many times here, he seems to be disconnected from the political sensitivities in many respects,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican.

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